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Home school: Families like custom-tailored learning

Budding artists try their hand with an art project during a home-school session. (CONTRIBUTED)
Budding artists try their hand with an art project during a home-school session. (CONTRIBUTED)

MADISON – Crystal Dickerson, a former public school teacher, has changed lanes and is home schooling her two children.

Dickerson said her children, 10-year-old Ella and seven-year-old Eli, had wonderful teachers in Madison City Schools and positive experiences. She formerly taught in the Madison district “before kids and before Common Core,” she said.

However, home schooling attracted them for “custom-tailored learning experiences, more family time and religious reasons. The advent of Common Core, following on the heels of the failed No Child Left Behind dictates, left me seeking what a great education looks like,” Dickerson said.

They finished their first year of home schooling in June 2015. (classicalconversations.com)

“Exiting the public school system, my children and I desperately wanted to belong to a community of like-minded people. Our Classical Conversations – Madison West campus offered so much more,” Dickerson said. Paid tutors modeled Classical’s instruction with a Biblical worldview, followed by science experiments, fine arts, presentations, reviews, lunch and recess.

“Essentials,” the afternoon session for students in grades 9-12, offers “a dialectic-flavored grammar, math and writing time. The curriculum is a backbone to which parents add standalone math and language arts curricula,” she said.

At capacity with a wait list, Classical Conversations has moved to The Brook church, 8573 U.S. 72 West in Madison. Class rosters are filling but spaces are available.

Nationwide, Classical Conversations has more than 80,000 students. Thirteen campuses operate in the Tennessee Valley.

“Emphasis is shifting more from the familial unit to government-run schools and is unsettling to my traditional values,” she said. “(Traditional) schools have so many things ‘right,’ but so do families.”

She cites home-schooling advantages as closer familial relationships, focus on an individual child’s strengths/weaknesses and freedom from a school calendar to allow more time for extracurricular activities and travel without burnout.

Obstacles that home-schooling families must face are time management, motivation at difficult times and possible isolation, she said.

If parents are considering home school, they should familiarize themselves with current state laws, determine the home-school style that best fits, discover the child’s learning style and shop for curricula, Dickerson said.

She shops for materials online at christianbook.com and amazon.com. Creative Learning Center, 8006 Old Madison Pike, Suite 11-A, is a local option.

Field trips or “learning experiences” are vital. The Dickersons used a Florida tour to absorb stories about Ponce de Leon and St. Augustine and local ecology, biology and geography.

“Parents shouldn’t feel like they must travel to have great experiences. Local field trip opportunities abound right here in Madison County,” Dickerson said. She listed the U.S. Space and Rocket Center, Sci-Quest Hands-on Science Center, Huntsville Botanical Garden, Burritt on the Mountain and Early Works/Constitution Village.

Classical Conversations students’ favorite field trip was Huntsville Museum of Art to view Grandma Moses’ exhibit after they had studied her life.

“The parent is the ultimate authority for assessing student success,” Dickerson said. Children master skills at their own pace. “Some second-graders I know are still chipping away at kindergarten-level reading but on a third-grade level in math.”

“We all (as adults) remember studying for a test; our students study for the love of learning,” she said.

“The number of home schools is limited only by the number of homes with school-aged children. Every home can be a school for children,” Dickerson said. “Alabama State Department of Education requires that home-schoolers report attendance under the authority of a ‘cover school’ or ‘church school.'”

Any Alabama home-schooler feasibly can align with any willing cover school, even one far away. For a list of Alabama home schools, visit leapingfromthebox.com/hs/alhschurchcover.html.

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