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Learning outside the lines: Home schooling in Kansas

Tonganoxie family takes home schooling into second generation

But times have changed, she said. More opportunities are available for home schooling families these days

May 13, 2007

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Sarah Kouns, at left, works with her 5-year-old son Jacob on his studies at the Tonganoxie Public Library. Also looking on his Jacob's younger sister, Hannah, who is 3. Sarah and Jason Kouns, of Tonganoxie, school Jacob at home.

Sarah Kouns, at left, works with her 5-year-old son Jacob on his studies at the Tonganoxie Public Library. Also looking on his Jacob's younger sister, Hannah, who is 3. Sarah and Jason Kouns, of Tonganoxie, school Jacob at home.

— Sarah Kouns is a product of home schooling.

She grew up in McLouth, and was home-schooled from kindergarten through high school, just like any student who climbs the ladder in public school.

Kouns, though, admitted she wasn't fond of the schooling at the time.

"I hated it," Kouns said. "Back in that time, there weren't a lot of things available."

Kouns, now 27, finished her home schooling nearly 10 years ago.

But times have changed, she said. More opportunities are available for home schooling families these days, including curriculum guidelines through virtual schools.

With that in mind, she and her husband, Jason, who graduated from Leavenworth High School, decided to start their oldest child, Jacob, who is 5, as a home-schooled student.

"I think there's a lot of stuff going on right now and I feel with home schooling, he gets the best of everything," Sarah said. "I'm not saying they're bad (brick-and-mortar schools), but for a 5-year-old, I'd rather teach him the morals and values from an adult's viewpoint rather than another 5-year-old's viewpoint."

The Kouns family, which now lives in Tonganoxie, uses curriculum through Lawrence Virtual School, although Sarah Kouns said some home-schooling families preferred other options besides virtual schools.

"They're not totally on top of you, but you have that support system," Sarah said, noting families are held to an accountability with the virtual school.

On average, Sarah said Jacob spends 30 percent of study time online and the rest doing work pages. And, every other Thursday, they have enrichment days in which Jacob goes to physical education, music and art classes at Lenexa Christian Center. Jacob also stays busy with T-ball and soccer leagues through the Tonganoxie Recreation Commission.

During a typical school day, classwork begins at 9 a.m. or 9:30 a.m.

"Truthfully, we're done with everything, including play time, by 1 p.m.," Sarah explained. "And that's with breaks."

On some occasions, the Kounses might not have schooling on a weekday, but a Saturday would be available to work on studies.

"Home schooling is so flexible," Sarah said.

Motherhood

After finishing her home schooling at 18, Sarah took some classes at Kansas City Kansas Community College before working at Sprint.

Once she and her husband had children, she decided to leave Sprint and later become a home-school teacher.

She said the family has made sacrifices with home schooling, including living on a single income. Jason Kouns works at Sunflower Broadband in Lawrence.

Jacob has two younger siblings, Hannah, who is 3, and William, 2.

Sarah Kouns doesn't have a teaching degree and strongly believes that shouldn't be a requirement.

"No, you don't need a teaching degree," Sarah Kouns said. "It's a simple thing. You need the patience and the willpower to go out and find the things you need to find."

Sarah Kouns has watched Jacob learn how to walk and talk. Now, she's ready to continue teaching him through his school years.

"I've been his main teacher," Sarah Kouns said. "I don't see how it's not a good fit for us not to continue that."

By the same token, Sarah Kouns said she and her husband would not be opposed to placing their children in a private school if their children decided home schooling wasn't for them.

Right now, Jacob is a fan of his mother being his teacher.

"I like it," Jacob said, his face lighting up with a huge smile.

And his favorite subject these days?

That would be science.

Field trips

Some home-schooling families Sarah Kouns has chatted with take their children on major field trips to U.S. landmarks their children have been studying.

Although that's not feasible right now for the Kouns family, it could be an option down the road.

"Like right now, he's working on the 13 colonies," Sarah Kouns said. "I think it would be so awesome to go up where they were first founded."

Still, the family takes local field trips. For instance, they took a field trip to a museum.

"We were learning about pioneers and we were able to go to a museum," Sarah Kouns said. "I know just reading it, he didn't quite grasp it. But we went further (with the museum trip)."

