Parents tout home schooling

November 19, 1997

Parents tout home schooling


Staff Writer, Martinsburg

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - "People," Joseph Ellis said when asked what he missed most about public school.

"Too many people," he said when asked what he missed the least. He said the number of students took away from the one-on-one attention he now gets from his teacher - and mother - Betty Ellis.

Ellis, a seventh-grader, is one of more than 100 home-schooled students in Berkeley County. On Tuesday night, Panhandle Family Schools held a reception at the Martinsburg/Berkeley County Public Library to explain how parents are educating their children at home.


Betty and John Ellis of Martinsburg educated their four children at home, although they first attended public schools. Their oldest son Ian now attends Heritage Christian Academy in Hagerstown.

Several of the home-schooling parents said a major thing missing from public schools was the teaching of values.

"I felt they needed the Christian values instilled, particularly at the elementary age," said Cindy Biedler of Gerrardstown, W.Va., the group's coordinator for academic events.

"There's a very strong cooperation between the school system and the Panhandle homeschoolers. I've seen it grow tremendously over the years," said Mary Jo Brown, community relations director for Berkeley County Schools. She said many home-schoolers take part in school activities such as science fairs.

Paul Biedler and his twin brother Mark both attend Musselman High School on Tuesdays, taking geometry and history. They also volunteer at the school's library.

Their mother said her oldest son attended Musselman after being home-schooled and went on to win a full scholarship to West Virginia University.

Whether Mark and Paul will go that route has not been decided.

"He's guided us so far, so we'll wait and see" Cindy Biedler said, referring to God.

Paul Biedler said the students' social activities include soccer and basketball, church activities and clubs such as 4-H.

Betty Ellis said West Virginia requires parents to file a notice to home school with the school system. Children must be tested annually and score above the 40th percentile on standardized tests.

According to Cindy Biedler, home schoolers average 30 to 37 percentile points higher than public school students on those tests.

The parent/teacher must have an education four years ahead of what he or she is teaching.

Ellis said parents don't have to be experts on courses ranging from algebra to history. She said there are educational programs on video and computers, along with the Internet, textbooks and instructional materials marketed to home-schooling families.

Del. John Overington, R-Berkeley, said he will introduce a bill next session to allow a $500 tax credit for parents that homeschool and $1,000 for families with children in private schools.

He said homeschooling saves tax dollars because it costs about $6,000 a year to educate one student in public school.

"And you can't beat the ratio" of students to teachers, he added.

Joseph and twin sister Abby said their day begins with prayer and Bible lessons followed by math, English and history in the morning and Spanish and piano lessons in the afternoon.

For example, to teach through middle school, a parent must have graduated high school.

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