Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Parents Opt to Teach Home-Schooling on Rise Throughout Southern Illinois

May 1st, 2005
SOUTHERN ILLINOIS - There may be no ready-made statistics available to chart the growth of home-schooled children in Southern Illinois, but all indications are that the numbers are on the rise.
One reason is because of violence in some schools nationwide, including shootings that left several dead in recent years. Another reason is that some parents and students don't like certain teachers or the grading format. Yet other parents like the convenience factor of keeping their children at home, or believe they can better educate their children than the teachers on staff at a public or private school.
But perhaps the biggest reason why many parents are proponents of home-schooling is faith-based. These are parents who want their children to be more family-conscious and follow God's path through biblical readings, thus avoiding the temptation of sex, drugs and alcohol.
Kim Crouse of Herrin is teaching four of her six school-age children at her home. Sarah is 15 and in the ninth grade. Eli is 13 and in the seventh grade. Emma is 10 and in the fourth grade. And Andrew is 6 and in the first grade. John, 4, and Rebekah, 2, are not yet ready for organized instruction.
"I've been teaching at home now for the last 10 years, or ever since Sarah was old enough to start schools," Crouse said. "I felt called to do it. My husband (Jett) and I share the same view. We felt we could accomplish more with our children by teaching them here at home. I look at it as more of a discipleship."
Crouse said classes begin at 6 a.m. and run through 2:30.
"We go five days a week all year 'round with the exception of three weeks in the summer and certain holidays when Jett (registered nurse in the cardiac cath lab at Memorial Hospital in Carbondale) is off work."
The work day begins with one hour of Bible study followed by an hour of history, English, math, literature, Scripture memory, physical education, science and music separated by a late-morning lunch.
Oldest daughter, Sarah, also does some work on her own through a correspondence school, which mails her books to read.
"Sarah is such an avid reader. She reads everything she can get her hands on," Crouse said.
Although Crouse does not have a college education or any other teaching background, she said the teaching process "hasn't been that hard" with the exception of algebra.
"In that instance, I had to learn right along with my kids," she said.
A Herrin native, the former Kim Reagan, a 1981 graduate of HHS, said she and her husband took some flak initially from family members for choosing to home-school their children.
"Now that they have seen, though, how well-adjusted our kids are, they've pretty much come around to see our side of things and love home-schooling now," Crouse said. "Don't get me wrong. Sometimes, it can get pretty crazy with six kids in the house, but most days, things run pretty smooth, which is about the way life is."
Although she has no problem with any of her children attending college in the years ahead, Crouse said she isn't convinced a college education is a necessity. "Sarah has said she might just want to be a mother because that's the most wonderful job in the world. Eli, though, has said he might want to be a fireman or join the military. We'll just have to wait and see."
Crouse said that a partnership has been formed with other home-school families to help facilitate the social interaction of the youth.
"Some of us go on field trips or recreate together, or they see each other at church. I'm convinced that home-schooling is the way for us. Our kids get along great with one another and love each other. That's the way it should be."
Sarah Crouse concurred.
"I feel like I have more freedom to choose what I want to learn through home-schooling," she said. "I learn more through one-on-one teaching. And I like being with my family all day. We joke around some, but it's pretty unusual that we will argue or fight with each other."
Sarah said she will attend Herrin High School next fall for one class - driver's education.
"I have a lot of friends who go to the public school and many of them are curious about home-schooling, but not that much is said about it really."
Beth Gundlach of Marion is busy teaching four daughters at home - Sarah,18, Emily, 16, Heather, 13, and Mary Beth, 10. Her son, Daniel, 4, has not yet begun formal instruction. A teacher by trade with a degree from Bob Jones University, Gundlach said she began home-schooling when her oldest daughter was just beginning school in South Carolina because she and her husband, Jim, a physics teacher, wanted to impart their own religious beliefs on their children through daily instruction.
Not long after making the decision to home-school, the family moved to Southern Illinois, settling in Energy and now resides in Marion.
"I believe in reading to my kids and the phonics approach has worked well," Gundlach said. "We subscribe to various Christian book distributors and practice the ABEKA curriculum. Anymore, all kind of materials are available on home-schooling because it has become so popular."
When not working hands-on with her kids, Gundlach, who is proud that she taught her daughters how to read, may pop in a DVD with specific assignments to follow.
