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Virginian touts benefits of home schooling

She urges parent to ‘be happy and enjoy children’

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Nathan Hofeling, left, holds his sister Carrissa after a long day at Saturday's home-schooling convention.

Nathan Hofeling, left, holds his sister Carrissa after a long day at Saturday’s home-schooling convention.

Ryan Long, Deseret Morning News

Susan Wise-Bauer's grandparents wept when they found out her mother was going to take her out of school and start teaching her at home.

Of course, that was before she learned Latin by age 10 and before she became a professional musician and a book author as a teenager and long before she finished college in five semesters as an English major and a Greek minor. It was also prior to her attending Oxford and becoming a professor at the College of William & Mary.

If home schooling has a model student and teacher, Wise-Bauer very well could be it.

"She is proof we can educate ourselves," Jon Yarrington, chairman of the Utah Home Education Association board of directors, said of the keynote speaker for the UHEA's annual convention Saturday at the Salt Palace. "Proof that taking ownership of our own education pays huge dividends."

Wise-Bauer, a Virginia native who speaks nationally to home educator groups and conventions and has written books about that educating method, shared some advice she received from her mom with the several hundred convention participants.

The most important being: "It's good to home school," she said. "Be happy, and enjoy your children."

As a freshman English professor, she'd also appreciate it if parents — not to mention educators in the public and private school systems — would teach children proper grammar and writing skills, too. She gets disheartened when students at a respected college don't know to put the period inside quotation marks at the end of a sentence or that there is a difference between its and it's.

"If you teach a kid to speak properly and write well, you'll end up with a child who can get any job in any field," she said, adding that her home-taught command of the English language has been "valuable to me every single day of my life."

Wise-Bauer stressed parents should remember "home education is not an interruption in life; it's part of life." Home schooling is an extension of your family life, she added. "Don't think of it as divided between academic life and real life. They can both interact."

She suggests visiting the library weekly, giving books as gifts rather than toys and controlling the home's TV and computer screens. In her family, children are allotted so many tokens a week that can be cashed in for screen time.

Wise-Bauer believes children should be left to their own sometimes. Her family has a mandatory two-hour "nap" time every afternoon.

"You are their teacher, educator and parent but not their entertainment center," she said.

Other suggestions included: letting kids follow their own interests; leading an orderly life — from set bed/wake up times to keeping Day Planners; making money management center to home education so children will learn about bounced checks and credit-card interest as teens instead of as twenty-somethings; and choosing affordable colleges over big-name schools to avoid trapping student-loans debt.

An important key, she said, is "not separating the practical and academic."

As for what not to do — points she learned from her mother — Wise-Bauer said it's important to "not worry" that you're going to skip something important or not teach your children enough. Other important "don'ts" include: Don't forget to praise your children along with all the correcting you do; don't ignore advice from in-laws; don't ignore sibling rivalry; don't assume sending a child to college at a young age is a good thing; and don't ignore the "uneasies," meaning follow your gut instinct if you think your child is getting into a dangerous situation.

"You're parents. That's your job. Overreact," she said. "Don't be afraid to protect your children."

And don't be afraid of those grammar lessons, either.

E-mail: jody@desnews.com