Just like school, but at home

Public school students aren’t the only ones headed back to the classroom this month-area homeschoolers are also prepping for the 2013-2014 school year.

“I can’t say I’m really looking forward to it, but after a few days I’ll probably get back into the routine,” said 16-year-old Connor O’Callaghan who starts his 11th grade studies today at his home near Lowell.

He’ll be sharing a full-sized classroom in the nicely-finished upper story of his family’s barn with sister Molly, 13, and their 15-year-old brother, Andrew-all taught by mom, Tammy O’Callaghan, with support from their father, Dennis.

“Like public schools we take the summers off, which gives me time to plan, re-focus, and to work in our garden. The children have summer jobs and help around the house,” she said. “But we start back to school Monday.”

The O’Callaghans do some back-to-school shopping for notebooks and supplies, but Tammy said after 18 years of homeschooling, she’s stocked most of what they need in their homeschool classroom.

“We have a lot already-so this year we mostly bought pencils and some copier paper,” she said. “We just buy what they need when they need it, so they may not be quite as excited about back-to-school shopping as their public school counterparts.”

Tammy also homeschooled two older daughters, Sydney, 22, now attending West Virginia University, and Carly, 18, who’s three credits from completing requirements for her freshman year in college through online distance learning.

“Our classroom is a little more formal than most homeschool classrooms, but it’s a real blessing,” she said of the space Dennis had designed into the large building directly behind their home.

Tammy said having a classroom area separate from their living area in the house helps her and the children to better focus on studies without other distractions.

The room has everything from shelves of books and encyclopedias to computers, desks, and even sports a smart board.

The O’Callaghan children stick to a daily school schedule, too.

“We have a set time for them to get up and shower and do any chores, then they go into the classroom,” Tammy said.

A few miles north of the O’Callaghans, Tiffany Duskey of Beverly will begin her first year as a homeschool mom on Tuesday. She and husband Adam have two children, Faith, 5, and Wade, 3.

Faith starts homeschooling this year, and Tiffany plans to have Wade follow suit in a year or two.

“It’s been a long process for us to begin homeschooling,” Tiffany said. “We’ve been considering it for a year now, but started planning in earnest this spring.”

During the summer she and Adam turned their dining room into a homeschool classroom with a computer area, a reading corner, and plenty of books. The couple also chose to follow an “e-school” program through the Ohio Connections Academy that provides curriculum for homeschoolers.

“They shipped her books, and we knew the day they were coming, so Faith and Wade sat outside, waiting on the UPS truck to come by,” Tiffany said. “We let her open the box and go through the books and other supplies-she was pretty excited. And we’ve also been setting up her computer. She has her own e-mail account.”

Tiffany also took Faith shopping for other school supplies she’ll need for her homeschool kindergarten.

Like the O’Callaghans, the Duskeys plan to basically follow the public school year so Faith will have summer vacation time to share with her friends.

During the school year Tiffany said Faith will be on a regular daily schedule of classes, and there will also be time for a once-a-week visit to the library as well as play time.

“We have a nice backyard where she can get outdoors for a while every day,” she said. “And Faith is a real social butterfly. She has plenty of friends and they love to have sleepovers at each other’s homes. So she’ll be spending time with them, too.”

Tiffany said homeschooling her children seems a little daunting right now.

“I am kind of nervous, but I’m also excited about being involved in their education,” she said.