Krissy Warren knew it was time for a change when her precocious 12-year-old daughter started coming home with doodles in her notebook and a lagging interest in school.
Regularly, the seventh-grader was so far ahead during class reading exercises that she took to reading her own books in class.
She was bored.
“For her to be successful, I need to instill that level of motivation and learning and bring home hard-earned As.
“I saw she was losing that,” said Warren, who lives in the Norris School District.
Warren said home-schooling was a “family choice” enabling more field trips and spontaneous learning.
So on the first day of school this year, she sat down at the dining room table with Olivia and her other daughter, 10-year old Autumn, for their first home-school lessons.
The Warrens use state-standard textbooks and curriculum, teaching assistance and regular field trips from Valley Oaks Charter School, run by the Kern County Superintendent of Schools.
At home, in addition to math, English and geography, the girls do daily devotionals, make lunch for the family and spend more time reading for independent projects, Warren said.
“I think there’s more interest in our program this year than in past years,” said John Lindsay, principal at Valley Oaks.
Lindsay suspected some families were considering home schooling due to increased class sizes, particularly in kindergarten.
Valley Oaks’ enrollment, higher than ever this year at 975 students, has grown steadily in its decade of existence. The school doesn’t advertise; people find it by word of mouth, Lindsay said.
Lindsay estimated there are 10,000 home-school students in Kern County.
Loren Mavromati, a trustee with the California Home School Network, said state budget cuts may have provided the “nudge” for some families to start home-schooling.
But it hasn’t been a huge influx, Mavromati said.
“Although schools have budget cuts, families are also tight on money,” she said.
U.S. Department of Education figures in 2007 put the number of home-schooled students at about 1.5 million, or about 3 percent of all students.
The HomeSchool Association of California estimates there are 60,000 to 200,000 students educated at home or in other nonconventional settings in the state.
Families choose to home-school for many reasons.
Declining school budgets have given Lauren Frapwell pause.
“Is she better off in school if they can’t give you any more?” she wondered as she thought about her 10-year old daughter.
Centennial High, where her two sons now attend, has lost some teachers.
Frapwell wanted her three kids to develop great thinking skills.
“Not just to memorize facts to take a test, it is important to communicate in writing and verbally,” she said.
And she wanted her kids to get more science and history, two areas in conventional public school that are sadly lacking, Frapwell said.
The Frapwells use the K-12 California Virtual Academy online curriculum for their daughter, Jordan. They use Valley Oaks’ enrichment classes — Jordan has taken art, piano and farm animals classes — and teacher assistance.
A legal decision in California last summer ensured that parents can teach from any curriculum they see fit.
Religion remains the most common reason families choose to home-school, Lindsay said.
Ian and Shannon Parks wanted to use a Christian-based curriculum for their four kids, ages 8, 12, 14 and 17, so they could pass on a “philosophy you want to pass on to your kids.”
Giving his kids a sense of perspective and letting them do their own thinking, in a way that classrooms don’t always allow students to do, was important, said Parks.
Their oldest son now attends Bakersfield Christian High School, where he works in an independent academic program that allows him to play BCHS sports.
And getting a diploma and final transcript from BCHS will make his transition to college easier, Parks said.
Enrichment classes begin Wednesday at Valley Oaks for the Warrens. Autumn is signed up for agriculture, horsemanship and map skills, and Olivia is taking a Constitution and critical thinking class.
In addition the girls will dance in the Nutcracker, so it will be a busy fall.
But two weeks into their home school start, “Everything is fine, I think we’ve found the rhythm,” Krissy Warren said.