Enterprise Dispatch

Serving the communities of Dassel, Cokato, Darwin, MN, and the surrounding area

HOPE Homeschool – a journey to educate

     Abby Barberg and her husband realized early in their relationship that they would homeschool their children.
     Abby was educated in a public school in Hutchinson, and her husband, Tim, was also partially educated in the Dassel Cokato school district. During his school years, though, his dad traveled for work and would take the family so that they could travel together, visiting libraries in different cities and experiencing life.
When it was time to educate their children, they researched different options and curriculums. They determined that freedom and flexibility were important to them, as well as focusing on what is taught and how children learn. They traveled across the country to homeschool trade shows with their children at JM Cremps Boys Adventure Store.
     “My husband and I both worked for them, and it gave us the opportunity to just take the kids with us and learn, even if we were gone for two or three weeks. They got to go to 33 different states, and see the country and mountains and oceans and things we weren’t able to see at home.”
     Tim and Abby have six children and also did foster care for five years in emergencies, fostering 125 children in five years. While they homeschooled their children, they supported the requirement that foster children attend public school. The experience taught Abby much about the foster care system and dealing with children in crises. It reaffirmed their decision to homeschool. “Some children had learning delays and had been under constant stress, and it was difficult for them to sit in a schoolroom all day,” Abby said.
     The Barbergs saw how difficult it was for the children to sit in a classroom for several hours a day and then come home and do homework. The idea of choosing a curriculum for their children that would allow for different learning experiences would be more suited to their home and lifestyle, giving them more opportunities to have hands-on life experiences and family time. Abby has a great passion for homeschooling, saying, “My heart is with home education, and I feel like I was put in a place in the community to serve families.”
Education comes in many forms
     There are different ways people can choose to educate their children in Minnesota. Along with the brick-and-mortar public schools, parents can choose options that combine public school guidance while online or home-educating, or they can choose to exclusively homeschool and choose from a variety of curriculum tools that are available.
Venture Upward
     Venture Upward is a home-based public school option for families. Currently, there are approximately 50 families in the area that utilize the program. Students in Minnesota meet state standards by working in an online curriculum in the four core subjects of language arts, math, science, and social studies. Daily work and weekly pacing is required in each of these four core subjects.
Abby feels that the Venture Upward program is a good stepping stone toward complete homeschooling. “They provide curriculum if you want to use it. There’s additional funding, and then there’s an option of a once-a-week event where families come in and participate in socializing and different learning stations, which I also run here in Cokato.”
Creating the education co-op
     About eleven years ago, Abby, along with other parents, started the H.O.P.E. Homeschool Co-op to provide a bible-centered education, physical activities, and opportunities for parents and children to build relationships with one another. They encourage and challenge the children in their learning and physical skills and have many shared learning experiences with other children.
With a pure homeschooling option, parents can choose their children’s curriculum, and part of that will also include life experiences. “The kids learn when they help with unloading a trailer or spending time interacting with people of all ages, while getting out from behind the desk and being outside.”
One of the things Abby loves about homeschooling is that the child sets the pace.
     “In homeschooling you go at the pace of the child with the curriculum that works. Instead of pushing them, we can stop and revisit their readiness, in any subject, like math or reading. One of my sons didn’t start reading until he was eight, but when he started he just picked up a book and read it. And by the time he was twelve, he was reading Shakespeare.”
     There are common questions that come up when people start thinking about homeschooling. What is the process to notify? Will it be detrimental to my child’s social development? Can my child participate in sports or other extracurricular activities?
     Abby has answered the question about socialization many times. “My kids socialize with any age group, any person, in any situation. It’s a different life experience for them. They interact with people of all ages.”
     Once parents make the decision to homeschool, the process is simple. Parents notify the superintendent of the local school district of their intent to homeschool. There is a form titled Initial       Registration Form for Unaccredited Nonpublic Schools, including HomeSchools, on the Minnesota Department of Education website, or people can report their decision in some other way. After the first year of homeschooling, parents complete a Letter of Intent to Continue to Provide Instruction by October 1st each year. While school pre-screening starts between four and five in Minnesota, homeschooling curriculums are not required to start until age seven and do not require screening.
As to extracurricular activities, homeschooled students have full access to participation in them. According to Minnesota statutes, homeschooled students are eligible to fully participate in extracurricular activities on the same basis as public school students.
Many resources available
     According to Abby, so much information is out there to guide homeschooling parents. There’s the HOPE Homeschooling Co-op she is a part of. Another homeschooling group called Classical Conversation also serves the Dassel Cokato community. The Minnesota Association of Christian Home Educators (mache.org/) has resources to help parents start.
“The world of opportunity is open, and you can build your own curriculum. You just want to make sure that you turn in your form each year,” Abby said.
The state may require vaccination proof.
     “Also, once a year, starting in third grade, the children do some sort of standardized testing, choosing one at their discretion and in the comfort of their own home. There are online versions, paper versions, timed, untimed. You just need to take the tests each year and keep records.”
    To learn about HOPE Homeschool Co-op, visit their website at www.hopecoopmn.com/.