Pleasanton Weekly

Arts & Entertainment - March 26, 2010

A different type of education

Home schooled Pleasanton sisters achieve and stay connected

by Katie Lyness

Though people might think being home schooled eventually gets isolating, Amy, a Pleasanton tenth-grader, and her sister Rebecca, a sixth-grader, do volunteer work in town and compete on the swim team so that they can meet friends, stay connected to local people, and be a part of the community since they don't attend public school and don't see people during the day.

Amy and Rebecca swim for the Pleasanton Seahawks in the summer and in the fall they swim for the Pleasanton Valley Club. Amy hopes to be a life guard at the Aquatic Center this summer. She likes to compete in swimming and has been swimming since she was 4.

The sisters also volunteer at the Valley Humane Society once a week and they used to volunteer twice a week about a year ago, but then they go too busy. Volunteering at Valley Humane Society was Amy's idea because they had adopted two cats from VHS. They also volunteer at the library.

They began being home schooled after Amy's parents were disappointed in the kindergarten in Davis, where they used to live. Her mom, Anja, quickly realized that the kindergarten students were just doing worksheets all day long. She discovered Amy had no art classes or other enriching activities at the school aside from academics, and felt she could provide Amy with a better education. Anja therefore told the principal of Amy's school that they were going to try home schooling and that Amy might be back the following year.

But she never went back. Anja and Amy liked the home schooling method and Rebecca, Amy's younger sister, began home schooling as soon as she was old enough.

Now, both Amy and Rebecca learn at home, where Amy teaches herself and Rebecca is taught by their mom. Soon Rebecca will begin teaching herself, too. Amy and Rebecca stick to a basic plan every day of learning curriculum required by the state of California, but because they have extra time after the required materials, Amy and Rebecca also get to learn all sorts of extra subjects that are not offered in school. Amy likes to teach herself philosophy and Japanese, and Rebecca enjoys learning biology, a subject that students in public school don't get to learn until seventh grade.

Instead of a structured school day like in the public schools, Amy and Rebecca have a more relaxed school day, but it has just as much educational value (and maybe even more) than public schools. Usually Rebecca starts her school day around 8:30 a.m. and Amy starts hers closer to 9 a.m. Amy likes to start with biology or math because they are her hardest subjects. She then she moves onto some of her easier subjects towards the end of the day. Teaching herself about three subjects a day, Amy likes how at home she can move at her own pace and learn more deeply than she would be able to at school, about topics that she especially enjoys. Also, Amy divides her year into sixths so after each portion she'll review what she has learned. This helps her remember the information permanently.

Rebecca's day usually starts with chemistry or math and then she moves onto biology and languages. Their schedules are not always the same and from day to day. It might change depending on what they understand or what they want to learn more about.

Both of the girls like their school-related activities. They don't get grades from their mom, but they are still motivated to do a good job with their school work. They think of themselves as their own best competition because they compete against themselves to always do their personal best. Rebecca likes to make up learning games and do artwork while Amy invents projects for herself. Both girls will take the SAT, so they want to make sure they know all the material that students in public school learn. To remember everything she has learned, Amy keeps records of all the books she has read, movies she's watched, museums she's been to, hikes she's gone on and lots of other experiences.

Varying from Amy's methods, Rebecca keeps all of her schoolwork in folders that she classifies by the subject and the year. When it comes to organization, both of them feel that they are each organized, but they agree that Rebecca is definitely more organized.

It is a mutual feeling for both of the girls that they don't feel like they're missing out in any way by not attending public school.

"I don't have to feel guilty if one day I do less work than another," Amy said.

Sports are the only thing that Amy feels she is missing out on a little bit. She said that maybe if she went to Amador Valley High School she could be on the swim team, but other than that she loves to be home schooled. Amy is very interested in Philosophy and believes this subject will help her in the future.

"I would like to work with people one day," Amy said.

Studying philosophy now will give her an advantage in the future and maybe for college since she will already have learned so much about it.

Rebecca says that being home schooled helps her to see things from a "unique perspective." Rebecca also says she concentrates better at home than if she were in a public school.

They both feel like they are a part of the community and they have met and made good friends through their activities in town. A lot of their friends they met through swimming and some of their neighbors also became their friends, too. Amy and Rebecca prove that a different schooling lifestyle can be just as good as a traditional education and that "different" can actually be good and not bad.

SKatie Lyness is a youth correspondent for the Pleasanton Weekly. She is a sixth grader at Pleasanton Middle School.


Posted by Nan, a resident of Ruby Hill
on Mar 26, 2010 at 9:06 am

Wow. Great to see such happy, productive girls, who are obviously thriving and learning an awful lot in their home school setting. I admire their discipline and diligence, as well as their mom's commitment to taking the lead role in their education. And great job writing the article, Katie!!

Posted by Curious, a resident of Foothill High School
on Mar 26, 2010 at 11:12 am

Will the girls be earning regular high school diplomas?
I have wondered if home-schooled teens get diplomas if they are not enrolled in accredited schools, either public or private.

Posted by Bill, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 26, 2010 at 11:27 am

Simply a terrific article! Kudos to these parents and kids who homeschool. There are advantageous alternatives to "government" schools.

