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Homeschooling in Summit County: Growing in popularity?

Kathryn Corazzelli
Summit Daily News
Special to the Daily
ALL |

Sometimes, individual attention can make all the difference in a child’s education. And for some Summit County parents, it’s that one-on-one help, along with the ability to customize lessons, driving the decision to homeschool their children.

“I’m a self-paced person, so for me it was perfect,” 26-year-old Naomi Greer told a roomful of Summit County residents last week. Greer, homeschooled from the third grade all the way through high school, was part of a homeschool discussion panel meant to educate parents curious about the practice, and those who already do but wanted more perspective.

The panel was run by Summit County Homeschoolers, an association of local families who teach at home. Member Deb Rohlf said the group consists of about 80 kids, although she estimates there are about125 homeschooled children in the county. She said the number is “rising dramatically every year.”

Greer said her parents’ decision to homeschool was born out of academic reasons. She was more advanced than the rest of her class, and the one-on-one attention allowed her to work ahead and blossom. She still had friends in school, and still attended prom. Greer called it a “best of both worlds scenario.”

Dave Hunsinger and his wife, Ann, said they homeschool their three children because “we’re after our kids’ hearts.” Dave said it’s not that he doesn’t like the public schools – he earned his education in one – but the decision just seemed right. Concerned about character and faith, he and Ann are after “great kids and personalities.”

Dave, an engineer, spends his days at work while Ann stays at home with the kids. This is the ninth year Ann has homeschooled the children, aged 13,15 and 16. Before making the transition, Ann said she missed the children when they were in school, and was impressed with how other homeschooled children interacted with adults. Ann worked as a certified teacher for 10 years before teaching at home and said she has learned more with her kids – about history, literature – than she did in her job.

The Hunsinger children play the cello, and all have their martial arts black belts. The family likes to travel to Denver for the orchestra. Both parents said the freedom of homeschooling allows them to choose what subjects to focus on.

“It’s great for me because it gave us lots of time to do other stuff,” said son George Hunsinger, 15, who enjoys skiing, music and literature. “Lots of my school curriculum is reading.”

“Do I think my kids are learning more (than in public schools)?” Dave asked the room. “I don’t know. Are (my kids) going to be good citizens and good human beings? Absolutely.”

Socialization

“True socialization is being able to talk to adults,” said parent Susan Cousino, who homeschools her two children, ages 14 and 15.

Cousino began teaching at home after seeing the positive way other homeschool children interacted with adults. The decision also helped nix her son’s attention problems, and allows the children to learn at their own pace. The practice has also allowed the family to travel.

Dave said kids in public school learn about politics, sex and other life topics from other children; subjects he’d rather touch on himself.

“My kids are being socialized by us,” Dave said. “It’s a different kind of socialization.”

Some children stay involved in public school activities even though they learn at home. Homeschooling parent Tina Wilson said her children were invited to the eighth-grade dance, while Cousino’s daughter participates in speech and debate. Rohlf took violin lessons with her son at the middle school. Greer said she felt connected with her friends at public school, and never thought she was lacking socially.

Hard work

While the parent-teachers aren’t leaving their homes for a regular nine-to-five, their jobs are still demanding.

“It is hard,” Wilson said.

Wilson said re-evaluating her situation at the beginning of each school year helps her keep everything in check. She looks at both her immediate and long-term goals. During the school year, an online learning program gives her a break and helps prevent burnout.

Dave said the key is avoiding frustration. Knowing how to laugh when a glass of milk gets spilled or the dog runs all over helps, he said. His family also re-evaluates their decision every year.

Greer said her mother stopped homeschooling after 12 years after getting burned-out. Her two younger brothers, 12 and 15, attend public school.

“The best option was to put them in school and monitor them as much she could,” Greer said.

Now married, Greer said she doesn’t know if she will homeschool her future children or not. While she loved her experience, her husband can’t imagine having missed out on public high school. But, she said he said he does see the advantages to her upbringing.

“I’ve seen positives on both sides,” she said.


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