Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Robert Kunzman's "Write These Laws on Your Children"

Robert Kunzman spent ten years as a high school teacher, coach, and administrator and is currently an associate professor in the Indiana University School of Education. He is the author of Grappling with the Good: Talking about Religion and Morality in Public Schools.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Write These Laws on Your Children: Inside the World of Conservative Christian Homeschooling, and reported the following:
Homeschooling in the United States has grown nearly 75% in the last decade, more than twelve times the increase of public school enrollments. Most observers agree that conservative Christians comprise the largest subset of homeschoolers, and their advocacy organizations wield tremendous political influence. Drawing on five years of intensive research, this book explores the world of conservative Christian homeschooling, both in the day-to-day lives of families and in its broader aspirations to influence American culture and politics. What do homeschoolers do all day, and why do they do it? Do children learn to think for themselves? What do they learn about the relationship between faith and citizenship? And how, if at all, should homeschooling be regulated?

With less than five lines of text on page 99, Write These Laws on Your Children fails Ford's test. On it, I wrap up a brief discussion of homeschooler academic achievement and socialization, but this research summary doesn't reflect the flavor of the book as a whole.

Instead, at its heart are the stories of six homeschool families whom I visit repeatedly over two years, spending time in their homes and churches, interviewing parents and children, and observing their homeschool practices and related activities. Ranging in size from one child to ten, they hail from different parts of the country, and the shape and quality of their homeschooling differs dramatically as well: among them, an Oregon family who learns biology by butchering elk on their ranch; a young Los Angeles girl whose learning disability is overlooked by her mother; a Vermont teenager who memorizes entire books of the Bible verbatim; and a twelve-year-old from Tennessee who still does simple math on his fingers.

Regardless of whether homeschooling continues its rapid growth, the ongoing shift toward school-choice policies more broadly compels all of us to confront fundamental questions about the purposes of education: What knowledge and skills are essential? What virtues and commitments can and should we instill? What kind of people do we want our children to become? How do we learn to live together amidst disagreement about social and political issues? What role should religion play in our public square? And who decides the answers—each community, each family, or all of us together as a larger public?
Learn more about Write These Laws on Your Children at the publisher's website.

Visit Robert Kunzman's Homeschooling Research and Scholarship website.

--Marshal Zeringue