RUSSELL — Before heading back to the books, members of the Ellis County Home School Network laced up their skates for a little fun.

The network is made up of Christian families in the area who provide support for one another through meetings, field trips, classes and themed parties.

Approximately 20 school-age children, their younger siblings, mothers and even a dad or two attended the back-to-school party at the Xtreme Fun Center in Russell.

Carrie Raymer, Russell, is the organizer of the group’s monthly play activities. Because the network has families in Hays and Russell, she alternates towns for the activities.

“It gets the kids out of the house and gets them together, so they can play and interact with each,” she said of the events.

Stacey Sutter is the events coordinator for the group, so “everybody who does an event coordinates it through me. Having one time where we do something fun each month is so important to us, where we relax and enjoy ourselves. As moms, we get together and talk, and the kids can make friendships.”

Jean Scofield from Colorado is visiting family, which includes her grandchildren, Ty, Taylor and Coy Cook, Russell.

“Every time I come (for a visit), their home-school network has some activity for them,” she said.

Skating is on the activity list at least once a year. Some of the children had skated before and glided around the room. Others got help from their mothers, and sometimes older siblings helped younger.

One tyke, too small to skate, rode a scooter around the floor.

Every family runs their school year a little different, but the group usually gets together about this time for a back-to-school party, Sutter said.

The home-schoolers “don’t meet quite as often during the summer, so it’s good to get everybody together,” Raymer said.

Elizabeth Clingan, a sixth-grader, likes the play activities because she gets “to hang out with Jaelynn (Sutter).

Elizabeth’s favorite subject is math.

Being home-schooled is fun for her because “sometimes we can get school done in just a few hours.”

Home school is fun for Jaelynn Sutter, an eighth-grader, “but sometimes you don’t want to do it.”

Fifth-grader Caden Sutter’s favorite subject in school is Pathways, a faith-based literacy program “where you read a story, then write along with it.”

He likes home-schooling because “you don’t have to go to school and be done at the same time that other people are done on. You don’t have to wait for everyone else to finish.”

Raymer, whose children are ages 8, 6, 3 and 9 months, home schools “so that I have better control over what they’re being taught. We do incorporate a lot of our Christian faith into it. I have my teaching degree. I wasn’t able to get a teaching job, so I just decided to home-school my own.”