A natural approach to homeschooling

Riveredge program sees fall enrollment boost amid ongoing pandemic concerns

A VOLUNTEER AT RIVEREDGE Nature Center helped children learn about Milwaukee River wildlife during a session for homeschooled students. A sharp rise in enrollment in the program has created a greater need for volunteers for the program, officials said.

THOMAS AND KATHRYN GREIDER (left photo) moved to the Town of Saukville from Illinois this summer to be close to the Riveredge Nature Center so their daughter Isabella, who they homeschool, would be closer to the center’s Homeschool Ed-Ventures Program. Photo by Sam Arendt

The program has grown to about 240 children, drawing students from eight counties.
By 
DAN BENSON
Ozaukee Press Staff

With so much uncertainty regarding the new school year, Riveredge Nature Center’s program for homeschoolers has seen a drastic increase in enrollment, going from about 200 students last year to about 240 this fall.

One of those students is Isabella Greider  who moved with her parents to the Town of Saukville from Illinois this summer to be near the center in Fredonia so Isabella, who is homeschooled, could attend the program.

“We’d heard fabulous things about the nature center,” her mother Kathryn Greider said. “I truly believe Riveredge is going to be key in helping Isabella reach her goals.”

Isabella, 11, is the youngest of Thomas and Kathryn Greiders’ four children and is dyslexic. She is in sixth grade and attended public school in Illinois.

“They did their darnedest,” Kathryn Greider said, but Isabella is still one year behind her peers. So the family decided to homeschool Isabella with the help of Riveredge, she said. 

“They really worked with us and listened and talked with us. We feel Isabella has so much potential. We’re not sure what that’s going to look like but we’re sure going to try.”

The Riveredge Homeschool Ed-Ventures Program, which starts Sept. 11,  “is designed to help families add science, environmental education and inquiry-based outdoor exploration to their home curriculum,” according to the nature center. 

Sessions have been held every other Monday and Friday at the center. Wednesday sessions have been added for this year because of the increase in enrollment.

Students from 4k through high school learn about science and environment while exploring the woods, prairies and the Milwaukee River.

Groups are broken up by age, with class sizes typically 12 to 15 children.

Between visits, students are given homework that ranges from reading assignments to outdoor projects or experiments.

“We encourage them to get outside and give them guided activities,” Riveredge Inquiry-Based Curriculum and Instruction Manager Kacey Tait said.

The program is separate from the Center’s 4k program, which is a partnership with the West Bend School District, and the Riveredge Outdoor Learning Elementary School, which is a charter of the Northern Ozaukee School District.

Not all students in the program are homeschooled, Tait said.

“We’re getting a lot more kids who have not been homeschooled before,” she said. “We’re getting some students who have off days from their public schools. The majority, about 85%, are purely homeschooled.”

Since the homeschool program began 10 years ago, it has seen “amazing” growth, especially this year, Tait said.

“We’ve had a huge surge in the homeschool program,” she said. “We are far exceeding our capacity to cope with the demand and have created a waiting list. We’re just doing our best to accommodate everyone.”

While the Greiders live nearby, other students come from eight counties and drive 45 to 60 minutes to attend sessions, Tait said.

The growth of the program has created the need for more volunteers to help the center’s staff guide students outdoors, supervise them for short periods and help with activities and crafts. 

Volunteers must be able to hike one mile on unpaved terrain. Each shift is from 8:45 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. 

A background check is required.

The Greider family is hopeful that homeschooling, with an assist from the Riveredge program, will help their daughter.

“Their curriculum is well developed. We value outdoor learning programs and we feel they do that to a T. We love that the kids are outside and they are hands on,” Kathryn Greider said. 

For more information on the Riveredge Homeschool Ed-Ventures Program or being a volunteer, contact Tait at ktait@riveredge.us, call 375-2715, extension 138 or go to www.riveredgenaturecenter.org.

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Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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