The Spring Hill Area Parent Educators will hold their fourth annual Back to School carnival from 10 a.m. to 12 noon Monday at Evans Park.
Carnival games, prizes and music will highlight Monday’s Back to School Carnival for home-schoolers, hosted by the Spring Hill Area Parent Educators at Evans Park.
This will be the fourth year for the event, which will also offer an opportunity to sign up for membership with the organization along with field trips throughout the 2014-15 school year. Tchoupitoulas Street Snoballs will bring their snoball truck to the park as well.
Shelley Stedman, SHAPE coordinator, has been involved with the group in some capacity since its formation in 2004. Stedman is beginning her first year as full-time coordinator after helping the former coordinator, Terry Campbell, transition away from the job. Campbell now serves as administrator of Heritage Homeschool Group, a weekly tutorial that meets at Thompson’s Station Church.
The Stedmans came to Spring Hill in 2002 as the city was in the midst of a big population boom that continues today. They quickly became a part of the flourishing home-schooler community in the area.
“There’s a demographic here of very young families,” Stedman sad. “I think the environment encourages people to try homeschooling who might not do so in other settings. In a town with so many young families who are already doing it and succeeding, people feel like they won’t be the only ones in town. We have a huge community of supportive people. The availability of the homeschooling co-ops, tutorials and supplemental programs makes the prospect less scary.”
Stedman herself was not home-schooled, and has found that few of the homeschooling parents she has met through the group were either.
“But every once in a while, we will see glimpses of that second generation of parents who were home-schooled and are now choosing to home-school their own kids,” Stedman said. “There is a great community of home-schoolers here that keeps on growing.”
The reasons for deciding to home-school vary widely from family to family, but Stedman says that most homeschooling families have some things in common.
“I think all home-schooler [parents] generally want to have control over their own kids’ education,” Stedman said. “They wish to have a say in what they’re learning and to be as much of a presence in their child’s life as possible.”
Those interested in learning about the variety of resources available through the SHAPE group will have the chance to discuss homeschooling with the many active families who will be in attendance at Monday’s carnival. Along with the end-of-year Field Day, the carnival bookends the school year and serves to raise much-needed funds for activities throughout the year.
“The most important purpose of our carnival is to bring SHAPE families together and show all of them how large the community is,” Stedman said.
Annual membership costs $10 and can be purchased at the carnival. The encouragement that SHAPE families get from visiting as the year starts keeps them going through the fall and winter, when several other big events take place for SHAPE members.
“Between Monday’s carnival and the field day next spring, we will have at least three fun events happening for SHAPE families,” Stedman said. “First comes our history fair at the Winchester Building in October, when children are invited to share a project about any historical topic of their choice.
“We will also have our Christmas event in December, when families will get together to decorate Christmas cookies. We give them away to the Spring Hill fire department, police department, city hall, and other groups in service to the city while singing them Christmas carols.”
The SHAPE organizers also plan to host a ‘We Love Books’ event at the library where the children can present projects about their favorite books and authors.
In addition to the fairs and Christmas activities, SHAPE plans several annual field trips for members throughout the school year. Even without buying a SHAPE membership and attending events, area home-schoolers can keep up with what’s happening by joining the active SHAPE Facebook group.
“I have been blown away by how rapidly our Facebook group has been growing,” Stedman said. “We get a handful of requests every week, and are nearing 450 families. But that’s still only a fraction of the total number who are homeschooling in the Spring Hill area.”
Families attending Monday’s carnival should bring a picnic lunch and plan to stay afterwards to eat with new and old friends. Carnival games will include Tic-Tac-Toe, bowling, safari toss, octopus ring toss, chalk design, baseball toss, egg spoon game, disk drop, face painting, jumbo ring toss, bubble station, lollipop tree, duck pond, ring-toss, horse shoe toss, safari bowling, football toss, knock down cans, and rowdy races (sack races).
All Spring Hill area homeschooling families are welcome to the event on Monday, Aug. 25 from 10 a.m to noon at Evans Park. Admission is $5 per family.
Staff writer Greg Jinkerson covers Spring Hill for BrentWord Communications. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @JinkersonGreg.