Bradenton home-schoolers receive their high school diplomas
Karen Ward graduated from a class of 1,200 students.
"I haven't seen any of them in 25 years," she said on Friday evening, speaking to a graduating class of three home-school students at River Life Church, in Bradenton.
The annual ceremony is held by Support Homeschool Activities Reaching Everyone, in conjunction with Horizon Educational Systems.
Ward emphasized the close relationships that can form among home-schoolers. She remembers teaching her own children, who used chalk and a driveway to learn cursive.
She encouraged Friday's graduates to lean on their education, family and faith in God after graduation.
"When you have a little bit of time, while you're preparing for your next exciting day, remember to thank your parents," she said. "We gave everything to you, and you in turn gave us our lives."
Emily Butler, Llyric Salter and Joshua Mengwasser comprised Friday's graduating class, a drop from last year's class of 16 graduates. For the 11th year, retired Judge Paul Logan awarded the diplomas.
Mengwasser read from an essay, outlining how home schooling bettered his life. He said it taught him diligence, independence and responsibility.
It can be exciting for parents and students, who both grow and learn while striving toward graduation, he said.
"In private or public school, usually your teachers aren't related to you," Mengwasser said. "So, if you don't do well on a test, they'll help you if they can, but they aren't as invested as your parents, who always have your future and well-being in mind."
Debbie Dykes, the program coordinator, said her family began home-schooling with a pile of textbooks in 1989. Unit studies, online resources, apprenticeships, Bible studies and vocational courses have since made their way into parents' tool kits.
While learning from the couch or the kitchen table is convenient, she said, home schooling goes beyond one's literal home.
"We have studied inside of a Wendy's, at the park and even at the beach," she said.