It's a date legislators, staff, lobbyists, reporters and other Statehouse denizens circle on the calendar: the
Idaho Coalition of Home Educators annual "Pie Day."
For 20 years, ICHE has passed out home-baked pastries on the Capitol's fourth floor, typically doling out about 600 slices of delight. As many as 70 lawmakers also will get whole pies this year, said Jodi Miller, who home schools her children Charissa, 12, and Christopher, 15, in Boise.
Idaho has one of the strongest home-school laws in the country, giving parents greater leeway than many states.
ICHE President Barry Peters has been there from the start and was on hand Wednesday. "We do this because we appreciate living in Idaho and the great trust the Legislature has put in us," Peters said. "We want them to see the students and how well they're doing."
Peters cited two principal values that unite families home-schooling an estimated 5,000 to 6,000 students: academics and socialization. Idaho has about 282,000 K-12 students in public schools.
"Putting a 7-year-old in a classroom of other 7-year-olds is probably not the best model for socialization," Peters said. "Sitting at home, mom can keep tabs on things and nudge them in the right direction."
Peters passed out charts showing home-schooled students performing better than the average Idaho student, based on the Iowa tests. (The state has replaced Iowa tests with the ISAT, Idaho Standards Achievement Test, but ICHE uses 2001 Iowa tests in public schools as a baseline.)
Drue Johnson, a 16-year-old sophomore from Homedale, was one of the older students wearing red ambassador ribbons and talking to lawmakers and other visitors. Johnson's parents, Dirk and Kim Johnson, operate a custom combine business and raise Arabian horses. Drue and his brother, Dain, 20, pitch in.
"The main reason we home school is we have a lot stronger family," said Drue Johnson. "We're not gone eight hours and day and we help out our parents."
Johnson, who is 6-5 and 220 pounds, plays football for Vallivue High School. He hopes to play in college and his first choice is a top school academically and athletically, Stanford.
Another 50 children attended, some playing music, others showing off academic displays.
Savannah Martin, 14, of Boise, had a "Spotlight on Africa," display, which she prepared for Pie Day. She told visitors that one-third of the world's peanuts are grown on the continent and had tins of peanuts to cut the sweetness of the pie.
"I enjoy studying the people and culture," said Martin.
Hollie Hambleton, 11, and her brother, Rick, 13, of Nampa, had a table titled, "Visit Lake Idaho," a geologic tour of the ancient lake that ran from near Baker City, Ore., to Twin Falls. The breach of the lake helped scour out Hells Canyon and the Owyhee, Bruneau and Jarbidge Rivers.
Conventional science holds that high water caused Lake Idaho to spill almost 1 million years ago. But Rick Hambleton offered a different view, saying, "It was no longer than 4,500 years ago."
Said Hollie: "The neatest thing is when it breached, it did it in the middle, not on the edges."
Other displays covered the Legislature and Idaho Supreme Court, speech and debate, sports, the Congressional Award, drawing, chess, skiing, chorus, 4-H and Christian education.
Sen. Patti Anne Lodge, R-Huston, knows the family of Drue Johnson well. She employs Dain Johnson as her intern for the session and says he's one of the best she's ever had. Dain Johnson is working on a bill sought by the Caldwell Night Rodeo board.
"I've asked him to do some really intricate things," said Lodge, a former educator who owns land neighboring the Johnsons. "He's doing all the work on it. They're wonderful kids, absolutely outstanding."
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