For Robin (Sharpless ’85) Larson, education isn't something to survive; it’s something to experience.
This Geneva alumna fondly remembers life as a student in a close-knit community of English majors at the college, where learning about literature meant becoming a part of it. She remembers masquerading as one of Chaucer’s pilgrims, celebrating Shakespeare’s birthday by remodeling the English department with posters, poems and balloons, and even sitting down to a Tolkien-esque “hobbit dinner.”
But Geneva did more than foster Robin’s love of literature and give her a teaching degree; it gave her the foundation for educating her own children, all six of whom she has taught at home.
Robin, a Washington D.C. native, first heard mention of Geneva College through friends. After graduating from high school, she set out for Beaver Falls on a leap of faith. Little did she know that one course she would take there would change the path of her life.
That course was the Humanities. Still an integral part of Geneva’s curriculum today, the four-semester program explores the vast expanse of history, the arts, sciences and philosophy through the lens of a Christian worldview. Both Robin and her husband, Kevin ’84, credit the Humanities as one of the best aspects of their education and as the structure for teaching their own children: Katrina, 22; Kristopher, 21; Karrin, 17; Karl, 15; Kirsten, 13; and Kara, 7.
“We wanted to give them that comprehensive, sweeping view,” Robin says. “We built our whole vision of homeschooling around that kind of curriculum.”
But it wasn't always easy. Robin was just coming off of a three-year stint of teaching at a private Christian school when she first considered the idea of home instruction. Because the Larsons live in the farmlands near Richmond, Virginia, homeschooling was a convenient option but resources were limited. “Homeschooling was in its infancy then,” she says. “But now the possibilities are endless.”
Homeschooling has grown along with her children, especially in Virginia, where it is fast becoming a norm. With nearly 23,000 home-learners statewide, Robin says that almost everyone in Virginia knows someone who is homeschooled.
Far from living in isolated schoolrooms of their own design, the Larsons and other home-educators like them have access to an array of resources, cooperatives and support groups. They pool their interests and expertise to provide supplemental classes, activities and programs for their students. Robin teaches Latin at one nearby cooperative.
There are also plenty of resources available in the community. Robin says that a local community college offers classes to high school juniors and seniors, an opportunity her older children have already taken advantage of. Karrin, a senior, is currently taking classes, while Kristopher was able to earn a semester’s worth of college credits by the time he graduated from high school.
Even with all the resources available to homeschoolers, Kevin and Robin find their most important educational assets in each other. Robin is a licensed teacher with an English background, while Kevin provides instruction in higher math and lends a hand grading papers. When their combined expertise is not enough, they enlist the help of qualified instructors, like one Ph.D. friend who helps out with chemistry lessons.
From the Humanities to literary excursions, the Larsons’ decision to homeschool has largely been shaped by their time at Geneva College. And just like Robin’s days as an English major, the classroom isn't closed at the ring of the last bell. Every day provides opportunities for learning, and every outing is an educational adventure.
“Geneva never really leaves you,” she says. “You always carry it with you.”
Geneva graduates pass the test for teacher certification in elementary education (Praxis II) at over a 99% rate in the first attempt–one of the highest pass rates in Pennsylvania.