Examining an educational alternative

Neighbors

January 19, 2000|By Heather Tepe | Heather Tepe,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

HICKORY RIDGE resident Jennifer Steciak began home-schooling her twin sons Erik and Daniel, 14, after they completed fourth grade at Glenelg Country School.

Steciak and her husband, Orest, were concerned that in school their sons were "learning for the test and not for the knowledge itself," she said. "What intrigued us from the beginning was that kids could go at their own pace."

Another benefit to home-schooling, Steciak said, is that the boys can explore in depth topics that interest them. Learning about a subject doesn't stop when the class bell rings, she said.

Home-schooling is home-based teaching, usually by a parent, although home-schoolers often take classes and participate in activities outside the home.

Reasons for home-schooling vary, but most agree that the opportunity to individualize their children's education is the most important reason. According to Ellen Miller, coordinator for home instruction for the Howard County Department of Education, 954 county students are home-schooled.

Some home educators hold regular hours for lessons, lasting from a few hours to the length of a traditional school day, using curricula purchased from correspondence schools. Others prefer less formal education for their children, allowing them to direct their own course of study.

Steciak says she spends a lot of time behind the wheel of the family car as her sons pursue their many interests. They make regular trips to the Maryland Science Center, the public library and to classes offered by the Patuxent Wildlife Refuge in Laurel.

"Schlepping through the woods with a biologist studying different habitats is a pretty interesting way to learn about it," she said.

Erik and Daniel also participate in the Howard County Chess Club, programs for young people at Goddard Space Center and the Greater Baltimore Youth Orchestra. And Daniel attends a biology class with a tutor who works with home-schoolers.

Hobbits Glen resident Rebecca Johnson said she loves home-schooling her sons, Walt Destler, 14, and Nathan Destler, 10.

"The change in the family dynamics was an unexpected plus that I very much value," she said. "When the kids were in school, we rushed to get them out of the door in the morning. When they would come home at the end of the day, they weren't at their best, and neither was I."

Since the family began home-schooling, she said, "We all feel closer to each other and know each other better as people."

Steciak agreed. "They have time to just sit and daydream," she said. "We're all a whole lot happier. We have a feeling that they aren't rushed, instead of being on a treadmill of projects that are insanely hard."

Home-schooled children have more free time than those in traditional schools, parents say. Less time is wasted gathering materials, waiting while the teacher deals with behavioral problems and walking from class to class.

But creating a social life for home-schooled children can present a problem.

There are many resources for home-schooling -- the Maryland Home Education Association, Howard County Home Educators and The Learning Community -- a nonsectarian umbrella group recognized by the state to supervise home-schooling.

Parents need not have a background in education to home-school their children, these groups say. But time commitments or parent-child chemistry can get in the way.

"It's not for everybody," Steciak said.

The MOMS Club of Columbia will sponsor a workshop on home-schooling at 7: 30 p.m. Jan. 27 at the east Columbia library, 6600 Cradlerock Way.

Information: 410-880-8618 or www.mhea.com.

Contest winner

Every year, Howard County General Hospital runs a contest for visitors to the hospital's Symphony of Lights. This year's contest asked participants to guess the exact date and time at which the first baby of 2000 would be born at the hospital.

Robert Willis Morris III was born at 4: 43 a.m. Jan. 1. The 9-pound baby boy is the first child of Robert Morris and his wife, Tamara Tucker-Morris, of Owen Brown.

"It was unbelievable," the proud father said. "We weren't expecting to be the first. To hear we were the first in Howard County did us good."

Jaye Mauch, who lives outside Columbia, came closest with her guess -- 4: 45 a.m. Jan. 1.

"It shocked me," she said when notified Jan. 5 that she had won. "I don't think I've ever won anything."

Mauch won dinner for four at the Crab Shanty in Ellicott City and four hours of limousine service from All Stretched Out Limousine Service in Severn.

"I do want to wish a wonderful life to that beautiful baby," Mauch said.

Pointers Run winners

The 1999 National PTA Reflections Program invited children to create works of literature, visual arts, musical compositions and photographs in response to this year's theme, "Anything Is Possible."

Pupils from Pointers Run Elementary who have advanced in the visual arts category are: Anna Meteyer, Amanjyot Munday, Vaishnavi Sridhar, Jake Thompson, Allison Baker, Jake Herriots, Jacy Jones and Kelsey Meteyer.

In the literature category, winners were: Brent Chase, Rebecca Weisenhoff, Vindhya Adapa, Grace Chon and Jinjin Sun.

Nina Beri, Ross Lewin and Tommy Jacobs won for musical composition.

For photography, the work of Calvin Kumagai and Jacob Smith will go on to the next level.

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