Back-to-school choices

Some parents decide to keep children home

Thanks to the numerous days of rainy weather, kids have barely had time to have fun in the sun this summer. Yet stores and ads have been touting back-to-school supplies for a month.

Instead of choosing clothes and pencils, some families are deciding whether to switch their children from traditional public or private schools to homeschooling.

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary (available in back-to-school sales), homeschooling is “to teach school subjects to one’s children at home.”

Typically, this is implemented by a parent, often the mother, but fathers, guardians and other qualified family members also teach the curriculum.

Reasons for homeschooling are varied.

“We don’t homeschool because we are for or against something. We homeschool because it feels right for our family, and we are capable to do it,” Olia Sakhnovsky of Cortland said. Her two daughters will be 10 and 7 when the textbooks open this year.

“It works. We have seen great results in our kids’ academic achievements, and we all enjoy it,” Sakhnovsky said.

Heather Gleason of Bazetta said she will teach her son, Phillip, who will be 9 this coming school year, at home this year.

“My husband, Phil, and I chose to homeschool our son because we are committed to raising him in an environment that encourages a love of learning that will last throughout his life,” she said.

“We can customize his education to his interests, abilities and learning style. We encourage him to pursue subjects that interest him as well as ones that will possibly become a career,” Gleason said.

Robyn Trinkle of Cortland said she has a special reason for homeschooling her son.

“My son is very smart, but he has trouble sitting still,” Trinkle said.

She said worried that he would be stigmatized for this trait in a traditional school setting, so she opted to homeschool.

Other area parents opt for homeschool so that schoolwork can incorporate religious instruction and spiritual beliefs that are omitted in public schools. Others parents believe their particular school district is lacking academically.

In Ohio, homeschool education is possible when the parents notify their local school district’s superintendents and also adhere to Ohio law for home education.

“We informed the school about our intention to homeschool once our kids reached the required school age, but informally we have been teaching them long before that,” Sakhnovsky said.

According to the Ohio Department of Education, parents select the curriculum and course of study in the 900 required hours for their children, but it should include language, reading, spelling, writing, geography, history of the United States and Ohio, national, state and local government, mathematics, science, health, physical education, first aid, safety and fire prevention, and fine arts, including music.

Homeschool conventions — such as the Great Homeschool Convention in April in Cincinnati and the Teach Them Diligently Homeschool Convention in May in Columbus, among others across the country — draw thousands of parents each year who talk with hundreds of curriculum vendors on every subject.

Homeschooling cooperatives, such as TEACH — Trumbull Education Association of Christian Homes — in Trumbull County, offer advice and group activities, such as science projects and a sports league.

Local libraries also offer assistance. The Cortland Branch of the Warren Trumbull County Public Library holds Lib-ratory events. Last school year’s topics included abstract art, ecosystems (with a do-it-yourself terrarium) and “Stars in the Night Sky.”

“I choose projects and events that I think are fun and that the children would enjoy,” said Amber Morgan-Opitz, youth services librarian. She also considers the appropriate skill level for the children when developing and planning activities.

The programs are for children in the homeschool community in grades K-6. Participation in these activities encourages collaboration, literacy and critical thinking.

“We chose to attend the Libra-tory program for the opportunity to participate in an educational and social event in a larger group setting with children of various ages,” Gleason said. “We also enjoy the fun and creative activities that Ms. Amber plans for the kids. It is also a great opportunity for the parents to socialize and share ideas with each other.”

Parents prefer setting up the school day for their own and their children’s needs.

“We try to stay consistent and follow a certain routine with the majority of the tasks. We think it is important for kids to know what and when is expected from them. Normally, we do most of the work in the first part of the day, leaving the afternoon for art projects, science experiments, playing educational games and free play,” Sakhnovsky said.

Gleason said, “We typically school five days a week for three to five hours per day, but we school all year, taking breaks for holidays. We always log many more hours than are required.”

When parents consider homeschooling their children, one worry that they have is being required to be structured and organized with their child’s day.

“The greatest thing about homeschool is that you work at your child’s pace and you go around your family’s schedule,” Trinkle said. “Sometimes, school is in our designated homeschool room and sometimes we take the learning outdoors. If your child needs a break, you take a break. If they are super engaged and don’t want a break that day, then you work straight through.”

Gleason agreed. “Being on an individualized basis, we can move as quickly or slowly as he needs to fully grasp a concept. Often, this results in a child being in different grade levels for different subjects.”

A benefit for parents and children is that a connection can result from homeschooling.

“We enjoy every moment we get to spend with our son and truly enjoy being in each other’s company. We have a close and loving relationship beyond anything we could have hoped for. I can’t imagine giving away this privilege for anything,” Gleason said.

For many parents like Sakhnovsky, homeschooling is more than accumulating credit hours.

“While we follow all of the legal Ohio requirements, homeschooling is a lifestyle. It never stops. We are always on the lookout for learning opportunities. The world is so big and so interesting. For us it feels like there are too many wonderful learning activities to do, too many great books to read and not enough hours in a day.”

Parents or guardians are the people to most likely know the best way that their child learns. Homeschooling has allowed these families to make the right choice for them.