Local home schoolers to use nation as classroom

Krysta and Seth Walker pose with their children (from left) Zoe, 7, Alexi, 4, and Ophelia 3. The Walkers are home-schoolers who are planning a cross-country road trip to explore the United States and produce educational videos to help other families who educate their children at home.

Krysta and Seth Walker pose with their children (from left) Zoe, 7, Alexi, 4, and Ophelia 3. The Walkers are home-schoolers who are planning a cross-country road trip to explore the United States and produce educational videos to help other families who educate their children at home. Photo by Ben Wentz.

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MILTON-FREEWATER — Krysta and Seth Walker are getting ready for a mammoth road trip.

Packing up their three small children and hitting the road some time in September or October, the Walkers plan to travel almost 12,000 miles across the United States before returning to their home in Milton-Freewater a year later.

But this isn’t a trip without a purpose, say the Walkers, who home school their children. They plan to use the nation as their classroom, learning U.S. history at more than 40 stops, and along the way producing videos and other content for other home-schoolers.

Follow the Walkers

The Walkers will update a Facebook page and maintain a blog of their road trip.

“A few weeks ago my husband looked at me and said the one thing all home-schooler ... moms dream to hear, ‘Honey, let’s buy an RV and hit the road in the fall,’” Krysta said in an email.

The Walkers hope to receive some funding via social media and crowd-funding, launching an Indiegogo fundraiser with the goal of raising $15,000 for the trip — enough to cover a used RV, living expenses and gasoline, they estimated. But that fundraiser, which is set to end Friday, has raised just $110 as of today.

Nevertheless, the Walkers are still moving forward. Seth has put his 1973 Plymouth Scamp muscle car up for sale to support the endeavor, and the couple is plans to buy a less-expensive travel trailer to make the trip.

Of their three children, 7-year-old Zoe is learning at a second-grade level, Krysta said, and is old enough to be counted as home-schooled by the federal Department of Education, which maintains statistics on children ages 5-17.

Alexi, 4, and Ophelia, 3, are too young to be considered home-schoolers by that metric, but Krysta said Alexi will be going through the equivalent of kindergarten this year.

“The little ones, when you’re teaching the older ones, they’re listening,” Krysta said. “Sometimes you’ll teach the older one something and then a few days later the younger ones repeat it, and you’re like, ‘Wait a minute!’”

Krysta said she started home schooling after researching different options and deciding it would give her children the most freedom and the ability to learn at their own pace.

Home schooling on the rise

From 1999 through 2012, the most recent year for which the Department of Education has home schooling statistics, the number of children being educated by their parents has doubled to 1.7 million. That translates to 3.4 percent of all children in the 5-17 age range being home schooled.

Cindy Pereyda, who moved to College Place in 2010 after living in Spokane and Southern California, first began home schooling in 2000.

She has four children, the youngest of whom, Christopher, is 16 and has graduated from K-12 and is now attending Walla Walla Community College with plans to attend Spokane’s Whitworth University to study computer science.

Pereyda, whose husband Eddie works as a manager at Super1 Foods in Walla Walla, sent her first child to public school, her second to private school and began home schooling her third child when he was in second grade and she realized tuition and child care expenses were eating up most of her income.

“The first few months were very difficult,” Pereyda said of the transition to home schooling — going from two incomes to one and staying at home all day were huge lifestyle changes. And she had fears about teaching her children — what if she misses something — and about what other people would think.

“But once I got over that initial part, I really enjoyed home schooling because of the freedom it afforded me over traditional school.”

The freedom, for example, to start class at a time that makes sense for the children, not bus schedules, or to go on family vacations and not fall behind.

“I also found out that learning doesn’t always happen in a desk and with a book,” Pereyda said. “My children learned things that they wouldn’t have had the opportunity to learn if we didn’t do home schooling.”

Home schooling also eventually made sense academically, Pereyda said. Teaching one or two children at a time meant she could focus on a subject long enough to achieve true understanding, while at the same time spending less time on subjects here children already knew.

“We don’t give them Cs, because that means there’s 30 percent they don’t know,” Pereyda said. “We learn it until they know it 100 percent, which in the long run is a great benefit.”

As home schooling continues to grow nationwide, Pereyda said it has become less of an unknown and more socially acceptable.

“People tend to know about home schooling more,” she said. “When you say ‘home schooling’ now, they know what it is, they don’t think its strange. Society in general has started to accept home schooling.”

Another major change in the home schooling world over the past decade and a half has been the rise of the Internet and easily accessible learning materials.

Resources like the free Khan Academy, a massive online education resource founded in 2006, were simply not available before the rise of the Internet. Instead, most home schoolers bought traditional curriculum from publishing companies.

“It has become a great tool,” Pereyda said of the Internet, “especially for the high school levels. Khan Academy, Google searches and YouTube videos — it’s just been a great resource.”

Road schooling

That’s where the Walkers fit in. They plan to produce video content designed for home-schoolers at each stop along the way — ideally two half- to one-hour long videos each week — along with accompanying worksheets and educational resources.

Krysta, who also works a French tutor, said the videos and accompanying materials will be designed for a variety of grade levels.

“There would be one video, with resources divided up by age,” Krysta said. “It’s always fun when everyone can use it. Everyone can watch the video, then (the children can work on projects at their grade-levels). Everyone gets something out of it.”

The plan is for the entire family to play a part in the production. Seth, who runs a computer repair business, will film and edit the videos, while Krysta will design the lessons. Zoe, Alexi and Ophelia will also play a part in the videos as well when possible, with Zoe conducting interviews.

“We’ve had a lot interest in the program,” Krysta said. “A lot of people want to do road school, but not everyone can pick up and leave for a year. This is kind of a dream for many home schoolers.”

The Walkers plan to charge a $5 per month subscription fee to access their educational resources, although the videos will be posted to YouTube for free with ads.

They have stops in almost every major city in the U.S. planned, beginning with Bellingham, Wash., then a trip down the West Coast and across the Southwest, the Southeast and up the East Coast before returning through the Midwest.

Krysta said she is most excited to visit Washington, D.C., while Seth is looking forward to visiting Civil War battle sites.

“There’s all kinds of stuff in the old Civil War towns where you can just go out and find a museum that people haven’t visited in six months,” Seth said. “They’re out there, that’s a lot of stuff that people don’t get to see, and that’s what we’re trying to do: find that stuff that people don’t typically don’t get to see.”

Ben Wentz can be reached at benwentz@wwub.com or 526-8315.

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