By Kevin Wilson
With six children to teach and another on the way, Yvonne Elswick has gone through plenty of struggles as a mother and a parent who homeschools her children.
The recent eastern New Mexico transplant was happy to find out the same independence she had in Denver also exists in New Mexico.
Elswick and her 13-year-old daughter Rebekah found that out Tuesday afternoon at an informational session by Homeschooling PACT, held at the Portales Public Library.
The organization, which has been in existence for 16 years, is a collection of families that choose to homeschool their children and has members from Clovis, Portales, Cannon Air Force Base and surrounding communities.
Members try to meet at least once a week, and new members are given information about the services available in local communities and what legal issues may exist.
According to state law, homeschooling must include at least reading, language arts, mathematics, social studies and science. From there, the curriculum is up to the parent.
“If you want to do a religion-based program, you can do that,” said Barbara Senn, a member of the group.
“If you want to do computer stuff, you can do that. You can choose your own curriculum — you can choose not to have a curriculum.”
Parents who intend to homeschool must notify the state.
Also, students who complete a homeschool education do not need to acquire a general education development diploma to attend college.
“In general, New Mexico is a good state for homeschooling,” Senn said. “I don’t know of anybody (in the state) who’s had any problems with homeschooling.”
Parents who homeschool children receive no tax breaks, but the parents at Tuesday’s meeting preferred it that way — with a tax break, they reasoned, the government would have some say over a curriculum.
With that freedom comes a responsibility to create a sensible program.
Senn talked about many local resources for homeschooled children, including the Golden Library at Eastern New Mexico University and various museums around the area.
The group, which currently includes about 26 families, tries to get together for field trips.
The Elswicks are about to join that group.
In Denver, Elswick said that the biggest requirement was to take standardized tests every other year, but that was optional depending on if she enrolled her children in an umbrella school.
Elswick’s husband works at ENMU, but the family is living in Clovis.
Yvonne Elswick said she probably wouldn’t have to change how she taught to adhere to state standards.
Elswick said she and her family wouldn’t likely do too many group activities with PACT — she’s expecting her seventh child. However, she can turn to the group for opinions how to teach almost anything.
Said Margaret Schultz, who has been homeschooling for 17 years, “You can try it her way and try it the next person’s way and find out what’s right for you.”