Homeschooling group relieves pressure on parentsphotos courtesy of Sheri Hartell Dylan Hartell, 7, in the basement of his home, which was converted to a schoolroom.
Sheri Hartell's two boys have been publicschooled and private-schooled. But it wasn't until they were homeschooled that their educational needs were met.
Hartell's oldest, now 12, "absolutely hated school," yet he received straight A's. Her younger son, now 7, liked school but lacked motivation. "One needed one-on-one attention, and the other wasn't being challenged enough," she says.
So Hartell decided she would teach them herself. "I was terrified, so nervous," says the Cicero mother, who also plans to homeschool her 4-year-old daughter.
But the hardest part, she says, was choosing a curriculum. Fortunately, Hartell found Grassroots Homeschoolers, an organization of approximately 100 homeschooling families with chapters in Joliet, Tinley Park, Matteson and Beverly. On April 3, the group will host its annual Homeschooling Expo, where parents can purchase homeschooling resources and chat with other homeschoolers for recommendations.
"There's so much junk out there," says Dorothy Werner, a founder of Illinois H.O.U.S.E (Home Oriented Unique Schooling Experience), a network of homeschooling support groups. "It makes it hard to discriminate. Everybody's just trying to make a buck." And certainly, there are bucks to be made, considering the homeschooling market is worth $850 million, according to the Homeschool Legal Defense Association.
In the late 1970s, many households turned to homeschooling because of "the general move away from a biblical worldview," says Ian Slatter, director of media relations for the Homeschool Legal Defense Association. But Slatter attributes the recent increase in homeschooling families (as much as 15 percent in the last decade) to an overall decline in the public school system.
For Hartell, it was the overcrowding and gang life in Cicero public schools that worried her. "With homeschooling, it keeps you involved, it teaches family values, and education-wise, it's always better to be one-on-one than 36-on-one," she says.
But socialization can be an issue. That is why Grassroots organizes field trips, workshops and social activities to supplement the children's home education.
"You don't have to do it alone," says Werner, who homeschooled four of her five kids. "In fact, it's kind of silly. There are so many people and resources out there, you don't need to have all the knowledge yourself."
The Grassroots Homeschooling Expo will run from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. at St. Paul's Church Fellowship Hall in Matteson. For further information on Grassroots or homeschooling in general, visit www.grassrootshomeschoolers.org.