The Two Wings Learning Center is a resource for homeschoolers and othersThree Astoria sisters graduated from University of Oregon this spring. Before they started college courses, all three - along with a younger brother - learned at home.

Now the sisters and their family are helping homeschooled and other students with a learning center.

The Two Wings Learning Center, near Clatsop County Fairgrounds, is open for young people to use as a resource center with computers and curriculum. The center also hosts workshops.

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Tracee Mock, a 12-year-old Hammond resident, cares for her horse, Rio. Horses have provided Mock, who is homeschooled, a variety of learning opportunities. "It's kind of a place where self-motivated learning takes place," said Julie Bowers Rummell, who along with her twin Aimee earned degrees in sociology this spring.

The twins were adopted by a family headed by their biological aunt. They consider cousins Katrina and Matthew Morrell their sister and brother. Katrina graduated this spring with a degree in psychology.

The women, all 21, started homeschooling in fifth grade. They are among an estimated 200 homeschooled students in Clatsop County.

Network of homesTonia Mock is the coordinator for the Gentle Rain Homeschool Group, which serves some 40 families throughout MORE INFO.To contact the Two Wings Learning Center call 325-0091 or go to the Web-site www.twowings.net

For more information about the Gentle Rain Homeschool Group, contact Tonia Mock call 861-7167 or e-mail (niamox@pacifier.com) Clatsop County and Pacific and Wahkiakum counties in Washington. Mock homeschools her three children in Hammond.

"We feel like individualized education is the way to go," Mock said.

"Individualized" school takes on a different look for the Mock family.

Mock, with her husband Rick, homeschool Blaze, 14, Tracee, 12 and Jaron, 9, according to "unschooling," a term originally coined by educator John Holt.

The children study their interests and learning is incorporated into daily living. For instance, Tracee's horse Rio provides several learning opportunities in an "unschool." Tracee uses math to budget for her horse's care. She reads fiction and non-fiction about horses. She is writing a story about three girls who tend horses. She studies horse history - the uses of horses in ancient cultures. She studies the anatomy of horses in 4-H lessons. And riding lessons keep her physically fit.

"It's more like living life," said Mock, who moved to Clatsop County in 1994. "There's no need for me to get out a curriculum."

She does have the children study more complicated math lessons occasionally.

For some families, "unschooling" is too unstructured. They will have a more typical school day with a schedule and assignments. Other families learn with a heavy focus on literature, nature or the learning environment as in the Montessori method.

LORI ASSA - The Daily Astorian

With net in hand, Ross Torrey, a 14-year-old Astorian, runs in hot pursuit of a locust to add to his collection to study. The Morrell family's learning was a bit more structured than "unschooling." They still incorporated daily living into their studies. For instance, a lesson on budgeting included a month of real conservation.

The parents calculated how much an hour of electricity costs and how much food costs. To save money, the children would do their work without lights for as long as possible. At the end of the month, the family went on vacation with their savings.

Testing for home learnersIn third, fifth, eighth and 10th grades, the children take nationally recognized tests to assess their learning. Mock's children take California aptitude tests and each time they pass above the required 15th percentile.

To participate in public school sports, students need to pass within the 23 percentile, said Sharon Meeuwsen, homeschool secretary for the Northwest Regional Education Service District.

About 3,000 students are actively homeschooling in Clatsop, Columbia, Washington and Tillamook counties. But two-thirds of that number are in Washington county, which has a much larger total population.

Meeuwsen counted 216 students in Clatsop County - 96 from Astoria, 13 from Knappa, 13 from Jewell, 56 from Seaside and 38 from Warrenton.

Each year the numbers increase. The numbers aren't always accurate because parents don't have to report they are homeschooling every year.

"There are some pretty big gaps where we don't know where students are at," Meeuwsen said.

Mock said she believes that's the way it should be. The Oregon Home Education Network, for which Mock is the contact in Clatsop County, advocated for legislation that would repeal all notification and testing requirements.

Someone's daughterParents have many reasons for homeschooling. Joanne Halvorson decided to homeschool her daughter Alexiya Lee, 10, after she floundered for three months in public school.

Alexiya, who is autistic, is following a computer program through Stanford University, where she is excelling in the 97th percentile.

"There are several disabled children who homeschool," Halvorson said. "But you know what they're not referred to that way. They're somebody's daughter, and they're somebody's son."

Halvorson, a single parent, hopes she can continue to support Alexiya. If the girl's self esteem continues to grow, she will be able to work in the future so long as the work is in small groups, Halvorson said.

Center of LearningThe Two Wings Learning Center provides curriculum and teaching units for families who need more structure and a place to study away from home. Learning tools - computers, overhead projectors, among other things - are available. The center also hosts workshops.

Essie Anderson, 14, attends public school, but often uses the center's computers for assignments.

"It's always sunny when we come up here," she said, as she worked on computer drawings of butterflies.

She was among a dozen students who gathered for a recent workshop on bugs. The students learned the anatomy of the critters, then gathered them in bug jars for closer study.

For the sisters, life after homeschooling continues to present opportunities. Julie has already started a graduate program for teaching. This fall, Aimee and Katrina will teach literacy at a trade school in India for rural women. Aimee hopes to become a lawyer for children in dependency cases. Katrina hopes to become a psychologist for children.

Their mother Carrie Bartoldus will run the center while her daughters pursue other activities this year.

The sisters, who are engaging and energetic, said people often are surprised to learn they were homeschooled.

"I still think there's a lot of stereotypes for homeschooling," Aimee said - referring to the "wild eyed homeschoolers who don't brush their hair."

Aimee, who styles her coiffure each morning, finds the myth laughable.

"That's kind of fun to challenge the stereotypes."

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