System has pros and cons

Published 12:00 am Sunday, August 26, 2001

VIDALIA, La. – Teressa Reynolds of Vidalia is convinced that no one knows her children better than she.

And by homeschooling daughters Keisha, 15, and Rebecca, 11, Reynolds said she is able to tailor her children’s lessons to their strengths and weaknesses.

&uot;You know your children better than anybody,&uot; said Reynolds, who has homeschooled her children for four years. &uot;I&160;know ways they can learn and have more of an interest in the subject. If this way doesn’t work, we just try something else.&uot;

Email newsletter signup

Customized lessons

&uot;You can find their strengths and weaknesses,&uot; said Jodie Wright, who has homes-chooled her son, 11-year-old Glenn, for six years. &uot;It’s actually the ultimate in tutorial education – one-on-one instruction.

&uot;And you have the ability to have the ultimate control over your children’s curriculum,&uot; Wright added.

&uot;Our class times are short and to the point,&uot; Wright said. &uot;And in cases where they don’t like a particular lesson, you can saw it into smaller bits.&uot;

And in cases where children are learning faster than others their age, homeschooling can be more efficient, said Beverly Laurant, who homeschools her 13-year-old daughter Jahanna.

&uot;In a classroom, for example, the class will be reading and we’ve got to slow down because Johnny doesn’t know where we are in the book,&uot;&160;Laurant said.

And children of different ages who are homeschooled together tend to learn faster in some cases. That is because they absorb the older children’s lessons along with their own, like in the one-room schoolhouses of yesteryear, said Dee Bullen. &uot;One of my sons was 4 or 5 years old and his sister was learning borrowing in math,&uot; Bullen said.

&uot;He saw it on the blackboard and his eyes got so big. He said, &uot;Can I try that?&uot; and I said, &uot;Sure.&uot; And he did it just like that,&uot; she said, snapping her fingers.

Bullen has homeschooled all four of her children, two of whom had learning disabilities that made it difficult for them to read.

At first, she admitted, she felt &uot;on display&uot; as critics of homeschooling watched her attempt to deal with those problems.

&uot;But when you’re homeschooling, you can deal with that without labeling them as having a disability,&uot;&160;Bullen said. &uot;They’re avid readers now.&uot;

Reading, writing and religion

Also, homeschooling parents can weave their religious beliefs into their children’s lessons, said Harriet Johnson.

Johnson, who homeschooled her son and daughter for seven years before sending them to Adams County Christian School, said she also believes homeschooled children are subject to less peer pressure.

For Bullen, it’s all about teaching her children character as well as reading, writing and arithmetic.

&uot;Knowledge without character is a dangerous thing,&uot;&160;she said. &uot;What does it matter if you can rattle off math problems if you’re not compassionate?&uot;

Laurant said she likes the Christian curricula that are available today. &uot;I&160;like the curriculum, because they pick up Christian values,&uot; Laurant said. &uot;In handwriting, for example, she might write ‘I&160;read my Bible every day.’ It’s building on the very things I want to teach her.&uot;

Parents also like the flexibility of a homeschool schedule. Wright said that she and her husband, the Rev. Doug Wright, enjoy being able to take their son with them to regional church conferences.

In the case of Kent and Betty Blanton, who have taught their four children at home, homeschooling means being better able to take children Charlie, now 19, and Becky, 18, to regular checkups in Memphis.

Those checkups are necessary because Charlie and Becky have both had leukemia.

But homeschool also provides everyday flexibility, said Kent Blanton. &uot;You’re not tied down with so many hours a day they’re in school,&uot;&160;he said.

But perhaps the best part of homeschooling, parents said, is the close relationship that forms between homeschooling parents and their children.

That not only means that they show more affection, but that they feel comfortable talking to their parents about almost all subjects, no matter how taboo, Bullen said. &uot;The best thing about homeschooling is the parent-child relationship,&uot;&160;Bullen said. &uot;It’s a lot more than just affection and love. It’s the ability for them to come to me and open up their hearts.&uot;

But it’s not for everyone

But parents also acknowledged that homeschooling is not for every family, and that there are many factors parents should take into consideration when deciding whether to homeschool.

For Laurant, the most important thing to remember is that homeschooling is a decision you make for your children – not against the school system or a certain teacher.

&uot;Some people make the decision to homeschool because they’re unhappy with the school system, but that’s not it,&uot; Laurant said. The motivation has to be so deep within you that when the little angel (misbehaves) … It has to be a passion, a belief, one that God has impressed on you.&uot;

It takes a disciplined person to stay organized and on schedule with lessons, Johnson said.

&uot;You have to be a certain kind of person to say, ‘This is the schedule for today and we’re going to keep it,’&uot; she said.

Still, lessons will be interrupted by the ringing telephone and doorbell. &uot;Sometimes I&160;want to unplug the telephone,&uot;&160;Betty Blanton said.

Johnson can relate since, as a pastor’s wife, her house is full of visitors. &uot;We had company constantly, and with that it was hard to keep on schedule,&uot;&160;Johnson said

And, as in the case with any people who are around each other most of the day, homeschooling parents and their children will have conflicts, Bullen said.

&uot;But that can produce good things if you let it,&uot; she said. &uot;They learn to say ‘I’m sorry’ and ‘I forgive you.’ &uot;

And all parents said they themselves have learned much from homeschooling.

&uot;I learned that I&160;don’t think I&160;could teach a whole class of them,&uot; Johnson said, laughing. &uot;You learn to respect teachers a lot.&uot;

&uot;I learned that God really does provide, both financially and in knowledge of who my child is,&uot; Laurant said.

&uot;I learned patience. I&160;learned that my children are my best friends,&uot; Betty Blanton said. &uot;And I learned that there were seven years between the time the Declaration of Independence was signed and when the Constitution was completed. I never knew that.&uot;

In any case, you learn about your strengths and weaknesses as well as your children’s, Wright said. As she puts it, &uot;God didn’t call me to teach Glenn. God called me so He could teach me.&uot;