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Homeschooling is a lifestyle

Alethea Hartwell has been homeschooling her children for nine years. She feels it was the best choice she and her husband could have made. (Submitted Photo)

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Homeschooling is demanding. Alethea Hartwell can tell you all about the commitment and the benefits. She has been homeschooling her children for nine years.

Raylene, her 14-year-old daughter, and Keaton, 12-year-old son, are bright, confident and socially comfortable. While it’s hard work, the potential growth for the children has been worth it for the Hartwell family.

“There are a lot of different reasons I decided to homeschool,” she said. “One reason is that I wanted a really close relationship with my kids. I had the opportunity when I was growing up, to watch other homeschooling moms and their kids. I loved the bond and relationship that they had and I wanted that type of relationship.

“Another reason is that my son is a kinetic learner. Public school is not typically geared toward kinetic learners. They tend to get labeled ADD or problem children because they’re constantly moving. I can teach him differently at home.”

For the Hartwell family, faith is one of the most important aspects of their lives. Homeschooling has made it possible to incorporate their faith in their children’s education.

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“I wanted to be able to teach reading from the Bible,” Hartwell said. “And to teach morality from the Bible, so that was one of the reasons for choosing to homeschool. I’m allowed to bring biblical texts, even if we want to use it for analysis, and there’s no fear of reprisal. It’s nice to be able to stop and pray when they’re struggling.”

Hartwell appreciates being able to tailor her teaching to each child’s needs.

“A lot of the science we’ve picked for Keaton,” she said, “has been geared toward life sciences and animals because he loves them. He’s expressed an interest in being a veterinarian or a marine biologist. The nice thing about homeschooling is that when they have trouble with a subject, I can slow it down. I don’t have to bull through it for all the other students. I can keep it at their pace.”

Keaton’s kinetic learning program has proven effective.

“I’ve done a lot of out-loud reading,” Hartwell said, “while he’s playing with Legos or Play-Doh. It’s something he can manipulate with his hands while he’s listening. I’ve always required him to be in the room when I was doing Raylene’s lessons. So he’d be sitting at the coffee table playing with his Legos while I’m doing her lessons. Sometimes he can answer the questions before she can.”

After nine years it would be easy to think she had it all figured out.

“I was getting a good groove the last couple of years,” she said. “But now that my daughter is in high school, it’s a different ballgame. Per the state of New Mexico, I don’t have to keep any records. I don’t have to turn in lesson plans. But if I want her to be able to get a state diploma, I have to have a transcript. That’s not something I’ve had to do up until now. She can get a GED but there are some colleges that like seeing the diploma.”

High school has meant new interests. Fortunately, the public school system has some integrative programs for homeschooling families.

“I’ve known that they allow homeschool students to take part in music, clubs and sports,” Hartwell said. “I didn’t know how easy it was to get in. This year she wanted to learn the violin so I investigated. It was very easy. I drop her off at the time of class, sign her in, and pick her up when it’s over.”

One question that Hartwell has been assailed with is how she socializes her children.

“They’re socialized every day with adults, and other homeschooled children,” she said. “They take part in things like KAPS, the Kid’s Arts Programs. They get socialized in church. They’ve done soccer at the city leagues. They’ve done baseball at the city leagues. Something I like is that they’re socialized with all ages. They’re not segregated into just their grade. I think it gives them a broader socialization than public school.”

She has been able to work with them more closely on developing social skills, too.

“Just looking back at my school years,” Hartwell said, “there was bullying to deal with. There was a lot of feeling inferior. They still deal with that but at least I’m able to give them my viewpoint. When I was a kid I didn’t know how to talk to adults. My daughter comes to me with everything. That’s what I wanted.

“I think a lot of their manners came back to their socialization. For the first six years of their schooling, they went everywhere with me. They would be sitting listening to my conversations and they would learn from that.”

Hartwell will be the first to tell you that homeschooling, like anything worth doing, requires a very deep commitment.

“It takes a lot of time,” she said. “It’s hard. You’re stuck to a single income, which can be difficult. It’s a choice we made for our family because it felt like the right thing to do all the way around. It’s a lifestyle.”

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