By LeRae Haynes–
Four moms who are homeschooling their children with the support of the Distance Education program through School District #27, said when it comes to their children’s education, this is the best of both worlds.
They have home learning kids ranging from kindergarten to grade 7.
Kat Sheppard, Carrie Becotte, Treava Marklinger, and Abby Shoults from the Parents Advisory Council (PAC) for home learners said that one of the biggest challenges they face is being both mom and teacher 24 hours a day.
“It’s always changing with new boundaries for everybody and a challenge to find a balance between the schoolwork and running the home,” explained Marklinger. “I hadn’t planned on homeschooling—it happened due to circumstances and I’ve learned a lot.”
“Our family gets huge support from the District Distance Ed program,” said Shoults. “They help us find the curriculum we like and what works best for each child, and they report to the government, which means I don’t have to. There is funding through the District for resources and activities, which is a huge benefit.”
The home learners meet once a week, with two classroom teachers and one teacher’s assistant. “Distance Ed teacher Martin Kruus has kids doing things like building benches for Gavin Lake, pottery, painting, swimming, skating, horseback riding, and camping and once they built a log cabin,” said Marklinger. “Our teachers are golden.”
One challenge faced by the homeschooling moms is not having a permanent location for their weekly meetings.
“We’ve been at Marie Sharpe, Scout Island, a portable at WL Secondary School, and are now at Mountview,” said Marklinger. “It all depends on the school’s enrolment and what classrooms they need; we have been really pushing to have a solid home base for ourselves. Having a permanent space would mean the kids always know where we’re going, they could have their artwork up, and the teachers could have their resources all in one place.”
Sheppard said the benefits of the home learning program far outweigh the challenges. “It’s a huge benefit toraise your own kids with your own morals and values and watch them change and grow. I love having my kids close every day,” she explained.
“My kids are best friends: they love hanging out and playing together. They love their younger siblings and they are the babies’ heroes; they wouldn’t have that as much if they were away in school all day.”
Shoults agrees. “You really get to know your kids on a deeper level; they’re not gone for five or six hours a day. My biggest challenge is keeping my house clean because now there are five children here all day,” she said. “You learn priorities and what’s really important and the kids have chores to help at home.”
“The kids learn life skills like cooking, baking, helping with farm animals, and gardening,” Sheppard added. “They learn the balance of life all along instead of being sent out into the world after 12 years of school and told, ‘Now you figure it out.’”
Shoults said when it comes to schooling, home learning gives kids the opportunity to follow what they’re passionate and curious about. “They can explore and delve deeper and don’t have to do what 30 other kids are doing,” she noted. “You get to help the kids one to one when they’re struggling.
“If I could tell people one thing about homeschooling I would say if you have the opportunity to homeschool, take it,” she said.“It’s a chance to get know your kids and find out what they want to learn about.
“Not everyone can do this: sometimes both parents have to work. We certainly make sacrifices for this choice; we don’t take holidays to Disneyland. We do a lot of camping trips.”
This program is a strong prototype for other regions, according to these moms, who said school superintendent Mark Theissen is very supportive of this program. “There is increasing interest in this direction of educating your children and he knows this group is already there,” they explained.
For more information about the Distance Ed program at School District #27 phone (250) 398-3800 or visit www.sd27.bc.ca.
LeRae Haynes is a freelance writer, song writer, community co-ordinator for Success by 6, member of Perfect Match dance band, and instigator of lots of music with kids.