Omni Women In Business

HOME-SCHOOLING is supposed to be more than just cipherin’, conjugatin’, and other types of oldfashioned book learnin’ — and a pair of retired Santa Catalina school teachers are offering home schoolers some dynamic alternatives to traditional education. Margie Lotz was an educator for 46 years, the last 38 at Santa Catalina School, where she taught Ancient, Medieval, and American history to middle schoolers.


For 28 years at Catalina, the adjacent classroom was occupied by the third-grade class taught by Lorraine Gerstl, whose career spanned three-and-a-half decades.

Both retired from Catalina two years ago, intending to rediscover their personal lives, but the plan didn’t last. Almost immediately, Lotz and Gerstl began developing the Omni Learning Center, the “enrichment program” they launched last week in a small classroom at Cypress Community Church, halfway between Monterey and Salinas on Highway 68.


From Egypt to America

Omni Center offers supplemental education for homeschooled children whose primary educators are Mom or Dad. About 30 children — mostly third- to seventh-graders — have signed up for a semester-long journey through ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome, medieval times, and a segment parents also can’t be experts in every field. Marina resident Tara Devlin said the “home classroom” Making home-schooling better by adding a touch of school entitled “Coming to America” that winds through the real stories of Christopher Columbus, the pilgrims, the 13 colonies, and all the way up through the birth of the American auto industry.

“This is a new concept. There’s nothing around here that’s similar to what we’re doing,” said Lotz, who, during her years at Catalina, frequently collaborated with Gerstl, often bringing their classes together.

They’re optimistic, too, that the local home-school community is going to love Omni Learning Center, in part because the classes they’re offering will teach a whole bunch of history that doesn’t show up in those traditional textbooks.

“Christopher Columbus, to me, was never a real person when I was learning about him in school. He was just a historical figure,” Gerstl said. “We want to show these historical figures as real people.”

Parents who home-school their children insist that the concept of homeschool education is widely misunderstood: The time they spend sitting home with their children, poring over textbooks, is far less than people tend to believe. But parents also can’t be experts in every field.

Marina resident Tara Devlin said the “home classroom” time for her three daughters — Reilly, 12, a seventh-grader; Elliott, 10, a sixth-grader; and Parker, 6, a first-grader — often is only about a three-hour block of their day.

“We just got back from Lake El Estero, where my second-grader counted the geese,” she said. “Then we ran laps around the lake, which was our P.E. And then we went grocery shopping, where my kids added up the price of the groceries and tried to estimate what the sales tax would be.”

Last spring, Devlin and her husband, Dan, SCHOOLING From page 34A took the family to Nashville, where they studied civil rights and the Civil War. The previous fall, all three girls studied the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence before traveling with their parents to Washington D.C.

“Those lessons are logged in their brains now much better than if they had read them in books,” she said.

And supplemental programs like those being offered at Omni Learning Center are a welcome oasis for home-school parents and their children.

“I’ve actually known Lorraine Gerstl since I was a little girl, and she’s wonderful,”