The University of Mary Washington string quartet is composed of four homeschool graduates – siblings Zachary (left), Kaylee (second from right) and Luke Payne (right), along with Juliette Guilloux (second from left). The number of homeschoolers attending UMW in Fredericksburg, Virginia, is not surprising given the high percentage of homeschoolers who live in the vicinity.
About thirteen percent, or one of every eight students in King George County, Virginia, is homeschooled. This percentage is two to three times higher than most other counties in Virginia as well as the state as a whole, in which three percent of students are homeschooled. Only Floyd County in southwestern Virginia and Highland County on the western border of the Shenandoah Valley have higher percentages of homeschoolers, according to statistics from the Virginia Department of Education.
“We know so many families who are homeschooling,” said homeschool dad Kirby Payne of Dahlgren, Virginia. “It’s a lot of families for a small community” (qtd. in Dyson). He and his wife, Jennifer, homeschooled their four children – Zachary, 22; Luke, 20; Kaylee, 17; and Kelsey, 14 – from kindergarten through high school.
The presence of Dahlgren Naval Base could account for the high number of homeschoolers in the region. The base attracts scientists, engineers, and other professionals with high enough salaries to easily live off one income. Another reason could be that there are no private schools, either Christian or secular, located nearby. Those factors make “the area ripe for home schooling,” said King George resident Amy Campillo. “All the other benefits, like co-ops and activities, stem from the sheer numbers of people who decide to homeschool” (qtd. in Dyson).
In the Payne’s homeschool, Mrs. Payne is the English and art instructor while Mr. Payne, an engineer at the Navy base, teaches science and math. The family has also participated in many classes, sports, and extracurricular activities outside the home. All four Payne siblings are orchestra aficionados, and the flexibility of homeschooling allowed them extra time to pursue their training in classical music.
Twice a week during the school year, hundreds of young cellists, flutists, guitarists, percussionists, pianists, vocalists, and other music students gather in the Spotsylvania New Life in Christ Church for the Fredericksburg Area Young Musicians program. The group started with one band of 30 members. Eight years later, it now has more than 300 students from age 8 to 18. They have a band, orchestra, jazz band, several choral groups, young men’s choir, and a concert choir. Every single student in the FAYM program is homeschooled.
“I don’t think I would have been exposed to all the different music opportunities if I had been in public school,” said 17-year-old Kaylee Payne, a UMW freshman. Kaylee is currently pursuing a double major in Music and Computer Science. Fellow homeschooled musician Juliette Guilloux is a pre-med student majoring in Biology and Music, with a minor in Chemistry. In her spare time, Juliette teaches violin to children of all ages.
Zach Payne is a junior at UMW where he is studying Computer Science and Music. He likes working on his improvisational skills on both the violin and piano. His brother Luke captured the first place instrumental award with his performance of the “Haydn C Major” cello concerto at the 2014 Young Artist Competition sponsored by the Fredericksburg Festival for the Performing Arts. Like his brother and sister, Luke is pursuing a double major in Music and Computer Science at UMW.
As reported in The Free Lance-Star (Dyson), the Payne family is quick to point out that they’re definitely not the homeschool version of “settlers,” people who churn butter and make their own clothes, as depicted in a cable-television commercial. However, as musically accomplished homeschoolers who are also scientifically minded, the Paynes along with their friend Juliette Guilloux certainly set an outstanding example of what it means to be a well-rounded student.