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Write These Laws on Your Children: Inside the World of Conservative Christian Homeschooling

3.5 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0807032916
ISBN-10: 0807032913
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Kunzman, a professor at the Indiana University School of Education, goes behind the scenes with six conservative Christian families who have decided to homeschool. The book has a remarkably balanced tone, with Kunzman heralding homeschooling's inherent flexibility—in a ranching family, children have anatomy lessons by butchering livestock, and in another, one of seven children has followed her own drummer by enrolling in public high school with her parents' blessing. Conversely, the lack of governmental oversight can be detrimental, as when Kunzman meets a 12-year-old who doesn't know what three times three is or documents a mother ignorantly berating a child who obviously has a learning disability. Between family portraits, Kunzman offers short expositions about various aspects of the growing homeschooling movement, drawing upon his attendance at conventions and political action meetings, but also—in an intriguing section that could have used more development—analyzing race among homeschooling families. This engrossing ethnography puts a human face on Christian homeschooling. (Aug.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


“This beautiful little book looks into the daily routines of six conservative Christian families who homeschool their children. Employing the analytical eye of a former teacher and the balanced, thoughtful wisdom of a seasoned academic, Kunzman not only paints portraits fairly, but gently questions what he sees (much of which is deeply troubling) …. [It] may well become a classic in its field.”—Choice

"Not only a contribution to education policy debates, it's a model of thoughtful dialogue and generous insight on a topic on which debate often yields simply visceral left-right division.”—Edward Gresser Director, Progressive Economy Project

“I am keeping Kunzman’s . . . fine book on a nearby shelf where I can refer to it regularly.”—Jay Matthews, The Washington Post
“This is the best observation of instructional processes in homeschool families that we have available, and is an essential reference for those interested in the homeschool population.”—Kurt J. Bauman, Teachers College Record
“One of the most important books on homeschooling ever written.”—Milton Gaither, author of Homeschool: An American History

“Illuminating . . . A sound piece of scholarship and one to be praised for its accessibility and the windows into the families’ worlds it provides.”—J. Gary Knowles, ENCOUNTER: Education for Meaning and Social Justice

From the Trade Paperback edition.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Beacon Press (August 1, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0807032913
  • ISBN-13: 978-0807032916
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 0.9 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,178,566 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
As someone homeschooled within America's conservative Christian subculture, I enjoyed Rob Kunzman's vivid observations of homeschool parents and children interacting, his descriptions of state conventions and his interviews with national political advocates such as Michael Farris. An empathetic observer as well as an astute critic, he shows our challenges kindly and our successes glowingly.

As a current grad student in anthropology, I was even more impressed with how Rob set up his ethnography (a book describing a people's culture) of homeschool values and perspectives, and with his theoretical reflections on the tensions between independent education and shared civic values in America.... tensions which have been with us since the Founding Fathers.

I must admit his emphasis on civics was grating, as he kept prodding parents, '...but you aren't instilling moderate civic values in your children!' And they kept responding, '...but that's not what we're trying to do at all!' Kunzman clearly has different values and a different vision for America than these families, but while insistent, he remains respectful and tries to start discussion rather than continuing the culture wars. Describing the best families at the beginning and end also left the middle feeling boggy in describing what he sees as less than ideal family situations.

My favorite line, of course, is when he asks five-year-old Elise what she would change about homeschooling, and she responds, "Instead of learning anything, we would just sit around and eat ice cream sundaes!" (202). I'm pretty sure I've given the same idea to my parents, and they turned it down, too...

At any rate, Kunzman pulls it all together at the end, where he reflects on the meaning of citizenship in a liberal democracy.
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Format: Hardcover
So get this, Robert Kunzman does in-depth interviews with Christian homeschoolers and then writes a book about how well he understands them. Of course he understands them... he talked to SIX families! Six, as a representative sample for hundreds of thousands of people? Heh heh heh.

Because everyone knows that anecdotes are the same as evidence, right?

The book was entertaining, both for what it said, and for what it did not say. For one thing, although the author did not publish the text of the survey he sent out to try to recruit homeschool volunteer families, apparently it included loaded questions about giving one's children good, hard spankings. He mentions that question in particular. A stereotype like that would cause the majority of people to pitch the questionnaire in the trashcan straightaway -- talk about bias.

Robert Kunzman is shocked... SHOCKED!... to learn that Christian homeschoolers do not value moral equivocation and ethical compromise on life issues. It's just sad how he continually hammers away, trying to get these volunteer families to agree that moral compromise is to be highly valued by Every! American! Not one person in this book agrees with him.

It's like Knzman himself does not recognize that there are moral absolutes. It's incomprehensible how obtuse the author is about his own beliefs.

My question is, why does it bother him so much? Why does it irritate him that Christian homeschoolers have clarified their values and are teaching them to their own children? Just what is so bad about acknowledging that part of education is the shaping of a child's character? Kunzman is appalled that Christians seem determined to push away bad cultural influences from their children. Why?
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Format: Paperback
I'll say upfront that I don't believe I'm the target audience of Write These Laws on Your Children. Rather than being an outside observer, or a curious bypasser who wonders about the conservative Christian homeschooling movement, I'm a member of it. As a result, my take on Robert Kunzman's work is going to be a bit different.

Setting out with the goal to `get inside of' the Christian homeschooling movement, Kunzman embarked on a year's journey (funded by the National Academy of Education - this should be a bit of a hint about the book's contents) to spend time visiting American homeschoolers, observing their days and analyzing them.

Kunzman appears to be a thinker; a former of ideas about educational policy and philosophy. Throughout his work it's quite obvious that he's rather pleased with the status quo of the public educational system, as that seems to be his yardstick for comparison when it comes to reflecting upon the education homeschoolers are receiving. What he clearly isn't is someone who can deeply understand the convictions of conservative homeschoolers, he also lacks an ability to understand the differences in the priorities in education between a public school and a typical Christian homeschool.

Write These Laws On Your Children is however, quite well written, and as a homeschooler myself, I'm always eager to take a peek into the lives of other home educators to see how they work things for their family. The family portraits are certainly very interesting, but are always viewed very heavily through Kunzman's own set of educational priorities, which focus strongly upon formal academics and teaching pluralism.
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