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Home-made education
 
Published Thursday, April 24, 2008
by Herbert L. White

Angela Fulton’s children don’t have to leave their Weddington home for an education.

PHOTO/PAUL WILLIAMS III
Angela Fulton (second from right) checks daughter Aris’ class progress at their Weddington home Tuesday as son Christian (second from left) watches. Son Carlyle plays with building blocks on the far left. Academic control and socialization concerns have sparked growth in homeschooling among black families.


Fulton’s children – fifth-grader Aris, fourth-grader Christian and 4-year-old Carlyle – are homeschooled, part of a growing trend among black families.


“It’s not for everyone, but I know where my children are academically,” she said.


Although numbers vary nationally, more black parents are opting out of public education for homeschool. A Charlotte group, Families of Color Uniting Scholars, counts 75 families among its membership.


“It’s a large portion of us,” said Fulton, a social worker by profession. “And it’s gaining popularity.”


At the Fulton home, classes start at 7 a.m. and end at 12 p.m. Subject matter is structured math, grammar, science and social studies, with a Latin tutor for Aris. Homework and study time follows, with time for field trips and extracurricular activities. If the kids need a math tutor, Fulton’s husband Craig, a senior vice president at Bank of America, steps in.


“Everywhere we go is a learning experience,” Fulton said. “I follow a classic curriculum so instead of sounding threatening, it makes it a lot easier.”


Aris started in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, but Fulton pulled her when she found the academic challenges lacking. Another factor was negative influences, especially after an incident when Aris used a racial slur she said a teacher told the class was acceptable.


“The teacher explained there was proper time to use the N-word,” Fulton said. “That didn’t set well with me, as well as she didn’t learn as much as I had taught her. I really felt I could do no worse.”


That’s a recurring theme among homeschool advocates, said David Dunaway, an assistant professor at UNC Charlotte’s College of Education. Black parents who have the resources to go it alone are choosing to keep their children at home.


“As African American parents look at the school system and the kids the school system are serving worst, it makes sense they’d want something better,” he said.


Home school education, long criticized for its lack of socialization opportunities, hasn’t deterred Fulton. Her children interact regularly with other home-school students through field trips and visits to educational facilities and plays – usually at a discount.
“We started for the academics, but we’re finding it has advantages socially,” she said. It’s very difficult to stay home and home school. You could truly stay gone all day.”


Homeschooling, long considered the province of whites and evangelicals, is becoming more brown. According to the U.S. Department of Education, 1.1 million children were homeschooled in 2003, the latest figures available. Of that number 9 percent, or about 103,000 were black, accounting for about 1.3 percent of all African American students. Researchers, however, argue the actual numbers are closer to 2 million.


“Most homeschool for the same reason white families do: academics, religion, to get away from a bad situation at a school, travel, etc.,” said Ann Zeise, publisher of A to Z Home’s Cool, an internet portal that focuses on home school curriculum.


About 50 million children are in public and private schools, with blacks accounting for about 16 percent of enrollment.


Homeschooling isn’t likely to overtake public and private education, Dunaway said, but the momentum is building as parents look to have more say over academic development or spend more time with their children. Advocates also point to the growing number of colleges actively recruiting homeschooled students, who are academically competitive.


“School systems look at it as pulling money from them in terms of enrollment,” he said. “But homeschooled kids certainly test as well on standardized tests as public school kids. (Homeschooling) has a negative connotation with the education establishment, but when you look at things, those kids have certainly excelled.”

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