Saturday, May 10th, 2014
Home-school moms take on challenges of teaching
By Amy Kronenberger
Mothers fill many roles, and teacher is one of the most prominent - and intimidating - according to some area moms.
For moms who take the extra step to home-school, they know they are single-handedly shaping the future of their children.
"At first, it felt like a lot of pressure was on me," St. Marys mom Corrine Corbett said about deciding to home-school. "I felt like I had the support and the resources I needed, but I also had a fear of failure. If this didn't work out, it was all on me. There would be no one else to point the finger at."
Home-schooler Loretta Germann juggles teaching with working from home as a webinar moderator. She often wonders if she is succeeding in the role of teacher. The Ohio City mom has nine children - five biological, one adopted and three foster. She has home-schooled on and off since 1996.
"The choice to home-school was not easy, and sometimes is still not easy," she said. "When one of the children struggles with a subject, I wonder if it is something I did. ... I am poor at spelling; I used to wonder how I would teach spelling or any subject I might struggle with. Then after teaching my older children, I saw my oldest daughter become a wonderful speller. She still corrects my spelling."
Germann taught four of her five biological children from home. Her adopted child was a teenager and was not a candidate for home-schooling. Foster children cannot legally be taught at home, she said.
Germann's youngest daughter, who was home-schooled up to the third grade, was enrolled in public school this year trying to find the best environment to combat her dyslexia.
"They have failed in helping her," she said. "So we're bringing her home next year and (will) use a program that we have found for dyslexics. ... I like the school, but they just don't have the time to work with her like she needs."
Her eighth-grade son would have gone to public high school next year if not for Common Core Standards. Germann said they will decide on his high-school education one year at a time, depending on the future of the curriculum.
Germann said she knew she wanted to give home-schooling a try when her children were struggling in public school. Her husband wasn't convinced teaching their children at home was the answer but was willing to give it a try.
"Originally, we decided to home-school to give the children a better foundation in Christ," she said. "But after being home only a year, I saw so much improvement in my children's behavior and standardized tests that we continued for the benefits in education as well."
She knows the payoff is worth the extra effort.
"We all are called to teach our children. We teach them our values; we teach them how to talk, walk, treat each other," she said. "Our job as parents is to be our children's first teacher. As a home-schooling parent, we just have more opportunity to do our job.
"We have the added privilege of seeing when 'the lights go on,' the excitement of the moment they understand something new, see life in a new way or just finally understand something they have been struggling with. It makes all the worry, time and frustration worth it."
Germann said the biggest advantage of home-schooling is having more family time and customizing her kids' curriculum.
"None of our children have done exactly the same curriculum," she said. "They each have different learning styles, so we teach to each style. The public school cannot do this, even if they wanted to, in my opinion."
Home-schooling also breaks free of the structured classroom and allows for variation. Germann said her classes have been held under a tree, in a woods, at her husband's office, around the kitchen table, on the trampoline, at the park, in the car, on the couch, in bed snuggled under blankets during winter and even occasionally in the pool.
For Corbett, her family has a "schoolroom" that is set up and decorated much like a traditional classroom. She said the set-up has made teaching easier for her.
"But, I know a lot of home-schoolers who do school all over their house or outside when it's nice, and that just works out so much better for them," she said. "I love that each family can learn in the environment that works best for them."
Montezuma mom Shaunte Oakley will begin home-schooling her three children next school year. They will be in the sixth and first grades and preschool. She said she's been happy with her children at Celina City Schools, but does not want them taught to the Common Core standards.
"I'm not sure what our day will look like, but I'm excited to be able to have more freedoms to be able to take our schooling elsewhere, not just in the walls of our home," she said. "I am excited to be able to be not only my children's mom but also their teacher. We can make sure they are learning not only school lessons, but also lessons from a Christian standpoint."
Oakley said she was concerned at first about succeeding as their teacher but knows she made the right decision.
