LaGrange Park family relishes home schooling opportunities
Julien (left) and Liam Mathie talk with a Doings reporter about their experiences being home schooled at their home in LaGrange Park. | Curtis Lehmkuhl~Sun-Times Media
Updated: November 12, 2012 1:31AM
LAGRANGE PARK —A hundred snakes in the basement for a genetics study is among the highlights of home schooling for Julien and Liam Mathie of LaGrange Park.
“When we first got the corn snakes, we knew what was in them, so we crossed them and ran the Punnett squares,” said Julien, 14.
He referred to a diagram used to predict the outcome of crossing traits for a breeding experiment.
The basement snake lab included a side project to breed rodents for the snakes, which were prolific. Twenty pairs of breeders produced 80 hatchlings over three years, and some were eventually sold.
“Only one escaped out of the 120 we had, and it didn’t get upstairs,” Liam, 12, said.
Liam, who has been educated by his parents, Jane and Bryan, for five years, said he enjoys the freedom.
“I could do a lot of things I wanted to and not stick to a certain rigid schedule,” he said. “It’s kind of like my mom guides us. It’s very much empowering.”
Jane Mathie said she decided to pull her sons from Forest Road School in LaGrange Park five years ago when Liam wasn’t getting the attention he needed for dyslexia and dysgraphia, difficulties in reading and writing.
Project-based learning affords a multidisciplinary approach. For a trip to Springfield, the family researched auto emission standards and met with lawmakers on the issue. They also studied the life and politics of Abraham Lincoln for visits to historic sites.
The family has biked across Illinois and holds memberships at most Chicago area museums. The boys are active in Boy Scout Troop 14 at the First United Methodist Church of La Grange, and Liam plays guitar in a blues trio.
A successful home schooling experience hinges on setting standards, spelling out expectations and making children accountable, Jane Mathie said.
Most importantly, “you have to like your children and enjoy spending time with them,” she said. “They’ll lead you. Trust yourself, and trust your chid.”
But Jane Mathie didn’t shy away from making a change when Julien wasn’t completing some assignments two years ago. She made arrangements for him to attend Park Junior High School in LaGrange Park as an eighth-grader to increase his accountability.
Julien said he was often the focus of attention at Park, which posed some challenges, but he and others adjusted, and he’s doing well as a freshman at Lyons Township High School. He has applied to attend the Illinois Math and Science Academy in Aurora next year.
Jane Mathie said she hasn’t followed a set curriculum, but is confident her sons are receiving a good education. Julien has tested well on such standardized tests as EXPLORE for eighth-graders and the SAT to gauge college readiness, she said.