Education Beyond Traditional Schooling

By Amanda Fischer | Photos By Doug Julian
Home schooling in the Great Lakes Bay Region
A good education doesn’t just come from sitting in a classroom from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday. In fact, two teachers from Bay City have turned to home schooling to educate their children.
Amy and Brad Trogan have four kids, 13-year-old eighth grader Isabella, 10-year-old fifth grader Asher, 8-year-old second grader Lincoln and 3-year-old Juniper, three of whom are home-schooled. The Trogans started home schooling shortly after their oldest daughter began school.
“Our choice had nothing to do with the school,” said Amy, who is a part-time parent liaison for the Bay Arenac Intermediate School District. “She (Isabella) was having a great experience. The teacher was wonderful.”
The couple’s decision to home-school came from their desire to spend more time with family.
“My daughter was just in first grade and our life was already crazy busy,” Amy said. “She would come home at night, and I would have to go to work. There wasn’t a lot of family time.”
Amy had friends who home-schooled, but she wasn’t sure whether that was the right choice for her family.
“It took us a year to research. I was at the library one day and came across a home schooling magazine, and what I started reading tugged at my heart. It was kind of like, ‘Oh, yeah, this is how I want my life to look,’” she said.
Despite having children in different grades, the family can get an entire day of lessons done in three to five hours, freeing up a lot of time each day. Additionally, the family stretches the curriculum longer than the course of a traditional school year to give them more time to study, incorporate extra activities and spend time doing fun things as a family.
The activities are important to the Trogans because they take a community-based approach to home schooling, which is where they use expertise within the region to supplement and learn the curriculum. That involves taking field trips to places like the Delta Planetarium, Chippewa Nature Center, Midland Center for the Arts, the Dow Museum and more.
Amy said the community also is beneficial when they run into subjects that are difficult to teach. The family will use resources like co-ops to attend classes or go to special programs in the area. Some families will reach out to other parents in the home-school community that are subject experts to help teach their kids certain subjects.
“The cool thing about home schooling is there is a ton of flexibility and freedom, so for every family it’s going to look different,” Amy said.
The Trogans see all different approaches to home schooling in their Bay City Homeschoolers Facebook group. The group has around 250 families in it and is a great resource for gaining support, ideas, group learning and socialization for their kids.
“The kids are with other kids it seems like all of the time,” Amy said.
Through the group, parents and children will plan “meetups,” where the kids do everything from hanging out at the City Market and taking swim lessons to going to the library or park.
“Some of it happens very naturally with places or activities you sign up for, but you do have to be intentional to meet up with people or find local home-schoolers,” Amy said.
Another way home-school kids can meet other kids and round out their education is through extracurricular activities. Amy said home schooling gives kids more time for more sports and hobbies.
The Great Lakes Bay Region has an abundance of activities for kids outside of the school setting. Amy’s children can participate in soccer, baseball, basketball, archery, 4H, lacrosse and much more through the community and home-school sports leagues. Additionally, Amy said home-school students can participate in public school athletics if the school district allows it.
Amy stressed that home-school students have the same opportunities to have a good, well-rounded education as any student in public school. Home-school children can take the SAT, do college prep, get a high school diploma and attend a college or university.
“We have high expectations and high standards, but we want to raise very individual and autonomous kids that know what they love to do, know their strengths and weaknesses, and can fail freely without a grade attached,” Amy said.
“This is very possible. You don’t have to be in a traditional school to get a really good education,” she added.
Amy said parents or guardians who are interested in home schooling should spend time researching it and learning what is right for their family based on the family’s goals. She also suggested reaching out to local home-school families to ask them questions, see what they do and find out if it’s a viable option for that family.