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by Dee Sarton

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KTVB.COM

Posted on February 2, 2012 at 3:11 PM

Updated Tuesday, Nov 26 at 1:25 AM

Idaho home schools
Total enrollment:
Unknown
Pros:
Can learn at own pace, freedom of curriculum, suited to child's learning style
Cons:
Curriculum and funding not provided by state

BOISE -- How many children are home-schooled in Idaho?  That number is not known, but Idaho has greater freedom when it comes to home-schooling than any other state in the nation.  The common belief among educators is that the number of home-schooled children in the Gem State is between 5,000 and 6,000.  These are children whose parents assume the sole responsibility of potential costs and providing education in the way they see fit.

Natalie is in the second grade, her sister, Emily, is in the 6th grade, and Ryan is in the 8th grade.  For the past six years, all three of them have been taught by their mother, Karen.

Karen has creative way of teaching her children different concepts.  For example, she used hands-on learning with cookies to demonstrate supply and demand.  Cookies may be a great common denominator, but a lot of people wonder... Isn't it hard to teach children with such a wide age spread?

"You would be surprised at what those little guys pick up.  Natalie was two and I would just bring her up to the table, for example, if we were learning about a specific kind of animal, and then maybe give my oldest an assignment to write a paragraph, then my daughter, who was in the first grade, write two sentences and draw a picture.  And Natalie, I would give her play-dough and say something like 'If you could make an animal, what would it look like?'  And she would sit there right at the table, it was part of the training process overall to get her used to the way we do things," said Karen.  "It's not really that difficult."

Karen wants her children to learn how to learn.

"We really try to inspire self-learning and encourage them to seek answers out," said Karen.

"I can go at my own pace and if I want to study more in math or science, I can study more in math or science.  I don't have a lot of distractions to hold me back so I can go at my, my own pace," said Ryan.

And of course, mom is always nearby when they need help.

Another advantage that the kids point out, is that they have more time to do the things they enjoy.

"I really like it because I really have control of my day and it's fun getting to do all the activities that we do with our friends and stuff," said Emily.  "Really, if I stay focused I can get done with my school pretty early."

Those extra activities the kids are able to do is how Karen deals with a homeschooling concern that a lot of people raise: socialization.

"You have to work a little bit to find it, but when you find it, it's amazing and we get out a lot," explained Karen.  "Our priority is building faith and a good education and a love of learning and exposing our kids.  We make sure we get the academics done and then we have a lot of time to spend with friends."

More time to pursue individual interests and an education suited to their children's learning styles are a couple of the reasons Karen and her husband chose homeschooling.  The heart of the matter though, came down to something much more personal.

"Ryan went to public school through second grade and Emily went to public school for kindergarten and you know, there are amazing families that have their kids in public school and they're able to instill these values and have them involved in all kinds of things but for our family, my husband and I were finding it really hard to spend time with their hearts and to help them develop good character qualities that would help them be successful in their relationships and their faith and give them a strong foundation to go forward.  So, one of the biggest blessings we find with home-school quite frankly are times to take time out for this."

Karen is also able to teach the inner qualities they want their kids to live out, like speaking with kindness.

"One of the biggest blessings we find with homeschooling, quite frankly, are times to take time out for this.  When they're getting off of the bus at 4:00 p.m. and I'm running them to baseball, basketball, soccer, ballet, very hard to make the time to focus on the things that we thought were very important for them for the long term," said Karen.

And that is why Karen is thankful to live in a state where families have the freedom to choose homeschooling.  There are no laws against it  and no laws regulating it.  She has complete freedom to educate her children as she sees fit.
 
"I think what I love about Idaho is they trust the parents and their heart," said Karen.  "They trust that parents who choose to seek out a different education opportunity, are trusting that they are doing it with the best intention."

It is a holistic approach to education and life according to this home-school mom.  The learning never stops.

"There are very few times in life when you have a chance to impact a life and this is it this is my chance to do something positive and leave a lasting legacy for them and hopefully for their children and children and children," Karen explained.  "'I'll never regret it.  I'll never regret the loss of income, I'll never regret the loss of things we could have had.  Right now, it's precious, it's precious time."

If you are wondering about the cost of homeschooling, a package curriculum is not provided by the state and all costs associated with home school are the responsibility of the parent. 

Karen says it can be as inexpensive or expensive as you want to make it.  Her children, for example, make good use of the library and that is a cost-saving measure.  They also join other families in co-op situations to learn specialized subjects like art.  That saves on private lesson costs.  All-in-all, Karen says there is a great support system for families that home educate.  Within that network, there are resources for every economic situation.

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