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Making the right choice

Students tell why they chose the type of education they did

POSTED: September 1, 2008 5:00 a.m.
More than 30,000 students enrolled in Gainesville and Hall County schools will receive a free public education this year.

Thousands more will fork over hefty tuitions to attend private schools, while more than 900 children from an estimated 541 families in Hall County won't venture outside the comfort of home for a quality education this fall.

Most children, including home-schoolers, will take state or standardized tests to measure academic progress along the path to high school graduation. But each parent embarks on an educational journey with their child hoping his or her schooling results in a bright future with boundless opportunity.

Here's a look at three students - from a private school, a public school and a home-schooled background - who are taking different routes toward earning a diploma.

Chloe Bazemore, 17

  • Public school student
  • School: Flowery Branch High
  • Entering grade: 12
  • Students in graduating class: 260
  • Cost: $0
  • Educational background: This is Chloe's second year at Flowery Branch High. She attended Heritage Academy, a Christian private school, from seventh to 10th grade. Prior to seventh grade, she was home-schooled by her mother.
  • Extracurricular activities: Varsity volleyball, member of Distributive Education Clubs of America, a business marketing club, and Health Occupation Students of America, a nursing and health care club
  • Why attend public school?: "I originally made the decision myself, and I talked to my parents about it. At the time, I wanted to play volleyball in college and wanted to get more serious about the sport. (At Heritage Academy), as a small private school, we didn't have much competition with other schools, and there just wasn't much of a great athletic program. ... There's a lot more opportunities than at Heritage Academy or if I were home-schooled. ... If you want to do something in sports, you have a weight room, coaches. ... Everything just seems to be there at your fingertips."
  • Disadvantages: "At Heritage, there was a lot better schooling. It was more challenging at Heritage. Even at (Advanced Placement) classes at Flowery Branch, I didn't feel as challenged as I was at Heritage, because that was a college prep school. ... And a lot of times, I regretted leaving it because of the strong education aspect and the Christian aspect."
  • Favorite aspect of public school: "It's the people. Everyone is so nice and welcoming. It's not like you hear about public schools being intimidating and everything. It's a really welcoming, great environment, the faculty and staff is great. ... I really think I was ready for a change (from Heritage Academy). Being at a school with 100 people or less was good, but it was also really bad."
  • Least favorite aspect of public school: "I can't really think of anything."
  • Lisa Bazemore, Chloe's mom, weighs in: "I was very happy with Flowery Branch. ... We really enjoy them still having belief in faith and family values in public school. ... The advantages there are there's just more options. I think because of this, (Chloe) has found an interest in nursing, which probably wouldn't have been developed in a smaller school, because it wouldn't have been offered."

Caleb Purcell, age 17

  • Private school student
  • School: North Georgia Christian (formerly Westminster Christian School)
  • Entering grade: 12
  • Students in graduating class: 14
  • Cost: $7,500 per year for high school students at North Georgia Christian
  • Educational background: Caleb has attended North Georgia Christian School since kindergarten.
  • Extracurricular activities: Football (program started last year), grade representative for student government
  • Why attend private school?: "Early on, of course it was my parents, I couldn't make that decision myself. I did have the choice whether I wanted to go to middle and high school there. I chose it because I believe that a Christian education is necessary to be successful in life, because success is not only measured by financial well-being, but also by an individual's personal relationship with Christ. And at North Georgia Christian School, I'm able to further that relationship every day. ... Every day at North Georgia Christian, we take Bible classes, so every day you at least get to spend a little time with God. That's very important to me."
  • Disadvantages: "As far as clubs go, it's a little limited. But I think the clubs will improve with the size of the school, like a photography club. ... But as far as sports go, we have almost everything, except swimming ... I think if we had some more SAT prep classes that would be better."
  • Favorite aspect of private school: "My favorite thing is the Bible classes. It's just so different. My teacher, Dr. (Harry) Champy, he is one of the most educated men I know, and he is really preparing us to go out into the world and minister. It's not like he forces things upon us, but everyone gets to voice their own opinion. Then we analyze it, and try to understand why you think that."
  • Least favorite: "There wasn't as much weight training equipment."
  • Rebecca Purcell, Caleb's mom, weighs in: "It's definitely worth it, because I feel their foundation is being laid ... My oldest daughter is in college now, and she really got a great (Christian and academic) foundation there. I think in the public schools, there are many Christians and many Christian teachers, but they are limited to what they can do. At North Georgia Christian, we pray, and God's word is integrated into classes, and that's not going to happen in public school ... More (Advanced Placement) high school classes have been added every year, and I would like to see that continue."

Julian Hershey, age 16

  • Home-schooled student
  • School: Home
  • Entering grade: 11
  • Students in graduating class: 1
  • Cost: Roughly $2,000 per year, but parents can spend as much or as little as they choose
  • Educational background: Julian has been home-schooled by his mother since kindergarten.
  • Extracurricular activities: Drama class with other home-schoolers, kayaking.
  • Why home-schooling?: "It's pretty fun, actually. I like home-schooling because I can control what I want to do next. ... For the most part, I just really like being here at home and working on my own stuff, and reading history books. ... I also get to write stories on my computer, instead of reports focusing on what other people want me to do entirely. ... I like going out on field trips with other home-school students. One of the most recent ones we've been doing is to the Shakespeare Tavern in Atlanta. We volunteer there ... and then we get to watch the show for free."
  • Disadvantages: "Being home-schooled, we only get to see people when we go out on field trips and stuff. Other than that, it's pretty nice."
  • Favorite aspect of home-schooling: "I like the fact of being at home ... and not having to get up at 7 o'clock and getting on the bus and everything. ... For the most part, I start (school) just after breakfast or so and work after that until I'm done. I pretty much work on simple things in the morning because I'm not too much of an early person. Then we have lunch around 1:30. And then soon after that, I move on to math, one lesson a day, science and reading and vocabulary."
  • Least favorite aspect of home-schooling: "(Being home-schooled) definitely helps build relationships (with family members), but in the case sometimes with me and my sister, you just kind of get tired of them sometimes."
  • Carol Hershey, Julian's mom, weighs in: "There's a few reasons ... he's never been in public school ... the major one was that we could follow his interests as he got older. Also, he was a very active boy, and I didn't want him to be stereotyped in school or get in trouble just for being active. ... I just really think that he could learn all he wanted to in a subject he was interested in, as opposed to just getting snippets in public school. ... It is very hard for us to participate in sports-type things because we can't do it in the public school. So home-school parents have to step up and create sports opportunities, clubs and newsletters. ... It's a lot on the parents to have to create these opportunities for children. ... I'm a very relaxed parent ... that's one of the bad points of home-schooling here, in our little house, is that I'm not a very structured person. It's always a double-edged sword. You always have to find a balance between structure and freedom to follow interests."



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