By Amanda Costikyan Jones
WASHINGTON – Bill and Nancy Greer of Pasadena both gave up full-time jobs to home school their two children. Bill Greer, now a consultant, said he could work more but prefers to spend more time with his children.
“We’ve both moved to being self-employed and working out of the home,” he said. “Our income has dropped to probably less than half of what it was before.”
But, he said, it’s worth it.
“My wife and I (have) been equally involved,” he said. “The kids, sometimes, they’ll come up to me and say, ‘Mom, I mean Dad.’ We’re equivalent.”
More family time is just one of the reasons cited by Maryland parents who have chosen to teach their children at home.
Almost 8,400 families home schooled at last count by the Maryland Department of Education. The department said the number of home-schooled children surged from 2,296 in 1990-91 to 13,665 in 1997-98.
“It’s just a lot of fun,” said Debra Chambers, a Silver Spring mother of two who has home schooled for about four years.
Chambers said academic flexibility is one of the best things about home schooling her children, who are now 8 and 4 years old.
“You can do what is the appropriate level for your child,” she said.
Chambers, like other home-schooling parents, said her children’s education is not limited to certain hours of the day. “It’s our life,” she said.
Manfred Smith of Columbia, a home schooler for 20 years and director of the Maryland Home Education Association, has a slightly more political attitude about home schooling.
Smith teaches public school — a job he believes is necessary, for now — but he hopes public schools will be eliminated one day, since he sees them as a form of undue government interference.
“Let’s just go ahead and socialize and become a communist country and just go ahead and get it over with,” he said sarcastically. “We keep meddling around with government interference in everything, and we’re going to get what we deserve.”
For others, religion is at the root of their decision to educate their children at home.
Home schooling “was originally sort of a hip left-wing anti-establishment thing to do,” but that has changed, said Scott Somerville. He is a lawyer for the Virginia-based Home School Legal Defense Association, which helps home- schooling parents find their way through the tangle of state regulations.
“We are a Christian organization,” Somerville said, “(but) like a Lutheran hospital, we treat anybody.”
Somerville, who lives in Rockville, said his six children have been home- schooled “all their lives.
“I don’t blame the public schools for being public schools,” Somerville said. “I’m just saying they can wave as we drive by.”
Bill Lloyd of Upper Marlboro is on the board of the Maryland Association of Christian Home Educators. But he said his faith was just one part of his decision to home school his children.
“There are some religious reasons … but whether we were religious or not, the reason still remains that we wanted to be the prime educators and the prime socializers of our child,” Lloyd said.
In order to do that, Lloyd’s wife left her job as a respiratory therapist. To help pay the bills, he now works three jobs — at the Census Bureau, at the National Home Education Research Institute and at Prince George’s Community College, where he teaches engineering.
For the Greers, who took a different job path, one of the most important things about home schooling is the time it allows them to spend together as a family. Their daughter, 7, recently started ice skating lessons, and the rest of the family has followed her lead.
“Tomorrow we’re all going to be ice skating,” Greer said. “The parents learn as much as the kids.
“We have no plans to change what we’re doing. It’s definitely kind of a lifestyle for us.”