WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — By late this Saturday afternoon, as many as 8,000 people will have descended on the Benton Convention Center and left for home armed with the latest information on home schooling, according to the Winston-Salem Journal.
It’s the last day of North Carolinians for Home Education’s 30th annual conference, drawing home-school families and those interested in joining their ranks from across the state.
Nancy Coleman, NCHE’s conference vice president, said the home-school community thrives in North Carolina thanks to “user-friendly” home-school laws. There were more than 53,000 home schools registered in North Carolina for the 2012-13 school year. More than 1,600 of those were in Forsyth County.
“Parents are really able to direct the education of their children,” Coleman said of growth in popularity of home-schooling.
The three-day conference offered dozens of workshops and lectures for everyone from those just getting started with home-schooling to veterans, with such topics as “Exploring Your Homeschool Options” to “College Opportunities for Homeschoolers.” A majority of the sessions are faith-based, geared to the largely Christian base of home-school families that want more control over what their children are learning, Coleman said.
The book fair that accompanies the conference is a big draw, as well, with vendors providing everything from science kits to textbooks and novels. There is also a great deal of religious materials and faith-based texts available.
NCHE board member Amanda Wares of Greensboro began home-schooling her children nine years ago. Originally, she said it was to help her oldest daughter, who was falling behind in elementary school and needed more one-on-one attention.
“After that first year, we fell in love with being able to make our own schedule and tailor our children’s education,” Wares said.
Her oldest daughter, Susannah, will graduate today at a ceremony during the convention. Wares will continue to home-school her three younger children. Wares said that all of the time together has made the family closer and also allowed her children more flexibility to pursue other interests.
For Susannah, that was dance.
“It gave me the opportunity to do things I wouldn’t have normally,” Susannah said.
Susannah said she was upset when her parents first pulled her out of school after the third grade. But after her first NCHE conference, Susannah said, she really started to see home schooling differently.
“It wasn’t just me,” she said.
Since then, the Wares have gotten involved with home-school groups, sports teams and co-ops — group classes for home-school students.
“It’s been amazing,” she said. “It was exactly what I needed.”
Home schooling was also the answer for the Holder family of Winston-Salem. Kimberly Holder and her daughters — Keegan, 14, and Kyleigh, 9 — were shopping for books at the book fair Friday. Holder’s husband is in the military, and the family has moved around the country every two or three years. Home schooling the girls was easier than switching schools, Holder said.
“Home school has been a blessing to us,” Holder said. “It gives us more family time and more time to instill not just learning, but values.”