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Home school matters, Part 2: Customizing the process

This is the second in a series of three articles addressing the subject of home schooling. Sources for the articles include interviews with two home school families: Brad and Jackie Vogt from Barnum, Minn., who have seven children, and Guy and Shannon Schaumburg from Sturgeon Lake, Minn., who have four children. Information for this article was also garnered from The National Center for Education Statistics.

Though there are marked similarities, home school has the advantage of adapting to the individual needs of each family engaged in the process. A typical day for the Guy and Shannon Schaumburg family from Sturgeon Lake may differ from a typical day for the Brad and Jackie Vogt family from


"We rise at 6:45 a.m.," said Shannon. "I've always done that. I never let my kids sleep until 8 or 9. I want to train them to get up, to be mindful of their time and management of that time. They get their rooms done, and whatever else they need to do. Then we do morning devotions."

"School runs from 8 a.m. until lunch time," said Guy, "that's the one on one with the teacher. Then we'll have lunch. After lunch it is on them. If they have homework, reading, reports, research, it's on them to get it done. Of course we QC [quality control] that very well."

As a Lieutenant Colonel in the Minnesota Air National Guard and an F-16 pilot, Guy knows a thing or two about quality control.

Brad and Jackie Vogt are early risers as well.

"We have a set time to get up," said Jackie. "Everyone has a few chores. Then we get started by 8 a.m. They have a schedule they follow. I usually make that up ahead of time because I know who is going to need my help and when. I can't have everyone needing (my) help at once."

As husband Brad goes about his duties as the pastor for two local churches, Jackie finds herself the primary instructor during the home school day.

"Everyone has a spot they work at," said Jackie. "Currently there are three that work in one room, one in the kitchen and another one upstairs in his room. I just bounce around in-between as they need my help. It sounds simple enough to do, but sometimes things interfere with the home school schedule. I try to remember that the interruptions are a part of their education too. I think this is another advantage to having the children at home. There isn't this artificial environment created that's filled with 30 people the same age as you in the same room. That's not real life."

Since children's ages vary within a family, so do their educational needs. Teaching a small group requires discipline, focus and planning.

"When you have six children under the age of 10, it can get crazy," said Jackie. "Whether it is using the scripted language from a teacher's manuals or adaptive wording that will be most effective to the individual child, teaching takes patience and flexibility to meet everyone's needs."

Over time, changing dynamics also changes teaching methods.

"When my kids were younger and one of them was learning to read I used a very parent-directed approach," said Jackie. "It took about a half an hour a day in which I didn't want to be interrupted. I wanted it to be a very pleasant time. I scheduled that time during naptime for the baby or had the oldest child take care of the younger siblings during that reading lesson."

Schaumburgs also use a variety of places for a classroom in their home.

"Originally we had the whole entire basement sent up as the classroom with maps and posters on the walls," said Shannon. "We also had a table set up. Each kid had their own place. I have a wall full of books that is our library. We also go to the public libraries. That's not so much anymore. That was when they were younger."

Nowadays the computer is one of the resource tools.

"Yes, that's where I come in," said Guy. "I'm the computer geek, so we've got four computers in our house, all wired together. They have all the online resources that they need. We monitor that very closely making sure that they don't venture off into areas they don't need to and we keep focused on what they need to get done.

"Computers are very detrimental at the same time that they are very good," he continued. "You can get swayed into spending all your time on them and not being productive. That's always been my direction with the kids. I let them know we're going to get on here, we're going to find what we need and we're going to get off. We are not going to hang on the computer all day long."

In regard to the number of hours spent in public or private schools, having one's child gone from home from early morning until late afternoon could give rise to a false perception of all that time is engaged in the educational process.

However, research from the National Center for Education Statistics states, "In 1993-94 teachers in public schools across the country spent an average of 68 percent of school time, or almost 22 hours per week teaching the core academic curriculum, while teachers in private schools spent an average of 58 percent of school time, or almost 19 hours per week, on core curriculum." Calculating 22 hours in a five-day week equates to 4.4 hours per day of core curriculum teaching. Calculating 19 hours equates to 3.8 hours per day.

While home schoolers aren't required to report the number of hours a day spent actively teaching, they do have to maintain a standard regarding levels of education. Across the United States, each state varies in its requirements.

"Home schools in Minnesota are considered private schools" said Jackie. "Every year you have to register as a home school. You have to tell them your general time frame which, for me, is starting the day after Labor Day, finishing June 1, taking off a week for Christmas and Easter.

"You also have to let them know you will be testing your kids in some way. I use the California Achievement Test. The scores themselves don't get turned in. They are for my use only."

Home schoolers also have the option of engaging in community or public school sports and other activities.

"If you want your kids to be involved in sports you have to find the sport schedule and the contact people," said Shannon. "The school does not do it for you. Right now we have a connection with the coaches. We connect with them one on one, then via e-mail, which is nice. Nowadays we can go on the school website to check for dates which is a daily routine here."

Another method of involvement outside the home is a home school group.

"It's pretty easy nowadays to get connected," said Jackie. "You can either ask around or get online information about home school groups in your area. We belong to a group which meets at a church in Esko. Kids there are divided by age groups. They have more of a traditional school atmosphere. The group meets two school days each month.

"The moms are required to be there every time so it's not a drop your kid off kind of deal. Mothers are divided in to teams to conduct classes. It's a good place for the kids to interact with others."

Combining home schooling with public school classes, sports, community education, online classes and church based activities is much more involved than putting your children on a bus every morning and receiving them home at the end the day. It takes commitment, drive and focus.

"If you are going to home school, make sure you have your priorities set," said Shannon. "Decide that this is what you do and do it well. Spend time teaching your kids, giving them resources, teaching them how to learn. The time is important. It goes quickly."

Myths and realities of home school often do not mix. Join us next week for the last in this series of three articles on the matter of home schooling.