Julie and Jimmy Myers faced an overwhelming challenge when they started schooling their high school daughter at home in January.
Where would the Summerville parents acquire the rigorous materials to help guide their daughter's curriculum? How could they feel comfortable instructing her in tough subjects like math and chemistry? And would their daughter's social life suffer?
A decade ago, the Myers family would have faced these questions alone. But as home schooling becomes more mainstream, parents are discovering that a bevy of support groups exists.
On Friday, Julie and Jimmy Myers attended the South Carolina Bridge Home School Conference and Curriculum Fair at the Charleston Area Convention Center, where hundreds of families had access to 64 workshops and 30 vendors.
"There's a misperception that home schooling is a fringe religious thing where people hide from the rest of the world," Jimmy Myers said. "But more people are starting to view it as a legitimate alternative. And this convention is really broadening our horizons."
Several home schooling associations have formed in the Lowcountry in recent years to bring students and parents together and cut down on the sense of isolation that the Myers family hopes their daughter won't experience.
The Lowcountry Christian Home Educators' Association, for example, includes more than 400 families and roughly 1,600 children as members. The association holds a high school graduation and offers students the chance to participate in spelling bees, honor societies, sports teams and field trips, said Grace Bolin, an association coordinator and home school parent.
In another break with tradition, some of these associations are beginning to offer classes in subjects such as chemistry and drama. Parents who are stronger in English and history might not mind if their children receive once-a-week science lessons with other home-schoolers, experts say.
The Home Education Learning Partnership has offered courses on Wednesdays at Citadel Square in downtown Charleston for years, said organizer and home school parent Anita Coward. Roughly 180 students enrolled in classes last year.
"When home schooling started, the attitude was that you are the home school mom, and if you aren't teaching your child every subject, then you aren't truly home-schooling," Coward said. "But that attitude is going away."
In addition to those opportunities, families now have access to products to help ease the transition to home schooling. On Friday, vendors sold a variety of materials including a "HomeSchoolopoly" game and a children's T-shirt stating, "No I'm Not Playing Hooky, I'm Home Schooled."
All of the fuss is a result of home schooling's increasing popularity, said Zan Tyler, a featured speaker at the conference and one of South Carolina's home schooling pioneers who was threatened with jail time when she began home-schooling her children in 1984.
Tyler estimates that 15,000 South Carolina students are being schooled at home and said the movement has resulted from parents who want to add religion to their child's education and also are concerned about the quality of the state's public schools.