More black families opting for home schooling

COLUMBIA -- For the most part, the reasons that led Alicia Huff to home-school her four children mirror those of her peers in the Columbia area.

She and her husband wanted to teach their children, ages 10 to 18, a certain set of values; customize a curriculum to address their children's unique needs; and create a close family environment.

But the Huffs have one more motivating factor: the achievement gap in public schools between black and white students.

Minority students and children living in poverty tend to have difficulty with standardized tests.

Educators commonly refer to those test performance differences as the achievement gap.

"I understand that it's not across the board," Alicia Huff said. "(But) I think statistically black children are being left behind."

The Huffs, whose children would attend Richland 2 schools, are part of an increasing movement among black parents toward home schooling their children.

Although black families remain a small percentage of home educators, state and local groups said they have seen a steady increase.

"There has been an increase," said Kathy Carper, president of the South Carolina Association of Independent Home Schools. Her group represents about 1,200 families, about 5 percent of whom are black.

While black families are changing the face and chipping away at the stereotypes of home schooling, they face a unique backlash among some members of their community. Parents are being asked to explain why they home-school their children when their ancestors fought for equality.

Huff said her family's decision shouldn't be considered an affront to the civil rights movement.

"I don't feel like it's an abandonment of what blacks have done in the school arena," she said.

"But I have a vested interest in my children."

The gap between white and black students has gotten smaller since 2004, according to an S.C. Education Oversight Committee 2007 report. But the gap between black and white students remains larger than gaps between white and Hispanic students and between pay and free- or reduced-price lunch students.