Editor's note: This is part two of a three-part series; tune into NET Radio tomorrow for part three. (Part one can be found here.) The NET News documentary "Home School Nebraska" premieres Friday, April 13 at 7:30 p.m. CT on NET-1/HD. It repeats Saturday, April 14 at 9:30 p.m. CT on NET-2; Sunday, April 15 at 10 p.m. CT on NET-1/HD and Monday, April 16 at 9 p.m. CT on NET-1/HD.
Home-schooled Gideon Badeer taught himself to play piano. Mariah Bates plays basketball with about 20 other home-schooled girls. Christopher Kautz studies art at a home school co-op.
Home schooling in Nebraska today is more than sitting at home with textbooks. In the 27 years that Deb Badeer has been teaching her eight children in Lancaster County, a lot has changed. One is curriculum choices.
"We're at the point where at our state conventions, two gymnasiums would not hold all of the vendors that come just to Nebraska," she said.
Home-schoolers can spend as much or as little as they want on curriculum. They can purchase books and materials as needs arise, or a complete curriculum package that could cost up to $1,000. That's the approach Angi and Tim Bates have taken with their two children in Hastings.
"In the younger years, like first grade, it might have been only $100 to $150 a year. And now, when we're in high school and my daughter's reading The Iliad and The Odyssey that it is up to probably $600 a year for curriculum, which is a reusable curriculum for each of our children."
Technology provides more opportunities for learning tools. Back at the Badeers, they watch YouTube videos on the computer to compare music styles.
"I love being able to pull it up on this instead of hunting for the old records," Deb said.
The school room inside the Badeer home is filled with books, but she said they aren't used as much as in the past.
"Now, with the advent, too, of the Internet, almost everybody that I know home schooling, they all have good computer software going," she said. "You can access classes online."
The University of Nebraska-Lincoln offers a complete high school program online. The Independent Study High School is, and at the same time, is not home schooling. It's actually an accredited high school within the state of Nebraska.
"We are almost totally using the computer," said Principal Barry Stark. "We are totally online with our program offerings."
That's appealing for foreign students who want an American high school diploma.
"We're represented by over 135 countries, and we have students from all 50 states who are enrolled," Stark said.
Currently, the tuition-based program works well for performers, high-level athletes and those whose schedules don't allow regular school attendance.
"We have students that will blend their courses," Stark said. "They will take some high school courses in their local high school, and then also take courses from us to either accelerate their credits or allow for courses that are not taught in their high school."
But the computer isn't the only way to supplement education. Sometimes, it comes from getting together with other home-schoolers. In North Platte, the Sand Hills Home Educator's co-op gathers for a variety of group activities. There's drama and speech, P. E. and art classes. At co-ops like these around the state, classes are taught by parents or contractors to cover subjects that might be difficult for individual parents to teach.
Tara Kautz, a home school mother with a degree in graphic art, teaches art class at the co-op. Among the students is her son, Christopher.
The Kautzes are somewhat new to home schooling. Teaching third-grader Christopher and his second-grade brother Josiah at home is not something Tara planned on doing.
"I never honestly thought I would home-school," she said. "I had several friends that were home-schooling and I thought it was interesting, and so I just thought, Well, I'll try it for one year and see.' And then after that first year, I really liked it."
In Lincoln, 12-year-old Autumn Badeer has a variety of activities, including 4-H, apologetics and choir. Her mother Deb said there are more outside activities than there used to be.
"It's really grown over the years. There are so many activities now for home-educated students to participate in that you could really be gone every day all day long and never be home to do your school."
Badeer organizes a gathering of up to 60 home-schooled students who get together every other week in Lincoln.
"We're doing the large apologetics group, bringing the kids together," she said, "Teaching them how to defend the faith, what different worldviews are, and also how to speak and present themselves."
More than 75 percent of home schools in Nebraska are called Rule 13 - or those who exempt their children from traditional schools because of their religious beliefs. Commonly known as the Biblical worldview, many home-schoolers want to teach it to their children while they are educating them. It's something students hear about at apologetics classes.
Noelle Peterson >teaches such a class in Lincoln.
"Now we have sin, we have a problem. Sin does what? It separates me from who? God. Right, because God is perfect."
Noelle is the daughter of Deb and Dan Badeer. Nationally, more than 80 percent of home school families identify themselves as Protestant compared with about 45 percent of the general population. Deb said her family follows an evangelical Protestant belief.
"I'm concerned about what the scripture said and how the Creator who made us tells me I should function and behave," she said. "And in that sense we have, quote, a Biblical worldview.' Because can you consult the scripture for what then should we do, you know. How should we behave."
It's a similar feeling for the Bates family in Hastings. For mother Angi, home schooling is their choice in part because of what traditional schools don't teach.
"We learn history through the view of, God's been in control all through history," she said, adding that she would consider public school for her children if that view could be one of the things taught.
Back at the Badeer's home south of Lincoln, part of 16-year-old Gideon's history curriculum is reading religious history. By teaching their kids at home, Deb and many other Nebraska families find they can educate and teach the Christian beliefs they hold at the same time.
"We're trying to address character," Deb said. "How you treat other people."