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where there's smoke: A building under construction next to the Logan Police Station caught fire from a welder's spark. Damage was estimated at $50,000. / Photo by Gideon Oakes

Today's word on journalism

August 27, 2008

On protests at political conventions:

"The citizens of Denver and St. Paul, and Americans everywhere, should hope officials in those cities already have considered both the constitutional and monetary costs of silencing voices that have a right to be heard. . . . Well-expressed or wacky. Irritating or illuminating. Respectful or raucous. There's nothing in the 45 words of the First Amendment that sets out any such qualifications or limits on protests. Time and again in our history, from women's suffrage to civil rights to tax protests, to name just some, voices first raised in the streets -- to the disgust or disappointment of some -- have led to significant, positive changes in law and American life."

--Gene Policinski, executive director, First Amendment Center, 2008

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Idaho parents love the time they get with kids -- by schooling them at home

By MJ Henshaw

May 8, 2008 | Most mothers look forward to the end of summer vacation. They get to send their children back to school, which means they finally get some alone time after months of having children around the house. This is something that isn't appealing to Jamie Durfee.

Durfee is a mother of eight children and president of the Statesmanship Institute of Idaho, a homeschooling group based in Preston. She has homeschooled or is currently homeschooling all of her children. She said one of the main reasons she doesn't send her children to public schools is because she loves being able to spend time with them.

"My oldest son went to public school for about a year and I didn't like having him gone all the time," Durfee said. "There were so many things I wanted to do with my children and so many things I wanted to teach them, that it just bothered me that the school was taking all that time."

Not only did Durfee miss her children, but she felt that as a mother, she had the responsibility of teaching her children.

"I feel that I have stewardship over my children. It's my job to raise them and teach them," Durfee said. "There are so many things that I want them to learn and understand, and so many experiences I want them to have. I just don't want them to spend their time in a brick classroom with no windows for 8 hours a day."

The SII is a homeschooling group of 75 children and their parents. Each Thursday they meet together at a Presbyterian church in Preston to hold classes and let the children interact with each other.

"The biggest complaint of home schooled teens is the lack of social environment. I think when we meet as a group, it tends to meet that need," Durfee said.

The children are broken into age groups. Teens ages 12 to 18 meet from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. and the younger children meet from 1 to 3 p.m. Durfee said that the group follows, what she calls, Jefferson or Classical education. They had a certain curriculum they follow each year, for each of the age groups. Generally they will read a book a month and spend time each week discussing it. Every other week they have group activities which give the kids a chance to learn in different ways through various activities. Usually the students have a say on which books they would like to study.

Homeschooling has become a growing trend all around the nation. According to the U.S. Department of Education, more than one million kids are homeschooled nationwide. Each state has it's owns laws pertaining to homeschooling.

"In Idaho you don't have to register with the state if you are homeschooling your children," Durfee explains. "There is no contract or anything but you're still obligated to make sure your child is educated."

According to the Home School Legal Defense Association, Idaho is one of 10 states that have low regulation, which means that Idaho doesn't require parents to initiate any contract with the state if they choose to homeschool. Other states such as Washington require more.

Jennifer Wallis, who has homeschooled her children for almost 15 years and is the vice-president of SII, began teaching her children when she lived in Washington. Wallis said that in Washington a mother needed to have a college degree or some level of training in order to teach her children. Wallis, who has a bachelor's degree in French, feels she is just as qualified to teach her children as anybody else.

"As my children have grown-up and as I've had experiences with the public school systems I think I can do just as good a job as they are doing. I am just as qualified to teach my own children, if not more, than the public school teachers," Wallis said.

Credentials of homeschool-mothers are recently something the state of California is addressing. In March the 2nd Appellate Court in Los Angeles ruled that most homeschooling in California is illegal. This ruling could eventually subject the parents of 166,000 homeschooled students to criminal charges.

Justice H. Walter Croskey of the 2nd Appellate Court said, "California courts have held that ... parents do not have a constitutional right to homeschool their children."

Colleen Darley, a current Utah State University student, agrees with this decision. Darley grew up in southern California and was homeschooled from grades 5 to 8.

"When I was done with fourth grade my dad got this crazy idea that the government was trying to brain wash all the kids in America by putting them through the public school system, so he pulled me and my two siblings out of school and we had our mom teach us," Darley explains. "To be honest, homeschool was more like a five-year vacation. I didn't learn anything. I hated being homeschooled."

Justice Croskey then went on to explain that the primary purpose of the education system is to "train school children in good citizenship, patriotism and loyalty to the state and the nation as means of protecting the public welfare."

Lloyd Porter, a member of the California Teachers Association board of directors, also added, "We always think students should be taught by credentialed teachers, no matter what the setting." Wallis response to this, "If you love learning and you're dedicated to continue learning through the years, then you are qualified."

Durfee and Wallis also said that they have an advantage over public schools teachers because they know their children better, they can cater to their needs easier and it's easier for the kids to learn on a one on one basis.

However, this doesn't mean they are totally against public schools. Durfee said that when most kids reach high school they usually want to participate in some of the classes they offer and clubs they have.

"I think most of us view the public school as a tool that is available if we choose to use it," Durfee said. "But I will admit in my own personal opinion and with my experience, it's really hard to have your foot in both worlds. It is a hard transition to be involved in both things because you don't quite fit in one or the other."

Durfee also said that sometimes it's hard for homeschool students to transition into the public schools because they aren't there full time so public school students may not see them as part of the group.

Darley said that by the time she got to high school, the transition took a little getting used to. She said she felt that being homeschooled had impaired her.

"By the time I got back to public school I was behind most of the kids I went to school with. I was behind both socially and educationally. I had to hire tutors in reading and math. I didn't fit in with the kids right away. Even in college I am still feeling the effect of it as far as school goes," Darley said.

This isn't the case for all college-bound homeschoolers. Wallis said her daughter, a freshman at USU, scored so high on the ACT that she was awarded a two-year scholarship. Wallis credits that to her homeschooled education.

According to SII mothers, being a homeschool parent isn't easy. Some may ask, how do these mothers continue to do it day in and day out? The answer is simple, "This is something you have to not only want to do, but you have love to do it," Wallis said. "And I love doing it."

Durfee agreed in saying, "It's something that I absolutely love doing. Over the course of all the years I've done this, I have so much fun and I have a great relationship with my children. The things we have learned together are immeasurable and I wouldn't trade them for anything."

CBN.com reported that after much scrutiny from homeschoolers and the governor of California, as of April 28, the courts in California have decided to re-hear the homeschooling case.

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