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Morning by Morning: How We Home-Schooled Our African-American Sons to the Ivy League Hardcover – February 18, 2003
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From Publishers Weekly
Any home-schooling parent can learn something from this book, but it's specifically directed at the "traditional, conservative, black, middle-class way." Penn-Nabrit's account focuses on her three sons, who were in the fourth and sixth grades when their home schooling began. They had several advantages other home schoolers may lack. Both parents, graduates of Ivy League schools, were self-employed in a home-based business. Living in a university town made the employment of graduate students as tutors a feasible option. They were able to offer their sons a rich diet of specialized summer camps, cultural activities and travel experiences. Penn-Nabrit addresses the adjustments they all had to make, including the sons, who "never, ever approved of home schooling while they were participants," and the grandparents, for whom "educational risk-taking was definitely not part of their formula for success." Among the helpful discussions are Penn-Nabrit's explications of how they designed their curriculum; created appropriate space and scheduled the day; knew what they could and couldn't teach; kept their sons physically fit, humanely cultured, socially connected and academically measured; and got through the "hideous" college applications process. Penn-Nabrit's conviction that "home schooling was something God wanted us to do" and that "redemption hinged on... acceptance by at least one exclusive, competitive, Ivy League college or university" affects the tone throughout, in ways that may deflect some reader's attention from the work's more practical aspects. Still, there's much useful reflective and pragmatic content here.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Subtle but pervasive racism at public and private schools spurred the Nabrits to homeschool their three sons, an option seldom taken by black parents. The author examines the forces behind the reluctance of black parents to homeschool as well as the mounting pressures to consider it. She very candidly admits that her sons hated it, but if any secondary school's success can be measured by what colleges the graduates go to, the family's endeavor was an enormous success: two sons went on to Princeton and one to Amherst. The Nabrits, consultants who work from their homes, had the time, resources, and energy needed for the task but also the wisdom to "outsource" those classes they could not teach effectively. Penn-Nabrit recounts the nine-year experience and provides detailed information on everything from curriculum development to sports and fitness to addressing concerns about socialization. She also provides a thoughtful critique on American race relations and an exploration of an epiphanous journey for her entire family in this engaging look at one family's homeschooling experience. Vanessa Bush
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Morning By Morning: How We Home-Schooled Our African -American Sons To The Ivy League by Paula Penn-Nabrit was just that. It was the perfect introduction to the world of homeschooling, as experienced by this particular family (And can we say steal of the year at $1.99 at Amazon?).
After a set of unfortunate if not peculiar circumstances, Paula (My new girlfriend in my head!) and her husband C. Madison decide to withdraw their three sons from an elite prep school in Columbus, Ohio and home school.
They had confidence: They came from a long line of highly educated family members. And they themselves were Ivy League educated.
They were driven: They had successful careers and ran a thriving home business.
They were focused: They asked themselves hard questions around what they wanted for their boys. And they consciously and carefully developed experiences that would encourage that.
I loved Paula's direct, mother-on-a-mission attitude combined with her willingness to look at her own strengths and shortcomings as both their mother and teacher. I appreciated her detailed accounts of how they developed the boys curriculum down to hiring top notch, Black, male "faculty" to teach the boys what neither she nor her husband could. But I liked some more things about the book too. And here are four of them!
Can anybody home-school? Well, it depends on who you ask. If you ask any number of authors currently writing about homeschooling, unschooling or home educating by any other name, the answer you're likely to get is "Yes! Absolutely!", in fact. "After all, you know your kids better than anyone, right?", they say. "Of course you can teach them!"
But that's BS and Paula knows it. Not everybody can home-school. Not everybody should home-school, and she tells you that from jump. And for someone like me who's constantly evaluating (read: self-evaluating), that's music to my ears because what I know is coming next is her `why not'. And she gives it to you! Get the book.
Paula also talks about the need for parents to explore the subject matters that arise in their child's education for themselves. Sounds easy right? But think again. When did Christopher Columbus discover America? Aha! Did he discover America? Hum. How would you talk about slavery and Jim Crow to kids growing up today? And what about religion? Caused a lot of wars. But has also been the source of a lot of hope and strength among the disenfranchised.
Now clearly you don't need to home-school to talk about these things with your kids. But I would suspect that if you are teaching something new to someone, your point of view should be clear- at least to you. Because if you have an attentive audience, (which is what we want, right?) you better believe that you'll be called on it. And developing a point of view on issues that we aren't forced to think about (read: paid to think about) or already have an interest in requires a level of thinking that we aren't typically accustomed to.
If you're going to write a book about educating kids, then please, show AND prove. I don't want to mess around with theory. I want to know that what you're espousing worked...at least for you. Not only did Paula and C.Madison's boys all go to college, but they all went to good colleges (Princeton and Amhurst). Three out of three! Damn good stats I'd say!
