The Clay County Christian Home Educators have developed a co-operative enhancement program to assist parents who are home schooling their children. Support group co-chair, Cheryl Myers, said the first co-op classes in Clay County for home schooled children started in September.
There will be three nine week sessions during the school year. The courses are offered weekly at the Christ Community Church. Spanish, algebra, music, physical education and creative writing are just some of the classes offered.
All courses are taught by qualified, volunteer, home schooling parents, with one exception. Local photographer, Tony Harper, who is not a home school parent, is teaching photography.
Home schooling has become more popular recently. It's estimated that between 850,000 and two million children are home schooled nationally today. According to Reader's Digest's "Secrets of A+ Parents" by Nancy Kalish, experts calculate home school numbers are growing by 7-15 percent annually.
Myers said she had no idea how many home school children there are in Clay County because there are no requirements for home schoolers to register with the state.
"All I know for sure is there are at least 50 families associated with this support group and we have about 80 children taking the varied courses in the co-op, K through 12. There are many home schoolers in Clay County who are not involved with the CCCHE."
Home schooled kids make up only 1.7 to 3.8 per cent of U.S. school children. However, 21 per cent of the finalists in this year's National Geographic Bee were home schooled. Also, studies show that home schooled students score an average of 73 points higher on the SATs than their public and private school peers.
The Clay County Christian Home Educator's organization is five years old.
"We've doubled in size in the past year or so," Myers said. "This is a blessing. The growth of the group has given us the opportunity to have this enhancement program."
Author Jackie Wellwood, in her book "The Busy Mom's Guide to Simple Living", says the educational method parents choose for their children is very important.
"In a time when public education is under much criticism and private school options are expensive, parents are looking for other alternatives."
Families have many different reasons for choosing home schooling for their children. The Dept. of Education listed the top reasons parents gave for home schooling in 1999. At the top of the list almost 49 percent said they thought they could give their children a better education at home. More than 38 percent listed religious reasons. And a poor learning environment at school was the number three reason given by 25.6 percent of the parents.
One Clay County home school mother, Leslie Hayes, said her main reason for home schooling is, "to have a Christ centered education for my kids. I feel Christ needs to be the center and everything else should be built around that. Also, I don't want them to have the negative peer pressure that I experienced in school. The parents should be the main influence in their children's lives."
Myers added, "Not everybody home schools for religious reasons. But in our support group that's the predominate reason. Many different denominations are represented in this group.
"We think the freedom to seek God's will for your children and family is important. We don't have that freedom in an educational setting in public schools."
Anyone interested in the CCCHE who would like more information may call Myers at 812-986-2383.