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Choosing to home-school: For some Valley families, educating at home means choice, cooperation, hard work
Rebecca Mott, like most upcoming seniors, is nervous and excited about her last year of high school.
She is working on college applications and dreaming about the perfect dress for the spring formal. Mott doesn’t attend a traditional high school, though. She studies at home.
In the Snoqualmie Valley, nearly 180 students from 92 families are educated at home. Options for home education are as diverse as reasons for choosing to educate at home. Families in the Valley can choose from an array of curriculums, co-ops, public and private part-time schools and online education.
Reasons of faith
Jill Orth, a North Bend mother of two, decided to home-school her daughter after spending 20 years in the business world. At first she was overwhelmed by the task of educating a child.
“You figure it out,” said Orth. “You know your child best and there are so many resources to choose from.”
Orth decided to home-school for reasons of faith.
“There is truth and beauty in every subject that points back to the creator,” she said. “I wanted to direct my children to that.”
Now that Orth’s children are in middle school, she relies on a part-time private school, Trinity Classical Christian Academy. Two days a week, her children meet with 18 other middle school children to listen to instruction and review assignments. During the rest of the week, students work on lengthy homework assignments.
“It gives the kids a school experience,” said Orth. “I appreciate having a say in curriculum choices and supervision of my children’s academics.”
Gail Done, who homeschooled all five of her children, said that her curriculum choices were fairly eclectic.
Home school publishing companies like Sonlight provide comprehensive, year-long programs for each grade. But many home-schooling parents, like Done, prefer to pick and choose curriculum from a variety of sources.
Her oldest son, Josh, is a hands-on learner, so she chose programs with lots of hands on activities. In order to make history come alive for her son Joe, Done supplemented text book readings with historical fiction and living-history books.
Half of senior Rebecca Mott’s classes are taken purely at home. Last year, Mott’s mother selected the curriculum and supervised pre-calculus, Latin 2, and physics at home. Since starting high school however, Mott has self-taught many of her courses. She works herself through a curriculum until she has mastered the material.
“Learning to be disciplined is a good lesson and a really hard lesson,” said Mott. “If I don’t finish my school during the school year, I will have to sit and get it done over the summer.”
In addition to her self-taught course at home, Mott takes the other half of her classes at Legacy, at 200 family home school co-op that meets at Overlake Christian Church in Redmond.
Mott still does the majority of her work at home, but on Thursdays she listens to lectures, interacts with other students and turns in assignments to someone other than her mom. The co-op also offers students an array of social actives like a high school spring formal. Last year, Mott took honors biology with lab, personal finance, strength and conditioning, western literature and world history.
“Extracurriculars are huge,” says Mott. “Speech and debate was my life.”
On average, Mott spent around 20 hours preparing for speech and debate competitions. Last year, Mott and her partner, Alex Patton, debated at five tournaments all over the country, including the national championship in Siloam Spring, Ark.
In order to be fully prepared to debate either side of a policy issue, 17-year-old Mott and Patton combed piles of evidence and wrote around 20 25-page briefs on relevant topics.
Mott’s home-school schedule provided the flexibility necessary to compete.
“Being home schooled has been an incredible gift,” Mott said. “I’ve considered attending high school several times, but I keep coming back to the conclusion that I wouldn’t be who I am without being home-schooled.”
Mott attributes her tight knit familial relationships to home education and believes self teaching and debate taught her to have a can-do attitude.
“I can do whatever I put my mind to,” Mott said. This fall, she is applying to Patrick Henry College, Wheaton, Seattle Pacific and the University of Washington. She hopes to pursue a degree in literature.
“We don’t consider our choice superior to other choices,” says Lori Wise, a North Bend mother of four home-schooled children. “There are many good ways to be educated. We choose to home school because we wanted to be able to integrate our faith into every subject.”
North Bend moms Jill Orth, left, and Lorie Wise work on lessons plans for their home school co-op.
Rebecca Mott and her debate partner, Alex Patton, Valley home schooled high school students, travel around the country competing in debate tournaments.
Mott and Patton, home schoolers from the Valley, dissect a pig in Mott's back yard as a part of their high school biology course.