How long have you lived in Hernando County, and where do you live? Where did you live previously?
We live in a nice rural area of Brooksville and have been here since 2003. I was born in Gainesville and grew up in Tallahassee, and we've lived in various areas of the state. Just before Brooksville, we lived in Tampa.
Who are the members of your family?
My husband, John, and I have been married for 17 years. We have five children: Briana, 15; Vivian, 13; John, 11; Spencer, 8; and Gwyneth, 5. My parents, Barbara and Dr. William Kohler, live next door to us, and my sister, Elizabeth Kohler, lives next door to them. My husband's parents, John and Shirley Mitten, live down the street from us.
Tell us about your career.
After earning a bachelor's degree at Florida State University, I taught school a short time before my daughter Briana was born. I had started my master's degree, but my priorities have changed since then. Who knows what the future will hold.
What kinds of activities are you involved in now?
I heard about homeschooling while I was at FSU when I had to read a book by John Holt called How Children Fail. When Briana was almost at the age she would be starting kindergarten, we debated on what we were going to do. I feel very passionate about teaching Christian values to our children and knew that wouldn't be allowed in public schools. Our only option was private school, and at that time we couldn't afford that. In addition, my sister-in-law was homeschooled, so I had wonderful advice and a role model.
Before beginning, I went to a workshop in Brevard County and learned about the nuts and bolts of homeschooling. Then I just dove in. I teach under an umbrella school called Allendale Academy. I consider myself a home educator, but I believe the state considers me a nontraditional private school teacher.
Tell me more about that.
When I got into it, I enjoyed it so much; having Briana at home with me was wonderful. Then Vivian came along, and I was able to teach them both. The truth is I was learning while I was teaching them. Discipline is very important in homeschooling. I have to be patient and they have to be respectful. We have such an amazing relationship. The years and years together have made us so much closer, and I really don't have any attitude problems.
In 2000, I made it to the Florida Parent Education Association's convention in Orlando. Hearing all the wonderful and mature teachers and parents, I was able to see the whole picture.
We have a separate school room where I teach here at home, but school goes beyond the house. Three of them are taking piano lessons and one violin. We are members of the Museum of Science and Industry.
We are a part of the Home Circle of Hernando, which is a support group for homeschoolers. Through this group, we could do something every day. We've been to the Citrus Tower in Clermont, and we've toured the Capitol in Tallahassee. We will be going in the spring to Washington, D.C. We go to musical concerts and plays.
The children are learning responsibility and work ethics by helping to care for my parents' horses. They clean the stalls, help groom the horses and then get to ride. We're part of the 4-H Club All Creatures Great and Small. They have taken CPR and babysitting classes as well.
And we are very involved in our church, the Cornerstone Baptist Church. My husband, John, is the music director and teaches Sunday school; Briana shares piano duties, sings in the choir and helps in the nursery. (The three oldest have sung in the choir, and the two oldest help in the nursery.) I also help in the nursery and with the junior church, and I sometimes sing for special occasions.
Do you have any special hobbies?
Schooling all morning, then taking the kids to their activities and keeping my house clean is a full-time job. I enjoy reading, sewing and really enjoy gardening. That's been a fun thing the kids have been working on. Our homeschool group recently received a Splash Grant from the Southwest Florida Water Management District so we can create a Florida-friendly native butterfly garden.
What are your favorite things to do in Hernando County?
We love to kayak on the Withlacoochee River and see the manatees. We also enjoy boating on the gulf.
What do you think would make Hernando County a better place to live?
The area we live in used to be protected under the Southeast Overlay Zone, basically to keep the area rural and not overdeveloped. Not long ago, the county removed that protection. I'm not a big environmentalist for some political purpose, but I am an environmentalist to protect the beauty of God's land.
I would urge our elected officials to select areas to protect and keep them from being developed. Hernando County is not as bad as some other counties, but we're leaning in that direction. I'd like the county to consider this before they approve developments on pastures, forests and swamps, and to consider our precious water, wild animals and the aquifer. It's a quality of life issue for me.
Tell us something about yourself that most people don't know.
Well, first, no story about me would be complete without people knowing that the reason I do anything — the light in my life, the reason I have children and the reason I have been married for 17 years — is because of my love of the Lord Jesus Christ.
But most folks who know me might not know that I play the oboe. My daughter Vivian and I are working on a duet for church right now.
Hernando Neighbors is an occasional feature of the Hernando Times. Do you know someone who would make a good profile? We'd like to hear from you. Contact Jean Hayes, community news coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 848-1438.