Sunday, June 17, 2012

Home Schooling, Responsibility, and Me

My wife and I gave our kids a choice when they finished sixth grade. They could stay in the government school system, or be home schooled. Each of them chose home schooling.

The youngest is starting a computer repair business, and will graduate in three years. One is a cartoonist, with a 'day job' to pay the bills; another graduated from college and is running a candle manufacturing company with her husband; and one is a writer.

My wife teaches for other home schooling families in our part of central Minnesota. Some of them want the subject knowledge that she and our third-oldest daughter offer, some need help keeping up with 'schooling' while running a family business.

What each home schooling family I know has in common is that we care about what our kids learn: academically and otherwise.

'Religious or Moral Instruction'

My wife and I home school our kids partly because we're concerned about their "religious or moral instruction." Considering what's shown up in the national news, I'd better explain what "religious or moral instruction" really means. (March 6, 2010)

First, what "religious or moral instruction" doesn't mean. I do not live in fear that my kids will start believing that Earth isn't flat, or learn that the universe is more than 6,000 years old.

As I've said before, "I believe that God created - and is creating - everything. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 279, 301, 302-305)

"That's not necessarily the same as believing that God the Almighty looks like Charleton Heston's Moses." (January 18, 2012)

Children, Education, and "Primordial Responsibilities"

I'm a practicing Catholic, and a father, so I'm responsible for teaching my children:
"The conjugal community is established upon the consent of the spouses. Marriage and the family are ordered to the good of the spouses and to the procreation and education of children. The love of the spouses and the begetting of children create among members of the same family personal relationships and primordial responsibilities." (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2201)

"The Christian family is the first place of education in prayer. Based on the sacrament of marriage, the family is the 'domestic church' where God's children learn to pray 'as the Church' and to persevere in prayer. For young children in particular, daily family prayer is the first witness of the Church's living memory as awakened patiently by the Holy Spirit."
(Catechism, 2685)
Granted, not everybody sees education and prayer the way I do:
The Catholic Church doesn't say that my wife and I have to home school our kids. This paragraph, part of a discussion of participation in social life (Catechism, 1897-1917), seems to say that community schools are an option:
"Second, the common good requires the social well-being and development of the group itself. Development is the epitome of all social duties. Certainly, it is the proper function of authority to arbitrate, in the name of the common good, between various particular interests; but it should make accessible to each what is needed to lead a truly human life: food, clothing, health, work, education and culture, suitable information, the right to establish a family, and so on.28"
(Catechism, 1908)
Unhappily, government schools in today's America aren't always particularly good places for kids to hang out. Maybe home schooling won't work for everybody: but I think it's practical for most folks: and better in the long run for most parents and children.

Home Schooling Works

I put this Q & A list together last month. It's based on questions I've been asked, and assumptions I've noticed:
  • Does a home schooling family have to
    • Build a classroom?
      • No
    • Run the student(s) between rooms at 50-minute intervals?
      • No
  • Home schooling is only for
    • Geniuses
      • No
    • People who hate science
      • No
    (May 30, 2012)
Someone with an overabundance of energy and wealth could build an entire school building, complete with gymnasium and a garage for school buses; and replicate every detail of what should happen in government schools. Nobody I know does that, and I don't see why anyone would.

What's needed to home school is, first of all, at least one child between the ages of about six and 18. Having access to a room with adequate light and ventilation, and at least one table and chair, is nice: but education could be conducted in nearly any reasonably comfortable environment.

The point I'm trying to make is that home schooling isn't all that difficult. And the odds are really good that wherever you are, someone nearby is home schooling their kids now: and can either lend a hand, or tell you where to find help.

Here's what got me started:

Home Schooling: Making a Difference

"African-Americans increasingly turn to home-schooling"
Garrett Tenney, (June 16, 2012)

"It's the end of another school year, and for a growing number of African-American kids, it will be their last outside the home.

"Nationwide, more and more families are choosing to home school their children each year, and the fastest growing segment of the home school movement is African-Americans, experts say. Some 220,000 black children are home-schooled, according to one estimate. 'Each one of them has excelled so much, and I can see it,' Kisha Hayes, of Baton Rouge, La., says of her three children, whom she began home-schooling five years ago. 'I can see the difference in their learning.'..."
The article gets back to the Hayes family, and so will I.

Home Schooling: It's Growing

Let's look at some numbers, from the article and elsewhere.

