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Singer-Swapp siege a turning point in Utah home school policies, practices and attitudes

Published: Saturday, July 13 2013 6:05 p.m. MDT

While some home educators assume sole responsibility for teaching their children, the Mylars are part of a network of Christian home school families that have formed a cooperative. As many as 100 children have attended classes in a church building, with parents with particular expertise sharing the teaching duties. Sometimes, parents pitch in to hire certified teachers to provide the instruction.

Frank Mylar, for instance, is an attorney. He has taught government classes to children in the co-op. Debbie worked as a physical therapist before the couple decided to home school when their eldest daughter Jessica was three years old.

In their children's elementary school years, the children have primarily been educated by their parents. While their kitchen serves as their primary classroom, the Mylars have conducted school on the road during family vacations or during travel to their father's legal conferences.

Real world experiences

When Mylar ran for the Republican nomination for Utah Attorney General in 2000, the family traveled to county conventions in a motor home. "We attended conventions at night and home schooled during the day," Debbie Mylar said.

Running a campaign was an extension of the Mylar children's education, their father said. "They were hearing debates, reading campaign literature and learning about politics in an up close way," he said.

The Mylars' children take standardized achievement tests administered by a proctor so the couple knows how they are faring in their education if there are subject areas that require more attention.

Because home school operates on the Mylars' schedule, the family has more flexibility for doctor appointments, sports leagues or music lessons. This spring, the couple adopted a son from the Ukraine. Vitalik, 14, needs extra help in mastering English, Debbie Mylar said. Home school makes that possible, she said.

The couple's eldest children have attended high school at Intermountain Christian School, a tradition that started at the request of their eldest child.

Attending college is a priority for the family. Moving from a home-schooled environment to a college campus would have been "big jump," Debbie Mylar said. "This way, it's a natural progression."

Parent responsibility

Since graduating from ICS, the Mylars' eldest children have each attended college out of state, their eldest daughter graduating this spring.

Attending the private high school enabled their children to play sports and be involved in activities, learn more about working and learning with peers and "dealing with other kids on a regular, every-day basis."

Sending children to ICS also provided a benchmark for the quality of their children's home education. "The only B (grade) Jessica ever got was the one that Debbie gave her," Frank Mylar said.

While some traditional public school advocates bristle at the free reign that home schoolers have operated under since a law was passed in 2005 exempting them from public school attendance or testing requirements, Debbie Mylar said home educators are solely accountable for the academic success of their children, which is an immense responsibility.

"As a parent, who wants their kid to succeed more than their parents do? It is a big responsibility. I don't want to be a stumbling block for them. That's all the accountability I need," she said.

But former state Rep. Sheryl Allen, who served on the Davis Board of Education 16 years as well as 12 years in the Utah House, gave home schoolers “carte blanche freedom on that issue.”

Home schooled students “have authority to participate in whatever they want with no accountability.”

At the same time, state lawmakers have made greater accountability demands of traditional public schools and public charter schools, she said.

“Everyone else has had their accountability intensified. It never goes in the other direction. I think it’s a political decision that ought to be revisited,” Allen said.

The law

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