Following faith and the state

Published 12:00 am Sunday, December 9, 2001

Staff Writer

For the Rev. Tim and Dana McQuitty, the decision to homeschool their five children is based in large part on their faith.

Who better than the parents to "pass along our faith and what we know to be true?" Mrs. McQuitty said.

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The Troy couple began homeschooling when their oldest child was in kindergarten, which was about five years ago. They tried a private school, but found that was not what they wanted for their child, so have been teaching them both academic and religious lessons.

"We feel, academically, we can give them more attention than they’d get in a classroom," Mrs. McQuitty said.

If her children excel at one subject and can not quite grasp a concept, they can work at their own pace. She also said they will not face comparisons with other children.

More important, she said, the couple is following the teachings of Deuteronomy 6:7 when it comes to teaching their five children ­ three of whom are school-aged. That Bible verse states: "And thou shalt teach them (commandments) diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up."

But like many parents choosing to teach their children at home these days, the McQuittys must follow the requirements set by the state, as well as their faith, when it comes to educating their children.

State officials have set standards for education in public schools, but many parents do not seem to realize those requirements also mandate what they teach in their homes, local school officials said.

In Alabama, parents who homeschool their children must hold a certificate issued by the state superintendent of education. The state also requires "private tutors" to teach for at least three hours a day for 140 days each calendar year, between the hours of 8 a.m. and 4 p.m.

Willie Thomas, assistant superintendent of the Troy City Schools, said parents need to understand state requirements.

"We just want to put the information out there," Thomas said. "There are certain rules and regulations they have to follow."

Thomas said parents who choose to homeschool their children must, under Alabama Code, file paperwork with the city or county superintendent of education in the district that child would attend school.

Private tutors or parents who homeschool also have to keep a record of work, including the hours used for instruction and absences, each day.

Some parents, Thomas said, are encountering problems when they try to enroll their children in the city schools and have been homeschooling without following rules set by state law.

"They get a rude awakening when they find out," Thomas said.

John Key, superintendent of the Pike County Schools, said the county school system, "to his knowledge," does not have any homeschoolers on record.

Under state law, those between the ages of 7 and 16 must attend a "bonafide school," he said. "Anyone who is simply homeschooling his or her child is in violation of the law."

Even students enrolled in church schools must be registered with the local school system.

Many years ago, the county school system did a school census every four years to make sure school-age children were indeed attending. That was during a time when many children were kept home to work.

"We haven’t done that for about 25 years," Key said, adding it is "a form of abuse" not to give children a proper education.