lum that Mar’ Kay Clark’s Seton Home Study School was developing.rnBut to Amy and me, homeschooling was somethingrnthat we would do if necessan’, something to tide us over until werncould find a “real” school for our children.rnRockford, it turns out, is full of Catholic families who arernjust homescliooling until something better comes along,rnat least according to Michael Brunner, a long-time homeschoolingrnparent. “How many Catholics have you met who arern’temporarily’ homeschooling, for four, five, and then it’s twelvernyears?” he asked me. Quite a lot. in fact; but I have talked tornvery few evangelical homeschoolers who feel the same way.rnMr. Brunner ascribes the divergent attitudes to different approachesrnto public education. “For many ‘ears, there were nornevangelical schools in the United States,” he explains. “Inrnmany parts of the countr’, eyangelicals were the backbone ofrnthe public-school system.” When that system broke down,rnevangelicals had no place to turn, and so they led the homeschoolingrnmovement. Catholics, on the other hand, had theirrnparochial schools — at least tor a while. Now, while evangelicalsrnstill make up well over half of the homeschooling families herernin Rockford, Catholics are playing catch-up. (Estimates of therntotal number of homeschooling families in the Rockford arearnvav)’ widely. Illinois has among the most liberal homeschoolingrnlaws in the countr’, and since parents are not required to tellrntheir local school district that they are homeschooling, mostrnwisely do not. Rockford homeschoolers agree, however, thatrnthe homeschooling community here is among the largest in therncountry.)rnThe divergent attitudes toward homeschooling have anotherrnreligious dimension. All of the evangelicals that I have interviewedrnhave shared the conviction of Lisa Miller, the presidentrnof Christian Home Educators of Rockford (CHER), that theirrnresponsibilit}’ for their children’s education is a religious obligation,rnone that should not be handed off to someone else unlessrnabsolutely necessar)-. While man}’ Catholic homeschoolersrneventually come to share that vision, the’ often make their initialrndecision to homeschool for non-religious reasons. Tom andrnRita Sullivan, Latin Mass Catholics who have been homeschoolingrnfor eight }ears, decided to teach their children themselvesrnafter meeting some homeschoolers at a lecture by JohnrnTaylor Gatto. The Sullivans had gone to the lecture concernedrnabout their oldest son, Kevin, who had begun kindergarten butrnwas ver}’ unhappy attending school. Gatto’s talk had been sponsoredrnby a private day school in Rockford, but his message ofrnseparation of school and state attracted many homeschoolersrnfrom around Illinois and Wisconsin. Wlien the Sullivans describedrnKevin’s situation, the homeschoolers suggested that thernproblem might lie with the schools, not with Kevin —and so thernSullivans’ homeschooling od)’ssey began.rnMichael Brunner’s decision to homescliool his children alsornarose primarily from necessity rather than religious conviction.rnAfter returning to his hometown of Stockton, Illinois, Michaelrnand his wife enrolled their children in the same public schoolsrnthat he had attended, and Mr. Brunner was elected to thernschool board along with two other candidates who were conceruedrnabout the qualit}- of education. His candid criticisms ofrnteachers who viewed their profession as a retirement plan ratherrnthan a vocation earned him few friends in the teachers’ union,rnand some began speaking opcnlv of “punishing” his childrenrnfor his views. The situation came to a head when his son,rnDavid, then in eighth grade, broke his arm in two places duringrng)’m class and was not allowed medical treatnrent for an hour.rnFrom then on, the Brunners have homeschooled their childrenrnand have been actively involved in homeschooling organizationsrnin Rockford.rnMr. Brunner’s passion for homeschooling comes across inrnhis conversation. Wlien I ask him what he considers the hardestrnaspect of homeschooling, his answer is surprising: “Thinkingrnup enough challenges —making it as challenging as thernschools were when I was young. But if you raise the standard,rnthe children will meet it.” The trouble with today’s schools—rnboth public and private —is that standards are constairtly beingrnlowered. While acknowledging some of the institutional pressuresrnthat have led to the “dumbing down” of modern education,rnMr. Brunner ultimately blames the teachers, whorn”brought about the problem by not insisting on standards.”rnOne of the most positive aspects of homeschooling, he believes,rnis that most parents who decide to teach their children at homernloved school themselves. Homeschooling parents do not vieweducationrnas a form of “certification” or job training, but as anrnintegral part of life, a process that never ends.rnThat is a distinctly minorit)’ viey’ these days. As I look backrnon my own education, I realize how focused it has been onrnmeeting certain “goals,” with the implication that, once therngoals are met, education can come to an end. It is refreshing tornhear Lisa Miller describe homeschooling as a “lifestyle” andrntalk about the pleasure of “seeiirg the light bulb click on” as herrnchildren grasp a new concept—an experience, she notes, thatrnmany parents never hae, since their children’s education isrnconfined within the walls of a school. And Rita Sullivan pointsrnout that homeschooling is an educational experience for parentsrnas well as children: “Homeschooling changes your wholernview—just living life is an education.” In order to be able torneducate your children, yom own education needs to be renewed,rnrefreshed, extended.rnAll of the homeschoolers that I have talked to were quick tornpoint out that homeschooling also has many benefits that mightrnbe considered “non-educational” —most importantly, a sense ofrnfamily closeness. Both Rita Sullivan and Lisa Miller attributerntheir strong relationships with their teenage sons to their homeschoolingrnexperience. While homeschooling may not be arnpanacea for teenage angst, the opportunities for rebellion are, atrnthe yer’ least, limited.rnOne of the most common objections to homeschooling isrnthe issue of “socialization.” When I mention this to Rita Sullivan,rnshe simply laughs, saying, “That’s why we keep themrnhome.” Kevin Johnson, the president of the Instihtte for ChristianrnApologetics and cohost oiPerspective Underground, a week-rn1′ radio talk show, offers a similar observation: “In the wake ofrnthe recent school shootings, nobody asks me anymore wh- wernhomeschool.” For homeschoolers, a more important concernrnseems to be that their children become what we might call “familialized”rn—that the bonds between siblings and between generationsrnbe strengthened. Lisa Miller likes the fact that homeschoolingrnencourages the integration of age groups. “When 1rnwas growing up,” she says, “you hung with your own.” Her children,rnshe believes, are much more comfortable with adults thanrnshe was at their age.rnIncreasingly in Rockford, the integration of age groups extendsrnbeyond the fanrilv, as homeschoolers come together tornform cooperatives and een schools. In addition to the evangelicalrngroup CHER and the Catholic group RRCHE (RockfordrnArea Roman Catholic Home Educators), there are a num-rn20/CHRONICLESrnrnrn