Moms like personal attention home schooling provides

Published 11:20 pm Saturday, May 9, 2009

NATCHEZ — Andrew Merriett popped his head in the door connecting his Natchez home to the family’s home office.

The family dog squeezed in and Andrew’s little sister Lauren squeezed out.

“I’ve finished my handwriting,” Andrew told his mom Terri Merriett.

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But at 9:45 on a Friday morning, Andrew, a third grader, wasn’t finishing up homework or home sick from school. He was at school where his mom is the principal and the teachers are on video.

Across the Miss-Lou moms are celebrating Mother’s day, but play more than just the role of mom.

Terri Merriett said she decided to teach her children from home — she has three — when Andrew, the oldest, was preschool aged. She said the control over the curriculum and flexible schedule were things she and her husband Lane couldn’t pass up.

“We wanted to know what he was being taught and have a say in that,” she said. “We don’t want to just send him out into the world.”

And for the Merriett family having that control meant moving school in to the house, a decision Terri said has tested her along the way.

“It hasn’t always been easy,” Terri said. “The hardest thing for me has been finding the time to take a break and find time for myself.”

But, even with days filled chasing a 4-year-old son Samuel and nearly 3-year-old daughter Lauren and monitoring Andrew’s schoolwork, Terri said having the ability to teach her children in a faith-based environment makes the extra work worthwhile.

On a daily basis, using curriculum from Bob Jones University, Andrew has lessons in Bible, English, history or heritage studies, handwriting and spelling. Every-other-day Andrew alternates with science and math lessons.

“We start every day with Bible,” Terri said. “If we don’t get anything else completed that day, I want to make sure that is done.”

The Merriett family is one of many Miss-Lou families that is bring the classroom into the home. Natchez mom Sarah Cowart is also home-schooling her first-grade daughter Maribeth.

Cowart, who is in her third year of home schooling, said it was something she sort of fell into when Maribeth was 3.

“She seemed like she was ready to start learning so we started with preschool,” Cowart said. “After that, we just felt it was right for us.”

And like Terri Merriett, Cowart juggles home schooling with caring for a younger sibling. Cowart and her husband Robert also have a 3-year-old daughter, Amelia.

Cowart said she continues to home school because she knows she is able to give Maribeth one-on-one attention all the time — something she said traditional schools can’t offer.

“When you have 30 students in a classroom, you can’t be focused on each student all the time,” Cowart said. “Not everyone is going to be learning on the same level. You are going to have to teach above some students and lower the level for others. With (home schooling), I can customize it and spend more time in areas Maribeth is struggling with and move her up in areas that she excels.”

One of the reasons Cowart said the fit is better is because she is able to ensure her children are receiving a solid faith based foundation along with a well-rounded education.

Using Sonlight, a Christian home schooling curriculum, Maribeth starts each day with exercise and then moves into Bible, history, reading math and science lessons.

“Science is her favorite because it is very activity based,” Cowart said. “She likes to do the experiments and we save those for Friday. They are her reward for a good week.”

And like Maribeth, Josiah Reed, the 5-year-old son of Danny and Calley Reed, likes all the activities he gets to do as part of his school work.

Calley said she decided to home school so Josiah could receive personal attention.

“He is such an active child, that if he was in a traditional school I’m afraid he would be classified because of that,” Calley said.

So instead of stifling his active nature, Calley said home schooling allows her to use it as a teaching tool. She said instead of staying inside doing worksheets, her chosen curriculum — My Father’s World — gives activities that allow Josiah to focus his energy.

“If we are talking about whales we will go out in the yard and measure how big a whale would be,” she said. “And if he is restless, he can go out in the yard and play and come back to the school work later.”

Calley said it was important for both her and her husband to raise their children in a Godly household, but they didn’t know from the beginning that would include home schooling.

“At first we said there was no way we would home school, but as we prayed about it, we felt the Lord was pushing us in that direction,” Calley said. “So we said ‘OK, Lord. If this is what you want us to do, we will do it.’”

But for how long is still up in the air, Calley said.

“We aren’t saying we will do it all the way up,” she said. “If at some point the children want to enter regular school, we will pray about it do what the Lord tells us to do.”

But until then, Calley said class at their Vidalia home will be in session.