Homeschoolers Don’t Need to “Go it Alone;”
Many Resources Available to Christian and Secular Home Schools
By Laurie Hindman
Most home schooling families fall into either one of two categories: decidedly Christian or secular — a program which may or may not have religion as a component, but is not faith based. Regardless of what camp a home school parent may fall in, when they first decide to walk down the path of home education, those first few steps can be scary. Fortunately, there are many resources in the Northern Colorado area for families seeking support and guidance.
For Christian-based homeschool families there are numerous opportunities for networking. Alice Von Seggern, a mother of two boys, Brian, 16, and Trevor, 13, has been homeschooling for over ten years. Brian is now a sophomore and is attending Berthoud High School, his first experience with public school; Trevor is homeschooled.
“I was a teacher so I felt pretty confident homeschooling,” said Von Seggern. “In the beginning, I kind of picked and chose a hodge-podge of materials, but I did discover that the further you went the better it was to have a more complete curriculum, especially in things like math.”
Von Seggern said when her kids were little and didn’t know as many people in the Berthoud area, they joined the “Agape Family Schools” group in Loveland. Agape describes itself as a “forthright Christian organization established for the purpose of providing support, encouragement and information for homeschooling families.” The group holds monthly meetings during the school year, guest speakers, field trips, “moms night out” events, as well as facilitates small groups who meet on a regular basis.
As the kids got older, Von Seggern said they stopped participating in Agape. “It came to a point, where it was just too much. You know, when people criticize homeschooling they always bring up socializing, but between church and Scouts and sports and family, it [Agape] became one more thing to add to our calendar.”
More recently Von Seggern used “Master’s Hand,” a Christian school with classes as large as twenty-five students. Classes provide a complete, one-year curriculum, but students are required to attend just one day per week; they are assigned homework based on their lessons for the rest of the week. Among the classes offered are math, English, art, P.E. and social studies. The classes are held in a building on the Faith Church grounds in Loveland. Students can choose up to five classes.
One of the benefits, said Von Seggern, is that the students have the opportunity to experience an actual classroom setting and learn the protocol of a formal education.
Von Seggern also enrolled her kids in a program called Options School, currently available in Longmont and Loveland; the Options School is a non-faith based, public education program for students in grades K-12, designed to support parents who choose home education; Parents remain the primary instructional provider, with the school supplementing their efforts. Families participating in the program get limited instruction and educational materials at no cost. However, in order to receive state funding, each registered student must spend approximately 5 – 6 regularly scheduled hours at the school per week. Like Master’s Hand, students are assigned homework to complete during the week.
Karen Honneger, who homeschools her two sons, Karl, age 18, and Anson, age 16, said her family has also benefited from Agape and Master’s Hand, but has relied mostly on a curriculum called “Sonlight.” The Honnegers chose this program because although it is Christian based, it exposes students to various viewpoints that might be considered controversial by the Christian community as a way to stimulate critical thinking and discussion. Honneger said it has been a very successful program for her children; Karl finished all his graduation requirements by his junior year and is now taking college credits at Front Range; he plans to attend college at the University of Northern Colorado in the fall.
While Christian homeschool parents often cite the promotion of family and Christian values as a reason for home schooling, secular families may homeschool because of specific educational goals.
Liz Rayment, Berthoud resident, owner of the online educational toy store www.keepsharp.com, and president of Action Works, a non-profit that strives to engage young people in science and technology, homeschooled her sons for a couple of years when she felt their needs were not being met. She believes this is a common reason parents pull their students from public schools.
“My experience was that those that homeschooled for secular reasons, did so for because they wanted, and/or needed, more challenge…some did so because the child just did better with self-paced education or some because of a disability that made a school environment difficult.”
Rayment’s children returned to public school a couple years ago and are attending Bill Reed Middle School in Loveland which offers a “core” curriculum—classes that provide enrichment opportunities. “Those that return to local schools by high school often do so because AP [advanced placement] classes are available to provide that challenge,” said Rayment. “It also isn’t possible for most families to have the level of lab equipment in a home setting.”
There are many networks and co-ops available for the non-Christian based home school parent looking for support. The Longmont Homeschool Group describes itself as an “eclectic, inclusive group welcoming people of various faiths or lack of faith, various homeschool styles, various lifestyles.” Their webpage (www.longmonthomeschoolgroup.homeschooljournal.net/) offers numerous links to homeschool activities and networks in the area. It’s sister organization, NICHE (Northern Inclusive Colorado Home Educators) is also located on the web and has numerous links to homeschool information and activities, reading lists and co-ops.
Another group, known as The Rocky Mountain Homeschool Organization, headquartered in Fort Collins, but with members throughout northern Colorado, offers field trips, social activities, an annual science fair and recitals.
Other resources in this area in which both Christian and non-faith based homeschoolers may have interest, include the Loveland Library, which houses a significant amount of home school material, the Thompson School District Gift and Talented Program, which has materials available for check-out and The Bookies bookstore in Denver, an independent book seller with a huge selection of educational and teacher’s materials for preschool to high school.
However, according to Honneger the larger question is not which curriculum is best for your child, but is homeschooling right for your family.
“No matter what curriculum you select, you can’t create school at home. Homeschooling is a lifestyle. It requires sacrifice—there are things you give up when you are a one-income family. It can be tough. It requires a complete commitment and periodic evaluation—is this working for your family?”