MOULTRIE -- One of the first arguments voiced against homeschooling is the inability of the student to interact with his or her peers. But a Moultrie group has stepped up to cancel that argument.

The Moultrie Christian Homeschoolers Associating Together (CHAT) co-operative provides a way for parents of homeschooled children to come together and support each other.

Moultrie CHAT Director Mandy Farmer said the group, in only its second year, meets each Tuesday at First Church of the Nazarene on 12th Avenue Southeast during the regular school year to support area homeschooled children. At each meeting, the children are taught subjects such as science, music and art.

The group was formed to allow for interaction among homeschooled students, and Farmer said it provides parents and children an opportunity to associate with others who have similar values. The group allows students to meet on a more regular basis, which helps the children develop closer relationships with each other.

Moultrie CHAT held its first meeting of the 2005-2006 school year Tuesday, Farmer said. There were approximately 30 students at the first meeting, ranging from preschool age to 15 years old.

Farmer said the group is divided among preschool- and kindergarten-aged children in one group and students from second grade and up. The younger children have play time, show and tell, games, art and music, and the older children meet in actual classroom settings.

Each meeting is divided among a four-week rotation, and Farmer said each week provides the students with something different. The first meeting each month is reserved for field trips; science labs and handicrafts/chess club the second week; speaking class and an open period during the third week; and science lab and art for the fourth week.

Amy Bloodworth, early education director, said the younger children have lots of hands-on projects to do, as they have a nature theme for their meetings. The children also have art lessons taught by parents, and they are planning a production for parents in November.

Students are encouraged to come each week the group meets and parents need to come and stay at each meeting, Farmer said. Parents each help the co-operative in some way, whether through teaching a class, planning a field trip, providing meals or in some other way.

Kathy Nelson, whose 10-year-old daughter, Linnie, is part of Moultrie CHAT, said the group has helped the students interact and get along with each other. It has helped them to form a strong family bond among each other, she said.

The students are very eager to learn when they come each week, Nelson said. Parent interaction among the students is also a big part of the group; Nelson serves as the art teacher.

Homeschooling is important because it provides more personal attention to the child than public schools can provide, Nelson said. She said she started homeschooling Linnie while living in Jacksonville, Fla., because she felt it was the best thing for her daughter.

"A child can move at their own pace," Nelson said, "and it really enforces 'no failure' for the child."

Farmer said anyone interested in attending Moultrie CHAT is welcome to come to one of their weekly meetings before enrolling their child. Students can be enrolled at any time during the year, and there is a $32 enrollment fee for the year, along with small expenses to help with supplies.

The only requirement to enroll in the Christian groups is to sign a form stating that both the parent and student agree with basic Christian beliefs, Farmer said. The group is open to any homeschooled student of any denomination, she said.

For more information, visit the group's Web site at www.moultriechat.com or call Farmer at 985-6169. She can also be reached through e-mail available through the group's Web site.

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