Home school home

They're fans of the Delta School District's Home Quest program: Jill Schmidt and her kids Eve, 6, (left), Kezia, 3 (a future Home Quest student) and Theo, 7.
— image credit: Boaz Joseph / The Leader

Kezia Schmidt learned to spell her name last year at the age of two with the help of her older sister Eva, then just five.

Although Kezia, at three years old, is still too young to join Eva at school, there's an educational kinship in the family. Not only are both their parents teachers, two of the family's three kids do much of their learning outside the classroom.

Eva, six, and brother Theo, seven, split their studies between home and a four-classroom wing in North Delta's Pinewood Elementary School as part of the Delta School District's Home Quest program.

Theo, though a sharp kid and an early reader, was having some difficulty with regular classroom instruction, explains his mother Jill.

After taking him to Home Quest for six months, Theo's educational future – and that of his sisters – was altered forever.

"I feel like my whole parenting philosophy changed," says Jill.

Previously, she parented in the breaks between Theo's classes, playing catch-up while juggling his school and home activities.

With home schooling, Jill felt she finally had opportunity to invest time in her kids and signed up Eva for kindergarten the following year as Theo entered Grade 2.

"Now I'm their teacher, I'm their mother; I had better be a good role model."

Jill and her husband Colin share parenting, schooling and playtime with Eva and Theo, who spend one full day in the middle of each week in a classroom setting and take field trips on Mondays and Fridays.

Home Quest is collaborative partnership between the Delta School District and families seeking home-based learning as an alternative to traditional classroom-based instruction. In education-speak, it's called distributed learning because it doesn't follow a regular class schedule.

Coordinator Barb Stoliker says that ownership of their youngsters' education is a common reason why parents sign their kids up for the program.

There's also the one-on-one learning for kids with unique abilities, the resources available for parents, the more flexible schooling hours, the social nature of the networking with other families, and the often outdoorsy nature of the learning.

Reading and math are done at home, as one would expect of home schooling, but students go to school or on field trips for phys-ed, science, music or art activities.

"Some things are hard to do just around the kitchen table," explains Stoliker, who has run the program for four years.

The program, which began in 2003, also offers a lending library in the school resource room, photocopying services, educational supplies and complete lesson programs for different grades.

There are also regular report cards as well as one-hour "portfolio" interviews each term in which teachers evaluate the students' (and parents') progress.

Home Quest, available to students from kindergarten to Grade 7, is a free program that currently has 89 students and almost two dozen kids on the waiting list for next September.

Jill counters the stigma that home schooling is for kids with social issues, adding that all children are either naturally social or not, and home schooling will not make them less social, since they still have school friends they regularly interact with.

She adds that parents grow more social too with Home Quest: "I love that I'm friends with the families – it's like family play-dates."

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