Madie Feeney of Bethel is going to be junior. During the school year, her kitchen is her classroom.
"The first year was really rough. At first I didn't want to be home-schooled. I thought I would miss going to school and seeing all my friends," Madie said.
Several of her courses this year will be taken online. "For math I am going to be doing geometry. Science I am going to be doing the Cordon Bleu baking chemistry, so I am really excited for that," she said.
Her younger brother, Gabriel, will be a seventh grader. He recently received his pre-algebra book in the mail, but chemistry experiments are what really peaks his interest. "Oil, salt and vinegar. The salt combined into little clumps and floated to the top," he said, describing a recent experiment.
All three of the Feeney kids are home-schooled. "We can either choose to get up and do it and have the rest of the afternoon, or drag it out throughout the day," Gabriel said.
And the learning is not confined to the house. Field trips to places like the Boston Museum of Science happen frequently.
"I just felt like the education system was failing my children," said Dietre Feeney, the home-schooler's mother.
The family made the decision to home school a few years ago. To do so she had to write up proposals for each child. Basic courses like P.E., math, science and history are required. Feeney admits it has not always been smooth sailing. "It was very hard to balance school and home life -- separate it -- and I felt like, oh my gosh, was I doing the right thing," she said.
But she's not going it alone. Act 119 -- passed in 1998 -- allows home-schooled students like the Feeneys to participate in public school classes if they choose.
The kids are also active in athletics and other after school activities associated with the traditional school environment.
"Robotics, scouts, and soccer and drama," Feeney said. "They get a really good well-rounded education. But then I submit examples from all of that to the state."
The checks and balances happens at the Vermont Education Agency offices in Montpelier. The home study program offers guidance for families navigating the system and makes sure a student is not falling through the cracks. "If we have concerns about the progress, we will spend time talking to the families," said Karen Agnew, a consultant with the Home Study Office. There, file cabinets are filled with reports of thousands of home-schooled students across the state. The home study team makes sure yearly progress is being made and that adequate protections are in place.
Annually, they require one of the following: parent reports, onsite teacher visits, or standardized testing. "It is really a matter of trusting the parents to do what they say they will do," Agnew said.
Home schooling is a growing trend in Vermont. In 1981 there were roughly 90 home-schooled students. Ten years later that number jumped to more than 800. In 2001, close to 2,000 Vermont students were home-schooled. Last school year there were more than 2,400 students. This year 2,500 kids will be home-schooled in the Green Mountains -- more than 3 percent of all students statewide.
"I certainly don't think it is the failure of either schools, whether they be public or private, or the students for that mater -- being round pegs in square holes. There are great opportunities in the age we live in. The world gets smaller and smaller and some of those opportunities to learn don't come out of a textbook," said Andy Snyder with the Oversees Home Study Program.
The Feeney's choose to submit progress reports at the end of each year. Madie, who was once against the idea, has come around. "Last year I wrote a 15 page paper on the Titanic, so I think I am doing pretty well," she said.
And Jacob Feeney is already enrolled in a physics class at Vermont Technical College. "It's a lot of freedom to take your time to learn something and apply it. It is very rewarding," he said.
"I've enjoyed having my kids at home. I've enjoyed the challenge of home-schooling. I've enjoyed learning right along with them," Dietre Feeney said.
A family right at home, when it comes to going back to school.
Saturday, December 7 2013 8:43 PM EST2013-12-08 01:43:53 GMT
Police in New Hampshire are investigating an accident on Interstate 89 that claimed two lives. It happened on the northbound lane between Exit#18 and Exit#19 in Lebanon. The initial investigation revealedMore >>
It happened on the northbound lane between Exit#18 and Exit#19 in Lebanon, N.H. Saturday.More >>
Saturday, December 7 2013 8:38 PM EST2013-12-08 01:38:15 GMT
A Burlington family is remembering the life of a young teen through artwork. Emily Lyman died of Leukemia at just fifteen years old, in December of last year. Now, her mother, Monica Lyman, is holdingMore >>
A Burlington family is remembering the life of a young teen through artwork.More >>
Saturday, December 7 2013 8:17 PM EST2013-12-08 01:17:57 GMT
There's still plenty of time to check off gifts on that Christmas list. The 21st Annual Vermont International Festival has something for everyone. The event began at the Champlain Valley Exposition asMore >>
Shoppers could find everything from Yoga mats from South America to jewelry from Tibet.More >>
Saturday, December 7 2013 8:11 PM EST2013-12-08 01:11:52 GMT
It's out with the old and in with the new. A new ice skating rink in Stowe has replaced the old Jackson Arena. Saturday, the town welcomed skaters to take a spin on the ice at the new arena's grand opening. TheMore >>
The new skating rink will also offer a learn to skate program and hockey initiation programs for all ages.More >>
Saturday, December 7 2013 8:05 PM EST2013-12-08 01:05:37 GMT
We have some ideas for what you can do on this Sunday, December 8, 2013. ART HOP The South End Arts & Business Association is holding its 6th Annual South End Holiday sHOP event on December 6-8, 2013.More >>
We have some ideas for what you can do on this Sunday, December 8, 2013.More >>
Saturday, December 7 2013 8:00 PM EST2013-12-08 01:00:24 GMT
Police are looking for this man who they say fulfilled his holiday wish list by taking what he wanted - and going on his merry way without paying. The surveillance video shows the suspect stealing expensiveMore >>
Police are looking for a man who they say fulfilled his holiday wish list by taking what he wanted.More >>
Saturday, December 7 2013 7:54 PM EST2013-12-08 00:54:07 GMT
Turning a car dealership into a venue to adopt cats and dogs. The adoption event - at the Subaru Dealership in South Burlington - was put on with help from the American Society for the Prevention of CrueltyMore >>
Animals from the Humane Society of Chittenden County found new homes on Saturday.More >>
Saturday, December 7 2013 7:49 PM EST2013-12-08 00:49:03 GMT
Sue Boucher and her family have made "A Very Merry Middlebury" their family tradition. "We've been coming down for probably 10 years now," says Sue Boucher of South Burlington. A Very Merry MiddleburyMore >>
Put together by the Better Middlebury Partnership - to promote a fun and booming Middlebury.More >>