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HOME, BUT NOT ALONE, IN GETTING AN EDUCATION

It was a graduation ceremony held in honor of four Utah teens with all the formalities but one: an alma mater.

They were the first to graduate from Utah Christian Home-schoolers, a religion-centered program in which parents teach their children inside the home.Southeast Baptist Church in Sandy, which housed the celebration Friday evening, was also the site of the third annual Utah Home School Association Convention on Saturday. Participants heard a wide range of suggested curriculum and coursework, from how to teach children the basics to biblical courtship and Christian life skills for the real world.

"Parents have as much if not more right than the government to determine what is good for a (child's education)," said Johnathan Lindvall, a home school advocate who has a master's degree in educational administration.

"They will prepare their children for the world. They use other community resources when necessary. Public schools are what segregate children from the real world. Home-schooled kids are in the real world in real life."

But not everyone shares Lind-vall's view.

"In one situation where I saw a family did a really good job (at home schooling), the mother was a teacher and the father an instructor at a junior college," said Scott W. Bean, State Superintendent of Public Instruction. "But with others, I felt like (home schooling) was a negative situation for children. There's no standard they are required to live up to. There is no way to monitor them."

Yet Lindvall sees the issue as a constitutional freedom of choice. He once taught English, history and computers to students grades five through eight, and was also a principal at a public school. He started to "have some difficulty with government being involved in education at all," he said. "It's the first attack of socialism . . . It stifles creativity and formation of opinion - especially concerning views about God."

"My wife (Yvonne) had to drag me into it years ago," said Greg Furr, whose three children, ages 6, 12 and 13, are educated at home. "But now we are able to teach our kids what we want them to know. We can teach them our values, not someone else's."

Nevertheless, it is Bean's opinion that "public school children probably would assimilate into social situations better than home-schooled children."

Lindvall said that home school children actually assimilate better in society as they interact with not only other children, but adults and younger children.

"It is God's design for parents to protect children," he said. "It comes down to what I'm sparing them from. Adults are the best social influence on children."

Education in Furr's home encompasses reading, writing and arithmetic, plus a discussion of current events and "unit" studies, in which he and his wife choose a theme, such as astronomy, on which the basics will focus.

Lindvall's home school is less conventional. His family begins with scripture study and prayer, followed by chores and reading. All of his five children will or have started their own business by age 10 in areas such as newsletter circulation or lawn mowing.

"Ours is centered more on games and real-life situations," he said. "It's not an education - it's a lifestyle."