FORT MCPHERSON, Ga. -- Besides being a War on Terror veteran, she has worn a lot of other hats in her life: Soldier, wife, mother. Now she is adding a new one to her hat rack: homeschool teacher.

Barbara Smith, who spent six years in the Army, said the decision to homeschool her children was based on a strong desire to spend time with her son Marquis, 6.

"I spent three deployments away, half his life," Smith said. "I wanted some one-on-one time I haven't had with him in so long."

In this sense, she is not alone. Camellia Jefferson, garrison school liaison officer, said she has seen an increase in military Families opting to homeschool their children during her nine-year tenure working as a school liaison officer.

Her observations match the latest studies conducted by the U.S. Department of Education that home schooled children has increased between 1999 and 2003 from approximately 850,000 to 1.1 million.

In the Fort Gillem and Fort McPherson communities, Jefferson said there are close to 60 students, ages 5 through 17, being home-schooled. Parents continue enrolling their children each week, she added.

In their initial meeting with Jefferson, parents receive an information packet that familiarizes them with Georgia laws governing home- school education. According to such laws, parents or guardians must have a high school diploma or general equivalency diploma and provide 180 days of instruction with at least four-and-a-half hours a day. Instruction must include reading, language, arts, mathematics, social studies and science.

The curriculum of the program they want their child to receive, however, is left up to the parent, Jefferson said.

"They know what is best for their children," said Jefferson, adding her job is to ensure parents are familiar with what is available.

For Smith and her spouse, Sgt. 1st Class Damon Smith, NCO in charge, assistance and investigation section, office of the Inspector General, U.S. Army Forces Command, their choice of curriculum was with a company with 31 years of experience in providing a Christian homeschool curriculum.

"I wanted to be comfortable with his knowledge," she said of the choice. "I get a workbook, a book to go by and teaching aids. I also get a book teaching me how to teach step by step," she explained.

Jefferson said she can provide families with copying services for lessons and tests, coordinate with post agencies for help with educational events and schedule the use of Bldg. 400, the Youth Activities Center, at Fort McPherson, to help.

The liaison office also schedules homeschool meetings for the parents to allow parties to exchange ideas, ask questions and share tips and tactics.

Parents with an educational background can provide quality insight to other parents, Jefferson said, but the main concern is for home-school teachers to be flexible, maintain a schedule and have knowledge of what they are teaching.

"It's frustrating when I can't get him to grasp something. But I love it. I really enjoy it," Smith said. "I am able to take my time and have one-on-one interaction."

It is important for parents to be serious about teaching, have to have a strong desire to do it and most of all, be patient, Smith said.

Marquis said he enjoys his time with his mother, although he said he misses his friends. He describes Smith as a good teacher, patient and always there to help him.

The individual attention and small classroom atmosphere is a major benefit for home-schooled children, Jefferson said. Numerous studies, including several performed by the Fraser Institute, an independent international research and educational organization, show that home schooled children outperform their peers on standardized tests, the SAT Reasoning Test and American College Testing tests.

"These parents are awesome," Jefferson said of the homeschool parents in the area. "These kids are learning."

Learning is important because even though the children are not enrolled in a public school system, they still need to pass Georgia-based testing to have their education count, Jefferson said. Homeschooled children are required to take Georgia criteria-referenced competency tests, which measure their proficiency in reading, vocabulary, language arts and math.
Students must score 300 or better out of 450.

"Test, test, test. Look for progression and regression. Use your time wisely," said Jefferson, of tips to help ensure homeschooled children pass these tests.

For more information on home- schooling, call Jefferson at 464-3192 or stop by the School Liaison Office in the basement of Bldg. 65 from 7:30 a.m. until 4:30 p.m.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16