Ten home-schooled students and their families gathered on Friday afternoon to eat pizza and cake, entertain each other with music, and speak about their accomplishments and future hopes. The event celebrated their completion of the IDEA home school program.
IDEA — an acronym for Interior Distance Education of Alaska — began as a home schooling support program in the Galena School District in the late 1990’s and has since expanded statewide.
This year, IDEA graduated around 300 home-schooled students in Alaska and 60 in the Kenai Peninsula. The ten local students were a diverse group with career plans including accounting, paramedic practice, the National Guard, process technology, linguistics, and prosthesis design.
Graduate Deborah Glick said she was glad to have been home schooled, in part because of the openness it gave to her time.
“It can give you more freedom in your schedule when you’re doing other stuff,” Glick said. “You can work around it and bring it with you when you go places. You can work ahead easier, to get done sooner, finish two math books in a year or whatever.”
Many of the graduates thanked Jan Waldron, an IDEA employee who served as their contact with the program. In addition to charting the students’ academic progress, organizing clubs, helping families navigate the paperwork to receive state-allotted funding for their education, Waldron said one her responsibilities was helping students and their families to choose courses.
“Every child is unique, and so every child requires their own kind of learning,” Waldron said “…Through all the experiences of all the kids I’ve worked with, no two are alike.”
Waldron said each home school-enrolled high school student gets $2400 from the state education budget to spend on their curriculum.
“I help them fill out their learning plan, and the money follows the plan,” Waldron said. “If you have math on your learning plan, you can purchase math supplementary materials, and you’ll turn in work samples for that.”
Although Glick said she hadn’t had a particular goal for the course of study she and her mother developed together, the ability to customize her courses was another thing she valued about home-schooling.
She said this flexibility allowed her family to incorporate a non-IDEA Bible study course and to avoid material on evolution.
Other graduates said they had planned their courses with a career goal in mind.
Graduate Daniel Boatright plans to apply to Kenai Peninsula College’s process technology program.
“My mom had me do all the math up to calculus, and she had me do physic, too, and chemistry, because it would help prepare me for all of this,” Boatright said.
Although graduate Liam Floyd said he had studied design and engineering, his summer plans to work as an intern with Kenai-based sensor-research company Integrated Robotics Imaging Systems came about partly by accident.
“(IRIS owner John Parker) swung by the coffee shop my family owns (Ammo Can coffee) and had a talk with my dad,” Floyd said. “My dad gave me a call and said ‘guess who I just talked to?’ He told me about it and I went to talk with him.”
Floyd said he planned to talk further with Parker about the internship after returning from a missionary trip to Haiti. Longer term, Floyd plans to work in biomedical engineering and prosthetic design.
Floyd was one of two members of his family graduating from IDEA this year. His sister Lindsay Floyd intends to move to Anchorage to study for a double major in linguistics and fine arts.
“After that I’m thinking about possibly going back to Europe,” Lindsay Floyd said. I went there on a cultural exchange.
The linguistics course wants me to be fluent in three different languages, or at least have the basics. So I might be going back to Finland.”
Two graduates — Sarah Loehr and Krista Dunn — said they intend to remain Kenai Peninsula residents.
Loehr, who will work for the summer at a Kenai Peninsula Harley Davidson dealership, intends to become a paramedic, while Dunn, who has a summer job aboard a fishing boat, hopes for an associate’s degree in accounting.
Glick, undecided about her career, said she will spend the summer working at Trinity Greenhouse and taking an online calculus class.
Reach Ben Boettger at firstname.lastname@example.org.