- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 12, 2004

A friend who home-schools in Virginia recently told me about some of the exciting ways families in her area are networking for a more enriching learning experience.

One example is the Young People’s Theatre, a 10-year-old project in which professional dramatists Kathleen Richman Hiserodt and Jean Forbes produce musicals and plays using home-schooled student actors.

The group has been performing two shows a year (in a mix of genres) and has run summer camps and performed in arts festivals. It also has collaborated with the Mount Vernon Orchestra in a production of Sergei Prokofiev’s “Peter and the Wolf.”

The group’s current (and 22nd) production is the family classic “The Wizard of Oz,” with performances set for 1 p.m. Saturday and Sunday and 1 p.m. Oct. 23 and 24 at the Lazy Susan Dinner Theatre on U.S. Route 1 in Woodbridge, Va. Doors open at noon all four days.

About 30 home-schoolers, ages 5 though 18, are performing the roles in the magical tale of four characters searching for a heart, a brain, courage and home. Playing the role of Toto is a live dog, Jordan, a Jack Russell terrier who has performed on the Animal Planet channel and “Late Night With David Letterman.”

Owned by Deanne Davenport and Tom Beauchamp, Jordan is a registered therapy dog and reading education assistance dog, so even Toto can be considered a home-schooler.

Tickets are $12, which covers both lunch and the show, and group rates (especially for home-schoolers) are available. For reservations or information, call 703/717-0170 or e-mail Ticketstoo@yahoo.com. If you are interested in participating in future productions, visit www.yptnva.com.

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Virginia home-schoolers are making the best use of technology and the state’s “can do” spirit. Home-schooling families share useful information in a twice-monthly bulletin through Sharenet, a cooperative electronic news and listing service.

Contributors announce various educational opportunities to one another, which may consist of courses, field trips, tutors or curricula available.

Subscribers receive e-mails organized by type of activity: field trips, sports, fine arts, clubs, conventions, resources, etc. Each listing contains the description, time, dates, costs and contact information for each event.

Refreshingly wide in scope, the listings cover virtually every subject area and appeal to all age levels. Shakespeare or golf, robotics or Latin, the offerings are eclectic enough to interest nearly any family.

Sharenet even includes volunteer opportunities such as harvesting crops for food banks and helping the public library. Social outings also are listed.

Finally, the bulletin-board service allows families to buy, sell or exchange books, software or other learning resources. This is a great way to cut costs and circulate useful items that your family may no longer need.

If you are a Virginia home-schooling family, you may request the newsletter by contacting sharenet@att.net. Congratulations to the visionary parents and children who put this together.

It’s inspiring to see the home-schooling movement develop in so many creative ways, building skills and confidence through innovative projects such as these.

Unfettered by the schedules and school walls, families are finding ways to combine learning with living. This illustrates the precept that humans thrive best through freedom and opportunity — in education just as in the areas of governance and economy.

Kate Tsubata, a home-schooling mother of three, is a freelancewriter living in Maryland.

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