ANDERSON – Nikki Keller, of Middletown, committed to home schooling her three daughters, ages 6, 9 and 13 after the oldest had a bad public school experience in kindergarten.
“We enjoyed it so much, we did it for all of our kids,” she said.
But this year for the first time, she sought a little outside help, enrolling her first-grader, Kayla, in a physical education class offered for home-schooled students at Anderson University.
“It’s an activity the kids can get out and participate with kids close to their own age,” she said. “She can do some things like play games you can’t really replicate at home, so it’s nice to have a group.”
It’s one of a couple of classes, the other a music class, offered to home-school families by Anderson University since 1975 for elementary students. Classes at the high school level were added in 1983.
The classes serve a dual purpose: They provide an away-from-home option for parents who aren’t inclined or able to teach certain subjects, and they provide practice for teachers to be.
Keller said she heard about the class through a Facebook page for home-school families. She said it was as much a way for her to get out of the house as it was for Kayla to socialize with other children.
“We have a lot of outside experiences to where we feel like we have plenty of socialization,” she said.
However, the physical education class, which takes place simultaneously with classes for other grade levels at Kardatzke Wellness Center on the AU campus, has been an adjustment for Kayla, who is adjusting to the noisiness of the 120 children from the 69 other families, Keller said.
Diana Jones, department chair and professor in AU’s Department of Kinesiology, said the 10-week program is a win-win for families and students ages 4 to 15.
The 17 novice teachers attend classes three days a week to learn teaching methods and classroom management. They come out of the class with 10 lesson plans.
“Wednesdays becomes that practical application of everything we’ve been talking about. It’s kind of the ideal of the book knowledge and the practical experience blended and in a safe way,” Jones said. “The course is to prepare them to teach physical activities, games, sports to children. I’ve had some of them say to me in this class they got more experience than in their other practicum classes.”
Each grade level is assigned at least two student teachers. However, the classes for children age 5 and younger have three assigned student teachers, Jones said.
“Teaching 4s and 5s is like herding cats. You need extra people to get them where you want them,” she said.
Jones said though a university typically exists for adult students, the classes for home-schooled youngsters meet AU’s mission of preparing for a life of faith and service.
As the AU students teach, Jones moves from class to class to observe and to direct them toward best practices.
“It’s wonderful for the home-school community because they can have us give them developmentally appropriate activities for their child,” she said.
Jones said she believes the experience also has benefits for the AU students as they venture into the world of work.
“It just makes them, I think, a little more marketable,” she said. “This is an added value to them, so that when they go to student teach, they have more experience.”
Mary Jane DeWitt, an AU senior studying elementary education, teaches the 8-year-old home-schooled students. She said though elementary teachers may be called upon to teach physical education, they often don’t have as much practical experience as in other more academic subjects.
“This is an unusual experience , especially for those of us in elementary schools. … This is really giving us a chance to work hands-on with the kinesthetic learning styles,” she said. “It’s awesome because we’re also helping kids in the community.”