Home-schooling parents gather to swap ideas and give support


June 27, 2000|By Pamela Woolford | Pamela Woolford,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

"HOME education has made a strong resurgence within the past decade to include over a million families nationally," according to the Maryland Home Education Association based in Long Reach.

Three Columbia residents who home-school their children believe the trend is so prevalent in their city that it warrants a Columbia-based support group. Susan Kramer, Lisa Dean and Susan Kaczmarek are starting the Columbia Homeschooling Community "basically to provide a place for the parents and kids to network," said Kramer of Harper's Choice.

Dean, a Hickory Ridge resident, described the organization as part social, part educational and part supportive. The group will sponsor playgroups and extracurricular activities, parent-run learning sessions and, for the parents, an opportunity to share experiences and new ideas, she said.

The group is open to home-schoolers and those who want to learn more about this form of education. The group will hold its first meeting from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. July 10 at the east Columbia branch of the Howard County Library, and plans to continue to meet there monthly.

Dean, who works part time as an attorney, said individuals have diverse motivations for home-schooling, including "religious reasons, concerns of peer pressure, family reasons, problems with local schools."

"My husband and I think of it as family-centered education rather than home-schooling," said Dean, who educates her children, Bitsy, 4, and Teddy, 2, at home. "We want to be their role models, rather than TV or the kids on the playground."

Kramer has chosen the route for her children, Shannon, 12, and Keenan, 5, for similar reasons. "It gives us the flexibility and freedom that we need. And [Shannon] can still do her extra activities, and we still get family time," she said.

While Dean uses various resources to assist in teaching her children - "workbooks, PBS, CD-ROMs, Internet, visits to the library or museum, lots of field trips," she says - Kramer uses curriculum materials from the Calvert School, a 100-year-old private facility in Baltimore.

Kramer's daughter, Shannon, who is a member of the Columbia Swim Team, attended the private Young School in Kings Contrivance, through fifth grade.

"I had a bunch of friends there, and I liked the school program. They let you [work] on your own and stuff. It was cool," Shannon said.

But Shannon prefers to be home-schooled "because I have more free time and I hang out with my family more, and I learn a lot more with the Calvert program."

Dean, like Kramer, said that she will always be a fan of Howard County public schools. "I am a product of the public education system," she said. But she appreciates the way home-schooling allows her family to spend more time together.

Her husband, Tim Dean, who is a computer manager for the U.S. Senate, works with their children on math and science activities. Because he can retire after 20 years of service, Tim Dean will take over the primary teaching role when their children are in middle school, Lisa Dean says.

Her sister, Suzanne Harris, of Harper's Choice, who tutored five children as a nanny for nine years, helps the Deans home-school Bitsy and Teddy.

"It kind of gives you the `Little House on the Prairie' feeling," said Lisa Dean. "We're all in this together."

The east Columbia branch of the library is at 6600 Cradlerock Way.

Information: 410-992-7281 or 301-596-8052.

A historic day

Waterloo Elementary School held its first American History Day, a daylong event, on June 2. The entire student body participated in activities.

Kindergartners learned about the passage of time by studying their own development from infancy. First-graders did traditional Native American weaving while musicians performed Early American music for second-graders. Third-graders explored the Revolutionary War through role playing.

Fourth-graders built log cabin models and made cornbread, while the fifth-graders enjoyed a Victorian performance and were treated to a Victorian tea.

"This event was designed by our school's social studies committee to support the idea that we each have a history to share and pass on, as well as encouraging our students to see history as a process that affects every part of our lives and society," wrote Arlene Harrison, the principal.

The social studies committee consists of Harrison, chairwoman Carol Rahim and Mary Bray, Anne Brumsted, Kathy Kreidler, Carol Maruyama and Sue Schubert.

Eleventh-grade U.S. history students from Long Reach High School helped students and teachers with activities that day. The students included Josh Ford, Mike Zyvoloski, Edwin Oliver, Lauren Martinelli, Justin Sosebee and Beth Gregory.

Organizers plan to make the day an annual event. "Next year, we plan on trying to involve more of the larger community - local businesses, senior citizens, historical organizations, etc.," Rahim said. "The sky's the limit!"

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