Hamaker: I wanted better schooling, a better education

Hamaker Family Photo

Former schoolteacher says homeschool is the “better” option

When most people think of homeschool families, certain preconceptions tend to creep in. Anti-social and fashion-challenged. Huge families whose whole world exists inside four walls. In this occasional series for The Brandon Beacon, Jordan Ryan busts that myth by taking you inside the lives of real homeschool families.

            Gary and Vicki Hamaker began homeschooling their son, Matthias, when he entered 1st grade. Vicki had been a public school teacher for seven years prior to that, and decided she did not want that kind of education for her own child.

            “I saw exactly what kind of kids it produced, I saw the lack of preparation. After working in the school system, it never entered my mind to not homeschool. I wanted better schooling, a better education, and definitely better socialization.”

            Homeschool kids are more socialized than public school kids? That’s not something you hear too often.

            “Every time I hear that homeschoolers do not get as much socialization as public schoolers I have to laugh. Between field trips, park days, co-ops, classes…In my view, homeschoolers are much more ‘well socialized’ than public schoolers.”

            Hamaker said public school creates an “artificial environment,” inauthentic social scenarios. “Where else in your entire life are you gonna hang out with people who are exactly the same age as you?”

            The public educator turned home educator said homeschooling puts kids in a more natural environment with a wider range of ages. “This has more real world applications, and the average homeschooler is exposed to a much wider range than the average public schooler.”

            Matthias agreed with mom. About the “less socialized” stigma, he said, “I think that is kind of a ridiculous question. I know a lot of public schoolers who are anti-social, and I know a lot of homeschoolers who are quite social. I really don’t see the correlation between homeschooling and lack of socialization.”

Vicki Hamaker said homeschooling is about teaching a lifelong love of learning.

Vicki Hamaker said homeschooling is about teaching a lifelong love of learning.

Vicki started Matthias out with the classical classroom approach, a homeschool education method that follows a curriculum and schedule similar to the kind found in public and private schools. After several years, she began experimenting with different methods, eventually blending both traditional and non-traditional learning approaches.

            As Matthias entered high school, the Hamakers began using outside classes for the bulk of Matthias’ education. “When I got into high school, I took almost all of my classes (outside the home) taught by a teacher, or another homeschool mom,” Matthias said.

            The Hamaker’s current education schedule runs week-to-week, and each day of the week holds a different learning method and topic.

             Field trips over the years have taken them to many locations around Florida, such as the Museum Of Science and Industry (MOSI) and Crystal Springs for Matthias’ science education. The Hamakers also place an emphasis on physical education. “We made sure that we got outside and did something almost every day.”

            One of the more interesting aspects of the Hamaker’s homeschool situation, is that Matthias is an only child. Vicki admitted this presented some unique challenges many homeschool families do not face.

            “Because he didn’t have built in playmates, I really had to find him people to hang out with. I had to be proactive to make sure he didn’t just sit in his room all day, every day. It’s tougher in that sense.”

            But there were some advantages too. “I never had to worry about, ‘How am I gonna keep the preschoolers occupied?’ while trying to teach the times tables to the older ones. I was able to focus much more in on his personality, on his strengths and his weaknesses, than somebody who has lots of kids.”

            “There are some challenges, but in a lot of ways it’s really nice, because I can focus just on him.”

            Matthias also shared some of his extracurricular pursuits. “I play bass guitar in what used to be Arts For Students, and now solo, and even in F.I.S.H, which stands for “Families Instructing Students at Home”, I was a part of that band. I am now in another band that just plays for random events. Apart from playing bass, I also play a lot of video games. I love reading and especially [love] listening to music. I could listen to music all day.”

            Plays bass in a band. Likes video games. Loves listening to music. Yep, Matthias is obviously a totally abnormal and emotionally scarred kid.

            As Matthias goes into his senior year of high school, Vicki Hamaker can look back on what she learned through the years. She has a bit of advice for new homeschool families.

            “Don’t try to do it on your own. Plug yourself into a homeschool group. Join the Florida Parent Educator’s Association (FPEA) and go to convention! Not only is there just a wealth of information, but you get so much help. There’s just so much to look at and to see, classes to take, and advice to get from the people who have been doing it for a long time.

            “And don’t stress about it. We homeschool because we don’t want stress. We want [our students] to be lifelong learners. We want them to enjoy learning.”

            Matthias’ has some advice of his own for new homeschoolers. “Don’t overreact if you’re being dragged out of something…or into something. Just give it a chance, and make sure you turn in your work on time.”

            “If you can keep up with all that, it can be a very good experience for you.”



Jordan Ryan

 Reporter, Jordan Ryan, writes media reviews and news stories for The Brandon Beacon.


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