Doug and Kelly Klein met at Loveland High School. Doug was an assistant football coach and Kelly was a math teacher.
They talked in the hallways and at staff meetings until he convinced her to go on a date. Four years later, they were married. Today, they are the proud parents of two boys – Collin and Kyle – who have grown up to become successful football players at Kansas State.
In between, they had to make tough decisions on how to raise their children. They wanted them to worship God, respect others and be active in the community. But not everyone values those ideals. They wondered, what was the best way to pass them along?
One day, mom and dad had an epiphany: They should home-school their children.
Doug was certified as a physical education instructor and Kelly had been teaching algebra for years. Together, they knew the ins and outs of how a school works. So they figured, why not put that knowledge to good use?
“My mom was the teacher and my dad was the principal,” Collin Klein says now. “They taught me everything I know.”
Looking back, the decision seemed so simple and obvious. It worked out perfectly. Collin Klein has become one of the best quarterbacks to ever play at Kansas State and is one of three finalists for the Heisman Trophy. His younger brother is already logging time at receiver as a redshirt freshman.
But their parents weren’t always confident things would go so smoothly. In fact, Kelly was terrified.
“I was scared to death to teach them to read,” Kelly says now. “I told myself, ‘If I screw this up it’s going to be really costly.’ I could teach algebra all day. I was good at that. I had been a high school math instructor for eight years. But I wasn’t familiar with this.”
Kelly remembers her oldest son asking if he could have a book to read a week into the experiment, and she said no. When he asked why, she had to come up with an excuse. She wasn’t ready.
“I helped her get started,” said Doug, who worked as a mortgage banker while his wife stayed home with their children. “It was that or ‘Hooked on Phonics.’ ”
In time, both Collin and Kyle learned how to read. They also learned fractions, history, astronomy and everything else kids their age were studying. They even went on field trips.
The whole family had fun. Well, except for the time mom took everyone to the ballet.
“We learned what not to wear,” Doug said.
Still, Collin and Kyle appreciated the experience. They took the entire process seriously.
“One thing Collin excelled at was penmanship. He has beautiful penmanship,” Kelly said. “To this day, he will still tell you penmanship is nothing but effort. I heard that and said, ‘Really? Where did you get that?’ He said I told him that in the third grade when I taught him cursive. He remembers it and I don’t. Who wouldn’t want to teach a little kid who had that attitude about life?”
The system had its drawbacks, of course. Collin and Kyle didn’t interact with other children during the day and their lack of a class ranking scared college recruiters when they started to show talent as football players.
And other parents always had questions.
“We heard it all,” Kelly said. “Do you have to ground them for not doing their homework? Do you just lay in bed all morning and do school in your pajamas? When Collin heard that he would just laugh and say, ‘You don’t know my mom and dad.’ ”
Collin, Kyle and Kelly met in a spare bedroom every morning after breakfast and worked at a faster pace than normal classes. That meant no homework, an obvious plus.
They studied hard until lunch, and kept at it until 2. Then it was off to the gym or music lessons. When they were old enough to play high school sports, it was football practice. It taught them time management skills, and the value of focus.
“I didn’t want them up at midnight every night flipping through books,” Kelly said. “I sat them down and said, ‘Here is the deal boys, give me your undivided attention. Every brain cell you’ve got is right here from breakfast to lunch. In those three or four hours, you are going to be locked in.’ You would be amazed what you can get done when you are locked in academically. It’s kind of like football.”
As the children got older, mom and dad gave them the chance to start attending regular school. At the end of each of grade, they gathered Collin and Kyle in the living room and had a meeting to discuss their progress.
At the end of the presentation, they asked if they wanted to continue.
“We never got an, ‘Oh, no,’ or, ‘We have got to get out of here,’ ” Doug said. “They legitimately enjoyed it.”
By the end, Collin says a few teammates on the Loveland football team told him they wished they could stay at home for school, too.
The system isn’t for everyone, but it worked for the Kleins.
“I enjoyed the opportunity,” Kelly said.” One of the greatest blessings of my life was being able to do that with them.”