Too Cool for Home School?

In researching the home-schooling trend, a movement that seems to be gathering steam, I came across the book “Morning by Morning: How We Home-Schooled Our African-American Sons to the Ivy League.”  The author begins the book by stating, somewhat apologetically, that her family had not chosen homeschooling because they concluded it was the best option after researching their sons’ educational opportunities.  Rather, they decided on homeschooling in reaction to what “some white people had done to them.”

I can certainly empathize. I have written before about what I think white people might do to my daughter in the school system.   As eloquently explained by my co-blogger, the “colorblind” mantra–all the rage since the election of our first black president–dangerously allows people to ignore the ways in which our society’s institutions and systems perpetuate racial inequality.  In the classroom, it dangerously allows teachers and students to ignore the ways in which race influences their decisions in a learning environment.  And so, I’m anxious about teachers who will underestimate my daughter’s abilities, subject her to racially offensive lessons, or discipline her for “acts of insubordination” that would merely land her white classmates a stern look.  I worry about student social patterns, broken down along lines of race, that may render her isolated by her peers, left out of playgroups, and uninvited to birthday parties.  I’ll be on guard for administrators who, under the guise of “colorblindness” and “objectivity,” will seek to erase people of color from the curriculum all together.

Home-schooled, my daughter could avoid all that.  Our home is full of positive images of people of color; our books include not only black children, but children of all races.  We would never underestimate her ability; in fact, we’d likely expect more of her than public school teachers would.  We could integrate current events into our lessons, placing them in the proper social context, teaching her about race and class in ways that will make her an informed and compassionate citizen of the world.  We could give her a culturally reaffirming and rigorous education.

Alas, it’s only a pipe dream.  My husband and I both work full-time, and so it is unlikely that we will ultimately decide to home school.  We’ll have to settle for using our own resources, as educators and people of color attuned to race and class dynamics around us, to be doggedly vigilant regarding what goes on in our daughter’s classrooms.  All the same, “Morning To Morning” has got me thinking about how to give children of color better educational experiences; could homeschooling be the answer for more of us?

41 thoughts on “Too Cool for Home School?

  1. I dont know.
    homeschooling is a good thing but I feel like those kids miss out on the ‘social’ part. they are not interacting with other kids like they would at school.

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  2. I know a woman who is homeschooling her black child for precisely these reasons. And I think it is entirely the wrong way to go.

    On a personal level, I think it is a bad strategy to try and shield our children from racism all together. Our jobs are to teach our children how to cope with the real world, not a racial utopia where “white people can’t do bad things to us.” By homeschooling, and only exposing our children to a world where they are constantly affirmed about their race, they don’t learn that the real world is not like that. On the one hand, perhaps that makes them more resilient in the face of racism. On the other, it can leave them unprepared with what to do when racism slaps them in the face. There is evidence on both sides.

    As citizens, our children deserve to receive an equal education in public schools, and its our job to fight for that. Leaving public schools, whether in the form of charter schools, or private schools, or homeschooling, is in my opinion, a dereliction of the duty we have as responsible citizens to fight for equality in education. No one wants to use their children as guinea pigs; I understand that. But leaving the education system all together I think is the greatest form of giving up that I can imagine. It’s all about – “all I care about it MY kid – forget about the rest of y’all.” I abhor that attitude, and homeschooling really comes across that way to me.

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    1. “By homeschooling, and only exposing our children to a world where they are constantly affirmed about their race, they don’t learn that the real world is not like that. On the one hand, perhaps that makes them more resilient in the face of racism. On the other, it can leave them unprepared with what to do when racism slaps them in the face. ”

      This is the debate my friend and I get into all of the time. As an HBCU grad, I’m 100% FOR fostering growth and nurturing young black minds in a safe environment. I agree that the real world isn’t going to be that way. All the more reason to fortify them. I would argue that kids that aren’t taught in a cocoon, are no more ‘ready or prepared’ for racism. I would argue that they ARE more learned in the ways of going along to get along, not making waves, and being subordinate to the dominant culture.

      Being the only or one of a few is distracting and may not hinder book learning but definately hinders holistic learning and development.

      Just my $.02

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  3. I’m intrigued, but afraid, to read this book! Next year, my daughter will move from her private, overwhelmingly African American preschool to a desegregated public school. I’m not so worried because she thrives in a traditional school environment and gets along well with nearly everyone she meets. It’s still up in the air, though, how my son will fare in that environment. I’m scared. His energetic spirit may very well be interpreted as threatening and “bad” in general. BUT I seriously doubt that homeschooling will be best for either him or for me, especially since nobody is going to pay me for it.

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  4. I agree with the first comment. As parents, we want to protect our children from the bads in the world but these are the things that will build their character. Home schooling isn’t the solution, though it works for some people; the child needs to learn how to interact with other children and “telling” them how won’t be sufficient. A black child, unfortunately, will face racism at some point in their life – this is the fabric of the America we live in – we can only trust that we have taught them enough about themselves and giving them a positive sense of being to able to handle themselves in that situation.

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  5. I’m very pro-homeschooling! I’m also anti- public school.
    I think the “social” aspect Is a myth ppl cling to. It’s a myth. You can enroll your children in extracurriculars like sports teams, book clubs, church groups, boys & girls clubs, etc. You can make sure they spend time with neighborhood kids.

