Home schooling provides an alternative

Published 6:36 am Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Cindy Stevens, mother of 3, and Lisa Jewett, mother of 5, have taught their children all that they know — well, not exactly everything. But, the two women aren’t just mothers. They are teachers. Stevens and Jewett teach their kids at home, taking on everything from choosing the curriculum, writing lesson plans and grading exams.

“It’s funny because I used to be anti-homeschool,” Jewett said. “I thought people like me were nuts.”

That is one reason why the two, who are members of the Austin Area Association of Christian Home Educators (AAACHE), would like to see other families learn more about home education options.

AAACHE hosts an open house this weekend at the Austin Public Library for families wishing to do just that.

The open house will feature various guest speakers on the non-teaching parent’s role and homeschool support. Jewett will talk about homeschooling through high school, and Stevens will give a presentation on the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA), which holds its own open house in Rochester this spring.

Jewett — who has now homeschooled in four states — said she originally

thought she would send her children to private schools.

After reading through home education textbooks while working for a publishing company, she was inspired to teach her kids at home.

Now, her oldest, Emma, is 16, and she is continuing learning at home en route to graduation.

“One thing I love is having total control over the curriculum,” Jewett noted.

Her kids study Greek and Latin, a wealth of American and world history and the traditional subjects from Christian-based as well as secular literature.

Curriculum control comes at a bit of a cost. Parents must purchase all educational materials themselves. The HSLDA estimates homeschool parents spend an average of $500 per child per year.

Stevens, unlike Jewett, said she always knew she was called to teach her children at home. She got an extra nudge in that direction when she met a woman who said her grandchildren had just been taking in a homeschool lesson at a ski resort, in a hot tub.

“It has worked out just wonderfully for us,” she said.

Both mothers said that it can be challenging to schedule lessons for all kids and organize extra-curricular activities.

Students home schooled in Minnesota can partake in their area public school’s after-school clubs and teams.

However, with the scheduling challenge, comes the great flexibility of having a kitchen table as a classroom.

“My kids will study on Saturday mornings sometimes. We just have to

move things around, but we have the freedom to do that,” Stevens said.

A common misconception of home education is that it is difficult to teach higher-level courses, both mothers said.

Stevens and Jewett follow a methodology in which, beginning at fifth grade, learning becomes more independent. By high school, learning is almost totally independent, with the parent as coach rather than teacher.

Jewett said she also uses online and computer teaching resources. Her childrens’ math classes are taught completely by a virtual instructor on a computer program.

“I believe there are excellent teachers out there,” Jewett said. “This

just works best for us.”

Emma, who is particularly fond of science, said she enjoys being homeschooled.

“I guess that I don’t know what to compare it to though… From what I hear from kids who go to regular school, I don’t think I’d prefer it,”

Emma said.

She pointed out that getting on the bus at 7:45 a.m., waiting for peers to finish lessons to move further, and following a strict routine would be things she would not enjoy.

“I know I have to study certain subjects for a certain length each

day… but I can move them around the way I like,” she explained. “I just love learning. I know that.”

To learn more about homeschooling in Minnesota, attend the open house and/or visit the Minnesota Department of Education Web site at education.state.mn.us.

AAACHE Open House

Austin Public Library

Saturday, Jan. 30

10 a.m. to noon

Free, open to the public