For more than 10 years, local families practicing the educational alternative to sending their children through the public education pipeline -- home schooling -- have united under the banner of the Northwest Colorado Home School Association.
The group, which was formed by a handful of families in the Craig area, hosted its annual fall kick-off Saturday evening at Yampa Valley Baptist Church, 3900 E. Victory Way.
Turnout was low -- just three new families joined the association -- but group president Allison Cutler said she's confident the organization will meet its usual 20 to 25 family enrollment in coming months.
Cutler said the association offers a support network for families teaching children at home.
"It's a support group," Cutler said. "We have field trips and get-togethers as a group. We try to encourage each other. It's so you don't feel always like you're out there doing it by yourself. There are people out there that you can bounce ideas off of and talk to."
Cutler, who's in her first year as president of the organization, teaches her children at home. For the last 13 years, she's home schooled all four of her children.
She said the benefits of home schooling lie with shaping their education and spending more time with them.
"I think the first and foremost reason for all of us is so we can teach Christian principles and values to our children," she said. "(Home schooling) kind of takes you back to simpler times when kids learned the most at home.
"It's hard ... it's not necessarily easy for the parents, but it can be successful."
The Barber family of Craig has also found success with home schooling. Matriarch Haley Barber, who also serves as an official for the home school association, has taught her children at home for the last six years.
She said what began as an attempt to try an educational alternative has evolved into a way of life for the family.
"It's become a lifestyle," she said. "If you asked my daughters, I think they'd say the same thing. They wouldn't want to go to a public school."
At about 8 a.m. each day, Barber readies herself and her three children for school. But, instead of shoeing the three kids -- A.J., Amanda and Ashley -- off to different schools, Barber begins prepping them for the day's work at home.
The children, A.J., 6, Amanda, 12, and Ashley, 14, work on elementary, middle and high school level courses. As their primary instructor, Barber is required to be a jack-of-all trades teacher.
She said mornings are spent tutoring A.J. and instructing Amanda and Ashley on lessons and homework. Afternoons focus on the girls' learning, she said.
The school day at the Barber home concludes at about 3 p.m. This year, the kids will go to school year round with a schedule of five weeks on, one week off.
Barber said there is no such thing as a typical home school day, but that the allure of home school lies with parents being in charge of the children's learning.
"We wouldn't want to do anything else," she said.
For more information on home schooling, or joining the Northwest Colorado Home School Association, call Haley Barber at 824-9644. Informational packets are available.