Home is where the school is

In the front row are Austin Jarabek, Joah Jarabek, Jonathan Karlgaard, Grace Phillips, Abby Betz, Grace Stephens and Rachel Betz. In the middle row are Thadius Steinberger, Lucas Reams, Caleb Nelson, Samuel Nelson, Grant Landaw, Eli Jarabek, Matthew Phillips, Elizabeth Karlgaard, Annabelle Lofberg, Cedric Lofberg, Sarah Phillips, Emma Betz and Lydia Betz. In the back row are Zoo Educator Brenda Morman, Noah Nelson, Lucas Phillips, Esther Betz and Anna Betz.

ita Lofberg and Mandy Steinberger, members of the Facebook group and network for parents, Wahpeton Breckenridge called Homeschoolers, have nothing personally against school districts in the Twin Towns.

In fact, the Wahpeton Public Schools district has been “phenomenal” and “very supportive” in helping Homeschoolers get in touch with the resources needed, according to Mandy, a mother of three from Wahpeton.

“Their concern is to make sure the kids are getting the education they need,” she said. “Knowing that our end goal is ultimately the same, it’s been great.”

Accreditation is not necessary to be a homeschooling parent, although there are state regulations, said Rita, a mother of two from Breckenridge, Minnesota. She is the area contact person for Minnesota’s largest homeschooling group, the Minnesota Association of Christian Home Educators. Mandy is the contact person for the North Dakota Home School Association.

Homeschoolers, which was formed last summer, had “a bit of a slow roll at first,” Mandy said. It was a case of several people in the Twin Towns Area at the same time feeling the need for a local group of parents who homeschool, especially since the nearest group was in Fergus Falls, Minnesota.

“With as many families that we actually knew that homeschool, there was more than enough families to meet that need (for a local group),” she added.

Mandy and Rita had never met each other before the group formed.

“I think our first meeting was at the end of July,” Rita said. “Both of us had mentioned to somebody else who was homeschooling as well that, ’Somebody has got to put together a group or a Facebook page.’ So it was born out of the Facebook page, because then we could pull in and discuss among other people what we wanted to do, what we wanted it to look like. And it’s good for knowing other peoples’ names before you meet them.”

Rita and Mandy are quick to correct the possible misconception that homeschooled children aren’t as socialized as children who attend district-run schools. According to Mandy, studies have shown that homeschooled children are better socialized than public school children.

“If you think about it, it’s because they’re interacting with everybody in the community on a regular basis. Our children are with us all the time. They’re with us if we’re doing a community volunteering project and they get to interact with different aspects of the community that maybe other children wouldn’t,” Rita said.

“We had an unofficial print shop field trip the other day because I was getting something printed for church, and she let us just kind of peek at the big machines. That’s normal for us,” she continued.

Mandy is impressed by the increased resources for homeschooling parents and their children.

“Just this past year, there’s been more than half-a-dozen things we’ve been invited to, with the Red Door Art Gallery and Chahinkapa Zoo and Sky Zone in Fargo,” she said. “It’s been amazing to have all of these resources at our disposal and have the children be a part of these things. But I think Rita had it spot on. Our kids not only get to deal with their peers regularly, they learn how to interact with everyone from tot to grandma.”

Members of Wahpeton Breckenridge Homeschoolers look forward to the monthly meetings of not only children, but parents. The parent meetings can range from bouncing around ideas, or just socializing.

“I don’t think there’s ever been a time where we’ve gotten together where we haven’t given some sort of resource. There’s always that sense of collaboration,” Mandy said.

Curriculums vary by each homeschooling parent, Rita said, but all group parents are supportive of each others’ methods. What also varies are the reasons for becoming a homeschooling parent.

“It was a variety of reasons for me,” Mandy said. “I just saw that my son was struggling in the public school system. There was the fact that we wanted to integrate our beliefs and everything. I also didn’t like the idea that teachers were spending more time with my child than I was. You lose them too quick as it is. He wanted to be homeschooled. He loves it. But the God piece is big. We want to be able to openly discuss him in every aspect. There was more than once deciding factor. Just knowing that I was able to individualize his education better was another factor.”

Rita, commenting on how every child varies in academic and emotional development, said her children seemed to excel in certain areas over the other.

“I know, in smaller areas, we don’t have magnet schools, or schools for the arts. I really wanted to be able to teach them where they were at their level. It’s basically one-size-fits-all at school, where you have this classroom and one teacher and this is what you’re going to teach. The schools do try to meet students who are at or above that level, but they’re still all grouped in there together and this personalized approach seems very attractive. I could work with them at the level that they are – and interest-based learning is so effective,” she said.

Both Rita and Mandy are certain any parent could be successful at homeschooling. Mandy said she’s not above using tutors.

“When you figure out what it is your child needs, and you sit there and find the resources, you get that pride when you see them succeed,” she said. “It’s not like you have to have a teacher’s certificate or what not. It comes down to knowing there are so many resources out there and as long as you know where they’re supposed to be at. So much of that is not really worrying where they’re ‘supposed’ to be at, but meeting them where they’re at.”

“It’s not just being able to solve for X,” Rita said.

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