By JOEY REISTROFFER
GREENVILLE — Home schooling is more than a concerted stroll through reading, writing and arithmetic. It is a way of life, and it demands commitment from the whole family.
That is the message about 110 home schoolers from across the state and even beyond its borders received recently during a two-day conference at St. Joseph’s High School.
The speakers were well-grounded in their faith and willing to share their experiences. It started with Benedictine Father Samuel Weber, who blessed the conference by celebrating Mass. He discussed the Catholic culture in the home school.
He told parents that marriage and living their vows in a way that is pleasing to God is crucial in setting an example for their children. That creates a perfect atmosphere where youngsters can thrive. Where love is nurtured, so is learning.
Karen Ascik, a speaker and a mother of nine, agreed. “Home schooling is a relationship of love,” she said.
Ascik said parents are their children’s first teachers and their best teachers because “you know their strengths and weaknesses.” She said home-schooling parents also can focus on the spiritual as well as the academic development of their children. As parents, they can form the whole child.
Tracey Mershon, a home schooler from the Greenville area, knew exactly what Ascik meant.
“You’re teaching them as a parent,” she said. “You love them more than a teacher could ever love them, so you go the extra mile for them.”
That includes keeping the marriage strong and the family life in harmony, according to Alex and Maria Munoz. They gave parents pointers, such as ensuring quality couch time. This is time when husbands and wives can talk one-on-one. It also is time that family issues must be discussed, including discipline and finances.
Lori Dorchak, a home schooler from Gaffney who helped organize the conference, said many were touched when Alex and Maria talked about support from within. The husband is like the principal of the school who offers moral support.
“Without the support of the father, (home schooling) is a stressful task. They need to know this is a major undertaking,” the Munozes said.
As Dorchak looked around, she noticed, “There are a lot of dads here.”
Many attended the workshop by Marc Connelly on classical education, “the education that our forefathers received.”
Classical education, he said, does not teach subjects. It teaches a child how to learn. He said the focus of the younger children should be on grammar. As they get older, begin to teach them logic. Then, when they approach high school, expand into teaching rhetoric, which is learning to defend an issue or how to agree with an issue.
Grammar, logic and rhetoric “really work to build a foundation of the basics,” his wife, Lynn Connelly, said.
She enjoyed the talk by Keith and Tami Kizer on how to approach sex education.
Teach them modesty at a young age, the Kizers advised. The way to do that without invading their innocence is to tell them that God made you a boy or a girl and you are special.
Changing diapers is a perfect opportunity to show them the difference between boys and girls, they said.
When they reach the teen-age years, stress the importance of remaining chaste, said Keith Kizer, who is the headmaster at St. Joseph’s.
The Kizers impressed Emily Paluszak. “It inspired my husband and myself to look up everything on chastity,” she said.
There was a variety of teaching material on hand at the conference.
Curriculum and book providers included Seton Home Study, Catholic Heritage Curricula, Saints and Scholars, and Emmanuel Books. Office Depot was there to offer computer games as well as curricula. And Children’s Books out of Greer had a wonderful assortment, one mother said.
Parents learned that they are not alone in their choice to home school their children. As they mixed, mingled and traded teaching tips with each other, they saw that many other couples across the state are committed to this family way of life.