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Home Work

Debra Joseph Bell had both a bachelor’s (1977) and a master’s degree (1985) from IUP. She had taught at the high school and community college levels. In the mid-eighties, when friends starting homeschooling their children, she was, in her own words, “appalled.”

The Bell family

Left to right: IUP sophomore Gabe Bell; his father, Kermit; his mother, Debra; and his brother, Mike.

“But I liked what I saw in their children,” she said. Her own twin sons were already reading by age five. She thought she might homeschool them—just for the kindergarten year. As it turned out, Mike and Gabe Bell were schooled at home right up until they started as freshmen last year in IUP’s Robert E. Cook Honors College.

Not only did Bell homeschool her two sons and, subsequently, her two daughters, but she created what might best be called a homeschool home business. She owns the Home School Resource Center and the Young Writers’ Institute and directs the Learning Center, a homeschool cooperative with more than a hundred children. She speaks at conferences, writes books, and publishes a regular on-line column, all on the subject of homeschooling.

In The Ultimate Guide to Homeschooling, which comes with a comprehensive CD-ROM, Bell covers every aspect of concern to the would-be homeschooler. A list of “used-curriculum suppliers” augments a long list of recommended suppliers and products. Well organized and thoughtfully constructed, the book reflects the caring and helpful demeanor of Bell herself.

For their part, Mike and Gabe played sports throughout their homeschool years in conjunction with their local eastern Pennsylvania school district. They captained the football and wrestling teams and took a few courses at the local high school.

“I don’t think by any means that the educational system overall is failing,” Debra Bell said, “but homeschooling is a way to individualize the educational experience. The tutorial method is hard to beat.”

Offered admission to honors programs at two other large universities, Mike and Gabe are not the only former homeschoolers in the Robert E. Cook Honors College, according to their mother. Both have scholarships in the Eberly College of Business and Information Technology. A finance and economics major, Gabe studied this past summer at Cambridge University in England while Mike, who majors in international business, was in South Africa, building houses with Habitat for Humanity and teaching in a Zulu school.

The twins are the latest in a long and proud IUP tradition. Their father, Kermit Bell, graduated in 1980, and their grandparents, William and Jean Johnston Joseph, are members of the Class of 1952. Their two younger sisters, Kayte and Kristen, are still at home—in school.