Homeschooling becoming more mainstream

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 17, 2003

Before the sun rises and the roosters finish crowing, South Point resident Cyndi Saxton hits the ground running by 5:45 a.m.

By 8 a.m., it is time for school for Saxton's daughters. Unlike most other children, Saxton's daughters do not have to walk outside their front door for school. Saxton schools them in their home.

"It's busy, but I love every single minute of it," she said. "I wouldn't trade it for anything."

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As of 1999, an estimated 850,000 students nationwide were being homeschooled, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. This is 1.7 percent of U.S. students ages 5 to 17 in grades kindergarten through 12.

To school a child at home in Ohio, a parent must submit to the county, city or exempted school district paperwork assuring that home education will include subjects such as language, mathematics, science and health.

At the end of a school year, a board certified teacher in Ohio looks through a student's portfolio.

Angie Purdee, a South Point resident is schooling her 7-year-old son and 9-year-old daughter at home. Homeschooling is becoming more popular in this area, she said.

Initially, Purdee and her husband, a minister, decided to homeschool their children for religious reasons. However, one aspect of homeschooling that she enjoys now is that her children can move at their own pace, slowing down and speeding up when needed. The children also have the time to study a subject of interest to them more in-depth.

"In a large class, that's not an option," she said.

According to Donna Williams, another South Point resident, teaching the children about the Bible is not an option in public school classrooms, one of the reasons why she teaches her children at home. She said she also likes the ability to explore more subjects.

Saxton's children became interested in worms and insects while studying science. They then hunted worms, putting them in a jar for the children to watch.

Some critics of homeschooling may argue that the children learning outside of the classroom do not develop social relationships with other children. According to homeschool parents, this assumption is false.

"They need to meet my children," Purdee said.

Purdee's children are both involved in several church activities, with both children their ages and adults. They also take physical education classes at the Ashland area YMCA where they meet other children schooled at home.

They also socialize with other children at Wednesday programs at the Briggs Lawrence County Public Library.

Susan Montgomery, a librarian assistant, said the library offers programs for two groups of homeschoolers in Ironton and South Point. In South Point, 15 children ages 6-12 are regular attendants, but as many as 50 will show up for special programs such as ones involving science with Ohio University.

Williams has met several other homeschooling parents at the library functions, with whom she has become friends. These new friends also pass along curriculum material for their older children that they have finished using as well as help her find used material, which can be quite expensive. Most homeschool families only have one parent working.

"It's a financial strain, to be honest," Williams said. "But, it's a matter of choice. We are blessed to be able to afford it."

Some parents eventually send their children to public or private school after homeschooling. Gail McHugh, a woman living between Proctorville and Chesapeake, schools her 6-year-old son at home. Her daughter, now 23, went to Catholic school until the second grade. She then spent a few years going between public school and homeschooling until the 10th grade.

"She was equipped to share the world with people of different backgrounds. She was stable and well-rounded," McHugh said.

Her daughter will graduate from the University of Pittsburgh School of Nursing next May. Her 6-year-old son is now reading on a fifth grade reading level.