"At first I was nervous, thinking I would mess up," she said. "We are just going to take it one day at a time. I have been told that there will be days that we all just want to throw in the towel, but we just have to remember that this is what is best for our family, and tomorrow is a new day."
Corbett, whose three children are 8, 5 and 3, said she and her husband believe the educational choices they make for their children are their most important decisions as parents. The choice to home-school was not made lightly, she said. Home-schooling allows them to choose a curriculum that best reflects their values and beliefs, what they want the children to learn and what is most age appropriate for their kids' unique learning styles.
"As their parents, we know them best and believe that parents should be the ultimate decision-makers when it comes to the values instilled in their children and what type of education they are receiving," Corbett said. "We feel that home-schooling is the best way for our family to exercise that parental right."
Corbett admits she's lucky to be in a situation that allows her to teach her children. She said every family is different, and she is sure there are many circumstances in which home-schooling is just not possible or isn't the best option for the child.
Celina native Jordan Gross, a home-school graduate who now works for the city of Celina, said he liked the flexible schedule that allowed him to help his dad on the farm during planting season. He said his mom handled his schooling until about eighth grade. In high school he used video classes.
He said he liked his experience, which brought him closer to his mom.
"Especially at a younger age, it really gave me a close connection with my mom," he said.
Gross noted, however, that home-schooling isn't necessarily the best option. He said if his fiancee, Kate Schroyer, wanted to teach their future children he would be on board, but he understands a public-school experience can be just as positive.
"For me it's a toss-up," he said. "If you live in a town with a good school - like my fiancee, she went to Coldwater, and she loved it - if you have a good school to go to, then that's just as good."
Corbett recently formed a home-school support group to share information and help home-schoolers and anyone considering the option. She said she formed the group after reading about a similar association in Jay County, Ind.
"I have heard many people in our area say they would like to home-school, but don't know where to start," she said. "Since we are a more rural area, it can be harder to find all of the resources available here ... unless you already know a home-schooler."
The Mercer/Auglaize County Homeschool Support Group will hold its first informational meeting 6-8 p.m. Tuesday in the Mercer County District Library meeting room in Celina. The meeting will connect current area home-schoolers and discuss options, resources and Ohio law.
Everyone who home-schools or is considering home-schooling is invited.
Ohio guidelines for home-schooling reviewed:
Parents interested in home-schooling must contact the superintendent of the child's home school district.
Parents must fill out an application and submit it by the end of the school year prior to the one they want to begin home-schooling and must reapply each year, according to Mercer County Educational Service Center Superintendent Andy Smith. Districts have no legal authority to deny an application, so a superintendent will give a blanket approval to all applications received.
If a parent pulls a child out of school without submitting an application, the child will be considered truant, Smith said.
"The technical name of home-schooling is 'excuse from mandatory school attendance,' " Smith said, adding without the approved "excuse" a truancy officer would be sent to the student's house.
Part of the application process is to submit the chosen curriculum, but a superintendent cannot reject a curriculum. Smith said parents have many website options when looking for a curriculum.
At the end of each home-schooled year, state law requires the parent to show the child's progress. The parent can either have their child take an approved, end-of-year standardized test or have a licensed teacher evaluate a portfolio of the year's work, Smith said.
If the evaluation determines a student's achievement is at or below 25 percent, a parent must submit and have a lesson plan approved to continue home-schooling.
If students return to public school, they must be evaluated by the district superintendent to determine an appropriate grade level, according to the Ohio Department of Education.
Students can receive an accredited home-school diploma, which are not endorsed by the Ohio's State Board of Education. Colleges, universities and prospective employers have discretion on whether to honor the diploma, according to the ODE.
The ODE does not keep statistics on how many students home-school in Ohio but it estimates there are about 24,000. The National Center for Educational Statistics states home-schooling increased by 74 percent between 1999 and 2007.
Sixty-four students are home-schooled in Mercer County. Statistics were not available for Auglaize County.
For more information, parents can call their district superintendent or go to www.education.ohio.gov
and click on "home schooling" under the "parent resources" link.