Installing Godly characters along with studies

Published 12:00 am Saturday, March 10, 2001


PHOTO: ANNE BERGERON looks over her children’s school work. From left to right, are Bethany, Benjamin, Rebecca and Abbi. (Staff Photo by Amy Szpara) They are like doorsteps. The youngest is 1 year old. Next comes the three-year-old twins, then the kindergartner and the second-grader. There’s also a fourth-grader, a sixth-grader and a seventh-grader. Plus, there will soon be an infant to join the rest. The family is not the norm in that it is large and still growing, but it’s also different in another way. All of the children learn at home, under the guidance of their parents. They are home-schooled. Emile and Anne Bergeron, the parents of the eight children, strongly believe that it is their primary responsibility to educate their children. Based on Biblical scripture, the Bergerons believe it is their duty to teach their kids in their home. Five of the children are school-age and study in their home through lesson plans and curriculum provided through videotapes, textbooks and workbooks, and homework assignments. According to Emile, who is an engineer, the couple had friends who home-schooled their children, and he became convinced that it was the right thing to do. “The Bible says that children should be taught at home,” Emile said. “It builds character, Godly character. Teachers are now afraid to instill character because of the separation of church and state. The solution is to keep them in the home.” Members of Woodland Baptist Church in LaPlace, the Bergerons are not as unique as people may think. Others in the area also home-school their own children. It is becoming an alternative to public and private schooling that more and more people are looking into. The Bergerons are members of an organization called Christian Home Educators Fellowship of the River Region (CHEF). As part of the organization, which allows Christians who home-school to come together, the students participate in various field trips that take place once a month and focus on learning and Christianity. The Bergeron children also participate in 4-H, science and geography fairs and may soon do gymnastics through CHEF. According to Anne, who oversees her children’s schoolwork throughout the day, she video-schools her children. Three years ago she began ordering the videos and having her children work on the curriculum. The children begin their day at 8:30 a.m. with circle time.’ They sit around the table together, read the Bible and pray. They may spend some time working on a specific character trait, said Anne. For example, they may focus on gratitude. The children have booklets called Character Counts’ which focus on different traits all based on Biblical principles. The parents try to tie the traits into their daily lives. Around 9 a.m. each day, the videos start. The family has several televisions and VCRs, and the children split up and go into whichever room they will be watching their video in. While the older children are watching their video lessons, Anne works with the kindergartener, the twins and the youngest child in the school room,’ which holds desks for them. Later, the older children may do oral reading, and Anne is available to help her children one-on-one, when needed. The children then do their homework assignments. The children complete their school day at various times, depending on the grade level, but school is usually over for the day around 3 p.m. Unlike in a regular classroom, the Bergeron children can make up their studies on the weekend if they fall behind during the week. They have to have a total of 180 days of school, just as parish schools are required. “What’s unique about home-schooling is that you find what ways your children learn best,” Anne said. “You can tailor-fit the method to the child. They might excel in certain areas and need more work in others. You can put the child ahead in one subject, but spend more time if needed in another.” There are state requirements that must be met when parents choose to home-school their children. The state must be aware of the progress of the students. One aspect that is especially nice is the flexibility, Emile said. The family can plan a vacation during the normal school year, as long as that time is made up later. The Bergerons also attend a home-school conference at Bethany World Prayer Center each year in Baker, where they can look over “tons of curriculums,” said Anne. Graduates are also honored at the conference. Emile added, “We know what our kids are learning. We can tie everything together into their daily learning. I’m always looking for ways to tie in their lesson plans to real life.” Though Anne is currently using the video-lesson plan, she said that some people co-op,’ or trade off on teaching. For example, one mother may teach several kids math, while another teaches them English. The Bergeron family may adjust to that as the children get older. As the lessons get more difficult, Anne plans to learn along with the kids, she said, and added, “I’m learning a lot with them already.” The Bergeron children also participate in piano and art and other extra-curricular activities. They also visit nursing homes, bringing crafts and singing for the elderly. Anne and Emile encourage socialization, as well. “I look for opportunities to introduce them to other people. A parent has to look for that,” said Emile. “They can relate to people outside their peer groups, to a wide variety of ages.” According to the oldest Bergeron child, Bethany, the field trips give them a chance to be exposed to a lot of different people. “We hear a lot about the jobs people do. In 4-H, a policeman came and talked to us about car safety.” Anne and Emile have made home-schooling a long-term plan for their family, and they have seen the positive results of their decision in their children.