A matter of degree

“It’s [not] right for everyone … it’s right for us.”

— home-schooling parent Sue Mickey

I met the neatest kid at my friends’ wedding a few weeks ago. I needed a swing partner and he looked up to the task, so I asked him.

The tall teenager met my eye, smiled and said, “Sure.” As I’m wont to do, I started pelting him with questions between expert (on his part) spins and turns.

“How old are you?”

“Seventeen.”

“Where’d you learn to dance like this?”

“Actually, I teach dance, mostly to younger kids.”

“Wow, that’s cool. Where do you go to school?”

“I’m home-schooled.”

His last answer tripped me up. Like a lot of folks, I have a certain image of home-schooled children (based on what, I’m not exactly sure). But let’s just say that outgoing, easy-to-talk-with, even-easier-to-dance-with Fred Astaire/Matt didn’t fit that image.

Neither does Justin Humphrey, the oldest of Joan Humphrey’s four children. Also 17, Justin has been home-schooled his entire life. This summer, he co-starred in local theater group Plaeides Productions’ performance of the somewhat risque House of Yes, a dark comedy that dealt, quite graphically, with lust, incest, violence and insanity — not exactly the kind of material I’d imagine a home-schooled child being encouraged to explore. Yet Joan was completely supportive of her son’s involvement in the play.

“He’s gotten very interested in the theater, and we’ve been lucky that there are so many good theater groups in the area,” she notes.

Home-schooling in North Carolina is elementary

Justin and Matt are among the first wave of North Carolina kids who’ve spent their whole school careers, from kindergarten to senior year, at home. In 1988, the General Assembly amended Article 39 of Chapter 115C of the General Statutes to legalize home-schooling in the state. Trisha Hoffman of North Carolinians for Home Education says the guidelines laid out therein are among the most lenient in the country.

“Right now, all you have to do is register with the state, take a standardized test once a year — and there’s no minimum on what you can make on the test, you just have to take it. And you have to take attendance — you have to have 180 school days a year,” Hoffman explains.

Actually, the requirements are a little more extensive than that — but not by much. According to the N.C. Division of Non-Public Education’s Web site (www.ncdnpe.org), home-schoolers must also certify that the people providing instruction hold at least a high-school diploma or its equivalent, maintain immunization records on each student, and operate on a regular schedule.

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