Old school homeschooling predates coronavirus
R-C Alpine Bureau
“She rounded up the other homeschoolers and together they began the first co-op group in Carson Valley,” reports Carah Dykes Beck, daughter of the late Tammy Dykes. Her mother is her main source of inspiration, her legacy making Carah’s decision to teach her girls at home easy.
When Carah’s mother began her home education journey in the 1980s, there were only a handful of other families who participated in this alternative style of education.
“Without access to the internet or Facebook to connect with like-minded people, I like to imagine her walking the isles at Miller’s Market and the library searching for other families out during normal school hours.” Carah said. She feels very fortunate to have been a witness to all her mother’s efforts and a participant in her relaxed approach to learning and to life.
Along with her husband Johnathan, Carah has homeschooled her two daughters, 14 year old Ellie and 11 year old Lillie. The girls have had a mix of public, private, and homeschool years. Education comes in many forms and Carah believes that the choice should be based entirely on the individual child and the family. They are currently virtual schooling because of COVID-19. Lillie is at a private school part-time, and Ellie is at a public high school doing the distant learning option.
“Some children thrive in public school and some thrive at home.” Carah says. Each child and each school year needs to be evaluated on its own merits. Carah knows that it is important to quell any fears you may have, giving this encouragement: “You can do it. Nobody knows your child better than you do.”
When her daughters were little, they wanted to be outdoors all the time. This was not possible at a public school, so she adapted to an ‘outdoor education’ style of learning. Carah says, “I took them to study at libraries, the park, with friends, at the pool, local coffee shops, on a mountain, at the ocean, you name it. We were homeschoolers that were never at home.”
As the girls got older and the material became more challenging, Carah reevaluated her approach to learning, choosing to return to a more traditional type of education.
Oldest daughter Ellie says that homeschooling is an amazing, enriching experience. She was able to be outside and learn about things that interested her. She did curriculum like Saxon Math and Khan Academy, and learning was fun. She went hiking and explored, did science experiments, baked food, went to the beach, and made lots of new friends. She was in homeschool groups with other kids that were just like her.
Ellie’s favorite place of study has been an online site called Minecraft School. She liked it because of the game, and in addition to that, it taught her about space and astronomy in a way that was very fun (https://gamedacademy.com/). Her favorite memory is hiking up a mountain every Tuesday after soccer practice with the homeschool group. They would build forts out of branches and sticks, creating a whole village on the top of that ridge.
Youngest daughter Lillie says,“I think that going to school has its own reason for being special like hanging out with friends everyday, but homeschool is special because you get to learn outside and go to hiking trails and to the library a lot.” She thinks it is wonderful to have the time to make pancakes every morning!
The Becks are a military family and Carah has homeschooled her daughters in Nevada, Colorado, Hawaii, Florida, and Arizona. In every homeschool group that they have participated in, Carah says it is common to see all the children playing together. They established solid connections, regardless of age differences. When they broke into smaller groups, it was typically based on areas of interest, not how old they were.
In the end, the Beck family feels that one way is not better than the other. It is entirely based on what works for your particular situation at that unique moment in time. Tammy Dykes set a beautiful example of adaptability. She was able to look at any challenge and take a positive, loving approach to finding an inspired answer even in the most difficult situation.
Like her mother, Carah lives with a deep sense of appreciation for everything around her. She says it is important to enjoy yourself, have fun, and find the satisfaction in learning. Even a simple hike in the woods can be so much more than just exercise. It can be a biology lesson, a history lesson, and a time to connect with your family.
Carah’s advice to any parent who is about to embark on the schooling at home journey is to “Find your own groove. Learn about the different styles of homeschooling and try everything. See what works for you and embrace it.”