Misconceptions

Sarah Kouns has fielded questions from others about how home schooling will affect their children, with socialization being the main concern.

She views it as a moot point.

"How's he going to deal with the world?" Sarah Kouns said, recalling someone's question. "He's 5; he's 5 years old.

So to answer people's questions, socialization is not an issue, Sarah Kouns maintains.

"There's just so much out there," Sarah Kouns said. "He gets to be out with an adult. He knows how to communicate with all of them (age groups).

"I just don't think that's relevant."

Sarah Kouns reiterated that home schooling was not best for every family. But for her family, it's a fit.

"I'm there for them," said Sarah, whose 3-year-old daughter also is picking up on some of the teachings by tagging along with her big brother. "If they need help, I can back them up."

This also is the first year of home schooling for Jacob and, subsequently, the first year of teaching for his mother.

However, with the initial year of schooling nearly complete, Sarah Kouns feels confident in her family's decision.

"This is our first year, so it's been a learning process," she said. "I'm proud of myself. I'm proud of him."

Comments

marxisnotdead 7 years, 9 months ago

The statement that "Sarah Kouns doesn't have a teaching degree and strongly believes that shouldn't be a requirement." certainly does highlight the next statement on how she teaches. "Sarah said Jacob spends 30 percent of study time online and the rest doing work pages", is an often cited problem with these type of situations. Work pages and study time online which I am not sure what she means, however, most online venues such as the one mentioned merely means watching a slide show or doing more work pages, have been shown to be the least effective for learning. When will our society awaken to the fact that not every institution must have religion in its operation. One can attend a public school and very much practice a religious faith in their church, synagogue, mosque, or whatever without becoming so entrenched that they operate from one insitutional force. I also noticed no mention of either parent completing post-secondary education. Realizing of course that formal post-secondary education is not the key to all happiness, it does provide thinking methods and awareness of education and its components.

mommy3 7 years, 9 months ago

I don't recall one mention of religion in this article? Where did you get that? I also do not beleive you can pass judgement on her teaching methods. Knowing what LVS is all about, he receives his instrunction online with his mother and then continues to works with his mother. Then the family does things on their own, hands on, including crafts and reading, and field trips. How is this not a great way to learn? He gets a one on one tutor and friends. His mom makes sure he gets all the exspsure to academic enrichment. You need to know a little more about these things before you post stupid comments.

MortMan 7 years, 9 months ago

marxisnotdead said:

Work pages and study time online ... have been shown to be the least effective for learning.

MorMan responds:

Actually, it depends on the learning style of the child, the quality of the material, and the follow-up by the teacher. For some, work pages and on-line studying are inadequate. For others, they are optimum. Such a broad statement belies either a lack of knowledge or a deliberate agenda, in my opinion.

marxisnotdead said:

When will our society awaken to the fact that not every institution must have religion in its operation.

Hmmm... Perhaps the author believes the old canard about "separation of church and state" too literally.

How does one family's decision to pursue homeschooling with a religious component equate to demanding that schools be formed around religious curricula? Congress is enjoined from passing a law "respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;". Isn't a homeschooling curriculum with a religious component just such a free exercise?

Or does the author reserve the right to define what "free exercise" means?

marxisnotdead 7 years, 9 months ago

Mommy3-I won't comment on your statements as your means of communication involves simply categorizing other's comments as "stupid". Your judgement is precisely what you accuse me of....is there some irony here. One comment on the religious aspect...read between the lines on socialization etc and where it is attained.

Morman-I have studied online education for 10 years including studies at higher ed level as well as secondary and below for federal, state, religious and secular agencies. What you state is correct in learning styles, however, studies show time and time again that with learning styles held constant my original statement shows statistical significance in several studies that have been conducted.
Freedom of religion in homeschooling is protected and nowhere do I make the statement it shouldn't be. My statement was on the lack of diversified experiences for our children when we as adults try to teach through a single influenced institution. My statement was a simple straightforward socio-cultural one and not an ideological one. I suppose I shouldn't have posted as it seems to have brought out the anger and knee-jerk interpretations that were not intended.

mommy3 7 years, 9 months ago

How do you know what she does in her home? I doubt this one article sums up all she does to incourage her children in their academics.

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