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Some Imperial Valley residents think highly of home-schooling

August 12, 2007|By BRIANNA LUSK, Staff Writer
  • JOSELITO VILLERO PHOTO FROM LEFT: Elizabeth Duran, 11, and her mother Pam show projects Elizabeth made while studying Egypt.
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At 11 years old, Elizabeth Duran has studied the culture of ancient Egyptians and is in her second year of learning Latin.

Last year she read 131 books for school all without ever stepping foot into a classroom.

“I’m like most kids when school starts. I’m sad summer is over, but after a couple of weeks it gets back into our usual flow,” Elizabeth said.

While her academic interests may seem out of the ordinary for a typical sixth-grader, her mother, Pam Duran of El Centro, said it stems from her atypical education.

Elizabeth is home-schooled.

The National Center for Education Statistics estimated about 1.1 million students in the U.S. were home-schooled in 2003.

Some families have decided to forego standardized forms of education in favor of flexible class times, one-on-one attention and personalized curriculum that comes with home-schooling.

“It’s an extension of your parenting,” Pam Duran said. “You’ve already taught them how to walk and talk. What is different about moving that into the next stage of their lives?”

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THE DECISION AND COMMITMENT

Pam’s first four children were educated in the public system. The option of home-schooling came when Elizabeth was due to start kindergarten.

Pam said she was no longer working full-time, giving her the additional time needed to spend at home.

Integrating the kind of values they wanted Elizabeth to learn into her education experience, Pam said, was important in making the decision.

In a survey conducted by NCES, parents cited concerns about the environment of schools and the desire to provide their religious or moral instruction as their primary reasons for home-schooling.

Calipatria resident Tori Rollins said the decision to home school had something to do with religion, but it was more about passing on family values.

Three of her five children are of school age and are all home-schooled.

Tori and her husband, J Rollins, are both products of the public school system.

“We never thought we would home school,” said Tori Rollins, who lived in a small town in Alaska when started home-schooling. “At the time the only option was a school that didn’t have a great reputation and home-schooling.”

Without a bachelor’s degree, Rollins said she used to be concerned about her ability to teach her children. It takes a certain amount of trust in yourself, she said, which is partnered with the realization it’s a two-way street of education.

“I figured I couldn’t expect my 12-year-old to learn it if I couldn’t learn it,” Rollins said.

HOW IT WORKS

Each year the Rollins and Duran families register with the California Department of Education as a private school. Other than that, Pam said, they do not have to turn in grades or curriculum.

Typical subjects like English, math, history and science are covered, but the flexibility of home-schooling allows the parents to tailor each child’s classes.

Last year Elizabeth wanted to learn more about ancient Egypt, so the history lessons were centered on craft projects, written projects and a night of cooking Egyptian food.

“It’s personalized and focused,” Pam said. “I try to challenge her and make it fun.”

Sometimes Rollins’ children complete their schoolwork in about four hours, leaving the rest of the day for activities and family time.

Pam said she may spend four hours teaching one day and six hours the next, depending on the family schedule. She teaches about 200 days a year, longer than a normal school schedule of about 180.

REEVALUATION

“We decided to try it and we agreed then that every year we would reevaluate and decide if it was still working,” Rollins said.

Now with five children at home ranging in ages from 1 to 12, Rollins said the time commitment comes with its own set of struggles.

Most recently her husband was deployed to Afghanistan for a nine-month tour with the Army Reserves. Before he left the couple thought about whether it was time to stop home-schooling.

“I told him I’m not sure I could do this,” Rollins said. “I had a brand new baby and four other kids. But it was something that kept us close while he was gone.”

This week the family will sit down again to decide whether home-schooling is best for their children this year.

Rollins said her 6-year-old daughter, Brenna, is starting to ask about why she doesn’t go to school.

“She sees other people buying new backpacks and things like that. Right now the novel idea of school is very appealing to her,” Rollins said.

That phase has happened with all her children, but she maintains she still knows home-schooling is best for her daughter.

If her 12-year-old son decided he wanted to enter public school, she said, she would seriously consider it.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen next year,” Rollins said. “It is our plan right now and it’s going good now.”

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