Friday, May 04, 2007

Another Look At Homeschooling...

Meet The Spences...

by Dr. Lester K. Spence

The school year is now in full swing. But while many parents are preparing for parent-teacher conferences, some for the first time, my wife and I are in our second year of homeschooling. When we made the decision to move to Baltimore last year, this was not originally part of the plan. We’d found a nice neighborhood school close enough to walk to that people raved about.
But we soon realized we had to improvise because there were some significant problems with the school and the school system. My oldest son Kamari’s first grade class had about thirty students. Because the school did not have adequate resources my son’s class didn’t have recess. Think about that. A class overflowing with six year olds who have enough problems as it is keeping their feet still…and you don’t give them recess? Oh. Did I mention they didn’t have gym either?

There’s more. There’s the teacher that didn’t know that 1=1.0, and didn’t know how to spell “questionnaire”. And on top of that there was the chess teacher that only brought 6 chessboards for thirty kids because “the rest of them aren’t going to want to pick it up anyway.”
Rather than shell out money we didn’t have for private schools that were only slightly better, we decided to take our kids education into our own hands.

So the first day of homeschooling my wife takes our kids to the library, wondering if we hadn’t made a colossal mistake. She ends up spying a couple of kids, who by all rights should have been in school. They didn’t look sick, so my wife did what any woman in her position would do.
She followed them, back to their parents and right into one of the largest black homeschooling communities in the country.

It was a difficult transition to be sure.

But it was one of the best decisions we’ve made as a family in the almost eleven years we’ve been a family. We don’t have a lot of resources. The vast majority of the families in our homeschooling network are trying to make ends meet, just like us. During the past year we took our children to Philadelphia to the United States Mint, we fielded a team in one of the most prestigious academic competitions in the state of Maryland and took first place, and held a standing room only graduation ceremony for dozens of black homeschooling families.

Our plans this year? To teach our children how to document problems in their own communities. How to create their own media. How to organize. On top of reading, writing, and arithmetic.
In hindsight what we realized was that the schools of Baltimore, could easily have been the schools of Detroit, or the schools of DC, or the schools of any major urban center. These schools were designed to train kids for jobs making cars, or making parts for cars, or making machines that make parts for cars. That’s all fine and good if we’re talking about 1965. But we aren’t. Those jobs? The odds of those jobs coming back are probably about as good as the odds of us seeing .72c gas again. And all the battles about vouchers, about teacher-student ratios won’t bring those jobs back.

My wife and I would not be where we are today without the public school system. At some point though, parents are going to have to begin to think critically about what education in our urban centers is supposed to look like in the 21st Century. I suspect that many of them will come to the same conclusions my wife and I did.

Copyright © 2005 Lester K. Spence, Ph.D.

Dr. Lester Kenyatta Spence is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at Johns Hopkins University, and has spent the last year studying health disparities at Morgan State University. He has appeared on CSPAN, PBS, and is a regular commentator on News and Notes with Ed Gordon. His areas of specialty include: Black Politics, Urban Politics, Political Behavior, and Public Opinion. He and his wife of twelve years are currently homeschooling their five children.

Visit Dr. Spence's Official Website:

More Dr. Spence On W.E. A.L.L. B.E.:

No comments: