by Lisa Tome
Jennifer Cotton sat in the Rising Sun Branch Library last week filling out piles of paperwork, all of which is required at the start of a new school year.
Cotton is raising her six children in a unique environment. Three of her children attend Rising Sun Elementary, one attends Rising Sun Middle, one isn't old enough for school, and Gideon, 11, is homeschooled.
Cotton started homeschooling seven years ago because it fit her family's lifestyle. Her husband is a military contractor and his job requires him to travel. "We could go with him and bring school with us," said Cotton. But once the family moved to Cecil County, some of the children started public school. "Gideon didn't really like school. It didn't work for him. He really enjoys homeschooling," she said.
She discussed the amount of back to school paperwork she had to complete. "To homeschool was one sheet of paper and the portfolio review," said Cotton.
Cotton was at the library because three of the local branches – Elkton, Rising Sun, and Perryville – offer academy classes designed for homeschoolers and other non-traditional students. As a homeschooling parent, Cotton relies on library programs. "I've signed them up for quite a few library programs. The library provides a different environment. They do cool stuff that I can't do at home. They have resources that I can't get my hands on an as individual," she said.
Angel Mendoza also brings her homeschooled children, ages 12 and 9, to the library. "We don't do structured school in summer, but they are learning something every day," said Mendoza. Alexis, 12, said she likes learning at the library. "I like how they have a different person (teaching) every time," she said.
Donella Martini has been homeschooling for four years. Her children are also ages 12 and 9. "The number one reason (for homeschooling) is the individualized education. I have one that's way ahead of where she should be. The other needed help to get where he needed to be and he's there," said Martini. Martini said her children do math daily year round. This summer they also studied Latin, poetry memorization, and U.S. geography. "We start at 8 a.m. and finish at noon or one. We cover more than the public schools. We take our kids to socialize everyday. They have karate and scouts. We do the library all summer. We have so many homeschool meet ups that I have to turn some down," she said. "They can communicate with anyone. They spend a lot of time with various people from all walks of life. They are more socialized than they would ever be in public school. And they can only use technology on weekends."
Librarian Jennifer Carter said that the library academy programs are held in both mornings and afternoons. "There are definitely a lot of pockets of homeschoolers throughout the county. We get a lot of homeschoolers," said Carter.