"There is always the question. Am I doing the right thing? Are my kids getting what they need?” said Paula Rice, homeschool mother of six and member of the Boundary County Home Educators Association, a non-denominational homeschool support group, providing support to parents who have chosen to homeschool their children.
At the meetings, parents share homeschool ideas and information, problem solve home education needs, organize activities, and just have fun getting to know each other.
Rice said she would like to let parents know it is OK to homeschool their children and that there is support out there for those individuals interested in trying it.
“We are all in the same boat; my view is we are parents standing for our right to choose how our children are educated. How we choose to do that is up to each parent, whether it is putting their child in public school, private school, homeschool or whatever."
Paula said she believes the number one qualification for a parent being in charge of their child’s education is that the parent loves their child. Secondly, as parents, they have the responsibility to be in charge of their child’s education.
Through cooperative parent efforts, the Association organizes field trips for students such as a recent outing to Fort Steele, a trip to the Spokane Museum of Cultural Arts, a day event at the Kootenai Wildlife Refuge where the students helped plant trees, and a viewing of the Sturgeon Fish Hatchery of the Kootenai Tribe, among others.
The Association also holds an annual end-of-the-year Learning Fair hosted at local facilities such as Mt. Hall School and the Free Methodist Church, where children display projects they have made throughout the year, exhibit rock studies, share travel experiences, provide performing arts such as poetry, plays, skits, music and artwork.
"Usually we tie it up with a nice potluck dinner,” enthused Rice. “This year’s theme was Italian. It would be nice to grow and get others involved and help keep the activities going. The larger the turn out, the more fun we have.”
Beside the private schools, and the traditional public or charter schools, the state of Idaho now offers two homeschool charter schools online, making it one of the friendliest states toward homeschooling.
In addition, there are private, certified, homeschool consulting and tutoring services available that offer help to students and parents in the home, over the telephone, and online.
Rice said she wants parents who are interested in homeschooling their children to know they are not alone. With someone to show them how, and to help place their child academically, they can easily get started.
"Homeschool consulting services are popping up to help people who are thinking about getting started in homeschool,” said Rice. “The things people are afraid of are the questions, can I do it and how do I do it.”
According to Rice, consulting services are about yes you can and here’s how.
Rice provided a tour of her home, where they have two computers, with plans to get another. Her targeted homeschool schedule begins at 9 a.m. and ends at noon for lunch.
In the evenings, and especially in the winter, the Rice family cuddles together in the living room to read.
The students also submit written work online to a certified teacher through a private tutoring service, which provides evaluation of the student's work and online chats. According to Rice, the price varies with the choice of services she selects.
“I pay $60 a month when I want to use the service,” said Rice.
Additionally, Rice said she has enrolled her school age children in the Idaho Distance Education Academy (IDEA) for the first time this year.
The recently started IDEA is a public charter school that provides homeschool parents with money to purchase a non-faith based curriculum of their choice, according to Rice. In addition, the parent works with the IDEA to develop an individual student education plan.
For Rice, this means placing an emphasis on the outcome of the education and allowing for flexibility in the method. She emphasized students enrolled in the IDEA have to meet the state’s Power Standards, take the ISAT tests, just like in a public school, as well as other tests such as the IRI, Direct Writing and Math Assessments.
“The reason I am doing it is because it gave me the freedom I always wanted and extra money to buy things I haven't been able to in the past.”
The state of Idaho funds students at $1,600 for high school, $1,400 for grades three to eight, and $600 for grades kindergarten through second, as well as assigning a certified teacher to counsel with parents and students over the telephone, through email or occasional meetings.
Rice said a major benefit of homeschooling is being able to teach to your child’s strengths, and she does not believe everyone can be perfect in everything.
When asked if her program was typical of a homeschool household, Rice answered, “I don't know. I hope I am. I would love to go into the homes of others and see what they do everyday. I think it is probably different for everyone. Life is about living."
Eden Rice, age 13, has been home schooled since she was in Kindergarten and said, “I like it. If I hurry through my schoolwork then I can go outside and play.”
“The cool learning is all out there, the tools to give them are life,” said Rice. “There is so much to it.”
For more information about the Boundary County Home Educators Association, telephone Paula Rice at 208-267-1160.
For information about private, certified, educational consulting and tutoring services, Dotcom Learning or telephone 208-267-8781.
Refer to Idaho Virtual Academy, also known as K-12.
© Copyright 2009 by RuralNorthwest.com, Inc