United States:
  • Percent of school-age population home schooled
    • 1.7% (1999)
    • 2.9% (2007)
  • Total U.S. population: 313,847,465
    (July 2011 estimate) (United States, "CIA World Factbook" (last updated June 8, 2012))
  • U.S. population, black: 40,329,400 (approx, from U.S. population and percentage data)
    • Black home schooled students: 220,000
      (The National Home Education Research Institute, via
Assuming that black Americans/African Americans have about the same age distribution as everyone else: 12.85% of 63,066,000, or 8,103,981, black/African-American children are between the ages of 5 and 19. If that number's reasonably accurate, then the 220,000 home schooled black/African-American students are roughly 2.7% of the total. That's just short of the national average for 2007.

What impressed me wasn't the numbers of families who decided to keep paying government schools, through taxes, and home school their kids. It was how fast that number was growing.

The number of home schooled kids nearly doubled in eight years, from 1999 to 2007.

(If you're interested, The 2012 Statistical Abstract ( has a pretty good selection of statistical data. I archived a copy of the table I used, Table 7. Resident Population by Sex and Age, in .pdf format, from (June 16, 2012).)

Threatening the Status Quo

No wonder folks who like the status quo are having fits about 'those people' who home school their kids.

I almost sympathize with government school administrators. Their budgets depend on how many warm bodies they have in the building. When the body count drops, so does their funding.

Protecting My Kids

Very few students are actually killed each year in America's government schools, but there's more to growing up than just being alive when we turn 18. I want my kids to be responsible adults. So do other parents.
"Alkinee Jackson, also of Baton Rouge, began home-schooling her five children after she and her husband saw the attitude and behavior of their oldest son, Alante, worsen. He was only in second grade.

" 'If we allowed him to continue to be there and be influenced, by the time he reached high school he'd already be gone; and we know where he'd end up,' Jackson said...."
(Garrett Tenney, [emphasis mine]
'What could possibly go wrong' in a government school? Here's one view:
"...George Noblit, an education sociologist at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, said African-American parents increasingly turn to home-schooling to protect their children from drugs and bullying, as well as to ensure the kids get more individualized instruction.

" 'For African Americans, the current state of education is actually not one that is conducive to kids learning,' Noblit told 'More and more kids end up not being served well. African Americans are positively saying, "It's time to find a better educational situation." '...
(Garrett Tenney,
It's nice to see someone at a university acknowledge that all is not well in America's education establishment. With due respect to G. Noblit, thought: it's not just African Americans who want to keep their kids away from illicit drugs and bullies.

Knowing Who We Are

There's more to home schooling than keeping kids from getting stoned or beaten. When parents get involved, children get opportunities that don't exist in a classroom.
"...Hayes, who calls her classroom the 'Hayes Homeschool Academy,' said she and her husband are able to spend the kind of one-on-one time with their kids that school teachers couldn't. They can also emphasize subjects they believe public schools don't, including religion and African-American history.

" 'We're able to focus on black history a little bit more than I think public schools would give it,' said Hayes, who moved from San Bernadino, Calif., five years ago. 'We're actually able to learn the things we want to learn, whatever that might be, and I think that would go with any nationality.'..."
(Garrett Tenney,
I agree with Hayes, although my family doesn't include 'Norwegian-German-Dutch-Irish-Scots history' in our curriculum. Some of that gets covered in European and world history, of course.

Now that I think of it: shouldn't world history include what's been happening in the Americas, Africa, and eastern Asia? That's another topic.

How we connect with vikings, Lindisfarne, Stonehenge, der Schwarzwald, Nederland, and the rest of the world, comes up now and then while my wife talk about something else. Then there's the explanation for a vulture and a cobra being part of Egyptian royal headgear several millennia back: and that's yet another topic. Topics.

Regulations and All That

Garrett Tenney's article gives a quick overview of State regulation of home schooling parents. New York has the tightest grip: while Texas bureaucrats seem to assume that Texans have common sense, and "only requires instruction on good citizenship, math, reading, spelling, and grammar." (Garrett Tenney,

Maybe New Yorkers need more oversight. Or something.

Home Schooled: Decisions and an Opinion

"...Now 15, Alante [Jackson] is preparing to graduate high school a year early. He's taking a Chinese language course online, and deciding whether to major in engineering or medicine in college.

"Kamal Hayes, who at age 16 is a five-year veteran of his mom's 'academy,' said home-schooling has worked out well for him, too.

" 'Nothing against public school,' he said, 'but you're not really missing out on anything.' "
(Garrett Tenney,
I couldn't have put it better, myself.

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What's That Doing in a Nice Catholic Blog?

From time to time, a service that I use will display links to - odd - services and retailers.

I block a few of the more obvious dubious advertisers.

For example: psychic anything, numerology, mediums, and related practices are on the no-no list for Catholics. It has to do with the Church's stand on divination. I try to block those ads.

Sometime regrettable advertisements get through, anyway.

Bottom line? What that service displays reflects the local culture's norms, - not Catholic teaching.