08/29/10 — Homeschoolers kick off new school year at park

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Homeschoolers kick off new school year at park

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on August 29, 2010 1:50 AM

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Michael K. Dakota

Sarah McDowell, 9, and Sarah Boyette, 9, look over homeschool textbooks they are offering for sale. TEACH, the Tarheel Educational Association of Christian Homeschoolers, met at Berkeley Park Saturday for a picnic and the opportunity to connect with other families who home-school.

For about a third of Wayne County's homeschool students, Saturday was the unofficial start to their school year as TEACH, Tarheel Education Association Christian Homeschoolers, held its annual kickoff picnic at Berkeley Park.

While some families choose to hold classes year-round, many stick close to a traditional school year calendar, though "when you homeschool, you never really stop educating your children," TEACH board member Derek Finch said. But Saturday's event does give them a fun way to sort of kick off a new school year.

TEACH board member Anne Finch explained that the organization is only made up of about 75 of Wayne County's 370 homeschooling families, but that it serves an important purpose.

"Not everyone chooses to be in a group, but the advantages of this is you have a support group. You have help from people who have gone through it before. And you can do things as a group that you can't necessarily do by yourself," Mrs. Finch said.

And for many of the members, that is a key component.

"When I joined I wished I had joined much sooner," Melinda Wooten said. "I've just gotten so much advice from other mothers who have been doing it so long."

Being a part of the group gives parents a chance to trade advice, curriculums and teaching techniques. It also gives the students the opportunity to be around each other and involved in activities such as 4-H, sports, music, Scouts, field trips and more.

In addition, the TEACH group also offers students and their families a chance to do all of those things in a Christian environment.

The Finches explained that they chose to homeschool their children -- four total, two of whom have graduated -- because they wanted to be more involved in their lives.

"Nothing against the public schools, but I felt like during the best hours of the day they were someplace else," Mrs. Finch said.

Of course many parents also say there are educational advantages -- allowing students to learn more at their own pace, speeding up in subjects they excel in and slowing down in subjects they struggle in. It also, parents said, allows children more of an opportunity to learn life lessons outside the classroom.

And for the students who are part of the group, that aspect -- the opportunities outside the classroom to be around a diverse group of students -- is the real draw.

"I like the sense of community," 16-year-old Carla Chapel said. "It's a core group of people you can relate to."