“Penn-Nabrit is candid about the things she felt she could have done better. Each chapter finishes with advice for parents, most of which transcends issues of both race and homeschooling. Ultimately, this is a how-to book for parents with children of any color, but it carries with it a troubling subtext: These talented young men might have remained in public school if their parents had believed they would get a fair shake.”
Acknowledgement from NYU Law School Professor Derrick Bell
“In my recent book, Silent Covenants: Brown v. Board and the Quest for Racial Justice, I have cited your book in the chapter on ‘Searching for Effective Schools in the Post-Brown Era.’”
“Penn-Nabrit offers a heartfelt yet Socratic rumination on what it means to be educated. She and her husband wanted a ‘classic’ education for their sons-including arts, humanities, science, mathematics, geography, current events, economics and French. Their goal was a ‘holistic balance’ and a striving for wisdom, excellence, and understanding. Threaded throughout the book are her observations of what it means to be black and what strategies blacks employ to maintain their sanity and safety in a country that does not always have their interests at heart.”
“The book provides a long list of practical tips that should be a useful resource to anyone considering homeschooling… there is much to learn about the power of parental involvement in children’s education from the Nabrit’s home schooling experience. And these lessons are valuable to all parents who believe young people are mostly educated at home, regardless of where they attend school.”
Paula Penn-Nabrit and her husband, Charles, removed their three sons, twins Charles and Damon, then 11 years old, and Evan, 9, from a noted prep school in a suburb of Columbus, Ohio, after concerns about the lack of black faculty and administrators. In Morning by Morning: How We Home-Schooled Our African-American Sons to the Ivy League (Villard Books, February 2003, $24.95, ISBN 0-375-50774-4), Paula Penn-Nabrit writes about her family’s journey through homeschooling.
Morning by Morning does not sugarcoat the homeschool experience, and when interviewed, Penn-Nabrit spoke candidly about her son’s unhappiness with homeschooling. “They were normal kids who liked to watch TV and eat pizza. For them, the whole prospect of being schooled at home was “horrible” All three boys hated it from the very beginning,” she says. “Throughout the process it was an ongoing battle. One of them asked us, ‘How could you keep us trapped here like animals?’ About five years into the process, Damon began to relent.”
Penn-Nabrit continues, “It’s hard as a parent to not give your children what they want. My job as their mother is to do what I “know is best for them, communicate that, and be disciplined about it. Onlookers said outright, ‘You know you’re making a mistake!'” and she admits, “We didn’t know what we were doing.”
The Nabrits are a family who hold tightly to their faith. “Charles and I had a vision,” she says, referring to the Old Testament, (Habakkuk Chapter 2, Verses 2 and 3). “Now I know why the Bible says, ‘Write the vision. Make it plain.’ There was no way to know we were not making a mistake until nine years later when we had finished.
“Penn-Nabrit’s conversational style readily lends itself to reading. Her introspective account of her family’s home-schooling experience ranges from the hilarious, yet insightful, incidences to the more sobering observations of how far today’s society has yet to go in dealing with the issues of race and culture in society…This book comes highly recommended, not only as a book for black families, but as a book for people of all races and cultures. Certainly Penn-Nabrit writes on a topic of importance to everyone, and that is the importance of family.”
An impressive brief for home-schooling, with caveats.
Part memoir, part primer, this begins by recalling the events that precipitated the decision to home-school. Penn-Nabrit graduated from Wellesley and Ohio State University Law School, her husband from Dartmouth, so both felt qualified to evaluate the education their three sons were receiving at an expensive all-male private school in Columbus, Ohio. They felt the administration was not sufficiently committed to diversity and did not try very hard to find qualified black male teachers, role models the boys needed. Nor did they appreciate being told that their desire to have their sons attend Ivy League colleges was “unrealistic.” Matters came to a head when the headmaster objected to the Penn-Nabrits organizing a picnic without his permission for other black parents and accused them of being tardy with their tuition payments; twins Charles and Damon, age 11, and Evan, 9, were expelled. Devout Pentecostal Christians, the author and her husband wanted their sons to have a holistic education that embraced faith, community, the arts, and sports, as well as the regular curriculum; they decided to home-school. They found graduate students and other qualified professionals to teach subjects like mathematics, science, and foreign languages. Since they ran their own business (a management consultant firm), they could take the boys on business trips that exposed them to new ideas, and they made sure their sons attended the ballet and concerts, volunteered, and participated in sports at their local recreation center. It wasn’t all smooth sailing: the boys missed the social life of a regular school and accepted the changes reluctantly. Each chapter describing a portion of the program and the kids’ progress includes an afterword evaluating the results and offering advice to other parents. The twins were accepted at Princeton, and Evan at Amherst, but adjusting to college was not easy, admits Penn-Nabrit, who offers a frank assessment of what went wrong as well as right.
Intellectually provocative reportage from the home-education front.
Letter from Marva Collins, noted educator
“The book, Morning by Morning only reminded me of why I began Marva Collins Preparatory three decades ago, and why I refuse all federal funds or grants of any kind. Thank you for sending the book, I mention it in all my speeches!”