New Castle News

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November 5, 2012

Home-school proponent well-versed in controversy


The Norton editors grilled them for an hour. "You know, you're really nice people," a man told Jessie afterward.

"They expected us to be weird," Jessie says. "They had never met any home-schoolers."

Lawrence was impressed. "Most of the home-schoolers were doing it for religious and social reasons, and the textbooks were weighted in the direction of Christian teaching," he recalls. "Susan and her mother wished to redress that imbalance."

But trying to maintain that balance has wearied Susan Bauer over the years.

In the 40 years since Bauer's mother began teaching her to read at age 3, home-schooling has gone from a mostly religious fringe activity to a chic trend with numerous conferences, publishers, methods and factions focused on theological views, organic living, parenting styles or various stances on homosexuality or same-sex unions.

Bauer has been a fixture behind the lectern at state and national home-schooling conferences for years. But this past spring, she announced she would sit out the conferences next year because of rifts in this once seemingly monolithic movement.

"For a number of people involved in it, their primary focus is not educating kids but a lifestyle," she says. Whereas early home-schoolers were a freewheeling bunch forced to stick together against a hostile world because of their aversion to public schools, now it seems as if there are litmus tests for acceptance into the community.

For example, she says, Peace Hill Press came under fire from home-schooling creationists — at conferences, on the Internet and via email — for publishing the work of scholar Peter Enns, who argues against a strict literal reading of the Book of Genesis.

"Susan got really beat up by inappropriate behavior," says Leigh Bortins, founder of Classical Conversions, a North Carolina-based home education movement. "In many ways, home-schooling has grown up, but people don't always act like grown-ups."

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