There are more than 2.3 million students who are homeschooled in the U.S. and Shellie Hooper, Jennifer Bow and Tamara Braun have children who are among those students after making the decision to home-educate under the group known as Faith Homeschool (Families Active in Teaching at Home) in Stephenville.

And now, 17 Faith Homeschool students will receive their diplomas this month just like other students in area public school districts.

There are many misconceptions that surround homeschooling and the E-T sat down with the three mothers who set the record straight.

Hooper — who has three children, ages 18, 21 and 23 — made the decision to homeschool when her first child was going into kindergarten.

“I remember the first time I heard about homeschool and I thought it was the most ridiculous thing,” Hooper said. “But we were friends with several families who homeschooled and I just liked the way their lifestyle looked and the way their kids behaved and was attracted to everything about it. So we just decided to go this direction and it had nothing to do with anti-public school or a religious decision, it just worked for our family.”

Bow — who has three children ages seven, 15 and 17 — started her kids in public school.

“My oldest got through second grade and then we had some health issues with my second daughter and being in school just didn’t work well, so we had to pull her out and did some things at home and really enjoyed it,” Bow said.

After a few years, Bow’s kids went back to public school in Morgan Mill.

“We then moved overseas for four years and so we came back to homeschooling and my kids were old enough and just wanted to stick with it,” she said.

Braun has seven children — two five-year-olds and ages six, 13, 17, 18 and 20 — who also started in public school.

“It was going great and they had a great experience, but I had little ones at home at the time and I just always felt like the ones in school got the worst of me,” Braun said. “So I just remember feeling that we were so busy and their childhood was slipping away. So we decided to try it for one year and if it didn’t work we wouldn’t keep going.”

Braun said they ended up loving it, but were worried about sports when her kids became too old to play in the youth leagues.

“We thought well when they get too old to be a part of city sports, we’ll have to go into public school,” she said. “But when that time came we just were really enjoying it, so we were very blessed that at that point the homeschool group started having sports activities.”

Each family uses different curriculum depending on what they feel is best for their child.

“As far as curriculum goes there are so many options,” Bow said. “There’s just a wide variety you can do and for us it’s changed every year.”

Parents will even teach classes at different locations like the Cowboy Church of Erath County, Rocky Point, Cornerstone and other churches where the kids can all come in for a class.

“We have that and we have sports and we even had a band and choir, so the ‘homeschoolers are unsocial’ part is not true,” Bow said. “It’s individual, but we all come together as well.”

The three said some of the challenges include choosing the right curriculum, the cost and the fact that life can get in the way.

“Also when you’re in the home it’s sometimes hard to balance the roles of mom and teacher,” Bow said. “I think homeschool families are very close-knit because we’re together so much, but sometimes a blessing can be a curse.”

The three love homeschooling because they can tailor the program to each of their children and really get to witness their excitement for learning different subjects.

“I have a son and he loves to cook, so for chemistry we did a chemistry in the kitchen type thing, it wasn’t the typical high school chemistry and there was some of that involved, but it was all about how things react,” Hooper said. “Like baking soda and baking powder and how you shouldn’t mix up the two in a recipe.”

Braun added, “Just little things that they can express themselves more because you just have more freedom with that and then also being able to tailor things, I’ve had things where two of the kids were interested in learning Mandarin instead of Spanish or French because they go to China and want to learn that language — so things like that where they can really pursue the direction they want to go.”

The Faith Homeschool graduation for the 17 students is set for 2 p.m. Saturday, May 19, at Cottonwood Baptist Church in Dublin.