Don’t un­der­es­ti­mate a home schooler

The Covington News - - Local - Terri Kim­ble Colum­nist Terri Kim­ble is the 4-H Ed­u­ca­tor for Newton County 4-H. She can be reached at (770) 7842010.

Homeschool­ers aren’t so­cial.

Homeschool­ers only study what they want to learn.

Homeschool­ers don’t learn struc­ture.

You’ve prob­a­bly heard some­one say such things.

I over­heard a group dis­cussing the topic, but couldn’t find a nice way to cor­rect them with­out ad­mit­ting I was eaves­drop­ping.

There are statis­tics I could quote, but my ex­pe­ri­ence comes from work­ing with pub­lic, pri­vate, and home school stu­dents in 4-H.

I see as many “non-so­cial” kids in pub­lic school as home school.

I didn’t learn to make friends and work as a team in school; I learned it in 4-H, and these youth learn so­cial skills else­where as well.

Home school stu­dents play recre­ational sports, take dance classes, join church youth groups, be­long to scout­ing groups, serve in in­tern­ships, and take part in com­mu­nity or­ga­ni­za­tions.

We have two 4-H home school clubs, as well as home school mem­bers in the horse club, on the BB team, on the live­stock show team, and in County 4-H Coun­cil.

They’re on judg­ing teams, at com­pe­ti­tions, and at sum­mer camp.

Of course, all home school fam­i­lies are not cre­ated equal, no more than ev­ery school is the same.

The thing that strikes me about home school from the ed­u­ca­tor’s per­spec­tive is the abil­ity to tai­lor a child’s learn­ing.

In the same way 4-H’ers wade through a creek to study stream ecol­ogy, or fo­cus on a sin­gle project area for an en­tire year, home school stu­dents have the abil­ity to adapt their cur­ricu­lum to fo­cus on strengths and in­ter­ests.

Pub­lic school stu­dents must fit study­ing for horse quiz bowl in af­ter bus rides, school days, and home­work.

Many of my home school stu­dents work our ed­u­ca­tional ma­te­ri­als right into sci­ence or lan­guage arts lessons.

A new 4-H’er came in to work on a port­fo­lio just be­fore Christ­mas and won­dered if he wouldn’t have enough in­for­ma­tion to fill the two pages of writ­ing.

I’m pretty good at help­ing kids think out­side the box to find a lit­tle port­fo­lio credit, but even I was a lit­tle wor­ried when the 8th grader told me he wanted to do his project on nu­clear physics.

I gave him a few ideas (“maybe you can list some Dis­cov­ery Chan­nel shows you watched about it?”) and a work­sheet to get started, then left him at the ta­ble with two other home school 4-H’ers.

Work­ing down the hall, I re­al­ized some­thing was in­deed dif­fer­ent — it was quiet.

I peeked back in to find each of the 4-H’ers busily writ­ing on their port­fo­lios, with no one star­ing into space or dis­tract­ing each other.

I asked if they wanted a break, or to play a game for a while, but they all in­formed me they were still work­ing.

Re­ally? They turned me down for a game of Life or Jenga?

Af­ter each fin­ished his or her port­fo­lio they had just as much fun as the other 4-H’ers, but be­fore it was com­plete they were fo­cused on fin­ish­ing the task at hand.

My ex­pe­ri­ence in pub­lic school was that I spent a lot of time wait­ing — wait­ing for the bus, wait­ing for the as­sign­ment while the teacher ex­plained some­thing I al­ready un­der­stood, or wait­ing for the next class af­ter fin­ish­ing my as­sign­ment early.

These home school stu­dents knew that do­ing the work quickly and cor­rectly meant get­ting more time to do what they wanted to do.

Oh, and the 4-H’er writ­ing his list of nu­clear physics ac­tiv­i­ties?

He eas­ily typed an en­tire page of bul­leted items, in­clud­ing three or four Boy Scout merit badges with re­lated work, meet­ing with and talk­ing to a nu­clear physi­cist, and do­ing sev­eral demon­stra­tions for fam­ily and friends.

If his port­fo­lio doesn’t blow away the judges, I’d love to see who he’s up against.

Sure, out­side of classes they may take with an out­side teacher or on­line, they’re used to a lit­tle more flex­i­bil­ity than other stu­dents.

They can wear pa­ja­mas to class ev­ery day, and they don’t have to pack a lunch.

Home school stu­dents may be dif­fer­ent, but I sure wouldn’t un­der­es­ti­mate them.

Just come check out my 4-H’er in nu­clear physics, who also cre­ated his own lan­guage this year!

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