Homeschooling beyond home

Published 7:59 am Monday, September 29, 2008

When Joey and Joshua Blackwell of Alabaster get ready for school each morning they have a few more choices than some students. Joey, 16, weighs practicing piano against calculating math problems, while Joshua, 15, decides between weight lifting and literature.

The Blackwells have been home-schooled all their lives.

“We just felt convicted that we could do it better than the public schools could and at the same time safeguard their hearts from some of the bad influences,” said their mother Christy Blackwell.

Karen Giles took her son Stephen out of public school before he entered the first grade. She said sitting in a classroom with 30 other kids didn’t benefit him.

“He stayed sick and they couldn’t challenge him either,” Giles said. “I had never thought about it before but even his doctor told us we had to do it.”

For the Blackwells, Giles, and other families like them, home-schooling offers flexibility.

“A trip to Washington is educational,” Giles said. “You can learn so many ways besides out of a book and the more you can expose them to at a younger age the more likely they are to know what they want to do one day or what they don’t enjoy.”

School was also one less hurdle for Christy Blackwell to jump when her husband’s job with Mercedes transferred the family to Germany. She said the company offered to pay for their sons to attend an international school but they felt they had a better solution and her son Joey agrees.

“It was really, really fun moving to Germany. When you home-school there aren’t really a lot of opportunities you can miss,” Joey said. “People think there’s not a big social aspect but once you get into it there are so many things you can do to get you together with other kids.”

The Blackwells also participate in sports like football and tennis through Hope Christian School in Pelham and when they can fit it into their schedule they take ballroom dance classes at Dance Etcetera. Dance instructor Wendy Johnson said programs like the class she and her husband run offer the socialization parents look for.

“It’s just been a labor of love for us,” Johnson said. “We see them come into the class in seventh grade kind of shy but over the years we see them blossom.”

Giles’ son currently takes dual enrollment classes at Jefferson State Community College — something Giles said he has more time for because he home-schools. Joshua Blackwell said time is definitely on their side.

“Being in a public school environment might hinder us from being taught the way we are now. I feel I couldn’t have gotten the one-on-one aspect of it,” Joshua said.

Christy Blackwell said providing education for her sons at home allows them to focus more on their faith and family. Giles said she and her husband give Stephen the chance to go to public school each year but so far he’s stuck with his current course of study.