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Area home school families prepare in contrasting ways

Area home school families prepare in contrasting ways

Posted: Thursday, September 29, 2011 11:56 am
By: The Associated Press

The Messenger 09.29.11

By REBECCA FELDHAUS
The Paducah Sun
PADUCAH, Ky. (AP) — For two area home school families, back to school transitions are very different.
While the Gaunce and Gardner families carry out their daily educational routines contrastingly, they both attempt to individualize their children’s education the way they find most appropriate.
Jen and Kevin Gaunce of Reidland, Ky., have been around home school families through friends, family or church members, and they had a home school support system in place even before having a family. Starting from scratch, Jen Gaunce decided to look back to her own education.
“At first we almost tried to mimic public school,” she said. “We’d stand up and do the pledge to the flag. We’d sing.”
Because she had stayed home with her children from the beginning, there was never a startling transition into formal home schooling, Gaunce said. Their four children — Hannah, Rebecca, Josh and Caleb — vary in academic and social interests. Though they’ve been keeping up with the children’s progress by utilizing standardized testing, Kevin Gaunce said their efforts felt experimental until their two oldest daughters’ late high school days.
“It’s almost like the verdict was hung over our head until that ACT score started coming in,” he said.
It took a few years for the Gaunce family to find the perfect curriculum. Because of the increase in home schooling popularity, more and more books are available from which parents can choose. The Gaunces follow the public school calendar, for the most part. Other than off-season vacation, determined by Kevin Gaunce’s work schedule, they stick within a few weeks of the larger schools in the region.
For 17-year-old Josh Gaunce, waking up at 7 a.m. again after a summer of sleeping in will be quite challenging. As Josh and Caleb Gaunce, 12, get themselves prepared for the day, they both break off on a few hours of work. Josh Gaunce has a proclivity for guitar, a regular part of his curriculum.
Hannah, 21, and Rebecca Gaunce, 19, had to overcome new norms upon getting to Murray State University. Rebecca said it was challenging getting used to sitting in a classroom when she was used to motivating herself on her own time. It didn’t take too long, she said, to get in the swing of things. For the most part, the Gaunce children have learned from their mother and father. They haven’t participated in co-operative home school groups.
Though she’s been the main teacher for close to two decades, Jen Gaunce said the school year can still creep up on her. When asked about advice she had for back to school preparations, she laughed and said it was wise not to wait until the day before classes to order books.
The afternoon sun reached almost all the way to the back of Cynthia’s restaurant as Bill and Cynthia Gardner talked with their daughter Erin. Contrasted from the calm, country-style living of the Gaunce family, Erin and Crosby Gardner learn while their parents anticipate the evening rush. Erin, 11, and Crosby, 15, often study in the office or upstairs dining room of the restaurant on Market House Square.
Being in the restaurant business keeps the family schedule flexible, Cynthia Gardner said.
The Gardners begin their fourth year of home schooling this year. They began when their son, Crosby, had problems in middle school. Crosby Gardner has Asperger’s syndrome, a high-functioning form of autism. Until then, Cynthia was very satisfied with her son’s education.
Like the Gaunce family, the Gardners went to church with home-school families. They had support and advice from many angles, but they also dealt with extreme doubt.
Bill Gardner’s family includes former public school principals, longtime teachers and an assistant superintendent. When they decided to work with their children from home, Bill and Cynthia received some harsh feedback from the family. Now, Bill said, his family is pleased with the results.
Rather than follow the public school schedule, Crosby works with his parents through the summer to ensure he’s reinforcing his lessons. His disability behooves them to continue work throughout the year, Cynthia said.
Crosby and Erin keep quite busy. Both are enrolled in co-operative home school classes, mostly offered through members of their church. Erin enjoys a special dance class, while her brother gets to focus on higher levels of math classes, his strong suit. Cynthia already has 15 children in her geography class, which starts this week.
The newfound freedom in their school schedule makes more sense for their family, Bill said.
“We’re in the restaurant business,” he said. “We work when everybody else is off. And when people are working, we’re off.”
They take their vacations in smaller spurts, but they never leave their books behind. They make field trips out of their vacation time and usually spend part of their excursions looking through a lesson or two.
“It’s like, have schoolwork, will travel,” Cynthia said.

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