Like mother, like son
Tonganoxie family takes home schooling into second generation
Editor's note: The Mirror is taking part in a series, along with the Lawrence Journal-World, ljworld.com and 6News, on home schooling in northeast Kansas.
Sarah Kouns is a product of home schooling.
She grew up in McLouth, and was home-schooled from kindergarten through high school, just like any student who climbs the ladder in public school.
Kouns, though, admitted she wasn't fond of the schooling at the time.
"I hated it," Kouns said. "Back in that time, there weren't a lot of things available."
Kouns, now 27, finished her home schooling nearly 10 years ago.
But times have changed, she said. More opportunities are available for home schooling families these days, including curriculum guidelines through virtual schools.
With that in mind, she and her husband, Jason, who graduated from Leavenworth High School, decided to start their oldest child, Jacob, who is 5, as a home-schooled student.
"I think there's a lot of stuff going on right now and I feel with home schooling, he gets the best of everything," Sarah said. "I'm not saying they're bad (brick-and-mortar schools), but for a 5-year-old, I'd rather teach him the morals and values from an adult's viewpoint rather than another 5-year-old's viewpoint."
The Kouns family, which now lives in Tonganoxie, uses curriculum through Lawrence Virtual School, although Sarah Kouns said some home-schooling families preferred other options besides virtual schools.
"They're not totally on top of you, but you have that support system," Sarah said, noting families are held to an accountability with the virtual school.
On average, Sarah said Jacob spends 30 percent of study time online and the rest doing work pages. And, every other Thursday, they have enrichment days in which Jacob goes to physical education, music and art classes at Lenexa Christian Center. Jacob also stays busy with T-ball and soccer leagues through the Tonganoxie Recreation Commission.
During a typical school day, classwork begins at 9 a.m. or 9:30 a.m.
"Truthfully, we're done with everything, including play time, by 1 p.m.," Sarah explained. "And that's with breaks."
On some occasions, the Kounses might not have schooling on a weekday, but a Saturday would be available to work on studies.
"Home schooling is so flexible," Sarah said.
After finishing her home schooling at 18, Sarah took some classes at Kansas City Kansas Community College before working at Sprint.
Once she and her husband had children, she decided to leave Sprint and later become a home-school teacher.
She said the family has made sacrifices with home schooling, including living on a single income. Jason Kouns works at Sunflower Broadband in Lawrence.
Jacob has two younger siblings, Hannah, who is 3, and William, 2.
Sarah Kouns doesn't have a teaching degree and strongly believes that shouldn't be a requirement.
"No, you don't need a teaching degree," Sarah Kouns said. "It's a simple thing. You need the patience and the willpower to go out and find the things you need to find."
Sarah Kouns has watched Jacob learn how to walk and talk. Now, she's ready to continue teaching him through his school years.
"I've been his main teacher," Sarah Kouns said. "I don't see how it's not a good fit for us not to continue that."
By the same token, Sarah Kouns said she and her husband would not be opposed to placing their children in a private school if their children decided home schooling wasn't for them.
Right now, Jacob is a fan of his mother being his teacher.
"I like it," Jacob said, his face lighting up with a huge smile.
And his favorite subject these days?
That would be science.
Some home-schooling families Sarah Kouns has chatted with take their children on major field trips to U.S. landmarks their children have been studying.
Although that's not feasible right now for the Kouns family, it could be an option down the road.
"Like right now, he's working on the 13 colonies," Sarah Kouns said. "I think it would be so awesome to go up where they were first founded."
Still, the family takes local field trips. For instance, they took a field trip to a museum.
"We were learning about pioneers and we were able to go to a museum," Sarah Kouns said. "I know just reading it, he didn't quite grasp it. But we went further (with the museum trip)."
Sarah Kouns has fielded questions from others about how home schooling will affect their children, with socialization being the main concern.
She views it as a moot point.
"How's he going to deal with the world?" Sarah Kouns said, recalling someone's question. "He's 5; he's 5 years old.
So to answer people's questions, socialization is not an issue, Sarah Kouns maintains.
"There's just so much out there," Sarah Kouns said. "He gets to be out with an adult. He knows how to communicate with all of them (age groups).
"I just don't think that's relevant."
Sarah Kouns reiterated that home schooling was not best for every family. But for her family, it's a fit.
"I'm there for them," said Sarah, whose 3-year-old daughter also is picking up on some of the teachings by tagging along with her big brother. "If they need help, I can back them up."
This also is the first year of home schooling for Jacob and, subsequently, the first year of teaching for his mother.
However, with the initial year of schooling nearly complete, Sarah Kouns feels confident in her family's decision.
"This is our first year, so it's been a learning process," she said. "I'm proud of myself. I'm proud of him."