Louisville Magazine is Louisville's city magazine, covering Louisville people, lifestyles, politics, sports, restaurants, entertainment and homes. Includes a monthly calendar of events.
Issue link: http://loumag.epubxp.com/i/743286
42 LOUISVILLE MAGAZINE 11.16 Jessica Philpott home-schools her two sons. She previously worked at several schools in town, including a JCPS school, and says that the test-performance pressure is something that always bothered her. However, her main reason for home- schooling her seven-year-old son Drake is because he's autistic and she wanted to be able to spend more time with him and take him to see behavioral, occupational and speech therapists for more training than he would have gotten at public school. With her teaching background, her home-school style is more orderly, all lesson plans and curriculum. But she does get to spend time on subjects that her kids gravitate toward. Drake wants to be an astrophysicist. "By the time you do your 90 minutes of math, 90 minutes of reading, recess, lunch, bathroom breaks, morning meeting, all that stuff, there's like no time left for science," Philpott says of public schools. Now that Drake has worked so closely with his therapists, she says she would have no problem sending him to public school, that he's more equipped now. "We would have to move to get into a good school," she says. "If we had money and we could send him to Stopher (an elementary school near the Lake Forest subdivision in the East End), yeah, he could get more science, because it's a rich school." Hawkins formed a cottage school a couple years ago under the organization Louisville Homeschool, a resource on local home-school groups and extracurricular activities. Hawkins was home-schooled for her last two years of high school in the late '90s — Toya Guerrero calls her a pioneer compared to their family. Hawkins also runs a field trip group called River City Field Trips. Unlike co-ops, cottage schools gener- ally have trained or certified instructors. e 70-student (up from about 30 last year) cottage school at Bardstown Road Presbyterian Church has classes through- out the week on STEM subjects, writing, performing arts, sign language, geogra- phy. Students can enroll in one or several classes and the program is secular. With the overwhelming majority of cottage programs being Christian — some require a statement of faith — Hawkins says she felt there was a real need for a secular version: "I wanted something where my kids would meet children and there would be diversity." Guerrero, who is black and whose husband is Hispanic, says that most of the home-schoolers she meets are white. "But that being said, everyone is friendly and open and I've never felt like I'm different," she says. "You kind of wonder, maybe if Ian had been a different color, if he had been Caucasian, maybe he wouldn't have been overlooked in public school." Looking at the ZIP-code data that JCPS has on file for this school year, you see that home-school families are spread out across the county. Hawkins says she can think of 15 black families out of the more than 700 subscribed to the Louisville Homeschool newsletter. For poorer people, or single-parent homes, home schooling is more difficult but not impossible. Hawkins says that some families who join Louisville Homeschool can't participate in an activity if it's not on a bus line. "I want to reach out to them and say, 'Let me help you,'" she says, "but I can't do that. I don't have the resources." On a Tuesday morning at the Louisville Homeschool cottage school, handfuls of students sit on the floors of several classrooms at the Bardstown Road Presby- terian Church. Some young ones are in a beginning STEM class, where the teacher tells them how to budget their hypothet- ical $7. In an art history class, Debussy's "La mer" plays in the background. e kids paint their rendition of Monet's "Wa- ter Lilies." ere's also a band class and an end-of-semester performance showcase. All of the teachers have some sort of cer- tification or teaching background. Some have worked in JCPS or still work there part-time. (None would talk to me about that experience.) Many are mothers who now home-school and no longer teach in a formal setting. After the first week of classes in Septem- ber, Hawkins' younger daughter, Jayceline, came to her excited about the cre- ative-writing class she's taking. Hawkins had no idea her daughter would enjoy writing so much. "I'm a mom and I teach, but I'm not a teacher," Hawkins says. "I don't make lesson plans; I buy curriculum. I feel like I can provide the best education for my children just because I know them and I know when they need help, but I'm not the creative type that can make writing all day fun." Because moms (I say moms because every one of the home-schoolers I've met is a mom and Hawkins knows of maybe a handful of dads who lead their family's home-schooling efforts) are only invested as long as their own children are school- aged, these home-school groups have in the past dissolved, disbanded and then made way for new parents to take over or start new groups entirely. e previous organizer of River City Field Trips was stepping down when Hawkins took over. ey go just about everywhere in town that can provide a learning experience and an opportunity for kids to socialize. Groups recently went to see Dracula at Actors eatre, to pick pumpkins at Gall- rein Farms in Shelbyville, and to see e True Story of the ree Little Pigs at Derby Dinner Playhouse. e cottage school costs students $188 per class, per year. Toya Guerrero says the cost of Classical Conversations, more than $2,000 a year for both of her kids to attend, was "sticker shock." (A Beka was about $1,000 a year. JCPS spent $12,257 per student last school year.) For a couple of years, after Rudy Guerrero was laid off from his job at Ford and was forced to retire, the family had very little money. ey qualified for free/ reduced-price lunch, and were able to participate in things like archery and golf for a minimal fee. Ian and Apple are now on a home-school swim team at Lake- side that costs $200 a month, something they'd pay little to nothing for if they went to public school. When they first started home-schooling, they asked Ian's former principal if he could participate in any of the extracurricular activities or sports. e principal would not allow that. In Ken- tucky, it is up to the principal to decide whether private-school or home-school students can participate. e "Tebow bill," named after former NFL player Tim From apps to online shopping to TV programs and even on- line visits with doctors, everything is now what we want and where and when we want it. It's no wonder education would start to move in a more customized direction.