Class is in session for nine-year-old Jasmine Taylor and her six-year-old brother Buddy. “Whenever I'm stuck,” says Jasmine, “I can just I can just ask my Mommy for help.” Buddy says, “You, like, get to have your own Mom teaching you without having any stranger teaching you.”
Jasmine and Buddy are two of 108 children in Boston who are registered as home schooled students. “Well, I felt that I could give them a much better education here at home than putting them in regular public school,” says their mother Venus Taylor.
Venus has a Master’s Degree in Education from Harvard University and her husband is a software designer. State law allows parents like the Taylors to home school their children as long as they have an approved curriculum plan from their local school district.
“They want to know about fractions, they want to learn about division. Buddy just yesterday decided like right now I’m ready to learn division. So right now, I follow their interests,” Venus says.
“The federal government in 1999, claims that there's 850,000 children being taught at home,” says Pat Farenga, co-author of “Teach Your Own,” a book on home schooling. “So now in 2004 I'd put it at least one and a half million children being taught at home.”
Ferenga estimates that 20,000 children in the state are home schooled and given the problems in urban schools, he understands why families of color, like the Taylors, are teaching at home in greater numbers these days. “Home schooling is an option and as time has gone on, it's become more acceptable and that's why minorities can now look to it.”
Venus Taylor says she decided to teach her kids at home because the public schools have low expectations for African-American students. “I don't want my kids to have to overcome those barriers before they could get engaged with the teacher and show the teacher who they were and what their expectations for learning were.”
But one educator says not all families have the education resources to vote with their feet and leave the school system. William Dandridge is Vice-President of Urban Initiatives at Lesley University. “It's not for everybody in the sense that parents may not have sufficient skills or knowledge to provide the kind of education that their children need. I mean teaching a youngster how to read is more than just sitting and reading to them,” Dandridge says.
Dandridge also says the reality of two parents in the workforce and single parent households can limit home schooling as an option for families of color. “If you're saying let's go into any urban community and, given all the issues that we face, I don't see home schooling as a major option for many of those families.”
Hycel Taylor admits he and Venus are fortunate. They can afford to home school. But he says it’s the best way to make sure his kids are prepared for a global economy. “We're not just competing with other American students, we're actually competing in our education from people globally across the world.”
And to make sure their kids can compete, the Taylors will continue to make their home a schoolhouse.