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Friday, May 27, 2011

Why We Homeschool: A Response to Wendy Thomas and the Commercial Appeal

Okay, I have hesitated to comment on this homeschool athletics situation on the CA(Commercial Appeal) that has led to a lot of misconceptions/perceptions based on the opinion of people who haven't homeschooled their children and have probably never been involved in the educational system. I think my voice is a good measuring stick for the reality of homeschool. I won't hide behind screen names to write this.

My name is Christopher D. Burns. Look it up, google, bing, whatever. I have been an educator since 1995. First in San Diego, in Tennessee and in Mississippi. I have taught at both the high school level and collegiate level (as a tenure track professor and an adjunct). My wife and I decided to home school our son not because of religious reasons. I am not of any religion; I am spiritual, but my point is our decision was based on a few factors outside of religion. Anyone interested in knowing in detail what they are e-mail me (CA this is your chance to interview someone). Our son, at 3 years old could read and memorize poetry. He has memorized the I Have A Dream Speech and countless other poems and speeches in his homeschool curriculum. I bring this up to say at 7 years old, when he was in the second grade we encountered the worst teacher a kid could have. In the second grade he was reading at an 6th grade level, but the teacher was teaching other students at the 1st grade level.

In other words my son was bored to death in his classes, so he played with his pencil. There was PE once a week and he had no way to get out all of the energy that young boys have. The teacher began contacting us on a daily basis. My wife would go to the school and stand in the hallway to observe. She even had the principal observe him. His behavior was not distracting, the teacher simply found it easier to call us and complain because we responded. We were the parents who cared and we were involved in the PTA and any program the school was having. I began to see a change in my son. He was becoming more withdrawn and didn't seem as excited about going to school, this is a kid who was the Salutatorian of his pre K program and performed all of the speeches because the other kids were afraid and didn't memorize theirs. This is a kid who wrote, and we published, his first book in kindergarten. My son loved school and in the second grade he was being made into an automaton who had to sit still for 8 hours a day. I don't know adults who can sit still for 1 hour.

We took him out of school and enrolled him in Homelife Academy. They keep the records of his transcripts for when he will enroll in school again, if he does.

Now, so you understand what homeschool is for non-religious people:

The majority of his school takes place in the house using course outlines we purchase from various educational outlets. These otulines are very detailed and comporable and actually better than any lesson plans a "certified" teacher uses in schools. We pay anywhere from 250 to 800 dollars for his course outlines per year. He has further science instruction at the Pink Palace Homeschool program where he interacts with Asian, Black, White, Latino homeschooled students. His homeschool, where he should attend, is 99% Black. He has his art classes at home reinforced by the Brooks Museum Homeschool program. His physical science skills are reinforced with homeschool lessons from the Botanical Gardens. Oh, the Pink Palace program is actually taught by Austin Onek the news weatherman on CBS.

He is learning to play the guitar. Competes in soccer and basketball at the Y and the Olive Branch rec association and his math is based on a Japanese instruction method that allows him to utilize math patterns to simplify and remove the fear of math. He has begun writing utilizing the 3 - 5 essay method that high school students use to write in the various organizational structures. He has learned to be an independent thinker and what is really kind of cool is that he can't tell you what the freshest Jordan shoes are and he can't tell you what the latest dance is, but he can tell you what will happen to the Earth because of the climate changes and then he can recite Langston Hughes. He also knows that he wants to go to MIT. My son is 9 years old.

The CA is looking to increase traffic to their site by allowing Wendy a platform to talk about something she obviously hasn't researched and doesn't have the first drop of intelligence about. I think what everyone should do is actually ask a homeschool child how they feel about it. First though, realize that whatever you think you know about homeschool, you don't really know at all. I'll bet none of you who are discussing this knew that these programs (that we pay for) were in place in Memphis. I'll bet you didn't know that home schoolers get more real world socialization than public school children. I'll bet you didn't know that homeschoolers get admitted into Ivy league schools at a higher rate than public school students. While I have worked in public education, I think it has its benefits, but it has the most unrealistic model for a student's success in the future. The world is no longer an assembly line. Students today are going to have to work in a world where individual thought and creativity will create jobs and income.

