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Part 1 | Veteran homeschooler offers encouragement, resources for alternative education

West Bend, WI – When it comes to homeschooling, Diane Fechter of West Bend, WI, has wisdom, experience, and connections.
Homeschooling field trip to East Troy Electric Railroad and The Elegant Farmer in Mukwonago, circa 1996. Photo courtesy: Diane Fechter

Fechter spent a total of 12 years (1984-1996) homeschooling her three children, Tim, Dave, and Jessica.

“Since many of our founding fathers were homeschooled, we felt it was right for us, too,” said Fechter.  “We took it year by year.  All of our children went to private school for 7th and 8th grade, and then to public high school.”

Today’s homeschoolers have many curriculum options, allowing parents to easily tailor their children’s educational experience. “There are so many more choices for homeschoolers today,” said Fechter.

home school
Michael Lane visits homeschool group in West Bend.

Homeschooling parents had plenty of support as they navigated the daily waters of home education. “We occasionally had parent meetings to swap ideas, and get and give encouragement to others,” said Fechter. “We also had show-and-tell days where moms would bring their children to give book reports, display their science projects, read an essay, perform skits and plays for others about historical figures like our founding fathers, etc., while their peers would listen.”

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According to the Wisconsin Department of Instruction (DPI), enrollment over the past 10 years (2011-2021) in public education has seen a decline from 871,105 in 2011 down to the present 829,935. In 2011, homeschoolers made up 1.79% of the state’s students; in 2021, that number increased to 3.25%.

DPI data also showed, in the short term between the 2019-2020 school year and the 2020-2021 school year, homeschooling jumped 47.28% whereas public school enrollment decreased 2.93% and private education declined 1.53% as well.

Fechter believed there is an increase in home education because, “parents are fed up with what is being taught – such as Social-Emotional Learning and Critical Race Theory.”

For parents who are currently considering homeschooling their children, Fechter has these words of wisdom.

“Years ago, I read an article called “The Tomato Plant Philosophy of Home Schooling.”  The basic story is this: Like young tomato plants in Wisconsin, young children must be moved very gradually from the total protection of your ‘greenhouse’ into total exposure to the outside world.  They need the rich soil of family life, the sun of love and attention, and water of truth.  They need to be shielded from the cold winds of their peers’ thoughtless and sometimes cruel behavior, humanistic teaching, etc.  Your little plants must develop their own root and leaf systems so they can absorb God’s love and truth for themselves before they can withstand the storms of life.  When they are strong enough, they can be put out in the weather for brief and carefully controlled exposure to the outside world.”

To gain more insight into homeschooling, Fechter recommends attending the Wisconsin Christian Home Educators (CHEA) annual conference on April 7 and 8, 2022, as well as becoming familiar with Homeschool Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) where there is an abundance of helpful information.

Christian home education

This is Part I of a series on homeschooling by washingtoncountyinsider.com

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