Homeschooling Feature

The original version of the following feature appeared in “Quality of Life Times,”
a non-profit community newsletter in Western Wisconsin. 

HOMESCHOOLERS: Families Living, Learning, and Exploring the World Together

By Julie Severson

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At first glimpse, you see a few similarities between this school and the one down the road: tables, chairs, books, artwork on the walls. But this cozy learning environment, without a doubt, stands out from the others.

There are no crowded hallways. No locker doors slamming. No cliques. No peer pressure. And parent involvement−a whopping one hundred percent.

Wow! Where is this school?

It’s in the homes of hundreds of thousands of American families. It’s the Homeschool where the journey for knowledge that begins at birth continues naturally with Mom and Dad as teachers and big brother and little sister as peers.

Meet the Greens, one of more than 300 families in Chippewa Valley who have taken on the task of educating their own. JoDea is a registered dietitian, but for now, a full-time educator. Her husband, Paul, is a family practice physician. They have four children: Evan, 8; Laura, 9; Katie, 12 and Christine, 14.

The Greens decided to homeschool their kids six years ago while living in Tomah, WI. The two oldest were attending the local public school district, where JoDea was the PTO president. Although content with the education their children were receiving, JoDea and Paula wanted to spend more time together as family.

“A family practice physician in a small town doesn’t have evenings or weekends free. Much of Paul’s time off was in the middle of the week. Homeschooling gives the kids the flexibility to be with Dad,” JoDea said.

How do the Green kids feel about it?

“It’s great,” Katie said. You don’t have to wait around for all the other kids to finish.”

“I like to be with Mom and Dad,” Evan added.

Their older sibling, Christine, returned to public school this year to begin her freshman year. Although thousands of homeschooled students continue their home study programs through the high school years, JoDea and Paul felt that ninth grade was a good time to integrate them back into the traditional setting.

“It was a big test for us. But Christine is adjusting very well. Her study habits are excellent. The biggest change for her is having to sit all day,” JoDea said.

Choosing a Home Study Program

Like most home educators, the Greens had their concerns when first starting out: Are we qualified to do this? What curricula do we use? What are the legal requirements?

“At first, the challenge is to get over the challenge of everything, but as you gain confidence, it really becomes a joy,” JoDea said.

Now residing in Eau Claire, WI, the Green’s homeschool takes place in a small room in their basement transformed into a colorful learning center.

After researching the large market of curricula and products available to home educators, they chose to use a home study program provided by Christian Liberty Academy, located in Arlington Heights, Illinois.

In addition to housing a private boarding school, the Academy supports more than 35,000 homeschool families from around the world by providing lesson plans, tests, books, teacher manuals, quarterly reports, high school diplomas, and a graduation ceremony held each year in Chicago.

Although laws and regulations vary from state to state, homeschooling parents, for the most part, are free to choose or design a program that best fits their children’s needs and interests.

Some prefer the security and accountability of a prepackaged curriculum. Others avoid conventional schooling practices. For them, homeschooling simply means learning from life’s experiences.

The majority of homeschoolers find ways to blend elements of both approaches. The Greens, for example, often complete their academic requirements in the morning, leaving the afternoons free for creative, hands-on activities like making homemade gifts for neighbors, exploring the outdoors, or taking field trips to the Twin Cities. Learning becomes an exciting adventure as they use the world as their classroom.

Local homeschool pioneer Cindy Glander has inspired many by using community resources and her own back yard to bring textbook lessons to life. She and her husband, Leon, have home educated their children for ten years while running their dairy farm in Eau Claire. They wanted to provide their kids with an education that reinforced their Christian values.

With their oldest daughter, Sarah, now a junior at the University of Wisconsin-Stout, and daughter Ann-Marie, graduating from homeschool this year, Cindy is often referred to as Chippewa Valley’s “grandmother of homeschooling.”

From delivering calves and working in the garden to visiting museums and volunteering at the local hospital, the Glander girls learn about the world by experiencing it. When Sarah and Anne-Marie researched the Medieval Era, they didn’t simply read about it−they made miniature castles and reenacted a medieval feast. When they studied Indian culture, they built a teepee, cooked outside, made Indian crafts, and held a pow wow.

“Reading about things is fine, but immersing yourselves in them makes a memory,” Cindy said.

Local Resources and Activities for Homeschool Families

Over the years, both the Glanders and Greens have taken advantage of Chippewa Valley’s extensive homeschool network. The area is packed with educational resources and social activities for homeschoolers.

A few examples provided by Chippewa Valley’s Homeschool Area Council and include: local foreign language tutors, church groups, community soccer and softball teams, gym classes at the YMCA, band lessons with the Music Makers Band program, Horseback riding lessons at Oak Knoll Stables, the Chippewa Valley boy’s and girl’s choirs, and the youth symphony at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.

There are also more than 20 local homeschool support groups, which come together regularly to share ideas and socialize at skating parties, field trips, picnics, and track and field events.

Homeschooling isn’t for everyone. But the Greens and Glanders agree that for those who have the time, patience, and perseverance, the joys outweigh the challenges.

“You need to have good administrative skills, and you need to be organized. You also have to give up some things, but it’s a season in your family’s life that is very important,” JoDea said. “It was the best choice for us.”

“Obviously it’s not going to be economically feasible for the majority of people to homeschool because you may have to live on one income,” Cindy said. “In our case, we felt the Lord directed us to this. And if the Lord directs you, with his grace and help you can do it.”

The original version of this article was first published in Quality of Life Times.

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