Home school students take their classrooms outside with the help of parks & recreation department

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Recent studies say approximately 300,000 kids across Texas are educated outside the walls of a traditional school building and many of those home-schooled students are in Mansfield.

But being a homeschool student doesn’t mean you have to stay at home. Many Mansfield parents are finding great success in taking the home out of home school, at least for a few hours a day, and moving their classroom to a nearby park or activity center. Mansfield Parks & Recreation offers classes designed specifically for these kids, bringing lessons to life and expanding little minds while also having a great time.

Mansfield mom Amber has been bringing her two children, eight year-old Sam and six year-old Kayla to the Homeschool Science classes  at Elmer W. Oliver Nature Park for eight weeks now, after learning about the program from other homeschooling friends. Each class, held twice a month at the park, includes a nature related lesson and a guided exploration with a trained Naturalist. Topics have ranged from animal behaviors and ecosystems to weather and chemical reactions.

“We love how hands-on all of the classes have been,” she said. “They really get to explore different subjects and really make the lesson come alive. The instructors are amazing, and incredibly patience with the kids, asking lots of questions and making sure they understand before moving on. I also love that they will break into smaller groups by age if there’s a big range, so that each child is getting the lesson exactly appropriate for their particular learning level.”

The hands on approach of the science classes at Oliver Nature Park are a hit with home school students and their parents.

The hands on approach of the science classes at Oliver Nature Park are a hit with home school students and their parents.

Lisa Dunn’s children Zane, eight, and Teagan, seven, have been attending science classes for a little over a year.

“We love the instructors. Love them,” Dunn said. “They’re so good with the kids, really educating them on the different topics so that we always leave excited and wanting to learn more. And I appreciate the handouts, take-home extension work or resources to continue the lessons at home and incorporate what they do in class to what we’re working on.”

That concept seems to be exactly what most parents appreciate; the classes are not a replacement for their already prepared lessons, but rather an extension and enhancement. The parks & recreation classes offer a further level of education that’s either different than what parents are able to replicate at home, or just simply more fun.

Steve Long, former Olympic and professional athlete, has a full gym each week for his Homeschool PE classes at the Mansfield Activities Center. The hour-long program covers general physical fitness and team sports basics. It’s a great time for kids to socialize and burn energy.

Home school students looking to release a little energy get active with a PE class at the MAC.

Home school students looking to release a little energy get active with a PE class at the MAC.

“I’ve been teaching kids for years, but usually in more specialized athletics,” Long said. “These classes are great because it’s not about fine tuning one skill, but just getting moving and having fun. Of course, we work a lot of information into those games, and they end up learning a lot of really great life-long fitness skills. But that’s the fun part for me – making what could be a chore into the highlight of their day.”

This fall, the MAC begin offering art classes to give home schoolers a new creative outlet and another way to enrich their daily studies.

Parks & Recreation officials say an out of the box approach to education, whether for calisthenics or chemistry, is often what most parents who choose home school are looking for, and Mansfield residents are getting some much needed assistance thanks to an attentive and enthusiastic parks and recreation department.

For more information about these classes, contact the Mansfield Activities Center at (817) 728-3680 or go online to view and register for programs immediately.

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