WAKEFIELD residents Cole Kraus and his sister Emma Kraus are home-schooled by their parents Kevin Kraus and Annette Dupon. (Courtesy Photo)

WAKEFIELD residents Cole Kraus and his sister Emma Kraus are home-schooled by their parents Kevin Kraus and Annette Dupon. (Courtesy Photo)


WAKEFIELD — As Wakefield Memorial High School seniors look forward to graduation on Saturday, June 6, not all will wear a cap and gown when they walk across the stage. In fact, some students will not walk across the stage at all.

While most students in the graduating class of 2015 have received their education in public, parochial or private schools, others have been educated right in their homes. In Wakefield alone, there are about seven families whose children are being home schooled.

The Dupon-Kraus family is among them. Emma Kraus, 18, and Cole Kraus, 15, are the children of Annette Dupon and Kevin Kraus. Their kids have thrived while being home schooled, said Annette and Kevin. The children wholeheartedly agree.

The Dupon-Kraus family come by education naturally. Kevin, a self-employed carpenter and commercial photographer, gravitates toward literature and history while Annette is more inclined toward science, math, music and art. There also are many mentors who add to the kids’ learning.

In no way does home schooling mean the family has not ventured beyond the front door of their Main Street home. The Dupon-Kraus kids’ education has included lectures at prestigious schools of higher learning such as Harvard and MIT, membership in the Wakefield Chapter of the 4-H Club, day trips to the Museum of Science, Aquarium and Museum of Fine Arts and travel.

“It helps that we live in a rich academic area. We go to Boston a lot,” said Annette.

“In the summer we sail on the Charles River. Lots of money gets spent on gas and parking,” Kevin quipped.

“Travel and exploration have been a big part of their learning,” said Annette. Emma, for example, has been on two National Service and Leadership trips to Atlanta and Washington and the family spends time at Rolfe Pond in New Hampshire, the Great Lakes Region, Europe and eastern Provinces of Canada.

Learning has not been limited to reading, writing and arithmetic. Emma started playing piano at age 5 and she now plays guitar. Her interest in playing instruments extends to writing lyrics and melody and she is hoping to use both for a career in communications. She’s off to a good start. Already, the teen publishes a bi-monthly newspaper called “The Dog Paper.” Luna, the family dog, a Greater Swiss Mountain breed, provides inspiration.

Cole is also extremely bright and has shown a talent for robotics, programming and gardening. As part of an ongoing Community Service Project, both Cole and Emma have worked over 100 hours each and donated what they grew to the Wakefield Interfaith Food Pantry for 24 weeks in the 2014 growing and harvesting season.

Both were recognized as Presidential Volunteer Service Award recipients this spring for their service. And Cole was part of a robotics team from Wakefield that delivered a 10th place performance out of 106 teams at a world championship event in St. Louis, Mo. over April vacation week. So enthused was he that he spoke before the school board to promote a more in-depth robotics program for the children in the Wakefield school system. Annette served as an assistant coach for the team.

A good start

Home schooling for the Dupon-Kraus kids got its start when Emma was 5 years old and ready for kindergarten.

During screening, Emma was asked to recite the alphabet. She complied but when she spoke in French her mother was told that Emma did not pass the English part of the evaluation well enough to enroll.

“That took me by surprise because no one asked if she could recite the alphabet in English,” said Annette.

That day the seed was planted for home schooling Emma and her brother Cole. The seed began to take root when Annette learned that a home schooling informational meeting was being held in town. She said that around that time there was a large home schooling community in the area and out of curiosity she attended. At the meeting, she met other parents interested in home schooling their children and the idea began to grow.

Annette said: “From the time they’re born, we’re teaching our children. We teach them how to hold a spoon. We teach them what a flower is. We teach them to say ‘Mama.’ Who would be more invested in teaching children than their parents?”

Around the time that Emma would have started school, it was not mandatory that children enroll in kindergarten, so Annette and Kevin decided to give home schooling a try.

“Learning did not have to happen in a certain building,” said Annette.

Making the grade

Early results showed that Emma was, indeed, thriving and having fun learning. And when it came time for Cole to start school a few years later, he, too, thrived.

“They were doing things they loved to do,” said Annette, adding that she and Kevin used everywhere they went as a “learning place.”

“All kids are naturally curious,” she said. “If you indulge them in learning experiences, they will learn.”

Cole said that he and Emma do not necessarily focus on five subjects every day. Instead, they focus on one subject for a while before moving on to another. For instance, Emma might start her day reading. Then she spends a few hours solving math problems. Later in the day, she concentrates on creative (fiction) writing. Emma and her brother are now even learning American Sign Language.

“Some home schooled students get up early and their days are very regimented. But this is not our routine,” said Annette. “Emma and Cole’s minds keep thinking of things to learn.”

Outside the “classroom”

Being home schooled has not limited the Dupon-Kraus kids access to social activities. On the contrary, both have a number of friends, including those who are being educated in public schools as well as home schooled. Emma is captain of the varsity softball team at Wakefield Memorial High School and Cole was a captain of the freshmen soccer team and is currently on the freshmen baseball team at the high school, as well.

They have also made good friends with fellow members of the 4-H Club in Wakefield where they have learned public speaking skills, photography, cultural education and animal science.

There are other upsides to home schooling, say Annette and Kevin. For one, there’s not as much peer pressure.

Even so, the family has integrated into the community and the kids have friends who are students in public school and are home schooled — and Annette emphasizes that the school district has been generous in their outreach to her family.

“I’ve never asked for textbooks but if I did they would give them to me,” she said.

Since Emma’s sophomore year, she has been enrolled at North Shore Community College where so far she has earned 22 credits. These credits can be applied toward her education at Smith College where she will become a member of the freshman class in September, partly on scholarship.

Cole has just started classes at North Shore Community College.

For a home schooled student, pre-requisites must be met if going to college is an aspiration.

Home schooling not for everyone

Emma quoted John Taylor Gatto: “If you don’t enjoy spending a large amount of time with your children, home schooling is not for you.”

Gatto, who promotes home schooling, is an American author and former school teacher with nearly 30 years of experience in the classroom. He devoted much of his energy to his teaching career before resigning. Since then, he has authored several books on modern education, criticizing its ideology, history and consequences.

So, how do family members tolerate each other when they spend so much time together? It boils down to one word. Respect.

Said Kevin: “There can’t be any dissension in the house or it won’t work. We present as a united front. We sort out our differences without impeding our children. It’s an extension of our relationship. We have a lot of family meetings to solve issues as they come up and anyone can call a family meeting.

Annette added, “You can’t just raise children on love — there has to be respect and you have to honor what they want to learn, what they want to be. They will then be empowered. It’s a gift of confidence.”