IF YOU GO
What: Education Expo and Homeschool Curriculum Fair
When: 9 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Friday and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday
Where: Camp Jordan Arena in East Ridge
Cost: $4 family admission for THEA Members and $8 family admission for nonmembers
More information: Go to csthea.org.
More than 1,400 families are expected to squeeze into the Camp Jordan Arena this weekend to shop for school curriculum and get schooled in home schooling.
The 30th annual Education Expo and Homeschool Curriculum Fair, sponsored by the Chattanooga Southeast Tennessee Home Education Association, is one of the few gauges of the number of home-school families in the region.
Parents can home-school their children through the school system or through church schools. As a result, there is no official count of home-school children in the area, said Jan Bontekoe, a home-school mother of seven and organizer of the expo.
"We have seen an increased interest," Bontekoe said. "There are lots of young families coming in. I would guess that some of the young families who would have, in the past, explored private schools are now looking to home education."
Over the years, the expo's offerings have changed and expanded to catch up with demand, Bontekoe said.
This year, there will be more than 85 exhibitors offering traditional textbooks, online programs, co-operatives, tutoring, music lessons and extracurricular activities.
Local home-schoolers have sports teams for baseball, basketball, soccer, volleyball, tennis and cross country that compete with other schools. So parents also will be able to meet coaches for those teams and sign their children up, she said.
Sixty workshops will be available for seasoned and new home-school parents, she said. Twenty-five percent of attendees had elementary age children last year, and Bontekoe expects that number to increase this year.
And attendees aren't just religious and conservative.
"People come to the expo because they want to educate their children themselves. That doesn't have a religious, geographic or ethnic bound," she said.
Angie Ambrosetti, another home-school mother with seven children, said she had attended the expo for years. She has home-schooled her children for 14 years total.
This year she plans to be one of many experienced mothers there to offer support for other parents trying to get started.
She said she also expects to talk to some parents who are looking to supplement what their children are getting at school.
"It is a great opportunity for new families to plug in and get what they need," she said. "A lot of times people just need someone to walk alongside them and help."
Joan Garrett McClane has been a staff writer for the Times Free Press since August 2007. Before becoming a general assignment writer for the paper, she wrote about business, higher education and the court systems. She grew up the oldest of five sisters near Birmingham, Ala., and graduated with a master's and bachelor's degrees in journalism from the University of Alabama. Before landing her first full-time job as a reporter at the Times Free Press, ...