    My dream was to home school. Not because of racial fears but because American education sucks. Repping on public school, for me, Is more of a babysitting service; my son is going to learn more at ‘home’ than in school. I want him to have the experience though, so he remains grounded. I’m not Interested In rearing an out-of-touch kid. I want him to have a valid point of reference when he says “public school sucks” LOL.

    Listen, America wages educational apartheid on poorer ppl with the current system. Until that changes, I cant support. I’m all for home schooling, vouchers, charter schools, private schools, etc. And until America steps up the quality of the education and stops pumping out kids who are dumber than kids in ‘third world’ countries, I cart defend it.

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  6. I agree with LaToya that the public schools are being abandoned (often by middle-class blacks who have other options), leaving children with less capital behind, and that schooling choices have regrettably become an “individual right” that parents are free to exercise without any regard to how it affects other children. But I don’t get the distinction that LaToya made; how is homeschooling, private school and publci charter schools any different than “public” magnet schools, “public” university-run lab schools, or moving from the city to the suburbs and/or better area within the suburbs to get a better public education for your child? The added “diversity” value to the white kids your child now goes to schools with notwithstanding, it’s all a form of trying to get a better education for your child, at the disadvantage of the black and brown kids who you leave behind.

    I also agree with Benee that there are many ways to raise children who are resilient to racism without having to put them through the public school system. My guess is that the author’s four sons are more resilient to racism, if only because their sense of self has been developed in a supportive and nurturing environment long-term, and because their parents were probably able to teach them about racism, sexism, classism, etc. in ways that were thoughtful, nuanced, and much more meaningful than the paltry treatment those issues get in the public school system, if at all (If the Texas school board had its way, racism wouldn’t EVER be addressed!). Moreover, a while back we had a huge debate about how important it is to ensure that our young children have caregivers of color and interaction with other children of color–precisely to give them an affirming experience that can protect them in the world. I don’t understand how commentators are reconciling that position with a rejection of the author’s decision to continue that affirming experience for her black sons.

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  7. I am pro-homeschooling! My son participated in a home study program for 4 years (including rites of passage) with only Black boys. His academic progress, work in the community and knowledge about himself could never have been achieved in public school, especially in Georgia. He is in public high school now, wishing I would home school him 🙂

    Before he went to this program, he and my middle daughter went to a private afrocentric school that was based on the Marva Collins model. I am convinced that this foundation is what has helped them be academically successful.

    I look forward to getting my daughters back into this environment. The public school (plus 1 year in montessori) experiment has not worked for them. My 5th grader is in the talented & gifted program at school but hasn’t learned very much in the 3 years she’s been there. She can’t confidently say her multiplication tables…we can talk about my failure as a parent in another post. The focus in public schools seems to be on testing, discipline and mediocrity. Kids will rise to the level of expectation, and in public school that is just too low, especially for our children.

    The social aspect of public school is vastly overrated. Homeschooled kids don’t live in a bubble. There are plenty of opportunities to interact with other homeschooled kids, even sports leagues. And everybody has cousins, playmates, right? As for the protective features re: majority culture…living in America it is impossible to escape and important to be educated about. I think parents can do a better job of this than generic lessons taught by people with no frame of reference.

    Even if you don’t think that homeschooling will work for your family, take a look at http://www.edhelper.com for enrichment materials, printable worksheets (with answers!).

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  8. So, I typed a lengthy response as well and lost it on this phone. I agree with Benee and LaToya. Just as a homeschooling parent sets academic goals for their child, thy should also set social ones. Every homeschooling parent I’ve known has so been a part of larger groups of families – homeschooling and not – that share information, time, and resources for their children regularly. These may take the form of play dates, group field trips, community gardening, arts classes, library/bookstore readings, sports clubs, etc. My point is just that homeschoolng doesn’t have to mean that a parent and child are sitting around the home reading a textbook all day.

    Also, while I’m not anti-charter schools, I think that the current corporate charter school model and school vouchers do way more to undermine public education than a few homeschooling families. In Chicago they’ve already raised the legal classroom size and NYC is considering it in the face of public education budget cuts. Those are serious decisionsade about your child’s educational experience based on money at the expense of research-based education recommendations – as many decisions about public education are made. I think every parent should take that in consideration when thinking about their family’s role in furthering public education.

    Lastly, I don’t think any parent can shield their child from interpersonal racism unless they never leave the house or engage in any form of media. Also, I believe that encounters with racism don’t necessarily make a person better able to persevere past them. My opinion is that making sure our children are culturally competent, have pride in their abilities and heritage, and critical thinking skills are a much better way to prepare them for the world, especially when they’re still forming the foundation of their self-concept.

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  9. I agree with ORJ. Why should we feel any kind of way about “abandoning” schools that are failing our children, when the system is set up to do just that? As long as public schools are funded by local taxes, they will be skewed that way. So when we move out of the “hood”, we’re essentially abandoning the schools. And, I think we have the right to do what is best for our children. Period. We shouldnt rely ont he government to step in an make dramatic changes to systems that have been in place for decades and while fighting against people who dont want to give another penny of “their tax dollars” to government-funded programs.

