Knowing pupils well helps parents teaching offspring

Home-schooling makes Mom or Dad creative on just what to do and when

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Parents who are home-schooling shared their thoughts about how they balance their lives.

Mandy Cousins, of Richland, is a volunteer emergency medical technician with Richland EMS, a self-employed American Heart Association cardiopulmonary resuscitation and first aid instructor and a professional photographer, but she keeps home-schooling as her first priority.

"There are times that home-schooling and being employed conflict, time-wise, but you become very good at finding work during the weekends or evenings.

"If there is no way around conflicts in time you become creative, either by finding a replacement teacher for the day or by bringing them along and incorporating them into what you are doing. …

"The amazing part about having to juggle work and the education of my children is that no matter how difficult or stressed out I become, all I have to do is look at the joy that my children have about learning something new and I know that I have made the right choice," she said.

Carla Morrison, of West Deer, is a portrait photographer and works for Butler County Historical Society.

"Home-schooling is a huge commitment, and it is not for everyone," she said. "It is right for my family. I am confident I am giving my children the most amazing 'school' experience they will ever have."

She and Lisa James are writing two books: one on starting Free Minds and one on secular home-schooling, which they wish had existed when they began home-schooling.

"Often, parents are intimidated by the idea of teaching," said Ms. James, of Zelienople. "But in order for the home-school co-op to work, every mom (or dad) must teach.

"We all have strengths and interests in different subject areas -- from archaeology to chemistry and everything in between. With a little research, and some advice from other parents who have taught before, any parent can be a wonderful teacher."

Ms. Cousins talked about the dual role of being a child's parent and teacher.

"Many times you find that home-schooled children have great respect for their parents and others in general," she said. "That does not mean that they don't have their days when they will see how much they can get away with, or days that they just don't want to do school work.

"One of the nice aspects about home-schooling is you know your children so intimately that usually you can see when they have had enough or are overwhelmed. You can call recess for a while or move on to a different subject."

The children also have opinions on the subject. Jake Morrison, 13, told his mother, when asked if he respects her as a teacher: "I can say what I want. I don't have to think of a canned answer that sounds good. I can be myself."

Karen Bernard, of Indiana Township, who has ample experience, puts it simply.

"Remember, these kids can learn what they want -- if the parents allow them -- at their own pace," she said. Some kids will be slow or uninterested in certain subjects; some will devour literature or take physics classes at CMU when they're 12. With this approach, learning can actually be easy -- and even fun.

"The parent's job is to supply the books, classes, equipment, connections -- and to drive."

-- Bette McDevitt


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