"And Sarah has been taking some dual-credit classes like government, economics and physics at Logan," Gundlach said. "There are also all kind of computer classes available, too." Gundlach said her daughters have been involved in extra-curricular activities, as well, with gymnastics, piano lessons, swimming and soccer. "There have been times I've worried that the girls might be missing out on some things like a Debate Club, for example. But it's nice to know they're not getting negative peer pressure to do things they shouldn't be doing. I've thoroughly enjoyed having my girls around me all these years. And we have the freedom to go places and do things together as a family."
Asked how she would react if any of her younger children wanted a change of pace and ask to transfer to a public school setting, Gundlach said she and her husband have been in that position before and would have to "pray about it" before making a decision.
"I know I'd be leery about them going to a public school," she said.
Sarah Gundlach said the best part of home-schooling, in her opinion, is the opportunity to "learn at your own pace" without the distractions of a public school environment.
The 18-year-old, who plans to return to South Carolina to attend a Christian school, said that learning from a Christian perspective has benefited her.
"There may not have been enough social interaction, but we've made an effort by getting together with other home-schooled kids," she said." I've also been involved in music and sports. And I have several public school friends.
Karen Forbes of Carbondale home-schools a pair of daughters, Emily, 11, and Kaitlyn, 8. Reagan, 4, is a year away from formal instruction.
"I have no set curriculum," Forbes said. "I choose from various ones. We start instruction around 8:30 or 9 each morning and then break down into individual work in the afternoon. Both girls have a lot of reading they have to do and worksheets to fill out. We also have Bible study daily."
A Special Education instructor when the family lived in Fairview Heights, Forbes began home-schooling her children three years ago. "There's nothing wrong with Unity Point School. The teachers do a great job. I just wanted to individualize the instruction a little more and go at their own pace."
Forbes said Kaitlyn is also active with the Girl Scouts and both she and older sister, Emily, participate in Upward basketball.
"John (Edward Jones investor husband) and I have always said we would take things one year at a time, but I don't see the girls going back to the public school environment, not since they've had so much success the way things are now." John Forbes agrees. "If it continues to work out well with Karen and the kids, we'll keep it up," he said. "She's always loved to teach." And then there are home-schoolers like Leslie McColgin, a Special Education instructor from Graves County, Kentucky, who was raised in Metropolis where her parents still reside.
"Many home-schoolers, like me, espouse an unschooling approach to education in which the curriculum is not pre-planned but rather unfolds naturally in response to the child's talents and interests," McColgin said. "Workbooks, textbooks, tests and assignments are generally not the preferred modes for learning, and much of what the children are doing may not look like what traditional educators are used to seeing. "The subject matter may not even be included in traditional schools, such as the many years my children spent in equine studies, where they not only developed physical skills, but also responsibility, teamwork, leadership and many important personal qualities along with incidental learning that included biology, math, reading, writing and study skills as they prepared for both knowledge and performance competitions and testings in U.S. Pony Club." McColgin said thousands of unschoolers have been raised with this approach.
"If you read biographies of highly-gifted people throughout history, you will find that quite a number of them (about one-third) spent very little or no time in school and many others had quite nasty things to say about traditional school approaches (e.g. George Bernard Shaw, Albert Einstein). "It is important, and indeed vital, to our educational freedoms to protect unschooling from narrow views of education held by school educators and judges in court," McColgin said. "Intelligent teens are perfectly capable of directing their own educations and we must protect their right to do so, since many simply do not fit well into our one-size-fits-all school system."
John Homan 618-997-3356 x15807

Reprinted with permission of John Homan and the Southern Illinois who hold the copyright. Do not reprint without appropriate permission.

I really appreciated how Mr Homan showed the diversity of homeschooling in this article. Homeschoolers choose their path for a variety of reasons and use many different approaches to educating their children. It's nice to have a reporter recognize the different styles. As homeschooling continues to grow in popularity there are more and more choices for parents who are purchasing materials or even just borrowing from the library.

I cobble together my curriculum from a variety of sources. I use Singapore Math for both my older children. I get a lot of ideas from the Well-Trained Mind and I use First Language Lessons for my oldest son. I love the Write Source books, but I've added in the Writing in Narrative Series from the Elijah Company. My two oldest love The Story of the World, and I've purchased the CD's and Activity Guides. My oldest son knows history I didn't learn until college. I learn right along with the kids and enjoy the constant challenge. I felt this article captured more of the diversity of the homeschooling culture than many that I have read. What about you? What curriculum or style do you enjoy? Leave us a comment and share.

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