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Archive for Thursday, November 7, 1996

HOMESCHOOLERS SHARE LESSONS

November 7, 1996

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Two families have two stories to tell about homeschooling.

Two Lawrence area parents who've homeschooled their children discussed their wide-ranging experiences Wednesday during University Forum.

"I'm not a homeschooling expert," Sally Thibodeau told about 30 people at Ecumenical Christian Ministries. "I'm here as a mom who tried homeschooling."

Wednesday's discussion was the conclusion of a three-part series on education that included the Lawrence public school superintendent and the founder of a private school.

Thibodeau spent about six months teaching her 13-year-old son at home. The decision to do that came after problems cropped up for her son, Drew, in Lawrence public schools.

"My homeschooling experience was kind of unique," she said. "I like to think of it as intervention."

Her son -- who she described as active, somewhat impulsive and a real challenge in the classroom -- had difficulty adjusting to public school, after attending private school. The makeup of his class included three students with behavior disorders. One of those children attacked Drew, Thibodeau said.

Her son was increasingly unhappy at school. And his attitude and grades reflected that.

Thibodeau talked with him about homeschooling.

"I thought this would be the ultimate incentive for him to stay in school and perform," she said.

Instead, he ultimately asked her to teach him at home. It was a real challenge. And soon Thibodeau came to a realization.

"I wasn't the right person," she said. "I just couldn't be the teacher."

Drew now attends a private school outside of Lawrence, and his mother said he's doing well.

"I am convinced that the Number One factor in the success in the education of a child is the parents' involvement," she said.

Stu Shafer echoed that statement. His family is one of the founders of Lawrence Unaffiliated Group of Homeschoolers. The group, which Shafer described as diverse and eclectic, has no central religious or philosophical thread.

"We're united by teaching our own children," he said.

Shafer and his wife, Patti Dickinson, homeschool their two children, Miriam, 11, and Michael, 8, at their 30-acre farm about 10 miles northwest of Lawrence.

It's a successful situation, Shafer said. The couple work to foster their children's natural curiosity.

"In what we do, we're practicing self-reliance, we're practicing a connection with nature," Shafer said.

Public schools, he said, contain too much bureaucracy and rigidity.

"I think our K through 12 teachers are doing a remarkable job, under the circumstances they are facing," he said.

The family has developed a deep bond. And the couple take steps to ensure the children interact with other children.

"We homeschool because we love our kids and we want to be around them all the time," he said.

And he said he and his wife are taking full responsibility of ensuring their children will be functioning members of society.

Homeschooling is flexible -- and constant, he said.

"We're always ready to learn from whatever comes up, from whatever happens," he said.

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