Homeschool kids show creative sides

Wednesday, June 25, 2014
Sierra and Alex Johanson have been homeschooled their entire lives. Sierra displays a drawing she made for a book that she is writing. (T-G Photo by Jason Reynolds)

They've never spent a day in a classroom, but these two children have received a hands-on education that includes drawing illustrations and building erupting volcanoes.

Sierra and Alex Johanson participate in the Bedford County Homeschool Enrichment Program (HEP) as well as a homeschool program in Tullahoma.

The Bedford County HEP program is run by parents who homeschool their children and allows them to share resources and socialize. Another homeschool program is centered in Bell Buckle. Not every homeschool family participates in a cooperative program.

(Submitted photo)

Sierra, 15, is an incoming 10th grader who started her studies at age 4, mother Beth Johanson said. Alex, 13, is an incoming 9th grader who started learning to read at age 3. He was the youngest participant in the homeschool spelling bee during one contest, Beth Johanson said. He began teaching himself to read so he could read the instructions for his Pokemon video games, she said.

The Johansons began homeschooling after attending a homeschooling event, Beth Johanson said. She said she had considered being a homeschool parent ever since high school. She had a part-time job then, and would pick up her co-worker's children from school at times. The children had been homeschooled prior to attending middle school and had a great relationship with their mother.

"I wanted that," Beth Johanson said.

HEP frequently offers programs like science labs that a single homeschool family might be hard-pressed to do alone, Beth Johanson.

"I think of it as a cooperative to implement classes we may not be able to do at home, like the biology lab," she said. "I do not like doing dissections."

The Johanson children took biology lab through HEP. Sierra dreaded it at first because she "does not like anything gross," but she did well, her mother said. Sierra said biology is now something she enjoys, although art is her favorite subject.

Sierra entered a homeschool science fair with a project that involved using salt peter to create fire in order to "draw" a picture, her mother said. The drawing was made using a glass stirring rod loaned by a drug store.

In the coming fall semester, the children will take a chemistry lab through HEP, their mother said.

At other times, the children do their own studies, such as building an erupting volcano using paper mache and soda.

Alex and Sierra typically do an hour of reading a day throughout the summer, their mother said, and she gives them math problems to work so they retain their lessons over the break.

"I don't like the idea of stopping completely during the summer and restarting in the fall," Beth Johanson said.

Sierra said she has another ongoing project this summer: writing and illustrating a juvenile fiction book titled, "Tear Stained," about ghost cats. She has written approximately 15,000 words. She is drawing some of the book's illustrations and is working with other homeschool students to provide additional drawings.

Alex recently returned from a Boy Scout adventure that included camping, canoeing and touring such sights as the Mall of America in Minnesota and the Gateway Arch in St. Louis. He and his father Robert and uncle Nathan Johanson have hiked part of the Appalachian Trail in Georgia.

Sierra said that between church and the homeschool groups, "I have more friends than I can keep up with." She swims with the Sharks team at the Shelbyville Recreation Center. She also wants to study Japanese, "a pretty language" that could help her in her plans to work in animation and writing, she said.

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