In District 51, 538 students learn the 3 R’s from parents
Schooled at home
By EMILY ANDERSON
Matthew Scofield, 15, and his brother, Taylor Scofield, 14, can wear their pajamas until noon or play outside all summer. But that doesn’t mean they get three months off from school.
Their mother, Susan Scofield, has home-schooled her boys for 10 years and doesn’t take summers off.
“We felt like summer was kind of wasted time otherwise,” she said.
Summer does bring changes, though. The Scofields switch learning time from the mornings to the afternoons when it’s hot outside, so the boys can take advantage of lower temperatures before noon and study when it’s too hot to be outdoors.
The Boda family, with five kids still in school and one just graduated, don’t stick to a year-round schedule. But they do keep up with math and reading in the summer, “so they’re not idle,” said their mother, Stephanie Boda. The schedule has changed since
the Bodas moved to Grand Junction from New Hampshire.
“We used to home-school year-round in New England because the weather was so icky,” Boda said. “Since we moved here, it’s so beautiful in the summer, I want to let them get out.”
The Scofields and Bodas are among a growing number of Mesa County families that are going the home-school route to educate their children.
In 2007-08, 432 students living within School District 51 boundaries were home-schooled. In 2008-09, the number rose to 538.
Nationwide, home schooling has become an increasingly popular education method.
The National Center for Education Statistics reported 1.5 million students were home-schooled in 2007 in the United States, up from 850,000 in 1999.
Colorado home-school law requires home-schooled children spend the equivalent of 172 days a year and four hours each of those days doing schoolwork. When they decide to do that schoolwork is up to families.
Summer offers expanded opportunities for lessons to go beyond sitting with a textbook.
The Boda kids — Coniah, 18, Eliathah, 16, Aijeleth, 14, Taa, 13, Chereith, 12, and Seamus, 10 — spend some days helping with father Jamie’s business, APE Alternative Plant.
Peggy Webb, founder of West River Unschoolers home-schooling program, took her daughters on field trips when they were still in school. They’re now 21 and 24.
“We didn’t differentiate between the seasons and what’s learning and what’s not learning. It was just life,” Webb said.
“We would take field trips to the grocery store and the ice-skating rink, the bank, the post office, include the children in chores around the house, gardening, and take them on hikes.”
Jennifer Phillips and her husband, Mark, home-school two of their children — 8-year-old Garrett and 6-year-old Joshua (their youngest son, Bryce, is 2) — through Colorado Online Virtual Academy. The academy’s lessons and curriculum are provided on the Web, and teachers can interact with parents in person or on a live Web chat.
Phillips does not continue school through the summer, but she does extend the school week.
“You can home-school on the weekends,” she said. “I don’t personally take as many days off as public school.”
Scofield said Colorado home-school law “gives parents a lot of freedom” to make their own calendars or teach according to a child’s specialized needs.
And there is support for those who seek it. The Mesa Valley Vision School, which began last summer, opened for its second year July 1.
The nontraditional school caters to home-school parents by offering weekly or monthly meetings with a resource consultant to design an individualized learning program for a home-schooled child. The school also administers Colorado Student Assessment Program tests.
The school served 215 children last year and will expand to serve as many as 280 students this year.
“It provides another tool in the tool chest to approach education and work toward graduation,” School District 51 Superintendent Steve Schultz said.
Schultz helped the program get started after a group of home-schooling parents approached District 51 with the idea in 2006. The school is entering the second year of its three-year, trial period, and it had to seek approval to operate from the school district and the state.