Through the eyes of a home school mom
A former teacher decided traditional schooling was not for her kids.
Karen Murray, a mother of two, has taught elementary music and fifth grade in Michigan and California. But when it came time to put her daughter Margaret in preschool she looked for other options.
"I didn’t feel like she should be forced to separate at age 4," Murray said, adding it might not necessarily be healthy.
Margaret is 8 ½ and has a younger brother, Nate who is 6 and Murray home schools both.
She said one of the first things people ask about is socialization and if home-schooled children have opportunities to interact with their peers.
Margaret is actively involved in Girl Scouts while Nate takes Karate lessons. They go to the park once a week with other children who are being home schooled, and once a month or more field trips are organized for the group. Murray coordinates many of these activities.
She frequently encourages her children to volunteer. They have done work for Recycle Utah, the Swaner Nature Preserve and others.
"When they get out like that they’re often the only kids there and they are so comfortable around adults at any level, from senior citizens to twenty-something’s," Murray said.
Another frequently asked question Murray hears is about the curriculum and structuring a child’s day.
Murray does not use the Utah school curriculum but said many families do.
For her children, she follows the philosophy that whatever questions are asked should be answered, fascinating experiences should be made available to them but information may become less interesting if it is forced. She said her position is relaxed but proactive.
"Kids need more time at these early ages and to not be so stressed about regurgitating facts," she said.
Murray helps her children pursue their interests as they arise. Nate is in his dinosaur phase and to help him explore that interest Murray took him to central Utah to dig for trilobites.
Margaret recently finished a book about Ellis Island and the family has a trip to New York planned, where Murray said she will show them the Statue of Liberty and other city sights.
"I think it’s so much more fun for them to pursue their interests," she said.
Right now Murray said things are working so they pick up basic skills, such as math, through their daily routines from going to the grocery store to saving up money for things they want.
As high school draws closer Murray will begin to keep thorough records of their academic accomplishments to make the application process easier for them. She noted that colleges are becoming less interested in high school transcripts and place emphasis on test scores and personal interviews, adding that college entrance exams will simply be another challenge that her children will look forward to.
"They’re used to facing challenges and looking at them as a positive thing," she said.
That includes the classroom environment, which may be completely unfamiliar to them. Murray said college might be more intriguing for her children because they have never been motivated by earning grades and said they are internally motivated.
"I think they learn innate self discipline," she said.
Another home schooling myth Murray wants to dispel is that only professionally trained individuals can educate their children themselves.
"You don’t have to have been a teacher to home school," she said.
Murray added that anyone can do home schooling from stay-at home moms to parents who work full time.
"Whatever your family situation you can make it work," she said adding that 59 families in Summit County are doing just that.
"I’d like people to know there are more home schoolers than they think there are. It’s not such a foreign idea."
The Utah Home Educators Association is holding its 26th annual convention and curriculum fair on Saturday, June at the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake from 7 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Additional information can be obtained at: http://www.uhea.org or by contacting Murray at: (435) 658-4578.
Another resource is also the Utah Christian Home educators which can be found online at: http://www.utch.org .
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