First Homeschool Fellowship of Manchester, a non-denominational Christian cooperative, is now registering for 2013-14 classes, to be held on each Wednesday, August through April, at First Baptist Church for grades kindergarten through 12th.
Director Michelle Rollman said that the co-op’s goal is multifold.
“We want home schooling families to be a part of something more than their dinning room tables,” she said. “We want them to interact with other kids…with other parents … and be exposed to things they might not be able to at home.”
She said that certain classes like physical education, art and science labs are difficult for home schooling parents to teach alone.
Fellow co-op board member Renee Hancock said, “There is a real need here. It seems like everybody is on somebody’s waiting list. There are so many families home schooling and looking for that sense of community and support.”
Working hand-in-hand with that is a second aspect of the co-op, to provide encouragement to home school families.
Rollman, a 16-year home schooling veteran, adds, “One of the things that is hard is… [being] home with your kids 24/7, some times you need to get out of the house and get some encouragement from some other moms – have someone talk to, get some expertise that they’ve gained over the years.”
She said that the co-op is a good place for the kids to socialize and interact with other students outside of the house.
The co-op, organizers say, will enrich rather than replace the home school curriculum.
“We’re hoping to have art classes taught by a professional artist, guitar classes taught by a music teacher. And then a variety of other classes that will be taught by [parents].”
Fellow co-op board member Renee Hancock said, “Every parent has some area of expertise and experience that they can share beyond their own family. The home schooling co-op gives you that sense of community and family in a like-minded peer group.”
Rollman, whose family relocated to Manchester partially because of the Coffee County Schools’ option to allow home school athletes to play on school teams, said that Tennessee home schooling laws differ from her home state of Pennsylvania in that here parents must work under an “umbrella” group or the school system. In Pennsylvania, parents report to local school boards at the end of the school year with a portfolio of what each student has done throughout the year. The system goes over the students’ work and approves it or advises what needs to be done.
In Tennessee, however, home-schoolers’ curriculum usually comes from an independent company.
“I’ve had the opportunity to meet a lot of people in the school system in Coffee County. They’re really nice and have been really encouraging,” she said.
The co-op does not take the place of an “umbrella” company.
A typical day at co-op will begin at 8 a.m. with an opening assembly for announcements and prayer. The day will continue with four one-hour classes and a lunch/structured physical activity hour. Following that will be a final class.
“Physical ed classes and art class… are some of the hardest to do for home schooling families. It’s hard to get a game of kick ball going with just you and your three kids.”
There will also be hands-on science labs and an Irish step dancing class and Spanish, Greek and writing classes.
Classes start Aug.21 and will continue through Nov. 21 before they resume for January April semester.
To register for fall, contact Renee Hancock at (931) 635-2658. Fees are $50 per family a semester or $80 per year.
A nursery and pre-K will be available for younger siblings.
On Monday, Tennessee Code Annotated, Section 49-6-3050 went into affect with following amendment that allows home-schooled students to tryout and possibly play for public school teams.
The amendment reads in part, “A home school student shall be eligible to participate in interscholastic athletics at the public school to which the student would be assigned or authorized to attend according to the LEA, provided that the student is enrolled in a home school conducted by the student’s parent or legal guardian; The student registers as a home school student with the local director of schools by Aug. 1 of the school year in which the student desires to participate in interscholastic athletics.”
For the complete amendment, see the Tennessee Code Annotated, Section 49-6-3050, available through Lexis Nexis.
Staff Writer John Coffelt contributed to the story.