Originally created 06/27/99

Homeschool families get resources at fair



Pam Wimburn of Appling maneuvered her baby stroller through vendor aisles at West Acres Baptist Church on Saturday, looking for teaching aides.

Ms. Winburn will be a first-time homeschooler this fall when she starts teaching kindergarten to her oldest, 5-year-old Jared.

Watching relatives and friends succeed at teaching their children convinced the former art instructor she could do it, too, she said.

"I want to be the main agent of socialization in their lives," she said. "I want their education to have a Christian philosophy instead of a humanist philosophy. Of course, you have the safety reasons" in public schools.

Concern about safety in public schools is increasing but that is only part of the reason behind the growth in homeschooling, said Mary Hood, a vendor who attended a curriculum fair this month in Orlando, Fla., that drew 9,000.

"I've always believed it is because when you see one parent doing it successfully, they tend to attract one more," she said about the growth.

Dr. Hood, founder of The Relaxed Homeschooler Resource Center in Kennesaw, Ga., taught her five children at home, including 18-year-old Ginny, a junior at Toccoa Falls College and 21-year-old Sam, a junior at William Carey College in Hattiesburg, Miss.

Dr. Hood was one of 60 vendors at the two-day fair at the Evans church who displayed books, CDs and catalogs and presented workshops. The event, sponsored by the Augusta-based Homeschool for Youth Opportunities Unlimited Association, drew more than 500 people.

Admission was $15 although family discounts were available -- a family of five or more paid only $25. The price included a presentation Friday by Dr. Hood and Linda Schrenko, Georgia schools superintendent. Some 220 attended the talks.

Mrs. Schrenko told parents that she didn't consider herself just the superintendent of public school children but of all children, said Greg Rowland, an organizer of the event.

"She supports all children and whatever is best for them. And I thought that was incredible," said Mr. Rowland, a vendor who represented several suppliers at the fair under the New Covenant Inc., banner.

Tori Rowland, who homeschools daughters Evann, 6, a rising second-grader, and Jordan, 10, a rising fifth-grader, said Mrs. Schrenko also acknowledged that homeschoolers test about 35 percent higher than the average public school student.

Erik Long, a representative for A Beka Book, a Pensacola, Fla.-based Christian curriculum publisher whose company markets to 250,000 homeschoolers including 12,000 book customers in Georgia, said he is getting interest about homeschooling even from high school students, particularly since the school shootings in Littleton, Colo., and Conyers, Ga.

A Beka, an affiliate of Pensacola Christian College, started with Christian schools in the 1950s. It entered the homeschool market in the 1980s.

The growth in the market was snowballing even before the tragedies, said Mr. Long.

"We have a consistent increase every year," he said.

Virginia Norton covers religion for The Augusta Chronicle. She can be reached at (706) 823-3336 or vanorton@augustachronicle.com.