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Parents: Home Schooling a Shelter

April 30, 1999

PHILADELPHIA (AP) _ Kim Dunderdale doesn’t have to worry about her kids running into violence at school _ they’re at home, like thousands of others across the country.

``When we first decided to home school our oldest daughter, we didn’t say we wanted to keep our children out of public school and away from all the horrible things that go on there,″ said Dunderdale, a Pittsburgh woman who teaches three of her five children, the oldest of whom is in eighth grade.

``But over the years, we are glad our children are shielded from those things,″ she said.

Last week’s shootings at a Littleton, Colo., high school that left 15 people dead reminded the more than 700,000 U.S. families that teach their children at home why they chose to take their children out of school.

Many abhor what they consider immorality, violence and peer pressure in the nation’s school systems.

``I am trying to shelter them from negative influences, foul language, lack of respect for authority, lack of respect for themselves or others. It is those kinds of things that led to the Littleton thing,″ said Kurt Boese of Lodi, Calif., where he home schools his three children.

Teaching children at home has gradually moved into the educational mainstream. Unlike 15 years ago, each state now recognizes the parental right to home school and all states have legislation or case law governing academic standards.

An estimated 1.7 million children are taught at home across the country, according to the Home School Legal Defense Association.

The reasons given by parents are varied _ religious guidelines, the desire to spend more time with their kids, a better education, concern about morals taught at school. It is a burden, however.

``Home schooling your children because you fear violence and fear what will happen to them will not take you through the rough times,″ said Cindy McKeown, a mother of four from Middletown. ``It is a tremendous sacrifice of time, finances. You have to home school because you believe it is the best option for this child.″

And home schooling cannot prevent tragedy or keep kids from growing up, said Ruth Blount, who home schools her six children in Nantucket, Mass.

``There’s always a risk with children. Something horrible could happen in our family even if we home school,″ Mrs. Blount said. ``At a certain point, your kid’s going to have to choose on their own. But when you home school, you have the time with them to plant those seeds more easily.″

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