By James Heffernan - email@example.com
Growing up with three brothers and three sisters in a military family, Israel Groves couldn't always command the attention of his parents.
What he did get from them, however, was a solid education.
Like his siblings, Groves was homeschooled from the time he entered kindergarten.
"My parents ... they weren't comfortable with putting us in public school," Groves said, in part because the family moved around so much -- 10 times, in fact, by the time he finished high school. As the third child of a career Air Force officer, Groves was born in Texas and lived in Arizona, Michigan, Ohio, Colorado, Utah and Alabama before settling in Virginia in 2005. The family resided in Manassas for about a year while their current home was being built in Warren County.
"This is the longest I've ever lived in one place in my life," he said.
Being educated entirely at home, mostly by his mother, Linda, instilled in him a sense of self-discipline and good study habits, Groves said.
"It was your own responsibility to get your work done," he said. "Mom couldn't focus on any one kid, so each of us had to motivate ourselves."
The experience prepared him well for life after high school. Groves, 21, is currently finishing up his associate's degree at Lord Fairfax Community College.
"I feel now that I'm in college, it's prepared me better than a lot of my classmates," he said.
After graduating from LFCC, he plans to take a year off to work and pay off student loans, then transfer to Virginia Tech to study engineering.
Groves' older sister, Anna, 25, an assistant in the children's department at Samuels Public Library in Front Royal, also rates her educational experience highly.
"One of the beauties of homeschool is that you don't have a typical day," she said. "As I got older, I was free to do my work at any time as long as I got it done. If there was a day that I wanted to do a special activity, I could work ahead. It was pretty flexible. I loved it. I plan to do the same with my own kids one day."
As homeschool graduates, Israel and Anna Groves will lend a unique perspective to the second annual Homeschool Showcase on Saturday at Bowman Library in Stephens City.
The event is an open house featuring guest speakers, vendors and students who will share their experiences and accomplishments.
This year's theme is "Imagination: Tapping into Your Students' Creativity."
All this week, students' work will be on display at Bowman Library during regular hours, leading up to the showcase on Saturday from 1 to 4 p.m.
In addition to allowing families to connect with local resources to enrich their own homeschool programs, the showcase will offer parents who are considering the homeschool option the opportunity to network with other families, according to Donna Hughes, head of youth services for the Handley Regional Library system, which includes Bowman Library, Handley Library in Winchester and Clarke County Library in Berryville.
Hughes said interest in homeschooling coincided with talk last year about doubling up class sizes in public schools and raising tuition rates in private institutions. She turned to Anna Groves, who also works as a youth services aide for the Handley library system, about putting together a special event.
"We had [homeschool] student displays [at the library] back in the '90s, and I had been wanting to do something again," Hughes said. "What Anna brought to it was her own experience and a host of resources."
"These days, there's so much out there on homeschooling, with the Internet, catalogs, magazines, books ... it can be overwhelming," Anna Groves said. "I wanted to make it easier for people to get started and to find out what is available here and now."
From that seed, the showcase has blossomed into a clearing house of information for homeschool families and advocates, including resources like the Home Educators Association of Virginia, Home School Legal Defense Association and LFCC.
The showcase featured 28 vendors last year; this year, there are 34 confirmed participants, including the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley, Girl Scouts, United States Civil Air Patrol, Shenandoah Valley Discovery Museum, Sportsplex, local martial arts academies, and parks and recreation departments.
"This type of event is the sort of thing that public libraries should be doing in this modern era -- connecting their community with information and resources that are relative to them locally," Anna Groves said.
For more information on the Homeschool Showcase, call Donna Hughes at 869-9000, ext. 215.