By Pete Wurdock
As the community gears up for another school year, not all area students will be reporting back to their classrooms. A growing number of students in Luce County are making history as the first organized group of homeschoolers centered in Newberry.
Formed in 2022, the Tahquamenon Area Homeschool Community (TAHC) is comprised of a group of families who are passionate about their children’s education.
Newberry resident Emily Hill is the director of the group. When her family moved to Newberry last August, she thought she was the lone homeschooling mom in town. She had been homeschooling her son while living in Ohio. “I thought I really need something for my son and myself to be a part of, but I needed some help.”
Emily met with Tahquamenon Area Schools Public Library Director Brian Freitag to discuss starting a book club at the library along with a discussion about homeschooling. Freitag, a former educator, knew of a few home school families and put them in touch with Emily.
“After we moved here and this group got started I thought I would be thrilled if we could get 10 members by the end of the year,” Hill recalls. Today, the group has grown to 28 families.
The group began to grow organically, one phone call or text at a time. By January one of the mothers created a Facebook page to help streamline communications of the members as well as providing information to the public.
With over 75 kids in the group, they are going strong with no sign of slowing down. They usually meet twice a week and there are no attendance mandates. Families participate at a pace that is comfortable for them, and group members encourage each other and share ideas.
There are 3.7 million homeschooled students in the United States according to the National Home Educational Research Institute and the home-educated students typically score 15 to 25 percentile points above public-school students on standardized academic achievement tests according to their research.
Homeschooling is anything but routine and brings opportunities for personal growth and learning that cannot be found in a public or private school. Families purchase the curriculum from one of the many companies available on-line, allowing them to find something that works for them.
“We like the freedom to choose how our children are educated, what they are taught, how they are taught and the environment they are taught within,” Hill said.
Newberry resident Shelby Netherton is another member of the TAHC. She is a consultant for Paper Pie, a book and magazine distributor. She is a self-proclaimed “Michigan mom” who helps parents and kids find books they love to instill a love of learning. Like Emily, she is an enthusiastic, organized woman who is passionate about education.
“Homeschooling gives both the student and parent choices and the freedom to find a way for your child to learn,” Netherton said.
The top reason for homeschooling is a concern about the school environment. A popular consensus among homeschooling parents is how sitting at a desk for seven hours is not time best spent furthering their education. Much more quality learning can be accomplished within a shorter time and without the distraction of a classroom full of disruptive kids or bullies.
Homeschool kids do get out of the house and make friends. Friendships formed through TAHC are strong and plentiful. It is almost as if the group have become extensions of their own families.
On the first Monday of the month they hold “Culture Club,” where the students have a focus on different countries as they meet and share facts and even foods from that country along with an activity or craft derived from the nation of study. They also take field trips to local parks, attractions and points of interest.
In their first year the families enjoyed interacting with area businesses with their “How it’s made” series, where students learned about a wide range of products and services.
This past summer the kids collectively planned, planted and cultivated a community garden the property of one of the members. Flatt’s Greenhouse donated seedlings and other members donated seeds.
Once enough produce was ready, they took their harvest to the Farmer’s Market in Newberry. There were no set prices, and the items were offered on a “pay what you can” basis. Their first crop yielded $200 for the group.
“With homeschooling, kids not only become educated but do it in a way that allows time for developing life skills,” Hill said. “It readies them for the transition from going from child to adulthood and becoming a productive adult, which gives something back to the world.”
Another focus of their second year is finding new opportunities for the older, high school aged kids and they are doing that by partnering with other communities like Gould City and Manistique to expand their network.
When the students graduate, their diploma and credentials are legitimate. If they choose to further their education, they complete “placement testing” at their desired college or university.
TAHC is open to everyone in the community, from pre-kindergarten through high school. The TAHC will hold regular weekly meetings at the TASPL starting on October 18.
Hill can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. More information can be found on their Facebook page: facebook.com/people/Tahquamenon-Area-Homeschool-Community/100089116493183/