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Once a month, the Waldorf Skating Center comes alive on a Friday during the school day. But the skaters aren’t students skipping classes to get in rink time. The kids zipping around are just taking a break from their studies, while their parents catch up with each other, knit or watch the activity from the sidelines.

“The stereotype is that home-schoolers don’t interact,” with other kids outside their family, said David Barnes, 15, of Brandywine.

“That they don’t get to hang out with their friends,” added his sister, Nia, 13.

So the Barnes siblings, along with sister, Joy, 12, began organizing monthly skating events at the roller rink, open to any home-schooling family that wants to stop by.

Another home-schooling mother first introduced the skating parties, and the Barnes siblings took over organizing them — Joy designs the fliers, Nia handles the e-vites (sending out invitations via email) and David coordinates with the skating center staff. The event attracts about 35 to 50 skaters from preschoolers to teenagers. Most of Danny Barnes and Tia Dupree Barnes’ eight children, who range in age from 5 to 24, show up (they have a son who is majoring in math at Hampton University).

Katherine Burch of Clinton, who teaches sewing to Nia and Joy in Weaver Birds, a Prince George’s County 4-H club, brings her five children to the skating days.

She likes the freedom that home-schooling allows her family, which includes Evelyn, 16; Daniel, 14; Susannah, 11; Andrew, 9; and Margaret, 7.

Families are more focused when they don’t have to schedule lives around a set-in-stone school schedule.

“Home-schoolers have more flexibility,” she said. “The challenge is to be at home.”

The Burches are kept busy with community theater, baseball, 4-H, speech and debate club, Boy Scouts and church activities. Burch does get in lessons, of course. She and her husband embraced home-schooling because it was the best fit for their family.

“I love teaching and didn’t want to outsource that wonderful job to anyone else,” she said. “You can tailor education for your children.”

The Barnes family figured out that home-schooling might be the best option for the family when their oldest son was being discouraged from writing in cursive when he was in first grade. Both parents value education and the arts; dad Danny is the “math, science” guy while mom Tia “has the language, humanities and the arts,” Danny Barnes explained.

And because they are a military family, they employ a regimented schedule: up at 7 a.m., chores, schoolwork and homework.

“Our goal is to prepare them for college,” Danny Barnes said.

Like their peers who catch the bus to classes, the Barnes siblings get time off during summer to attend camp and relax by the pool.

And one Friday a month, the focus is on fun. The rink vibrates with handpicked, family-friendly music and clusters of friends holding hands, laughing and catching up on what’s been going on since they’ve last met.

“It’s fun,” said Alyssa Hawkins, 13, of Dunkirk, who has been homeschooled for about three years. “It’s free time, seeing my friends.”



staylor@somdnews.com