Home school offers faith-based education, family values

The Longwell children are learning Greek. They also may be learning mathematics and reading at a faster pace then their public school counterparts. Regardless of any comparisons, David and Laurie Longwell said their children are receiving a Christian education -- one of the reasons why they chose to homeschool their11 children.

"I like my kids and enjoy being around them," Laurie said in the living room of the Longwell's rural home. "I think it's sad when parents say they're happy to drop their kids off at school or happy to see the summer over."

The Longwell children follow a core curriculum similar to the work required of public school students. But after a morning routine academic class work, children learn Scripture from the Bible, followed by music lessons or other more specific lessons in math or science.

"I want to teach my children to be comfortable in the adult world and not just around their peers," David said. "Kids don't have trouble playing with other kids, that's not something you have to teach them."

A Northwest Colorado Homeschool Association began about 15 years ago. The movement, of which Laurie is the president, started from a handful of families in the Craig area. Over the years, the group has become more organized and now hosts parties, events and field trips for homeschool students.

The Moffat County School District estimates about 50 homeschool families district-wide, but informal reports from parents state that number may be three times as much.

The numbers of homeschoolers concern Superintendent Pete Bergmann of Moffat County Schools as potential students and state funds the district receives for each child are lost.

The district is down 88 students this year, which equals a $54,000 loss to the district.

"I'm not saying that I'm against alternative schooling, I'm saying that I think we have a pretty good thing going with our public schools," he said.

But despite the monetary pinch felt by the district without its peak enrollment, relations between the school district and homeschooled families has softened over the years, said homeschool mother Robin Lambert.

"I really like what Bergmann said at the last meeting, that we need to all work as a united front," she said. "Instead of cutting us off we can be adults about this and all work together."

Moffat County School board members decided a few months ago not to require district-enrolled homeschooled children to take additional classes, though the decision would have earned the district extra dollars.

Homeschooled children have the option to take district classes, but the district doesn't receive state funding unless homeschoolers take a total of two classes. For each homeschooler who is enrolled for two classes early in the school year, the district receives half of the state's per-pupil funding or $5,511 per student.

Though the district wouldn't lose money according to the scenario, it would have gained about $11,000 if board members required the stipulation of homeschoolers.

"It made me feel more comfortable bringing my questions to the school board," Lambert said. "I think (homeschoolers) are walking on eggshells and don't want to say the wrong thing (to the district)."

About five years ago, legislative action was proposed to require homeschooled parents to become licensed to teach in their homes. After a nationwide outcry and the threat of legal action, the bill failed miserably.

According to David Longwell, being a teacher to his children doesn't mean he has to know everything.

"I don't know a lot about translating Greek, but it's fun when we all do it together," he said. "As home educators we're just as much home learners."

Lambert also said she decided to homeschool her two children for religious reasons and because she can do a better job than the public schools.

"It's a matter of parental rights," she said. "My children are not the responsibility of the public schools, they are my responsibility. Public schools would raise my child for eight hours a day, but they don't do it how I would. I want them to be raised in a faith-based environment."


Amy Hatten can be reached at 824-7031 or ahatten@craigdailypress.com.

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