For many families, at this time of year, back-to-school means full schedules, carving out time for homework, and buying expensive shoes, clothes and supplies. But for many Marion County homeschool families, back-to-school has a different meaning.
“Let me first say that every homeschool family is different,” said Angela Ciero, homeschool parent of five and vice president of Marion County Home Education Board. “There is no such thing as a typical day. Some families follow an 8-to-3 schedule, others may choose to do their lessons in the middle of the night because that is when a parent is available. But, for all of us, the flexibility and the freedom to do what we think best for our children is important.”
Ciero said religion played a major role in her decision, nine years ago to homeschool her children. Others start for political, discipline, or health reasons.
“I feel that God has given us the responsibility as parents to raise our children in a certain way. I just couldn’t do that while sending them to school 8 to 10 hours a day,” she said. “The time they are young goes by so fast. We have to make the most of it when we have them.”
Ciero, whose children range in age from 7 to 17 said she did not want to homeschool her children at first, but became aware that there were things they were not getting at school that she could provide at home.
“The Lord showed me that anything was possible,” she said. “There are special interests they have that we can do so much with, and that wouldn’t happen in a normal school situation.”
Bicycle repair is something that interests Ciero’s 12-year-old son. He plans to set up his own bicycle repair shop, so Ciero is able to work lessons in many subjects around that interest, and for him, learning is a lot of fun.
“I just enjoy the fun and flexibility we have with the children at home,” Ciero said. “One day the boys brought me a 5-gallon bucket full of caterpillars, with the question, ‘Mom can we keep them?’ Experiences like that just make learning so much fun.”
Ciero happened to have a butterfly house on hand, and together the family raised a big batch of moths.
“Some of them died, most of them were moths, but there were a few beautiful butterflies, and of course, we turned them all loose,” she said. “It was a great learning experience for the kids.”
Ciero said teaching the fundamentals of reading, math, science, and English at home, with the Internet, was much easier now than it used to be.
“Years ago I hated the Internet,” she said. “But now we can’t live without it. For homeschool we can get complete curriculums for free, really good lessons for spelling and history. It is just amazing all you can find to use.”
Ciero said being a member of the Marion County Home Education Board also was helpful to her family.
“We go on a lot of field trips together with other families, and other years have formed co-ops that we can share our specialties with each other,” she said.
Her own children have benefitted from art lessons taught by another mom in the group especially talented in that area, and a father in the group gave guitar lessons to her son. Ciero said her own specialty was drama, mime, and acting. And she enjoyed sharing her gifts with other families and groups of homeschool children.
“We always have to work to balance out the cost of the things we do, but the flexibility is there and our children are not so overburdened with homework that they miss out on fun things,” she said. “For example, we finished our work early today (Friday), so now it’s movie night the rest of the afternoon and evening.”
Ciero said her children had differing opinions on whether homeschool was the best thing for them.
“My oldest has sometimes challenged why we do what we do,” she said. “We have agreed to let him finish his senior year, next year, in public school, if that is what he wants to do. My daughter has friends from church who attend public school though, and they are always complaining about all the homework they have to do and that they never have free time. My younger children are happy not to have those problems.”
Betsy Walker, president of the Marion County Home Education Board, said there are approximately 50 children registered in homeschools in the group this year, with many others active county-wide. The group held an organizational picnic in Hillsboro Saturday to provide a supportive network for homeschool families.
“We meet every other month to coordinate field trips, fill needs, and find rides, if needed,” Walker said. “We have had as many as 80 children involved, so we find it important to have a mom’s group that meets every other month as well.”
Walker said five new families joined the county organization this year, but since several left the area, numbers were about the same as the previous year.