Home school not like old school

La Grange, IL

Nathan Crewe likes his teacher.

The 11-year-old from La Grange has known her since he was born and she has been his teacher all his life. Nathan is home schooled.

His mother, Elizabeth Crewe, is part of a wider group of parents who home school and meet collectively as members of Westside House, a chapter of Illinois Home Oriented Unique Schooling Experience, or HOUSE, which bills itself as an inclusive, non-sectarian network of homeschooling support groups.

All three of Elizabeth and Mark Crewe’s children have been home schooled, including Julia, 10, and Elliott, 6.

Some parents may pale at the thought of having three children at home all day with the additional needs of being schooled. Elizabeth Crewe said it is not at all what most people think.

“One of the biggest misconceptions of home schoolers is that they are home,” she said. “We are so rarely home. We do have a weekly schedule of things we do or what we are going to study, but it’s different from day to day.”

There is an activity group that meets every Monday at the La Grange Public Library, where Crewe teaches science to other Westside House students. The first Monday of the month the group meets for math, the second Monday is a writing workshop. Other days of the week finds the group at area museums, dance classes and other activities.

On Friday students participate in the Roots and Shoots Program, an offshoot of the Jane Goodall Institute, which is a youth-driven, global network of members from more than 110 countries. Through service projects, students learn how they can take a part in improving the world.

The program brought Westside House parents and students to the Theodore Stone Forest Preserve in Hodgkins May 7 where, with the help of preserve stewards Barbara and George Birmingham, they identified and removed invasive plants like garlic mustard and European buckthorn.Berwyn resident Rob Harper and his son Matthew, 9, were part of the group.

Harper said all three of his children were home schooled. His son, Jonathan, is now a senior at St. Joseph’s High School in Westchester, where his listed as No. 1 in his class. He was accepted at the University of Chicago for college but decided to go to Loyola University instead.

Harper said one of the reasons to do home schooling had to with the performance of public schooling.

“It also let us have a lot of choices, what we wanted to do, how we wanted to school the kids, like reading,” he said. “Is it phonics or by sight? It allows you to make that shift quickly, whether this is working for them or not. It lets kids purse their interests when they get older. It allows you that flexibility. There’s a good support system out there.”

For the Harpers, homeschooling has worked well.

“It’s been very successful,” he said. “After eighth grade, Jonathan went to St. Joe’s and we weren’t sure how he was going to do until we started seeing straight As.”

Nathan Crewe said he has advantages others in a traditional classroom do not have.

“I think it’s better to learn in groups of less people because they pay attention instead of fooling around,” he said. “Most school districts have too many kids in a classroom.”

His mother said she believes homeschooling provides the education needed for a student to become a successful adult.

“I think most anyone would tell you they learn better one-on-one,” she said. “I do think they are going to have the skills they need to succeed in life. A lot of home schoolers are getting into some good colleges — it’s not that unusual anymore. I know a lot of grown homeschoolers who are some of the most interesting people I have met.”

One criticism of homeschooling has been children are not exposed to the socialization they would experience in a classroom environment. Elizabeth Crewe said it is not an issue.
“When new home schoolers ask me I always tell them that’s the least of their concerns,” she said.

“There is such a strong network of homeschoolers here and throughout the country. Most homeschoolers are involved in community-based activities. There are many other opportunities to socialize in other than a school setting.”