your children well
to school at home in Yellow Springs
Tammy Corwin-Renner, working with her daughters, Emily Rose, center,
and Allegra, during a recent home school session.
Corwin-Renner sits by a freshwater spring in the mid-morning sun arranging
seashells with her older sister, Emily Rose.
I am the queen, and you must protect me from the fairy goblins,
She always wants to be the queen, so I just let her, says
10-year-old Emily Rose.
The girls are in their backyard on South Tecumseh Road for a Monday morning
home school session with their mother, Tammy Corwin-Renner. They base
their curriculum on the Waldorf method of education, which emphasizes
learning through stories and body movement.
Out in the Vale community, on a similar Monday morning, Nick Eastman,
15, crouches over a geometry textbook at the kitchen table while his brother
Luke, 11, reads aloud the words for a spelling test for his visiting cousin.
They are getting ready to have a home school biology lesson with their
grandfather Walt Tulecke, a retired Antioch College biology faculty member,
who lives downstairs.
Would you like an apple? Tulecke asks Nick as he passes out
fruit to his grandchildren.
Nick grabs an apple, takes a bite and continues punching keys on his calculator.
The house is quiet, even with three cousins, who also home school, visiting
from Vermont. The cousins mother, Kim Beyer, is coordinating todays
program while Heidi Eastman, the boys mother, is assisting a birth.
One of the most important things about home schooling, both families agreed,
is taking the opportunity to form a deliberate family relationship and
a stronger family bond.
I felt home schooling could give our family a chance to grow together
and form a strong foundation, said Beyer, who grew up in Yellow
Springs. Our socializing is based on the family not because the
family is perfect but because I value taking time to handle issues that
may come up.
For Corwin-Renner, home schooling her children facilitates something she
Children learn how to grow into adults through their parents, family
and friends, she said. Having intergenerational peers for
[the children] is a more natural model to learn from than what they would
experience at school.
At regular school, it might not be easy, for instance, for a first grader
to be friends with her fourth-grade sister because it wouldnt be
cool, Corwin-Renner said, watching her daughters chase each
other. But look at them, theyre best friends, she said.
Thats one of my greatest joys.
Parent-as-teacher has other benefits that the children see as well. The
Eastmans attended the Antioch School for many years before they decided
to home school.
I like my mom as my teacher much better, Luke said.
His cousin Marcianna, 13, agreed. You can get more frustrated with
your mom, but they know you better and can explain things the way you
can understand, she said.
In the living room of the Corwin-Renners home, Emily Rose lights
a candle and a stick of incense to set the stage for a story about the
c and the k.
Once upon a time there was a king . . . and he had a cat,
Tammy begins in almost a whisper. The girls listen intently to their spelling
lesson, and then blow out the candle to begin their workbooks, colorful
oversized booklets of blank sheets of paper. They will create their own
textbooks through guided writing and drawing exercises.
For history and geography, Emily Rose explains a detailed map she drew
of her house and property along with the history she researched about
their 19th century English stone farmhouse.
My strongest hope is to raise my children with a very strong sense
of themselves, a strong self-esteem, Corwin-Renner said. The
lessons are taught in a magical way to keep their imaginations always
Education should increase ones curiosity about the world, Beyer
said. She hopes the historical novels she and her daughters read together
will give them courageous models to learn from. Both she and Tulecke believe
science is about wonder.
I just teach them the essentials and encourage them to have an interest
in the subject, Tulecke said.
Home schoolers have an array of educational methods from which to pick
and choose, and then integrate into an individual program that best suits
them. The Eastmans use various textbook series for math and science, and
they choose literature from a long reading list of classics and historical
novels. In the afternoons they participate in language classes, art and
music lessons, and other activities outside the house and with other home
One of the biggest challenges for some of the families is finding time
and energy to coordinate group activities with other people. Both the
Eastmans and the Corwin-Renners find that it takes work to get involved
with others. It can be lonely if we dont find ways to do that,
And the children, especially those who have experienced institutional
schooling, notice it too.
I thought about going to the high school this year because its
fun to be with other kids, said Nick, who has been home schooled
since the fifth grade. When I was at the Antioch School I was always
doing stuff with my friends. But Nick decided to home school at
least another year.
The kids have choices and so do their parents. For a parent, deciding
to home school requires a certain amount of confidence as a teacher.
My biggest fear is that my own public school education limits my
confidence and ability to provide for them in their learning process,
And the learning process can be a mutual one. Im reclaiming
and healing parts of my own childhood by relearning it with my children,
Corwin-Renner said. I see this as a spiritual journey for us all.
These home schoolers may very well turn out slightly different from regular
school children. Many of them dont have a TV through which to plug
into popular culture. They spend a large portion of the day with their
parents and siblings. Some of them will have fostered a blurred distinction
between reality and imagination. They have chosen to forge their own path.
The studying makes Luke hungry, and he comes to the kitchen to make himself
a peanut butter, honey and banana sandwich. The others, drawn by the smell
and camaraderie, slowly congregate there. Marcianna draws up beside her
mother and nearly smothers her with a hug. And they keep hugging for several
Soon Dana Beyer, the youngest cousin, waltzes in with her shoes on the
wrong feet. Oh, your shoes are on backwards! Tulecke says
as he picks her up and kisses her. But they look very nice that
Home schoolers can create an individualized classroom and a whole world
the way they think it should be. Emily Rose and Allegra will continue
to make up stories and develop their own way of being and designating
the queen in their fairy home by the spring.
Its not a game really, Allegra says. Were
trying to figure out how to live there all the time.