    As for the racial aspect, different experiences vary for different children.
    For MANY Black children, their public schools are not very racially diverse. So I’m not seeing how homeschooling will be much different. America is still pretty segregated, even in major cities. Racial diversity is NOT the norm. In fact, I think the greater chances for facing racism are in predominantly White private schools.

    I went to a very diverse public school until 5th grade, then a private middle school for primarily Blacks and Latinos. There were 2 white students and a hand ful of Asians. Then I went to a predominantly White boarding school. I’ve experienced the spectrum. Being in school with Blacks and Latinos for 3 of my most important formative years prepared me to deal with a PW H.S. My sense of self was strong and my conviction and pride were immense.

    There are various homeschooling environments. It isnt just abt a parent teaching a kid. Like Andrea wrote, there are collectives coming together and teaching all the kids together in their own environments. No social issues there! And as far as having to deal with White people… the truth is, IMO, we learn that through direct experience. I honestly feel that people of color need to have a solid foundation that provides them with security and strength to deal with whatever may come. Homeschooling, IMO, can provide a great foundation.

    Unfortunately, most of us do not have the luxury to stay at home or dont have access to resources where we can educate our children in alternative settings.

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  10. There are good and bad reasons to homeschool. Homeschooling to protect you’re child from the racism they will possibly face in school won’t fix what they will experience as adults and may leave then unprepared. I am good friends with several homeschoolers. They are not all good homeschoolers. Some are doing it because they don’t like the amount of god in public schools. To her and her husband its unacceptable that christ is not in schools. Another friend is a former middle school teacher and lives in a less then desirable school district, they can’t accord private but she feels her education is enough. There’s another who homeschool’s her son because they could no longer afford the catholic school tuition after a layoff and she did not like her public school assignment. I will add the public school is actually well regarded but she doesn’t like the calendar. Since she started homeschooling they’ve caught him doing varies questionable things on the internet. Repeatedly.

    My point is not everyone should be doing it. There are many people who really should not be doing it because they are doing it for all the wrong reasons, doing it really bad; in some states you aren’t even required to be a high school graduate in order to homeschool, so a child can really be only as well taught as their educator is versed and driven. A well socialize homeschooler is part of a co-op. i can point out some highly educated homeschoolers who’s entire social life was their siblings and church, and i can point out others part of a co-op who see other children they are not related to or of the same religious background weekly. Homeschooling is what you make it. There are many good reasons to home school but deep down every family needs to ask themselves is benefiting their child or are they satisfying some ideal in the parents mind?

    I’m not going to say all public schools suck either because all schools are not created the same, i live where i live because of the public school it provides me. I don’t want my child to go to a religious school in any way shape or form so public and charters are the only things i will consider. I also am aware of the fact that with exception of a religious based school private school can work and it can fail miserably. Private schools are much faster in their ability to expel the troublesome child, the family that’s not giving extra to the endowment can get a swift exit, and lets not touch how many private schools won’t even allow admission to children with special needs.

    Homeschooling is not for everybody, nor is it an easy undertaking. I’ve seen those with the best intentions give up because some children just don’t work in the homeschooled environment. I just wish everyone who chooses to homeschool was as educated, dedicated, going into it with the best intentions and willing to accept if it doesn’t work they are not failing their children.

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  11. I agree with Benee & Kia on this one. As I plan the next phase(s) of my career, I always keep flexibility in mind so that I can homeschool my future children. I plan to participate in or start a co-op; I love this model because it allows for socialization while also allowing for a setup in which parents teach according to their strengths and everyone gets some time off. Also, should I be blessed to have the means (and a group of other parents with the means), our kids’ education could include group trips, even if just to the next city or state. Not to mention, there are plenty of “standard” curricula available to help facilitate the process.

    But no, homeschooling is NOT for everyone. Fortunately, most of the homeschoolers I’ve met – parents and kids – have had great successes. One woman’s daughter became so fascinated in the Asian cultures she learned about that she moved to Thailand & has been teaching there for several years. Her son didn’t quite do what he was “supposed” to do, but instead of being stigmatized and punished in the school system, etc., he and his family were able to work out another plan that met his unique needs. Now that young man is loving an excellent career in some sort of awesome computer nerdiness, making mega bucks.

    I think homeschooling allows students to receive the individual attention they need both culturally and academically, in addition to other facets. As such, it’s extremely intensive when done properly. Parents who aren’t interested in or able to invest the effort should definitely pursue other options.

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  12. I just have a strong sense that public schools are worth saving and things that detract from that are…bad, for lack of a better word. I think public education is tantamount to a well functioning democracy. If it were up to me, I’d abolish all other ways of educating children, and make public education mandatory. I think its the only way to ensure all children have the same opportunities in life. Truth is, homeschooling is generally for those with the means to do it, just like magnet schools and university lab schools, private schools.

    I think that having children in a black environment is important during the early years when a foundational sense of identity is being formed. Beyond that, I think we need to teach our children to interact in the world as it is. I think we all may disagree on how best to do that.

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    1. LaToya I appreciate your idealism, but I just don’t agree it would be so. There will always be an “other” so long as we live in a capitalist society and thrive on the existence of a lower class. Even if everyone was forced to attend public school, the education would still be slanted in quality, the funding would be slanted, the quality of teachers would be slanted, etc. Not every teacher is interested in being a brave soul venturing into the inner cities to save the poor youth of color. Most teachers seek those cushy positions at schools with more money and resources. Better teachers are lured by higher salaries and benefits from schools that provide them. And those that do burn out faster because of the children they have to teach, the dangers they face in the neighborhoods, the lack of parental involvement, etc.