What they did worked and worked well. Paula tells us that the boys didn't agree with everything their parents had them do. Hell, they didn't even want to be homeschooled! But the Nabrit's did it for their greater good and I appreciate that type of parenting.
I'm not even gonna lie. I don't need all three of my girls to follow in Mommy's footsteps and go to an Ivy. Wink, wink. But if they did? Why, I'd feel that I'd done a pretty good job with their education. Now (in my best Obama voice), let me be clear. I do believe that there's more to getting a good education than grades and test scores. Which brings me to my next love regarding this book.
Approach To Education
Now, I don't know the Nabrit boys and I have no idea what or how they're doing now (the book was copy written in 2003). But what I do appreciate is the Nabrit's desire to give their boys what they called a Holistic education- one based on developing their spiritual, intellectual, and physical well-being. And as a counselor, I'd add, emotional well-being to that.
A person who's healthy, fulfilled in their life's work, contributing to the betterment of the world, advancing humanity, happy much of the time, a fair and righteous companion, self-sufficient. Isn't that what we all want for our kids? Sounds so simple. But Paula makes it clear, simplicity too requires a plan, and a lot of sweat.
One of the chief concerns I hear about homeschooling centers around socialization. Will your kids be weirdos? Will they know how to engage with people? Quite frankly, I'm not worried about that. What concerns me more is their socialization at school and the messages they pick up either subtly or less so.
When The Eldest was two, The Prof and I decided to move her from a private preschool in Lincoln Park to a public one in Evanston. Now, the school in Lincoln Park was nice, to be sure. The kids (2 year olds!) worked on SmartBoards. They had daily computer class on new Mac desktops. They played on a small, but beautifully manicured playground (with woodchips and rubber flooring!). And their food? All organic prepared by an in-house chef. So what was the problem? How would you respond to your two year old coming home (and not once or twice either) complaining about how "her hair was different", and that she wanted "regular, straight, yellow" hair? At 2!
She was one of three Black children in the entire school.
Our response was to reevaluate the environment and the message that it was unintentionally sending to our precious little first-born. We felt that she needed more positive (or less negative) reinforcement of the qualities that made her "different" at the private school. So we moved her to a school that had fewer bells and whistles but more kids, teachers and admin who looked like her. And oh, what a difference it made! I wish I was exaggerating.
The Nabrit's had Black boys. And though the boy element changes the details of the experiences, the spirit of the racial issues are the same.
When the Nabrit's boys were in school, the parent's had to come to terms with the fact that folks from different cultural and racial backgrounds often interpret the same event in different ways. And the reality is, in our society, Black boys rarely get the benefit of doubt. And this tends to contribute to all sorts of problems. With that in mind, the Nabrit's carefully created an environment that enabled their children to thrive without too many external microaggressions distracting them. Can't be mad at that!
If you are the parent of young boys, you should read this book. If you are the parent of African American children you should read this book.
If you are interested in your child's education, and would like a sensible and smart guide to help you develop a plan towards a great one, then you should definitely read this book.
And don't forget your highlighter!
I'll be home schooling my son this fall and I am hoping that this book will help me with my journey. I'm an unapologetic Afrakan in America and I'm apart of a rising consciousness that is sweeping the globe. #OneAlkebulan #BlackPower #BlackUnity
I also love her willingness to share real-life experiences in such an honest way. As a beginning homeschooler, I keep this among the books that I refer to time and time again.
Things I found particularly compelling in their homeschool inlcuded: the idea of "holistic" education - intellelctual growth, physical fitness and spiritual growth; balance of depth and breadth, solo and team, fitness and competitive in athletic activities; purposeful exposure to a wide variety of fine and performing arts; structuring quiet time into their daily family life; the importance of community service; the importance of families and children interacting substantively with people of different racial, socioeconomic and religious backgrounds; the distinction between intellectual growth and quantifiable academics - all schoolwork does not produce learning; a schedule as a tool to help you accomplish goals, avoid overloading and maintain priorities, especially the intangibles, what Covey calls the important as opposed to the urgent; the significance of rituals; the necessity of planning ahead, good record keeping and being aware of the complexity of the task in the college admissions process.
This is a good read - her strong personality and humor shine through clearly - and there is indeed a wealth of ideas and information in it. She has added a dimension to the resources available for homeschooling. Good homeschooling how-to books abound, but this is something different.
As another reviewer said, I was somewhat surprised and very saddened at the description of "polite", upper-middle class institutionalized racism they encountered. Hopefully I will be more able to be part of the solution and not the problem because of the Nabrits' willingness to tell their story.