LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) - There was a unique kind of “back to school” fair Tuesday night for families who have chosen to do their schooling at home.
Home Educators of Greater Little Rock hosted its yearly kickoff function at Bible Church of Little Rock. It featured a handful of seminars and a large activity fair. The classes, befitting a group that teaches its own children, were run by parents with many years of experience in homeschooling.
“The best advice I tell someone new to homeschooling,” Kim Magnus said, “is: find somebody a few years ahead of you and then follow behind them.”
Magnus and Hannah Senn led a seminar for parents who are beginning as home school teachers. She has taught her five children, and is also a board member for Home Ed. It is a network of parents who share resources about homeschooling. Among the topics of the other seminars that were offered were study habits for home school students, how to transition students from home schooling to college, and how to teach students with learning disabilities.
Magnus and Senn both tried to convince the new parents why homeschooling was beneficial. “Mostly, it was being able to spend time with my kinds,” Magnus mentioned, “instead of not, having them somewhere else all day and coming home tired to me, and then doing homework all night. I wanted to be able to know my kids, to know their strengths and know their weaknesses, and get to spend time with them.”
Senn said she also appreciated being the main influence in her children’s lives, and the flexibility to teach what she wanted in a style that best fit her children. But she also spoke about the time and energy commitments that are require of parents who teach at home.
“I’ll often have moms come to me and say, ‘oh, I could never do it,’ like, you know, it’s easy,” she stated. “Well, there’s days I don’t feel like I can do it! But you persevere, and the benefits outweigh the realities, by far.”
After the seminars, parents and children could visit the activity fair, which featured more than 40 vendors. They had information about extracurricular programs geared toward homeschooled students, including music, dance, martial arts, chess, and sports.
“What it allows for us to do,” said Mike Bennett, a homeschool parent and athletic director for the Little Rock Flames, “is to put students in a competitive environment and teach them the life lessons of discipline, of competition, of how to win like a—win properly, lose properly.”
The Flames offer teams for homeschooled students in a variety of sports, including basketball, baseball, softball, and volleyball. They play against other home school teams, as well as teams in the Arkansas Activities Association.
A pair of laws passed during the 2017 state legislative session allows homeschooled students the opportunity to play sports for public or private schools, while another lets public school districts create policies to allow homeschooled students to take classes at the nearest public school.
“If they want a band environment, that’s harder to do for us, so they might go there to do that,” Magnus explained. “And so, those things, it’s particularly helpful. If there are sports that we don’t offer, they can go to school and play those sports.”
Keeping up with changes in the law may seem daunting, but Magnus said that is part of the job when teaching becomes your life. “I wanted my kids to be prepared for college and prepared for life,” she explained, “so I was motivated to keep up with it. When you love somebody and you want the best for them, it’s not hard to stay motivated with that.”
Parents and students flocked to the different extracurricular opportunities in the church gym. Magnus said the most common question she gets is about how to socialize children in a home school setting.
“The bigger question is not, ‘what am I going to do to socialize my kids,’” she stated, “but ‘what thing am I not going to do,’ so that we have time to home school. Because there’s really more opportunity out there than what we have time for in the day.”
A representative from Harding University attended the event to talk about how homeschooled students can transition to college. Magnus said many home school parents work with UA Pulaski Tech to enroll their high-schoolers in courses that will earn concurrent credit. She added that many of them are available online, which fits very well into a homeschooled student’s lifestyle.
“If you have a child who has a special interest, either, like, in dance or music,” she mentioned, “they’ve got time to pursue their passion and to also get their schoolwork done. So, it just leaves a lot of opportunity for the individual to pursue the things they love.”