Back-to-(Home)school: Keeping things fresh for kids who learn at home

SUFFOLK, Va. - You could say the Walter family picture...doubles as a class photo.

It's Rob and Regan Walter and their ten kids. The oldest is 21 years old; the first graduate of the "Walter Homeschool".

Rob and Regan Walter and their 10 kids, ages 1 to 21.

It all started almost two decades ago when this Navy family was stationed overseas. Rob and Regan, who'd both graduated from public school, took the leap.

“When my oldest was four, we needed to start school soon so we looked around and homeschool seemed to be a viable option," said Regan Walter. “I thought it was so hard that first year. Kindergarten was really, really hard.”

Now, the family has it down to a science.

The oldest three are graduated and in college. For those still home in North Suffolk, the latest school year began the week before Labor Day.

"We kind of start with a couple classes, get our schedule going, waking up again," said Walter.

But preparations began in the middle of the summer when Mom and Dad started gathering materials for the new year and thinking of ways to inspire their kids.

“The exciting part is about a week or two before school starts, I show them their books for the new school year and I choose them so I know they’ll get excited about them," said Walter, who also rearranges the makeshift classroom inside the home. “Every year I try to change the room around a little bit. We also get new books, rearrange things, different kids working different places...We do try to do some fun things, like yesterday we had a special breakfast.”

The day starts a little differently depending on the kid, she says.

The older ones tend to get up a little later while the younger ones like to get certain subjects out of the way early.

Some of the kids sit in the home "classroom", others take online classes and the oldest can do their work in their bedrooms.

“I wake up early in the morning, I go downstairs. Sometimes I eat breakfast, sometimes I go straight to my math," said Thad Walter, 9.

14-year-old Luke says learning from home works best for him.

“You can get work done when you want to. You don’t have to do it at a certain time. Just get it done before the week’s over," he said.

If they really want to, the Walter kids can get all their work done in three-to-four hours, Regan says.

For the Walter family, learning at home just works. Sure, it's not for everyone, but you won't find any regrets here.

“When I first started, I was nervous and unsure. Having graduated three and knowing it worked well for us, I’m more motivated each year to help them continue learning," said Regan. "I pick things that are interesting for me to learn too!”

The Walters make sure their kids don't stay cooped up inside the house. Regan says her kids are involved in team sports, like soccer, throughout the year. They also meet with other homeschool families at a local park on Friday afternoons.