      Now, if you want to talk about standardizing that across the board, which is akin to socialism, you will still deal with environmental issues. You can standardize the education, pay the teachers the same, have the same quality in facilities, but how will you account for the other important factors that contribute to a child’s overall education? And then are you willing to overhaul the days, the hours, etc to accomodate the parents’ work schedules? How can we make sure parents help kids with homework or come to parent-teacher night? What about things like bullying, peer pressure, drugs, alcohol, etc.? These are all things that GREATLY affect a child’s ability to learn and do well in school. These are also some reasons why parents pull their children out of public schools and seek better/other options.

      And homeschooling isnt just for those with means. I’ve encountered TOO many poor SAHMs who collect government assistance and homeschool their children. They call it sacrificing to be able to provide their children with the education they want.

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    2. Also, I’m curious: could you address how homeschooling is different from other efforts to get into a “better” school in the public school system? I asked the question in my original response to your post (above).

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  13. I don’t think homeschooling is different from getting into a “better” public school. My idealism is a utopia that will never be realized, I know this. In response to Benee, my system would be one in which students are randomly placed in schools within a large district, making it difficult for parents to choose “better” districts, and the districts wouldn’t be based on geography the way they are now. Education would be federalized, not state controlled, further equalizing the playing field. Philly and its suburbs, for example, would be one big district, and kids would be bussed all over. People would have to move great distances to get the level of inequality and segregation we have now. Maybe folks would do it, maybe all the white folks would move to the midwest or rural areas just to get away from black folks. It’s possible. Then I would create incentives for black folk to move to the midwest and rural areas. But it wouldn’t matter, I think. Because no one could spend more money than the fed gov’t allows for their district.

    The point would be that public education would be compulsory, no other options for educating your child would be allowed, for the good of the country. I actually don’t see another way to ensure that ALL children receive a quality education, an equal opportunity to learn, when each parent is acting solely in their child’s own self-interest. Because those who have – $$, cultural capital, a general sense that the system is currently set up for their kids to fail – will leave without trying to make the system better even though they are the very ones who have the capital, in whatever form, to do so. They leave behind the very children and parents that lack the political, cultural, and human capital to create change.

    And maybe this is too deep for this conversation, but lately I’ve been having this feeling that this lifetime really is quite short and only looking out for you and yours may not be the way to go. Something bigger is tugging at me… A book about how you schooled your children to the Ivy League, not how you schooled them to be better people, or to serve others or God, or make the world a better place (corny I know), but for a credential just isn’t the way I’m going.

    And I’m sure you can call me a hypocrite, b/c after my experience for 5 years in an all-black segregated neighborhood elementary school, my mother surely did put me in a public school that was a magnet for the best and brightest and that was to my benefit. But I was nine when that decision was made. Now, 20 years later, I don’t agree with them. My child will start school next year. We are in a “good” school district, but not good for black students, where 40% of them are labelled special ed and the achievement gap is huge. But I’m not leaving 1) cause I’m a grad student, and 2) even if I wasn’t, I believe in public education, this is my community, and my kids and every other black kid here deserves a quality education. I’ll use my capital to try to make that a reality. Now of course my situation isn’t nearly as bad as a mother in North Philly, or as bad as my mother’s situation 20 years ago in Mt. Airy/West Oak Lane. So I judge no one. If I sounded like I was judging in the earlier comments, I apologize.

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    1. I agree with your vision of utopia, and the things the gov’t must do to finally move toward equal education opportunity for all children. That being said, would you honestly not leave a school district that was utterly failing, as opposed to just a school district with an achievement gap for children of color (that you can probably avoid for your own children)? At what point do we put the needs of our own children before our vision for all children? Is there really not stopping point for you?

      I agree with Benee that the “Morning to Morning” title is catchy, and probably a big reason for its use. Moreover, if I had to make a bet on who did a better job of instilling the values of service to others, service to community, service in honor of a higher power, my bet would be on the parents, and not the school system.

      But even if their only goal was the Ivy League, I want to defend that. Isn’t that what all of this is about? We want equal educational opportunities for our kids so that they can have options later on; so they can pursue the dictates of their hearts, and turn the world into a better place with their contribution. And an elite education can help make that possible. Wanting our children to have access to the best schools around is not a terrible thing; it doesn’t make the parents materialistic, or superficial. I applaud the author for giving her children that choice; for preparing her young black male children to enter America’s places of power and, hopefully, make those places better.

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      1. “so they can pursue the dictates of their hearts, and turn the world into a better place with their contribution”

        The thing is, for many black people who “make it” this second part is an option, not a requirement. I want the desire of my children’s hearts to be to make the world a better place. I truly believe that if all children went to school together, civics and citizenship would necessarily be a part of the pedagogy, diversity would be necessarily be a part of the pedagogy.

