Home-schooled seniors share goals, aspirations

Graduation is 7 p.m. Saturday at Emmanuel Baptist Church, Marion

Managing editor

High school graduation is one of the most important events in a teenager’s life.

It doesn’t matter how he or she got there — public, private, or home-school. What does matter are the same things that matter to all teens — figuring out what’s next and how to achieve it.

Three seniors will graduate through the Marion County Home-school organization — the most graduates in one year through the organization since its inception.

Commencement will be at 7 p.m. Saturday at Emmanuel Baptist Church, 229 N. Walnut St., Marion.

Ruthie Walker of Hillsboro and Rachel Thurston and Olivia Dicks of Marion have been prepared by their parents to take this big step.

For Ruthie, daughter of Gregg and Betsy Walker of Hillsboro, being home-schooled has given her opportunities to work with horses. She is looking at colleges that offer equine massage therapy training.

Despite being home-schooled, Ruthie played in the Hillsboro Middle School and High School bands.

“I love music,” she said. She also performs in her church worship band.

Rachel plans to take business classes at Butler Community College and would like to attend culinary school.

“I’d like to own a bakery/coffee shop,” she said.

Rachel is musically inclined with drums being her instrument of choice.

Brent and Heidi Thurston of Marion are Rachel’s parents.

Olivia plans to live at home after graduation and continue her college studies through an online program. She currently has 18 college credits. Her ultimate goal is to go into ministry.

“I’d like to have my own bed and breakfast retreat center where I can serve and minister to others,” she said.

Olivia also enjoys music — she plays guitar and piano in the church worship band.

John and Robin Dicks of Marion are her parents.

The young women agreed that spending time with family was important and appreciated the opportunity to be home-schooled.

“There aren’t many distractions,” Rachel said. It also gives her an opportunity to work ahead.

“It allows more time with family and I can spend more time doing things I love,” Ruthie said.

Olivia appreciates being able to work at her own speed. She was able to take college classes while still in high school.

The teens also agreed they are able to relate to people of all ages and not just their peer age group. They participate in group activities through the home-school organization, church youth groups, sports, and other youth organizations, giving them ample time to be around people their ages.

Teaching from home

Teaching techniques are as individual as the teachers and students. Some parents teach from the kitchen table, some teach from a certain area of the house with desks, and others teach as life happens.

For the parents of these three young women, the mothers who teach them believe they are gaining much from the experience.

The three mothers come from different backgrounds but share common goals and reasons for home-schooling — to provide the best education possible to their children and to answer to a higher power.

“God called my family to do this,” Robin Dicks said.

Heidi Thurston agreed that God had a hand in the decision to home-school her four children.

For Betsy Walker, who will see her third of six children graduate in the coming week, wants her children to have more than an education.

“I’m able to involve God in my schooling,” she said. And that’s important to her.

The three women are planning their children’s graduation from home-school.

This year marks three graduates from the Marion County Home Educators organization of which the women and their families are members.

None of them has educational backgrounds. Not one of them is a teacher. But that doesn’t matter.

“We know exactly what we need to do,” Thurston said, and she said she enjoys sharing the joy of learning with her children.

“I learn along with them,” Dicks said.

“I’m teaching my children how to learn,” Walker said.

The women believe their children are getting more than an education — they’re being trained for adult life and the challenges ahead.

It’s not all fun and games. Times can be challenging for the teachers and the students.

“We have to have discipline and motivation,” Thurston said. Her children know when it’s time to get to work.

With a less structured classroom, Walker’s daughter, Ruthie, who graduates this year, can spend time with her horses.

“Students can go as far as they want to,” Dicks said, at their own pace.

And the proof is the fact that Olivia has nearly completed a year of college even before she’s received her high school diploma.

They know they are not alone because there is an entire organization to support them as teachers.

An annual home-school convention is this month. The mothers plan to attend. They will have access to workshops and be able to purchase books and materials.

“Teaching options are endless,” Dicks said. “You can pick from the best.”

When the teachers are stumped, information is close at hand through the Internet and from other home-schoolteachers. Answers are at their fingertips.

The local home-school organization offers support and the teachers are able to share ideas. Cooperative classes are offered, giving students an opportunity to be taught by different teachers and meet other students.

Isolation is not a concern of the mothers — all agree their children have friends who attend public school as well as those who are home-schooled.

Each child is different and requires various approaches to teaching. The curriculum can be tailored to the individual student.

“I have one child who is independent and another who isn’t,” Dicks said.

Dicks has three children. Her oldest, Olivia, will graduate this year. She has taught them for the past 10 years.

Thurston has four children. Rachel is her second oldest. She has been her children’s teacher since 1996 when her oldest son was in kindergarten. This fall, she is preparing to teach first grade to her youngest daughter.

“Hannah has learned so much by listening to her siblings as they work on their subjects,” Thurston said.

The older children can help teach the younger ones, Walker said.

“We can also go back and review the areas where our children have problems,” Dicks said.

“Or not spend as much time on certain areas because the child knows it well,” Thurston said.

Of Walker’s six children, two are grown and on their own. She has taught her family for 22 years.

In Walker’s opinion, teaching her children gives her an opportunity to teach them more than the basics.

“Bible and history are related,” Walker said, referring to the integration of a Christian-centered curriculum. “It’s a privilege to be able to do this.”

“I love having my kids home with me,” Dicks said. “It brings our family closer.”

“It is so exciting to share learning with them,” Thurston said.

Even though there is no mandatory testing for home-schooled students, they can take ACTs and SATs.

And now the next generation of home-schooled children has begun with Walker’s son and daughter-in-law beginning to home-school their child.

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