The Forest Park Public Library will host a home school networking forum this Saturday from 2-4 p.m. downstairs in the Austin Meeting Room.

Susan Kunkle, the library’s Youth Services Manager, said the event is designed to enable the library to get to know the home school community in this area, discover their needs and make them aware of the resources the library has to offer. For example, Kunkle’s department will be offering a drop-in tutoring program for kids, Monday through Friday, 3:30-5:30 p.m., during which children can make use of resources like flash cards, test quizzes and tutors. The library also recently started an online tutoring program.

Bambi Alexander and Sharon Lyons, two Forest Park residents currently home-schooling their children, are very aware of the need to supplement their one-on-one time with their children with additional learning opportunities. Both use a curriculum called Classical Conversations in which students and their parents gather to receive input from tutors on the subjects to be studied that week.

On Fridays, both also bring their children to the One Day Enrichment Program (ODE), which Alexander referred to as “a day of school for home-schoolers.”

“It is a good way to get some group learning time, cover subjects that I might not specialize in, and to utilize ‘economies of scale’ for things like art projects and science experiments where doing an art/science project for one kid or 15 means more materials but the same amount of set-up,” she said.

Alexander noted that home-school families vary greatly regarding their motivation. Some, like Lyons, are concerned with integrating learning with religious faith – others are more concerned about controlling the quality of education. One family she knows home-schools their child because of medical/allergy issues.

She was motivated to home-school her own daughter partly because of her own experience with home schooling when she was a child. “I was taught how to learn, to love learning, and was given the basic tools to tackle any field I was interested in pursuing. Because I had grown into reasoning skills and had been taught to integrate varying information, I was already disciplined in the style of acquiring information the way that college level classes were taught. I was well prepared for college and beyond.”

Both Lyons and Alexander appreciate the flexibility home schooling allows.

“Last year,” Lyons recalled, “my mom was hospitalized for 10 weeks and almost died. Life was very different for those 10 weeks.[During that time] my boys learned two very important lessons: learning happens all the time – in cars, in waiting rooms and on weekends – and relationships are a priority.”

Alexander said that being home-schooled allowed her to learn at her own pace and pursue topics she was excited about. The flexibility of the home-school format allowed her to travel with an exchange program to Japan, sing in a touring choir, attend an art camp and intern with a stained glass artist.

“Our days are not perfect,” Lyons admitted as she talked about the challenges home schooling presents. “The house is not always clean. Gourmet meals are not always served. They are not perfect students every day, and I am not the perfect teacher.”

“It’s a lot of work,” said Alexander, “and it is hard to be different and to pursue an alternative lifestyle.” In the end, however, she believes that the results are worth the effort.

“My sons learn discipline and tenacity through me modeling to them, not from me lecturing to them,” Lyons declared. “Home schooling teaches me the best lessons of all: knowing my sons, knowing God and knowing myself.”