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  14. “In response to Benee, my system would be one in which students are randomly placed in schools within a large district, making it difficult for parents to choose “better” districts, and the districts wouldn’t be based on geography the way they are now. ”

    How would the kids get to school LaToya? School bus service isnt free and isnt the most reliable or safe. With parents working, sometimes they have little choice but to put the kid in geographically convenient schools.

    ” Then I would create incentives for black folk to move to the midwest and rural areas”

    Now you’re asking people to uproot their lives, move away from families, sell homes even, to go to a mandated public school? That’s… extreme.

    “A book about how you schooled your children to the Ivy League, not how you schooled them to be better people, or to serve others or God, or make the world a better place (corny I know), but for a credential just isn’t the way I’m going. ”

    How do you know, though, that in that schooling, they didn’t school them to become better people or serve God (if that was their preference), etc? The title is eye-catching and will push sales, but have you read the book? Have you met the family? Do you know what their children do now in their careers?

    I respect your efforts, I just hope you’re prepared for the disappointment when things dont work out as you hope for your children. You’re putting, in my opinion, too much faith in a school that you admit already marginalizes Black children.

    I’m not willing to use my children as guinea pigs to test a system… not now, not during these economic times, not during this instability.

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    1. Again, I am putting forth my utopian system. School bus service isn’t free – but in my system it would be paid for by the school district. Education should be our countries number one priority, not the financial system, not military defense. The money is there, I think its not allocated properly.

      My incentives are just that – incentives. They would not be mandatory, therefore I would not be forcing anyone to uproot their lives or move away from their families. So I don’t see it as extreme at all.

      I don’t know what the family has done with their children or their careers, and I haven’t read the book. But I do know that most of the time people want “better” options for their kids is NOT about making their children “better” people, but about “getting” the “best” educational STUFF for their children, so their children can have the “best” life, a life better than they had. I don’t think that is an extreme view to have.

      Again, I’m not about things working out JUST for my children. I’m interested in community effort, and things working out for ALL children. My children aren’t guinea pigs, but part of a community. And my time frame of reference is long, not just in this lifetime…

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  15. There are plenty of things we can do that are bad for our children.Homeschooling is NOT one. Homeschooling’s weaknesses can be compensated for by the foundation of confidence, critical thinking skills. The same cannot be said for poor public schooling.

    Our public schools NEED reform! The road to reform is complex and a few homeschooling families are not going to be barriers to reform.

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  16. LaToya”The point would be that public education would be compulsory, no other options for educating your child would be allowed, for the good of the country. I actually don’t see another way to ensure that ALL children receive a quality education, an equal opportunity to learn, when each parent is acting solely in their child’s own self-interest. Because those who have – $$, cultural capital, a general sense that the system is currently set up for their kids to fail – will leave without trying to make the system better even though they are the very ones who have the capital, in whatever form, to do so. They leave behind the very children and parents that lack the political, cultural, and human capital to create change. ”

    I am always struck by this type of statement. Really, in a “free democratic country” we must make education “not free” and “no choice” in order for it to succeed?
    I think that anyone who feels that the public education system is not working for their child should rightly seek opportunities elsewhere, as in private school, homeschooling or a mix of what works for your student. I homeschool because it is what my children needed. Freedom to explore, create, and learn without judgment and hindrances of a traditional system that is afraid to admit that everyone does not learn the same way and that music, art, and foreign languages should be an integral part of elementary education. If the public educational system was really interested in seeing that ALL kids had a good education, it would want to desperately talk to homeschoolers. Here is a family where education was so very important to them that they took the responsibility on themselves without any outside support. Instead, pub-ed admins are angry when its successful and perpetuate negative stereotypes in-order to dissuade parents from taking action against a system that is a failure and a disgrace the world over.
    As parents, we have to do whatever necessary to make sure that our kids are ready for a new world economy; this is an economy where our kids are not just competing with Americans for jobs and college spots, but with students from all over the world.

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    1. I think you are misunderstanding me. My goal is for ALL children to have access to free and good quality education. I am not against homeschooling per se, only in that it removes from public schools the very incentive for public schools to get better – highly motivated parents who have the resources to make a “better” choice for their child. In my mind, K-12, and even higher, education, should be something that all children are entitled to. Yes, it should be individualized, but it should also be an entitlement for every child. When you remove children from the public system, and especially parents from the public system, you leave the parents and children who are the least able to advocate for better quality in the public schools, you leave people who don’t have other options. My solution is an extreme one, I realize that, but the only way for education to truly be the “great equalizer,” the only way for education to equalize the life chances of the poor and the rich, the children with savvy and motivated parents and the children without, the children whose mothers can stay at home and the children whose mothers cannot, the children whose parents have graduate degrees and the children whose parents don’t have high school diplomas, is to make public education something all children are exposed to, where people who have more can’t use their “more” to give their kid a advantage. It’s only fair.

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  17. Instead of thinking of these kids being left behind in a failing system. Think of it as a system that will have less stress from overcrowding, and the kids that really need that extra attention will be able to get it. Perhaps, more programs will be offered to cater solely to these children. I just don’t think that a few people who leave will ruin the education of all? Also, maybe if folks who aren’t used to using or having to access their own voice will embrace activism and educational responsibility of their community for the sake of their children.
    I also have to address entitlement to higher education. This is something that should be earned not a given. Many adults are in debt thinking they were entitled to college later discovering that a different path would have suited them better. I think its a wonderful option, but it is not for everyone.

