In the challenge to provide their children with a quality education, parents are often faced with a variety of options. One choice that is continuing to gain popularity is homeschooling.
"I had never planned to homeschool," recalls Marianne Emard of Medford. But after attending a Mothers Of Preschoolers meeting that featured three moms and their different approaches to education, she found herself intrigued by the relationship the homeschooling mother had with her daughter. "She so impressed me that I started to look into it." And for the past 11 years, homeschooling has provided Marianne's family the ability to choose the education they want for their children and the flexibility to be together when her husband travels as part of his job. "Every place we go we study something related to the area," says Marianne, whether it be Texas, Kansas or England.
For Enita Geiger of Eagle Point, building a close-knit family is one of the reasons she has homeschooled for the past decade. She, too, appreciates the flexibility it offers. "Our children have many opportunities to be out in the real world, interacting with people of all ages, getting work experience as they work right beside us and developing skills in areas they are passionate about. I believe they learn to appreciate why they are doing all of that learning when they see how it ties into the real world."
Providing an education at home suits families for a variety of reasons. For some, like Marianne and Enita, it provides the opportunity to supply an education more in line with their faith. For others, if their child has health or learning issues that make classroom participation difficult, homeschooling lets their child stay on pace with their peers so they can transition back into mainstream classes when ready. And for all families, it provides daily interaction that both tests and builds the relationship between parent and child.
It can seem like a daunting task, but there are plenty of options to support homeschool families. "Today there is a veritable smorgasbord of curriculum choices that you can tailor to your child's learning style and needs," says Enita. From standard curriculum to DVD series, satellite classes to homeschool academies, it can be adapted to each family's criteria and priorities. And there is local cooperation available, too, to help expand the options for learning.
"There are always different groups doing field trips, or there are homeschool classes in foreign languages, writing, science, art and skiing. Most parents will find a way to meet the desires or needs of their children even if they have to start a new class or learn a new skill right along with their kids," says Enita.
To homeschool successfully, says Marianne, parents need a combination of organization, flexibility and consistency. "If they're learning quickly, move it along. If your child is struggling, take an extra day. And if it's due, it's due."
And the children aren't the only ones that learn. "It really showed me where my strengths and my weaknesses were," says Marianne with a laugh.
A parent need only care about the successful growth and development of their child and be committed to working with them consistently," adds Enita. "Oregon puts most of the responsibility on the parents to do a good job of educating their children as we believe it should, since they and their children have the most to lose or gain. Check with the local Education Service District for a list of regulations in your area," she reminds.
Of course, homeschooling is not without its challenges. "You are 'it' every day — I'm the mom, I'm the teacher, I'm the disciplinarian — I'm 'on' 24/seven," says Marianne. And there is some financial sacrifice as well, adds Enita. The cost of homeschooling can range from $500 to $1,500 per student per year, depending on the curriculum chosen and the resources used. Many homeschool families minimize these costs by sharing programs and making use of resources available on the Internet or through libraries. It can also limit the resources of a second income for the family and require some financial sacrifices.
But in spite of the challenges, Marianne, Enita and a host of families in the Rogue Valley have found the rewards of homeschooling to be a positive choice for their families.