Like other students, Olivia, Madison, and Wesley Dicks of Marion are getting ready to return to their studies.
Unlike many of those students, they only have to go to their family room, where their mother, Robin Dicks, home-schools them.
They have a designated schoolroom with a pair of desks, bookshelves, and educational posters, including a timeline of American history.
Most of their studies happen elsewhere, though. On any given day, Olivia might be lying on her bed, working on a laptop, while Wesley practices math at the kitchen table, and Madison reads in a tree in the back yard.
John and Robin Dicks are entering their 10th year home-schooling their children. Olivia, now a senior, went to public school through second grade. Madison, a freshman, and Wesley, a sixth grader, have always been home-schooled.
The decision to home-school their children was a difficult one, but as they learned more about home schooling they were convinced it was right for them.
“I feel like that’s what God was calling us to do for our family,” Robin said.
Home-schooling helps the family remain close, John said. He works late shifts and would not get to see his children much if they were in public school.
At first, Robin taught exclusively from a curriculum she purchased. Now she thinks she made it too much like just having school at home.
Home-schooling has some advantages over traditional school, Robin said. It allows her children to learn at their own pace.
“If I know that Wesley is advanced in math, he doesn’t have to take sixth-grade math,” she said. “He can take seventh-grade math.”
They have fought the perception that families who home school are not socialized. Robin said she even had to clear that perception among her relatives when they began home-schooling.
“It’s not like we’re secluded in the house,” she said.
At first, Olivia was worried she would lose her friends from school.
“I was kind of sad,” she said.
She still has friends at public school but said the connection isn’t as strong as it once was. She also made friends with other home-schooled students.
The Dicks family is one of about 30 in Marion County Home Education, an organization that supports families that home-school. Robin Dicks is the current president and estimates about 90 students benefit from the program.
The organization provides many opportunities that would be difficult for individual families to provide. Families can participate in daily Spanish classes, weekly physical education, and monthly field trips. Not all families that home school are members of Marion County Home Education.
Olivia said home-schooling reduces opportunities to participate in sports, but there are home-school teams in Newton and Wichita that compete against high schools.
Olivia, Madison, and Wesley have participated in summer softball and baseball. There also are home-school proms in McPherson and Wichita, which Olivia plans to attend.
The Dicks family takes a summer break from whenever they finish their schoolwork — in May or June — until the day after Labor Day.
Robin instructs Madison and Wesley, assigning them projects. Olivia mostly studies independently.
The most common question they are asked, Robin said, is what makes them qualified to teach geometry, for example.
“I don’t have to know how to do all of that,” she said.
Books, Marion County Home Education, and online resources reduce the need for parents to master the material. She learns a lot alongside her children.
“It has been hard at times, but it is right for us,” she said.
Home-schooling is not an obstacle to Olivia’s plans to attend college. She has taken some classes from Butler Community College. She plans to earn college credit through several tests.
Kansas Board of Regents, which governs public colleges in Kansas, accepts home-schooled students with a score of 21 or better on the ACT college admissions test.
Olivia has thought about her parents’ decision to home-school her, and she feels they made the right decision.