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The Herald-Zeitung

Copyright © 2005 The Herald-Zeitung

Parent teachers

By Dylan Jiménez
The Herald-Zeitung

Published August 17, 2003

When they were studying kings and queens, June Ambs, 8, found herself in the middle of a jousting tournament.

Riding her bicycle, she gripped a broken broomstick and knocked standing targets off boxes.

“They’re putting into action what they learned,” said MelRae Ambs, June’s mom and teacher.

Sully Swilley and MelRae are co-op home schooling partners. They support each other and meet once a week to check on their children’s progress by talking about their lessons.

“It helps them remember, the more hands on and the more that they do,” MelRae said.

Sully and MelRae decided a long time ago to home school their children.

Sully is a former public and private school teacher who knows her children would not get the academic and disciplinary attention they need there.

MelRae decided to home school before her first child was born.

MelRae hosts monthly support groups and informational meetings for Konos — a character-based home-school curriculum.

Konos uses a teaching technique called unit studies.

Unit studies are subject-based. Konos provides a subject, like kings and Queens, and the lesson plans are built around the idea.

Students get lessons in several disciplines while studying the subject.

When the four Ambs girls and the three Swilley boys learned about kings and queens, they made objects like swords and crowns. They read or heard books about royalty and learned to juggle like jesters.

Konos also integrates character-building lessons. The children learned about obedience and the concept of a hierarchy.

Unit studies help to cement the concepts in the children’s minds, because they remember lessons they can relate to activities more easily than they remember straight facts.

“I like workbooks a little, but Konos is my favorite kind of school,” June said.

Cross-disciplinary lessons are more practical, real-life examples, Sully said.

“We don’t do anything in real life that’s just math,” Sully said.

MelRae uses workbooks to teach some language arts skills and mathematics lessons.

The unit study technique gives parents flexibility to tailor lessons to their children’s interests and academic levels, MelRae said.

June likes horses. MelRae incorporated horses in lessons about kings and queens to keep June’s interest.

While June was writing compositions based on several books, her sister, Carolyn, 1, was tasked with retelling stories MelRae read aloud to her.

“That way, the whole family is working together,” MelRae said.

Family unity, personal scholastic and disciplinary attention and flexibility are the greatest benefits of home schooling and the Konos curriculum, the parent/teachers said.

Konos is not as expensive as some home-school curricula, MelRae said. A lesson book used for students in grades K through 8 costs about $100 and lasts three school years. MelRae also buys a $12 math book and an $18 language arts book. Then, there are basic, optional supplies.

“You can just look around and see what resources you have,” MelRae said.

The two parents say that, with a little adjustment, anyone can home school their children.

They have 180-day school years.

“Any parent willing to put in the time can do it,” Sully said.


© 2005 The Herald-Zeitung. All rights reserved.

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