MUSCATINE, Iowa — Drew and Sheila Mathias choose to home school their two grade-school children and they know they have support from the Muscatine Community School District’s home school assistance program.
They also know state funding to that program was cut in half this year, and Thursday night they learned about some steps they can take to address that concern.
The Mathiases, of Muscatine County, participate in the District’s home school assistance program which is coordinated through the District office by Susan Fridrych. The program provides information and resources for parents and their children and keeps families connected to the community by welcoming them to join school district programs and activities.
The program directors also strive to inform home school families about issues related to home schooling. Thursday night, the Mathiases accepted Fridrych’s invitation to join other area parents for an evening with home schooling expert Ed Dickerson of Garrison, Iowa.
Fridrych is familiar with Dickerson’s work which includes the home schooling manual, “Destinations,” and his work as a liaison for home schooling families with legislators in Des Moines.
The meeting, which took place at Musser Public Library, attracted approximately 20 area residents from the home schooling community.
Dickerson, who with his wife, Mavis, home schooled their three children, is the legislative liaison for the newly formed grassroots Homeschool Alliance for Iowa Learners.
The goal of the organization is to encourage home schooling families and their legislators to communicate with one another, said Dickerson.
As a lobbyist in Des Moines in 1991, Dickerson said he advocated for the passage of a law that made home schooling legal in Iowa for the first time in 90 years.
Since then, home school assistance programs have been funded within Iowa school districts.
Dickerson said he and other home school families are concerned about a funding cut to those programs made by the Legislature in 2007.
Public school districts in Iowa are slated to receive $5,546 per student enrolled in the 2008-09 school year. That amount will increase to $5,768 for 2009-10. Funding for what school districts receive for home school students who are enrolled in some school activities or classes was cut from 60 percent to 30 percent of the amount paid per full-time student.
Dickerson said the new calculation doesn’t take all expenses for the home school assistance program into account.
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For example, when home schooled students use public school facilities for sports and other events, the District has to pay for the utilities, such as electricity, that are used.
Dickerson said he will continue to encourage legislators to take a closer look at home schooling and his work will be enhanced if home schoolers join him in the effort.
Home schoolers can attend the Saturday morning legislative forums at Muscatine Community College, said Dickerson, where a panel of senators and representatives from the Muscatine area answer questions from the public.
Inviting legislators to their homes or speaking with them at public events are two more ways home schoolers can express their needs and desires, Dickerson said.
The Mathiases said the meeting was informative and helped clarify some of the legislative issues surrounding home schooling.
Christy Myers, a Muscatine home schooling parent, said the meeting encouraged her to continue developing dialogue between herself and legislators.
Myers was home schooled by her parents and said her successful experience inspired her and her husband, Joe, to teach their three daughters ages, 12, 10 and 8, at home.
The Muscatine Community School District’s home school assistance program provides resources that accentuate the process, said Dickerson.
“I have every reason to think you have an excellent home school assistance program in Muscatine,” said Dickerson. “It allows parents to partner with the community and provides opportunities for the best of both worlds.”
Reporter contact information
Cynthia Beaudette 563-262-0527
Online: Learn more about the Homeschool Alliance for Iowa Learners at http://www.homeschoolallianceforiowalearners.org/
To learn more about the Muscatine Community School District homeschool assistance program, contact coordinator Susan Fridrych at the District office at 563-263-7223.
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