    Finally, I have to add that while I think there is a stereotype of the well-off homeschooler; I have to tell you we are anything but. However, we are willing to make meaningful sacrifices(like doing without a second income!) because the education of our children is the most important priority for us. Unless every parent in the public education system is willing to do that then it will never be fair nor equal.
    Okay, this is my 2cents, but I had to give it!

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    1. I actually think you nailed exactly what I think is wrong with the education system. We cannot say we are truly a meritocracy when who you will be is largely dependent on what your parents do for you. Now I understand that sounds counterintuitive to many people, but I think all children should have an equal shot in life no matter what their parents do or don’t do, and even if that is not possible, education should be an institution that strives to be the “great equalizer.” A child who is unfortunate enough to have the bad luck to be born to parents who may not “care” as much about their education, or who lacks the resources, be they economic, cultural, human, etc., to do what’s best for their child, should not have to suffer the life long consequences of that in a true meritocracy. A child who is fortunate enough to be born of the vagina of a mother who does care an awful lot about that child’s education, and does have some resources, even if it’s knowledge about the best schools, or knowledge about how to get scholarships, etc, should not have a one up on another child in a true meritocracy. That is just what I believe – your life chances should not be determined by the luck of what vagina you were birthed out of. And in this country, that is exactly what happens.

      The argument that higher education can somehow be fairly earned when you admit that the public K-12 system is failing is an interesting argument that doesn’t seem to hold water. How can one fairly earn higher education when others have been so radically discriminated against in the very system that is a prerequisite for such higher education? How can it be fair to say that someone has “earned” something when their competitors started the race 20 paces behind and have roadblocks in their way the entire race?

      I also don’t believe that homeschoolers are necessarily more well-off financially, but they are more well of in terms of cultural resources, which is really what education is about. Credentials – homeschoolers are more likely to have college degrees than non-homeschoolers. That’s a huge advantage. Being able to live on one income is a sacrifice, yes, but one many many people cannot – not will not – but cannot make, no matter how much they sacrifice. It’s simply not possible. And yes, I understand that homeschoolers are a small group, but to me its the principle behind the matter that I’m concerned about.

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  18. Okay, if you think that for one second that if everyone went to the same school everything would be equalized, you should research other educational systems that do just that. Switzerland and Japan have mandatory public education. How is it then that the wealthiest students still manage to make up the predominant population of those in higher education? Because wealthy families pay for expensive test prep programs and after-school tutoring for their kids. Wealthy parents have contacts and connections that continue to help their kids throughout their whole life. Is that also unfair? Add to that, that even in a society that tries to give everyone a fair chance if you don’t score in the necessary bracket in middle school then you will never have the opportunity to go to college. Your aptitude is judged very early in life, and you are never able to change it, which is why many Europeans come to this country. They want a chance at higher education. Even in America, among public school students, parents with the finances for expensive test prep and tutoring programs still maintain an advantage over other public school children without those resources. How will you equalize this? Make wealthier parents stop caring about their children? Forbid them to assist their children? For bid them to help their children in any way?

    Now, this is another stereotype that homeschoolers more often have higher education. Not true. In fact, research shows that for homeschoolers it does not matter if the parents have received higher education or not they do as well or better than parents of homeschoolers that do have that education. Again, speaking of SAT scores alone, it does not matter the race of a homeschool child, they all do as well or better than public school children. Essentially right now, African American children score at the bottom of SAT tests falling behind even Latino children born of first generation immigrants! However, for homeschooled children this is not the case no matter the education of the parents. This was important to me as an AA mom.
    http://www.hslda.org/docs/nche/000010/200410250.asp (just wanted to give you that source)
    You have to wonder if the public education system was only set-up to fail a certain group of children? Is it possible? Now, knowing what I know I think it would be tantamount to educational homicide to put my children in a system that “seems” designed to fail them??? Why would I do that? Who does this benefit? I think every AA parent should form a boycott and never send their children back. I know I sound militant here, but this is serious!

    I am not sure what extra cultural resource advantages you mean? I have the same as any other AA family I guess, but what we did have was love and concern for our children and wanted to provide them with the best education we could afford and this was it.

    I understand where your heart is; I truly do. But I refuse to consider that turning my child over to the government to educate with whatever they want and how they want is the American way.

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    1. HSN – I am an academic, so if you are going to throw studies at me, I’m going to come back at you. The site you pointed me to is run by homeschoolers. Don’t you think they are only going to publish studies that make them look good? All of the studies on that page were funded and run by homeschooling associations. Do you think those studies are objective, or scientifically rigorous?

      Now, according to the U.S. Department of Education, “In 1999, compared to nonhomeschooled students, homeschooled students were more likely to be White, to have families with three or more children in the household, to have two parents (especially when only one parent was in the labor force), and to have parents whose highest level of educational attainment was a bachelor’s degree or higher.” I’m sorry, I am much more inclined to believe their data than yours.

      The argument we are having is theoretical, of course – my utopian educational system will never happen. In my system, parents would not be allowed, i.e. it would be illegal, to have test prep outside of school, or pay for fancy tutoring. Because I think that is the way economic advantage undermines meritocracy. And yes, I do think that is unfair – do you?

