Although school is out for the summer for most Morgan County students, some, like Derek*, are still attending school in the comfort of their own homes. Because of problems he was having with bullying at his local public school, Dereks mother enrolled him in an online charter school mid-year. Once his junior high school years are past him, Derek plans on enrolling again in public school. While the reason for withdrawing Derek from Morgan public school was less than ideal, his mother saw many benefits of homeschooling unfold. My son struggles in school and I found he was getting farther and farther behind, she said. So when he then started getting bullied, I figured enough is enough, and pulled him out. On the flip side of the coin, she knows of another mom who homeschooled her daughter because she was so advanced that she was getting bored and disruptive in the public school setting. Homeschooling in Morgan In the Morgan County School District, 94 students were homeschooled during the 2014-2015 school year. That is a 19-student increase compared to the previous school year. Another 85 students living in Morgan County attended charter schools during the 2014-2015 school year. Morgan parents have chosen nearby charters such as Highmark Charter School in South Weber, the Utah Military Academy in Riverdale, DaVinci Academy in Ogden, Ogden Preparatory Academy, Venture Academy in Marriott-Slaterville, Mountain Heights online public charter school, and Utah Online K-12. Home school options and resources Morgan parents are speaking about include K12 online learning, the Alpine School District online program, Liahona Academy, supplemental classes offered by Harmony Educational Services in Riverdale, Latter Day Learning, Alpha Omega, Sonlight, and A Beka Book. Jennifer Vesper, who has homeschooled two of her four children in the past and enrolled another in the Utah Military Academy, pointed out that a blend of options may be best for certain children. For example, during his eighth grade year, her son was homeschooled in subjects that require a lot of writing. However, he continued attending Morgan Middle School for math and band. Dual enrollment was great. I accomplished so much during the short time I spent with him one-on-one, Vesper said. Because of how fast he caught up at home, I was able to feel more comfortable allowing him to attempt high school courses on his own last year. Best resource: others Morgan homeschooling and charter school families say, undeniably, that their best resource was other families who have been there, done that. Morgan resident Jennie Earl recently hosted a get-together at Riverside Park to encourage cooperation and support among homeschooling families, including field trip planning, curriculum ideas and co-op groups. Mountain Green resident Lydia Nuttall homeschooled her son during half of his seventh grade year and all of his eighth grade year. However, before and after that, he attended Morgan schools and graduated from Morgan High School last year. Her daughter attended kindergarten through third grade at Mountain Green Elementary. Despite her past personal experience, she said her best resource is swapping others home school curriculum that theyve used and loved with their kids as well as resources at the Morgan County Library. Benefits of educational options The benefits of home schools and charter schools are many, Morgan parents claim. Eleanor Sather, a Mountain Green resident, said she enjoys that her son can go at his own pace, taking math classes that are up a grade or two from his actual grade level. Her soon-to-be seventh and third grade children attend DaVinci Academy. Her son attended public schools from first to fifth grade. Morgan County resident Kera Birkeland homeschooled her son because allowing him to work at his own speed is important. I wanted to ensure that our sons academic strengths could be explored to a degree best fit for him, and include his many interests, Birkeland said. We also wanted him to have time to work on any areas where he might be struggling. Vesper mentioned that switching her son from traditional school to a charter school made an overall difference in her childs grades. My sons GPA has gone up a full point and a half since he switched, not because the school is better in general; it is just better for him personally, Vesper said. He craves the structure and discipline this school offers. He is more engaged in that environment. Nuttall, who recently applied for a school board vacancy, said the choice afforded parents for school options is God-given. I think its awesome that we live in America and that we have the parental freedom to be able to choose the best educational schooling for our kids, said Nuttall. Parents will naturally do what they feel impressed to do with their children when it comes to their education. Homeschooling allowed the Nuttall family to take three different road trips through 15 states and resulted in a strengthened family bond, a priceless gift in this day and age, Nuttall said. Home school goes wherever we go, Nuttall said. How awesome is that? I feel like our kids are always learning, year round, Birkeland said. They have all developed a sincere fascination of learning new things. We are learning all the time now, Vesper said. It doesnt have to be a super-structured environment. I never thought I could do it because I am just not disciplined enough. But not being on such a strict time schedule worked for my kids and they learned so quickly. If my children were enjoying a certain aspect of the day, we could just stay on that and cover other subjects later in the week or even on the weekend. Another benefit of homeschooling is being able to merge religion with education, something public schools do less and less of lately, Nuttall said. Vesper said another benefit of homeschooling was that she herself re-learned concepts as she taught them to her children. Homeschooling challenges Although parents are quick to point out the benefits of homeschooling and charter schools, they dont gloss over the challenges. Our charter school is good, but it has its faults, Dereks mom said. It is very time consuming for the parents, and hard to keep up. It isnt really a program a child could do with just a little supervision. For Sather, the biggest challenge of attending a charter school 30 minutes away is the transportation. She also mentioned the sense of community her children miss when all of their friends are attending Morgan schools and they arent. Birkeland, who has home-taught her son for three years, said homeschooling can be a financial challenge.It can be difficult funding our childs education while also paying into the tax system to fund others educations at the same time, Birkeland said. For others, the biggest challenge is the prejudice they face in their community. I witnessed firsthand prejudice towards me by our local public education leadership because I chose to homeschool, Nuttall said. To say I am not qualified to serve on the school board because I homeschooled my daughter last year shows some pretty strong prejudice and false judgment. Many advise parents not to judge the success of charter and home schools on comparison. They say that one option cant satisfy the needs of all children. There are quite a few options, a lot of choices, Sather said. But you are never going to find the perfect school on earth. No child fits into the same box every other child does, Vesper said. Make sure the environment is a fit for your child. Changing schools wont make a difference if it isnt. You are the No. 1 expert on your child, Birkeland said. While homeschooling is not for every parent or child, it is certainly a viable option for those who are interested. And children shouldnt be compared to each other, either, they say. I have found that it is important for me to not base my success homeschooling my kids by comparing what I am doing to what others are doing with their children in home school or public ed, Nuttall said. It is important for me to remember that I am educating my kids individually. Therefore, they will excel in areas where others their age may not be excelling at the time, and vice versa. As pointed out in Morgan resident Pamela Smiths letter to the editor published July 3, homeschooled Morgan students actually do stack up well to their otherwise-educated counterparts. All of Smiths own homeschooled children received college scholarships, one a Presidential scholarship. Two served as student school board members. Often I hear that those who homeschool without a degree in education cant possibly teach their children everything they need to know. Im told home taught kids are behind academically, Birkeland said. Yet, statically speaking, home-taught children typically score 15-30 points above public school children on standardized tests. More important to me is our ability, through home schooling, to educate the whole child. I believe public schools can work, Sather said. But if you think your kid could maybe need something else, if you are dissatisfied, why not check out other options? *Real name withheld upon request, and after publisher authority, for security reasons.
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