Students everywhere are getting ready for school by reviewing their schedules, shopping for new clothes and gathering up the necessary supplies.
However, not all of them will walk to school or board a bus on the first day of class. Homeschooled students will often begin their studies by taking a seat at the kitchen table, in front of their personal laptop or at the family computer desk.
That means for homeschooling families who follow a traditional school calendar with a summer break, parents are studying curriculum choices, ordering books and setting academic goals. Their children are starting to mentally transition from “summer fun” to “school’s-in-session” mode.
While that sounds like a monumental task, children are often eager for the school year to begin. In fact, 17-year-old Sierra Monaghan has already begun her lessons – on her own. By the time August rolled around, Sierra was ready to dive into her studies again and started picking up her literature and chemistry books.
“She is so eager to get into her senior year,” said her mother Tuesdee Monaghan.
The Fenton teen has been homeschooled since the 10th grade, when she and her parents, Scott and Tuesdee Monaghan, wanted to tailor Sierra’s education to meet her unique needs.
Knowing exactly what her children are learning is one of the many things Fenton resident Stephanie Grayhek loves about homeschooling. She is homeschooling daughter Angel, 9, and son Micah, 7.
The Grayheks have a room dedicated to homeschooling filled with age-appropriate learning materials. They begin each morning with some exercise to help get everyone focused and energized for the day. Then they enjoy breakfast together and discuss what they will be doing for school that particular day.
“It gets them excited about what’s to come,” said Grayhek.
Typically they begin with writing and reading before tackling other subjects like history, science and art. The family gets together for activities with a local homeschooling group weekly as well.
Parents choose to homeschool their children for many different reasons. Monaghan said she and Scott felt it was their responsibility to do everything in their power to put Sierra in the best position to succeed once she graduates.
The Monaghans discussed the options extensively and developed a plan for Sierra where she is partially homeschooled. Sierra takes her core classes at home and is enrolled in high school for electives such as music and theatre. Sierra also attends the veterinary medicine program at the Genesee Area Skill Center.
“This gives her the flexibility she needs to achieve her goals,” said Monaghan.
Another advantage of a homeschooling schedule is that lessons can be tailored to her interests where appropriate, like Sierra’s chemistry lessons that involve veterinary medicine, she said.
Grayhek, who was herself homeschooled from grades 6-12, said she always intended to homeschool her children at some point, but it was clear to her early on that a one-on-one learning environment would be best for them. The children attended preschool and kindergarten before being homeschooled and her youngest child, four-year-old Danika, will be attending preschool as well.
She said Angel and Micah know that they can’t fail, because they will continue to work on concepts until they are truly mastered, spending the time necessary to do so.
Homeschooling involves planning and dedication. Grayhek is OK with the sacrifices because of the amazing results she has seen in her children. She said it is such an honor to be able to homeschool.
Monaghan agreed it takes a lot of work on everyone’s part to make Sierra’s partial homeschooling schedule work. She and her husband spend time searching for the right books and materials. They purchased a computer program that helps them with keeping track of grades and transcripts.
However, it has all been worth it as Sierra, who has her heart set on attending Michigan State University to study veterinary medicine, has thrived. She is enthusiastic about her learning, self-motivated and organized. Monaghan said Sierra has more confidence in herself and taken on additional responsibility for her own success.