      My system would be almost socialist, in a way. Wealthy parents, in order to help their kid, would have to help ALL kids. Want a fancy math program? Donate it to the entire school, for the benefit of all children. If a child is struggling in math, there should be money in the district for that child to get tutoring – her parent shouldn’t have to pay for that. School districts would draw from all over, and rich kids would be sitting next to poor kids so parents, if they are concerned about their child’s education they necessarily have to care about the other children because those other children make up their child’s learning environment.

      My idea is one of justice. I understand that you are doing what you think you must for your child right now. But I’m thinking bigger than that. More long-term than that. Not just my generation or my children’s generation. I will put my kids in public school because getting the highest SAT scores, while good things, are not the things I want them to be solely focused on. I want them to be committed to justice like I am. Believe me, I will be all up in the school making sure they receive a proper education, but I’ll be all up in there trying to see that other kids aren’t getting short shifted either.

      I have a passion for education and children now that I didn’t have before I had my kids, like now, everybody’s kid is my kid. I think every single child should have the opportunity to learn, no matter what his parents do or do not do. Some parents suck – children shouldn’t have to pay for that. Some parents are great – no one should be rewarded for that. And I think we should all feel like that if we truly believe in equality and fairness. But I understand that we don’t. To each his own.

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  19. “Some parents suck – children shouldn’t have to pay for that. Some parents are great – no one should be rewarded for that. And I think we should all feel like that if we truly believe in equality and fairness. But I understand that we don’t. ”
    I can appreciate wanting to help all kids and yeah, this would definitely be fantasy.

    “To each his own.” Agreed.

    You didn’t like my source, but there are many others done individually by states, one was reprinted not in its entirety by the Department of Education. A homeschool run site was the only place I can find at least a complete study to post which was my reason for using it. But, okay, the Department of Education? So you don’t think they would also be a little biased towards teachers and the teachers unions? Is it possible that their data would also be skewed in order to dissuade and dismiss?

    I also noticed that you don’t discount homeschool achievement just their racial makeup. So let me ask you is it possible that because white people in general makeup the majority in this country and are less likely to divorce than those of color, would it also be safe to say that public schools in general are predominately white with 2 parents and one may have education? In fact, if you took this to its full-blown conclusion, this country is made up of mostly white parents and one may have education. Again, I have just had a different experience with the Department of Education and public school administrators than you so I am less inclined to blindly trust their data, though freely given.

    I think though that we can agree that our children being wholly educated is important to us. Eventhough, my oldest in high school is homeschooled she is also “dedicated to justice” because she has had the opportunity to see it first-hand in this country. I don’t homeschool in a bubble. We travel and volunteer, and she meets people of all walks of life.

    I am really hoping that their is some common ground that we can have here rather than a dislike of homeschoolers/homeschooling for the principle of it. That maybe just maybe you can see what would drive someone to make this decision and can respect it …. a little???
    Like a tiny tinee bit?? LOL

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    1. The department of education is surely not biased in favor of teachers unions. They hate the teachers union. And this study was only talking about the composition on homeschoolers and their parents. No need to lie, or be biased. And I was only commenting on the education of the parents, not the race. I don’t think I’ve bought up race at all this entire discussion. The paragraph I pulled for the education stat, which is what we were disagreeing about, whether homeschooling parents were more likely to have a college degree. My data said that they were, and your data said they were not.

      I think we do agree that children deserve a good education. We disagree about how to get there, I think. I believe, although you haven’t said this outright, that you think having choices is the best way for children to get a good education. That by allowing parents to choose, especially with failing public schools, having an alternative to public school is the only way parents can get a good education for their kids. I respect that point of view.

      But I see it differently. I think if parents had less choices, they’d be more inclined to put their resources into the one option – the public schools. By allowing for other choices, I believe resources are diluted. The “best” resources go where they have always gone – to those who have more. Society is continually reproduced with the haves and have nots and the cycle is never broken. I believe that if the same parents who are motivated to take their kids out of “failing” schools were forced to stay in those same schools, those schools wouldn’t be failing anymore because those parents would raise holy hell to make them better. And that marshaling of resources would benefit every child in the school, even those who don’t have parents clamoring for change.

      So I don’t think homeschooling is the devil. I hope that it works well for you and your children.

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  20. OT: I just watched “Waiting for Superman”. I’m not sure if anyone else has, but it is an amazing eye opener and incredibly sad! They make a great point about impoverished neighborhoods being a result of failing schools and not the other way around.

    We can totally agree on that point. I do think that parents need options, but more than that I think kids need options too.
    Thanks for saying you don’t think homeschooling is the devil… that would have super “hurt”! My children needed an option, and I created one. I just can’t recommend to any parent to just stick it out in a failing school; I know I didn’t & wouldn’t.

    But, all the best to you as your daughter enters school next year! I pray its a positive experience for you both.

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  21. This has been a very interesting conversation. Let me start by saying, I work in the public school system. It’s very easy to say what you would do and what should be done if you haven’t actually worked in a school that is “failing”. Benee and Homeschoolnewbe, both of you made some excellent points. My son is currently in a gifted magnet program in middle school. This is supposed to be one of the premier programs in the school district. The teachers in the program have a one size fits all approach that is not meeting the needs of my child. Like Benee said, I am not willing to let my child be a guinea pig for the system. I am seriously considering homeschooling. I am tired of public education and all it’s political and prejudice (not only racial) aspects. Some co-workers and I have really been thinking about forming our own school based on multiple intelligences with a culturally relevant curriculum. Something has got to give with public education. Too many children are already being left behind but I can tell you that there is one that won’t be – mine.