The public school does not promote individuality, it diminishes it. The public school forces the creative energy of a child to be removed for the sake of control and discipline. When a homeschooler in the Pink Palace program, being taught by Austin Onek has a question he has to sit quietly and answer as a college student would. He has to use logic and critical thinking skills to answer questions about real world science and then he has to go home and work on assignments from books that force him to analyze and write using cross discipline methods. The public school child is taught not to talk or be loud and is often afraid to ask questions because that can be seen as being a nerd, uncool.
I think many people have a real misunderstanding of what homeschool is. I have taught several Comp1 courses and other writing courses at Southwest TN. College. In those courses, the students that I remember the most were the homeschool students who were taking college courses in lieu of homeschool English. These students spoke without fear and without caring what their counterparts thought about them. They had confidence that wasn't based on their clothes or coolness. They understood the value of creativity and in this world, the new digital/global economy, creativity and the abilty to learn and adapt, not assimilate will generate their success.


  1. Now, I don't know y'all. I came here because I was curious about your publishing house; you evidently do James Dashner. And publishing has become a great darkness to me. But I sort of tripped over this blog, and - as I always have something to say on this matter, I am commenting.

    I think what we homeschoolers don't understand is that the negative press we get really isn't about what we do. It's about what other people really, really don't WANT to do. I think when a person finds out that you are educating your own children by your own little self, that person immediately takes what you are doing as a reproof.

    They don't want to stay home with their kids in the first place. And they really aren't interested in teaching reading and math and science. They'll say they aren't qualified - but most of them graduated from 6th grade. It's not the qualification, it's the commitment, the focus, the constant company of children. As one mother once said to me, "I need that time for myself." Then proceeded to fill me in on some soap opera she was watching.

    It's also true that most of the home schooling you hear about is the bit that fails. They'll tell you stories about intellectual in-breeding, about socially inept children (who mirror their once-school-attending parents). And I've run into some of those types - whose children I, myself, would insist should go to public school, if only to keep them out of a stifling environment and thus offer them fresh air.

    But most of the folks I know who do this thing are frightfully normal folk. And they don't take on the burden and absolute joy of educating their kids out of some in-curled religious fanaticism. They do it because they really, really like their kids. That's why I did it. I loved their company. And I wanted to continue to love their company. So I brought them up myself instead of letting a bunch of same-age kids do it for me. I opened windows no teacher had ever opened for me. And I gave them space for innocent childhood - and wonder.

    My children are grown now. I have an MBA who is a dentist's wife and who toured Russia, Finland and Europe playing jazz sax. I have a son who owns his own video production company and employs and accountant. I have a daughter teaching chemistry and physics in a private school and a baby who just finished his first internship at Pixar, and has been offered jobs there twice. He turned them down because he felt he wasn't ready, and owed something to the university that had given him the opportunity.

    Yep. Backward failures, those homeschooled kids.

    Kristen D Randle

  2. Kristen, I wish we published James Dasher. That is the Scholastic CB Publishing imprint. Alas, we are only a small publishing house and I have basically given the rights to all of the books we did publish back to the authors.

    In regard to your post, you are the reason we have decided to continue with our homeschool. Everyday we get affirmation from homeschool parents and their children, as well as from the progress we have seen in our son. I wrote this because very often those in the mainstream media have such awful perceptions of homeschoolers that I felt compelled to write this post. The newspaper never responded to me of course, but I still thought that I had to respond in some way. It's great to read about your children's success and my wife and I will add it to the growing list of success stories and continue moving forward.

    Chris B.

    P.S. If you have any questions about publishing don't hesitate to e-mail me at


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