As published in the Winnipeg Free Press April 4, 2012.
When Karen Ridd’s family decided on home-schooling, they were thinking about creating the best environment for the growth of the family’s two sons.
“It enables Daniel and Ben to really give themselves over to what their passions are,” said Ridd, who lives in Ste. Rita, just east of Anola.
And while Ridd glows when she speaks about the benefits of home-schooling, she admits there are activities that don’t work so well when it’s only her family.
“There are certain things you need to do in groups,” she said.
That’s where the Winnipeg Learning Centre comes into play — a network of home-schooling families that meet weekly at Church of Christ in St. Boniface to benefit from activities best done with others.
The families come from all over the map, including St. Boniface, the North End, the West End, West Broadway, North Kildonan, St. Norbert, and Headingley.
This month, the centre’s theatre troupe, Such Stuff Players — named for the famous Shakespeare line, “We are such stuff as dreams are made on,” — will stage its version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Gas Station Arts Centre in Osborne Village.
The cast’s 22 actors range in age from two to 17.
“It has been pretty much the best play we’ve ever done,” grinned 10-year-old Ben Ridd.
“Shakespeare is fun . . . It’s a challenge,” his mother added. “We also see benefits like increased confidence, public speaking.”
The Winnipeg Learning Centre was established about five years ago after Marilyn Firth’s family moved to St. Norbert from Kitchener, Ont.
While Kitchener had a network for home-schooling families, Winnipeg did not — so Firth set out to fill that gap.
“The purpose is to get home-schooling kids together, so they can do projects together and socialize together,” she explained.
Firth added it may surprise some that socialization is not the top priority, saying it’s a myth that home-schooled kids are isolated.
“I generally find home-schooled kids are out in their community so much they’re extremely socialized,” she said.
Ridd agreed, saying other benefits of the centre come to mind much more quickly — such as exposing her kids to the strengths other families bring to the table.
“Different parents have different skills,” she said.
And then there are the group activities, like A Midsummer Night’s Dream — which Ridd is co-directing along with Firth.
Working with a group is one of the things young Headingley resident Emma MacIsaac loves most about Such Stuff Players.
“I don’t have any brothers or sisters, so I like getting together with the others.”
The precocious eight-year-old also noted the chance to stage A Midsummer Night’s Dream at her age is a challenge directly tied to being home-schooled.
“If I was in school, I probably wouldn’t be doing Shakespeare,” she said.
Caelyn Kwade, 14, said this is her first Shakespeare play.
“It’s a whole new experience,” she said.
So, it turns out, is being home-schooled. Until this year, Kwade attended public school.
She said the learning centre has made a huge difference during her adjustment.
“It was just nice to meet a lot of new people who were home-schooled and get support,” said the West Broadway resident.
North End resident Hannah Beynon, 14 — who plays fairy queen Titania — said being on stage is a great learning experience.
“I love acting, but I really enjoy the dynamics,” she said. “Everyone has to work like clockwork to make things happen.”
A Midsummer Night’s Dream runs Tues. April 17 at 7 p.m.; Wed. April 18 at 1 p.m. and 7 p.m., and Thurs. April 19 at 1 p.m.