Steamboat Springs Zach Perrego's summer is like those of most other teenagers in Steamboat Springs.
The home-schooled junior took on a summer job, hangs out with friends and spends loads of time in the outdoors. But unlike many of his peers who shelve their textbooks once school lets out for summer, the 16-year-old's formal education doesn't end with the ring of a bell.
"I've spent this summer mostly preparing for next year and preparing for college because we are new to Steamboat and are trying to explore," said Zach, who has been home schooled since the second grade. "But we sit down and do reading lessons every day around lunch time."
His 8-year-old brother, Jon, and 6-year-old sister, Libby, join the summer-school lessons between slumber parties, sports practices and horseback riding. The family currently is reading "Treasure Island," which was inspired by watching the latest "Pirates of the Caribbean" movie. Zach helps lead the discussion with his two siblings.
Teresa Perrego said summers for her children are full of fun, sports and the outdoors, but the flexibility afforded by home schooling has enabled the family to continue education through the summer.
"We make it where we don't feel like we are at home learning," said Teresa Pereggo, who moved to Steamboat in April with her husband, Mike Pereggo, from a 35-acre farm in Elbert County.
Area home schooling
Annie Reuer, activities coordinator with the Northwest Colorado Homeschool Association, said it's difficult to estimate the number of home-schooled students in the Routt and Moffat Counties, but the Craig-based organization's enrollment has increased in recent years to 30 families.
"We think there is actually triple that in the area," said Reuer, who also home schools her three children. "It's a huge movement in this part of the country, and we are working to get more families organized together."
She added many families choose to end lessons for the summer like traditional schools, while others choose to continue education through the summer.
"What's wonderful about home schooling is that you fit it to your needs," said Reuer, who planned a morning lesson for her children, followed by soccer practice.
According to the U.S. Department of Education, the number of home-schooled students increases between seven to 15 percent every year. Reuer said the number may be even greater due to the difficulties in tracking the number of families who choose nontraditional education.
No formal umbrella organization for home-schooled students exists in Steamboat, but the Pereggo children are enrolled in the Greeley-based Colorado Heritage Education School System. Teresa Pereggo said the family enrolled in the private Christian school for home-schooled students, to which the Pereggos do not have to report test scores, because CHESS provides transcripts and college prep counseling.
"Everybody who does home schooling is a little bit different," Teresa Pereggo said. "I make sure they get their math in, but at the same point, I see what we can do, especially in the summer, that isn't opening up a book and have some fun."
She said the biggest misconception about home-schooled students is that they are locked in a house all day, without socialization and recreation time.
"Socialization's not a problem if you look for it, because it's there," she said. "They spend the summers running around the neighborhood just like everybody else's kids."
Mike Pereggo added that his children essentially have a summer break, despite the reading lessons and college prep classes.
"I mean, we live in Steamboat and it's the summer - we're not going to be sitting around a house all day reading," he said. "But any opportunity to ask questions, we take advantage of."
Teresa Pereggo said a recent hike to Buffalo Pass turned into a nature education class, while trips to the Denver Zoo or the Denver Museum of Nature and Science are field trips, rather than family jaunts.
"Sometimes I think they are thinking, 'Mom, stop asking us questions,'" she said. "But we keep it fun by having it less structured. We just think that it isn't the responsibility of the government to teach our children. What you do at home and what you do at school are not two separate things."