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    1. You know what though – all those children left behind will be knives in all our backs when they grow up. THAT should be the motivation for all of us to try to better public education. Because there is only so far out in the suburbs we can move, only so high the apartment buildings can go, to get away from poverty, violence, destruction that comes as a result of “failing” public education. Just because you get your kid “out” doesn’t mean that you won’t feel the negative effects of failing public schools. We can all run but we cannot hide.

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  22. I’m not running, and I’m not hiding. I’m educating parents that they have a choice. You don’t have to bend over and take it; you can do something. There are other options.
    I just cannot subscribe to the mindset that if something is failing we should reward this system by handing over more of our “precious little futures” to it.

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    1. Again – I don’t think homeschooling is wrong in and of itself. But what are we doing, outside of our personal options for our children, to better public education? Because the truth is, those kids are the majority of kids. And those majority of kids are still in failing schools even when you pull your kids out. And your kids will still have to live in a country where a plurality of children received a piss-poor education. And piss-poor education leads to a whole host of social ills. That’s what we can’t run from, no matter what we do for our individual children. Suburbs eventually run into other suburbs, which run back into urban areas. We cannot escape the poverty, violence, and overall disfunction that is generated by bad education, or lack of education. This is a societal problem, not an individual problem. That’s why the state of public education is all of our problem, a problem WE as a country, cannot run nor hide from.

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  23. I agree wholeheartedly with LaToya. This is about the “right” to make decisions for your children, without thinking about how it will affect other children. Do we really have such a “right”? What is the cost of exercising that “right”? We can keep pulling our children out, and leaving a failing public school system behind us, but it catches up to all of us. ALL of us suffer when our society is poorly educated, without realistic options for personal and economic advancement and/or stability for most of our citizens, and with a stigmatized and inadequate social safety net.

    As I a parent, I understand the tension here. I don’t want my daughter to suffer for a cause either; when she graduates but actually can’t read on grade level, I won’t feel better just because I can say I stayed true to my principled support of public schools. At the same time, we must have the conversation about what it means to pull our capital out of these schools, what we owe to our brothers and sisters who we leave behind, and what we should be doing to improve the schools system, even if we do decide to pull our children out. We should at least acknowledge that we’re complicit in the failure here, that we chose to put ourselves before our community, and that it will catch up to the children and grandchildren we were so desperately trying to “save” in the first place.

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  24. I don’t know about anyone else. I can’t speak for them, but I tried at my kids school. I talked, I petitioned, I begged, I pleaded, and I cried for someone to listen… for changes to be made; not a soul listened, and just like I figured; my school failed their SOLs(VA state tests). This now meant my children were in a failing school. It seemed to me they were only interested in numbers. The more students enrolled, the more teachers could be hired; the more principals and administrators could be brought aboard to “talk”. It was incredible how many people were making money from this school’s failure. At first, I paid for them to attend a school with better teachers and finally we decided to homeschool so our kids would always have a great teacher! LOL
    Like “Bebe” says it is easy to say what you would do, but until you have had to face the uphill battle of a failing educational system, been ignored, and realized that your opinion does not matter; you can’t say what you would do.
    The bible says that our families are our first ministry. Unless we have our own house in order we cannot save others. If we subject our best minds to this type of educational system, who will be around or able to save the next generation?

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  25. I’d just as soon leave religion out of it. The bible also tells us that we are our brothers’ keepers. Running away from public schools as fast as we can, and leaving our black and brown sisters and brothers behind does not comport with that biblical teaching. Interpretation and selection is every thing; selective interpretation of the bible is problematic here (and everywhere else, for that matter).

    Like I said, there is a tension here. There is no “right” and “wrong” side. It is true that we have an obligation to get our children the best education possible (which includes cultivation of their civic duty and responsibility to their community) AND that we have an obligation to all children; not just the ones that we carry and deliver.

    How do we bridge both obligations? I’m not sure, but acknowledging the tension here must be a start. When you start to ask yourself “have I failed in my obligation to my brothers and sisters?” you start to see the world differently, which might motivate you to act differently. It might inspire an organized collective movement to improve your neighborhood school, as opposed to just begging and pleading as one individual; it might motivate you to find other parents like you who are committed to their children and to the greater good, who insist on staying in the public schools together, even if it means that they supplement their childrens’ education on the side. But we can’t get to that place if we are unwilling to admit in the first instance that the decision we made for our child might not be what is best for our child’s community; and that sometimes, the latter should predominate over the former.

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  26. Latoya/ORJ
    I realize we will never see eye to eye on this, but I will say I would never sacrifice my child for the “good of anybody’s community”. Not going to do it.
    I was pleading right along with other parents. Please don’t think that I was the only person with a problem. Many of those same parents went to private education; I chose something more radical. To each his own.
    I applaud them.
    They did what they had to do.
    Every parent has a right and a responsibility to their own child. If you choose to stick with a failing system, so be it for you, but I don’t have to.

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