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Home School Woodworking Program with Brett Schroyer

Back in September of 2010, we did a story on Brett Schroyer’s Greenfield Woodworks Rockin’ Shop in Mercer, Pennsylvania. The sequel to the story involves a trip to meet Brett, and his students to learn of the projects, and education program in person. Click on the photo below to enter Brett’s website.

As mentioned in the previous Greenfield blog, Brett is not only a woodworker, artisitic painter, and master mechanic, he also volunteers his time in his community by teaching woodworking 101 to 7th-12th graders in a home schooled woodworking program.

These young adults take a 9-10 week basic course, 2 hours per week with a parent paid class fee of $75.00 per student. Most of the students have no woodworking experience, and start from scratch with Brett’s instruction on how to design a layout plan using a tape measurecompass, radius gauges, and calipers. Each student will create at least 3 projects during this course, while learning hands-on woodworking skills, and procedures. This includes the use of the planer, jointer, tablesaw, bandsaw, miter saw, drill press, and lathe. The students also learn procedures in gluing, staining, assembly, and of course, safety in the workshop.

In the beginning of this program, Woodcraft donated items to help the students get started. Brett’s student body, donned in their Woodcraft Shop Aprons, have put the donations to good use as they show off their first oak Shaker shelf project (above).

The next project is well underway as Asher and Chad start lathe turning part of their water pump lamp projects, based on Brett’s old high school woodshop created lamp, and an updated example for the boys to follow (below).

The Home Schooling Program

The Pennsylvania home schooling program became law under the Act 169 of 1988 after 5 years of lobbying. Underground homeschool movements went from district to district in order to avoid prosecution, previous to the Home Education Law being passed. According to one of the homeschooling mothers whose son participates in the woodshop elective stated, “The purpose of the program is to improve the quality of education currently being offered by public schools, and to provide a better environment while instilling family values. Schools provide services, but it is the parents ultimate responsibility to provide one-on-one attention and support, because they are the ones who care the most. It all comes down to the parents anyway, so why not home school?”

Each homeschool family are considered independent contractors that provide a complete curriculum for their own children, while following the PA Board of Education rules. All needed or required materials are paid for solely by each family without the use of tax dollars, deductions or school system monetary support. Schools are required to supply non-consumable grade level appropriate text books if the parents request them. Parents have many vendor choices for school curriculum book supplies available to them through the internet, and supporting forums. Parents that provide this system to their children must keep, and report an updated portfolio to the Board of Education in order for their child to be recognized in proper learning, and graduating to the next levels. Parents choose their evaluating teacher who assigns elective credits to the material taught by each parent, such as Brett’s woodworking class, and all other elective and required classes. It was not until 2005 that a bill was passed, allowing homeschoolers access to public school activities, such as sports, band, chorus, and fine arts programs.

Additional information, and resources can be found at pahomeschoolers.com.

Another mom whose son also takes Brett’s class that we interviewed, had another option for parents to homeschool. It is the PA cyber-charter school program in which children can be home educated through the funding of real estate taxes. PA Cyber combines highly qualified teachers and intensely personalized instruction with a dynamic, interactive curriculum that now challenges, engages, and fulfills thousands of students across the state. As a public school, PA Cyber provides tuition, and services at no cost to Pennsylvania students, and families. Homeschoolers who participate will either take their courses over the Internet using non-religious-based correspondence-school curricula or take them in person at a local community college.  They will get software, and computers in their homes, an assigned teacher to talk with in person or by phone, standardized testing, and all the materials, and supplies that they will need. These schools are not under the homeschooling 1988 legislation, but are backed by the public school system’s Board of Education.

Above and below, the students are using Titebond to glue the wood segments together, then using clamps to create their step stool and cutting board projects. Brett is a big proponent of Woodcraft, as you can see his latest Woodcraft Catalog that he uses to order tools, and supplies from.

We asked Brett, “How does all this apply to him and his woodworking?”, and here is his response,

“I have always had an interest in working with the youth.  My inspiration is my parents.  For years they taught school, and took special interest in kids that needed the extra attention and guidance that they may not have gotten at home.  Starting with a program that used to be held at the our local parks, working with kids, we just gave them the time to play and create.”

“I built my shop a little over 6 years ago, and initially my vision was to make this a creative outlet of sorts, and quickly was sidetracked building custom kitchens.  Later I made the determination this past year that I wanted to change gears, and begin my journey into a more educational line of work.  The door quickly opened when we were seeking a homeschool education for our son, and met a local homeschool community over the internet.  Sometime after our first contact with the group, an email was sent out from Joann Curran and her husband Guy, seeking an instructor for woodworking for their homeschool groups.”

“What an opportunity it was, and I am proud to say with the help of Woodcraft, it has turned into our second successful semester.  Genine, and Jack Brooks have also been very instrumental in making our program a success, and even introducing a younger group to their first semester of woodworking in June 2011.  Jack has been very helpful, and made himself available to assist with the classes every Tuesday.  The biggest success has been the kids themselves ~ they all are real talents, and wonderful students.  Very attentive, and eager to learn, always polite, and fun to teach.  They help each other, and have expressed to me how much they are enjoying the class, and the projects.  During the end of the last semester they came up with projects that they wanted to learn, and create, which we are working on in this second semester of class.” 

“To say the least, I have learned much from them as well, and it is very rewarding when they step back, and look at what they have completed, and to see their smiles, and then their excitement to show their parents what they have learned.  In one class, I was teaching the boys the basics of lathe turning. I asked all the boys after class was over, how they liked turning. Asher told me that at first he was a bit nervous but once he started, he really enjoyed it as did all of the boys. I see more turning in our future.  Chad also told me that he is repairing a table. This is something that he probably would not have attempted if it had not been for what he has learned in class.”

In addition, Brett is also involved using his woodworking talents to help at his church. He added, “Currently we are working through our Church, Grace Chapel on Lamor Road in Hermitage with making beds for children in need.  Our project is called “Beds for Little Heads”, and we our hosting it out of our shop at Greenfield Woodworks.  Recently we were contacted by a local Charter School to start an outreach with their youth in hopes to help them learn a trade, and create, and help others in need.  We are still working out the details but hope this is something we can start soon.” 

In conclusion Brett said, “It is sad that our local schools are phasing out elective classes like woodshop, and metalshop out of the systems.  Our intentions are to continue to provide this form of education for anyone who is interested.”

I could tell what a patient, and knowledgeble teacher Brett is, as he instructed the boys. Here is our interview,

Thank you Brett, and all your talented students. Keep learning from Brett guys, and you will be great woodworkers.

To find out more about Brett’s classes or the home schooling programs, go to Brett’s website at www.greenfieldwoodworks.com, or contact him at these email addresses: greenfieldwoodworks@neo.rr.com, or brett.schroyer@yahoo.com.

Auf wiedersehen…Frank