- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 29, 2009

Artist Tamra Davis has been home-schooling her sons in her Harrisburg, S.D., home for eight years. Together with her husband Timothy, a pastor, Tamra saw home-schooling her sons, Isaac, 11; Isaiah, 9; Gideon, 7; and Jotham, 3, as a way to teach faith as well as academics.

“I liked the idea of being the person to teach them how to read, figure out a math problem, discover God’s creation, and to guide them spiritually,” she said.

“On a daily basis, we study Old and New Testament scriptures and read the writings of the early church fathers,” Tamra explained in a recent interview.

The family’s strong spiritual orientation extends into an appreciation of the classical approach to education.

“Literature from the late 1800s and early 1900s has been a big hit with my three oldest boys. I believe these books build a good foundation to appreciate reading. They are also learning Latin, which is an excellent foundation for learning languages,” she said.

The education day follows a clear schedule.

“My boys are very hyperactive and work best when there is structure and consistency. They like to know what to expect next,” she explained.

Tamra is an accomplished artist, painting on natural media such as papyrus, granite, stone, wood and the conventional canvas. With a loving touch, she captures scenes of animals, people and landscapes, exhibiting in local eateries and in shows. Her sons often accompany her, and are, she confesses, better at marketing her works than she is.

“It’s hard for me to brag, but they are very free to talk about the paintings, and sometimes I come back to the table to find my son has sold a painting while I was in the restroom!”

Helping her sell her artwork has inspired her eldest, Isaac, with his goal of having his own business one day, probably in photography. Isaiah has developed a love of drawing and painting, currently designing robots that he someday intends to build.

“Gideon and Jotham both love to learn anything; everything seems to interest them,” Tamra said.

Her sons also came up with the name for her Web site, www.abrushofcharacter.com, because they feel their family’s focus is “all about character.” Tamra’s work has illustrated another home-schooling family’s publication, a children’s book by Susan Rosche titled “The Blue Ribbon Alpaca.”

“Home-schooling my four boys has given them the opportunity to be around their siblings throughout the day, so the older ones get to see the younger ones learning the same subject as they did at that age — and ask if they could teach that particular subject to their brother,” she says. The Davis family makes good use of the resources around them: the library, the community in which they live and the Internet.

“My desire is for my boys to develop the ability to learn on their own. A lot of knowledge and understanding comes from reading; I encourage not only fiction books but also nonfiction books during their reading time.”

Among the rewards for Tamra are unexpected events: “It is nice to get a hug from my 11-year-old in the middle of the day, thanking me for spending extra time on a subject he was struggling with. Or my 9-year-old telling me I am ‘the best mom in the world’ after I helped him with his grammar. Or my 7-year-old telling me he loves me after he read to me. Or even my 3-year-old who continually asks for ‘his turn at school.’ Like art, the genius of teaching our children is in the details.”

&8226; Kate Tsubata, a home-schooling mother of three, is a freelance writer who lives in Maryland.

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