One big advantage is not being a captive audience who are "brainwashed" by the left-leaning administrators and teachers.

Posted by Cholo, a resident of Livermore
on Mar 26, 2010 at 12:39 pm

home schooling is more than a full time job... it works for some families

billy goat...give it a rest

Posted by not a fan, a resident of West of Foothill
on Mar 26, 2010 at 12:44 pm

"Brainwashing" can also occur at home! Some parents do an admirable job of homeschooling, but depending on the situation, there can also be disadvantages to such a program. Pleasanton schools are excellent; I'm not sure why a parent would choose to home school, unless for religious reasons or because their children were having some problems in the regular school setting.

Posted by Sandy Piderit, a resident of Mohr Park
on Mar 26, 2010 at 1:40 pm

I'm not sure how homeschooling works here after 8th grade; the pages on the PUSD website only address K-8 homeschooling. Parents use materials approved by the district that develop students' understanding along the curricular guidelines provided by the state. Parents and students meet with a district teacher approximately every two weeks. More information is available from the district: Web Link

Posted by Anonymous, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 26, 2010 at 6:12 pm

I know a few home-school families in Pleasanton. What I have heard from them is they feel they can give a better education than the public schools. The public school classroom has to move at a pace that everybody can follow. At home, the can go to the speed of their own child and not be dragged down by other students. I have found all the home-schooled kids I have met to be more intelligent academically than their counterparts in the public schools.

However, the downside is these kids have not learned as much social skills or teamwork. I believe an important part of growing up is how to interact with others, even those you would not typically pick as your friends. That is a life skill that is needed as an adult.

Posted by Colette, a resident of Del Prado
on Mar 26, 2010 at 9:13 pm

If you don't get grades when you are home schooled in high school, do colleges only look at SAT and ACT scores? How do they handle not having a GPA?

Posted by amanda, a resident of Charter Oaks
on Mar 28, 2010 at 8:31 am

Homeschooling is weird. Period.

Posted by Retiree, a resident of Stoneridge
on Mar 28, 2010 at 8:25 pm

Home schooling through an accredited school district,(such as PUSD) supervised by a credentialed teacher, is different from a parent-taught home school. When offered through the school district, students can earn credits toward graduation. In the parent-taught home school, parents must file a private school affadavit and operate as a private school. The parent can choose their own texts and materials, but the students will not earn a regular high school diploma. This is my understanding. Although there are some real success stories, I don't think this is the best option for most children.

Posted by reasonable, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 29, 2010 at 10:03 am

While I've seen this work for some families, and some of these kids are really great, I've also seen kids who are very socially awkward, usually appearing very childlike and dependent even at ages 13-14. I've also seen it be used for brainwashing -- by not exposing these kids to other ideas or people with other lifestyles or religious views parents attempt to create rigid, unquestioning adults. If it works, we have a less tolerant and more combative society. If it doesn't work, they just end up with rebellious youth who are not equipped to operate in a social setting.

Posted by Credential Question, a resident of Bonde Ranch
on Mar 29, 2010 at 3:50 pm

I'm just curious-if we are making teachers take tests each year to teach (I have 3 credentials and took 14 different tests to receive them), how do parents who homeschool prove they are qualified? Not that a tests proves someone can teach, but what qualifications must a parent have?

I've had numerous students who came to me after a few years in homeschool. I have not had one that was up to grade level.

Posted by Mike, a resident of Highland Oaks
on Mar 29, 2010 at 6:56 pm

Anecdotal information is hard to quantify. The proof's in the pudding, I'd say, so it's best to judge based on results.
How do home-schooled kids perform in comparison to kids who went through the public or private systems?
What percentages go on to universities, and what is the level of satisfaction 5 years, 10 years, or 20 years down the road? Does home schooling get kids where they want to go?

If home schooling produces similar statistics, then no worries, mate. If not, then it's time to take a look at what they are doing right or where they are going wrong.

Posted by give me a break, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 29, 2010 at 9:26 pm

Ok,reasonable? You think homeschooled kids are childlike? What? Because they aren't having sex? Or discussing what birth control to use? Helloooo...13 or 14 IS still a child.Let them be kids, for as long as possible.we all have to be adults with adult resposnsibilities soon enough. Give me a break

Posted by Stacey, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Mar 29, 2010 at 9:37 pm

Stacey is a registered user.

Credential Question,

How is that different from teachers who get public school students who are below grade level?

I think Mike put it best, anecdotal information is hard to quantify.

Posted by Credential Question, a resident of Golden Eagle
on Mar 30, 2010 at 8:18 pm

My point was that out of all the kids I've taught who were home-schooled the year before, not one has been up to grade level. To me that says a lot homeschool.

Posted by Stacey, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Mar 30, 2010 at 9:24 pm

Stacey is a registered user.

I thought your point was about credentials.

Your point is fair. I have to wonder if your experience though is the result of just not being exposed to home-schooled students who were at or above grade level so they saw no need to enter your class. These at/above grade students may not be in the majority of home-schoolers. Again, hard to quantify anecdotal information. Has there been any study done on this?

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