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Homeschoolers tour downtown Brookhaven

There are no theme parks or water slides in downtown Brookhaven,but the area became a tourist attraction for at least one groupThursday.

More than 20 parents and their children from Parents EducatorsAnd Kids (PEAK), a home school group headquartered in Jackson,arrived in downtown Thursday on the train for a walking tour of thearea. PEAK founder Natalie Criss said the group often gathers forfield trips to parks and museums, but downtown Brookhaven had alittle something different to offer.

“It’s a very charming downtown,” she said. “With some of the oldfacades and architecture – our kids don’t get to see much like thisat home. Jackson is trying to do some revitalization, but it’s notnearly as charming as this. Brookhaven has a small towndowntown.”

Criss said the group was sold on the trip to Brookhaven partlybecause of the ease of traveling downtown. Everything the PEAKgroup wanted to visit – the Military Memorial Museum, the LincolnCounty Public Library, Just Kiddin’, etc. – is within walkingdistance of the depot.

Downtown Brookhaven also offered the group shorter lines – ifany. The trip was designed as an educational outing for thechildren, and the ease of access to downtown allowed the group toget up close and personal with the study material.

“In home education, we utilize the local communities andresources to show our kids the world,” Criss said.

PEAK parent Natalie Stonecypher, who came up with idea to rideAmtrak to Brookhaven, said the downtown area offered more learningopportunities than crowded metro areas. She singled out a recentPEAK trip to a museum in Jackson, where the tiny group was crowdedagainst more than 1,000 public school students.

“In a situation like this, we get to meet and talk to peoplemuch better than we would in a larger town,” she said. “We can comehere and it’s more hands-on – the kids can actually talk to andlearn from the residents. The kids get to see a bit back in timehere- the quaint, small town feel of it all really helps us teachthe children.”

PEAK, an all-inclusive but largely Christian group, was startedin Jackson in September 2004, and has since expanded into almost 10groups across Mississippi from Tupelo to the coast. The program hasalso expanded into Alabama and Texas.