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Home schooling open house attracts interest
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For more information about the Gainesville Classical Conversations home school curriculum, contact Ginger Grindle at 706-348-3324.

The fellowship hall at New Haven Church became a learning center Thursday for parents considering home schooling their children.

Former Hall County teacher Ginger Grindle welcomed families who showed up at an open house to learn firsthand  about the Classical Conversations home school curriculum that Grindle and other parents use to personally teach their own children.

Grindle staged the open house at the 615 White Sulphur Road church to help kick off the celebration of National School Choice Week that begins Sunday and continues through Jan. 28.

Curious visitors who walked in to see what Classical Conversations is all about saw a cluster of children in age groups that ranged from pre-K to sixth grade learning subject matter from their parent-tutors. The tutors employ techniques such as drawing to teach geography, singing to teach Latin, mnemonics to grasp and retain science, and movements to teach English grammar.

Christy Mihalick, another former Hall County teacher, said what she most likes about Classical Conversations is that it allows her to inject her Christian faith into every lesson.

“We could look at history, science, math and any of our subjects and bring God’s plan and creation into it,” Mihalick said. “I just like having the freedom to teach that way.”

Mihalick, who taught at Flowery Branch Elementary and Chestatee Middle School for 15 years, home-schools her 10-year-old daughter Carly and son Jake, who’ll soon turn 9.

Mihalick said she and her husband, Mike, who has a business background in marketing and sales, are equally involved in giving their children a quality education.

“As parents, we have to learn the material ourselves to teach it to them,” Mihalick said. “As they get older, they’ll hopefully learn on their own.”

Grindle home-schools three daughters who range in age from 3 to 9.

“Our purpose of education is to know God and make God known, and we do that in all the subject areas,” Grindle said. “We go from knowledge to understanding and then wisdom in a subject area.”

Grindle said the home-schoolers following the Classical Conversations curriculum meet each Thursday at New Haven Church to foster community.

“We know it is so important to connect with likeminded people in the home schooling world,” Grindle said. “We do have the freedom to choose different types of curriculums and methods, but we also know that by meeting together on a weekly basis we can be encouraged by one another, share tips and ideas. It’s very important to have that consistency.”

Grindle said the open house attracted six families thinking about enrolling 10 children in the local home schooling community.

Getting a handle on the number of students being home-schooled is difficult, according to the Coalition for Responsible Home Education. The organization cites numbers from the National Center for Education Statistics showing that 1.7 million students, or 3.4 percent of all school-age children, were being home-schooled in 2011. That year, the organization estimates that Georgia had somewhere between 54,000 and 72,000 students being home-schooled.

“Even states that require parents to notify their local school districts when they begin homeschooling do not generally collect this data at the state level,” according to the CRHE website at responsiblehomeschooling.org.

Based on information derived from the Georgia Department of Education, there are 32 students living within the Gainesville school district who are being home-schooled this year, according to Sarah Bell, chief academic officer for Gainesville schools.

The Hall County school district does not appear to have a handle on how many of its students are being home-schooled. At one time the district was responsible for assisting with home-school applications, but now parents can file a notice of intent to home-school with the Georgia DOE, according to Kevin Bales, assistant superintendent for teaching and  learning.

Bales said parents have the ability to bypass the district, which is why he doubts there’s information available on how many students are being home-schooled at the local level.

Georgia law requires that home-schoolers be taught five content areas — mathematics, English language arts, science, social studies and reading. However, the Georgia DOE does not supply home schools with curriculum, materials or resources.

Grindle said the cost for families interested in the Classical Conversations curriculum is $550 a year and includes tuition, materials and resources.

“That’s a modest cost when compared to what you would pay in private or Christian school,” Grindle said.

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