Oklahoma homeschoolers hail their alma mater
by Brandon Dutcher
One morning last August I was sitting at the kitchen table having Raisin Bran with my eight-year-old son, Lincoln. Reading the sports page,
he noticed the headline "Stoops visits alma mater." I asked him if he knew what an alma mater was. He didn’t, so I explained it’s where a
person went to school. I reminded the towheaded third-grader that just a week earlier in Latin class he had learned that "mater" means mother.
And since "alma" means nourishing, then "alma mater" means nourishing mother.
"You know what’s funny?" the little homeschooler remarked. "In my case, it literally is true."
Indeed it is. And there are thousands of other young Oklahomans whose alma mater is their alma mater. Approximately 700 of them gathered
March 13 at the state capitol building for homeschool Capitol Day.
According to Article 13, Section 4 of the Oklahoma Constitution, "the Legislature shall provide for the compulsory attendance at some public
or other school, unless other means of education are provided, of all the children in the State who are sound in mind and body, between the
ages of eight and sixteen years, for at least three months in each year" (emphasis added). According to a legal analysis published in August by
the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA), "Oklahoma is the only state with a constitutional provision guaranteeing the right to
home school." And for that we can thank ... Oklahoma Democrats.
Ninety-five years ago this month, during the Oklahoma Constitutional Convention, delegate J. S. Buchanan, a Democrat from Norman,
suggested that the "other means of education" language be added. Delegate J. A. Baker from Wewoka, another Democrat, agreed: "I think
Mr. Buchanan has suggested a solution. A man’s own experience sometimes will teach him. I have two little fellows that are not attending a
public school because it is too far for them to walk and their mother takes them study four hours a day."
"People ought to be allowed to use their own discretion as to how to educate their children," he argued.
The motion to add the "other means of education" language was seconded by none other than convention president Alfalfa Bill Murray,
another Democrat. (Note to homeschoolers: hug a Democrat today.)
Oklahoma doesn’t collect data on homeschooling, so neither the State Department of Education nor anyone else knows for sure how many
homeschoolers there are – a healthy sign in a free society. Brian Ray, president of the National Home Education Research Institute, estimates
there are between 14,000 and 19,000 homeschooled students in Oklahoma. Robert Ziegler, HSLDA’s director of media relations, puts the
number at 20,000 to 25,000.
If, for example, the number is 20,000, that’s one homeschooled student for every 31 public-school students in Oklahoma. By paying for their
own children’s education, homeschool parents are saving Oklahoma taxpayers more than $100 million a year. (Note to budget-conscious
politicians: hug a homeschooler today.)
Like charter schools, enterprise schools, magnet and specialty schools, interdistrict choice, and privately funded K-12 scholarships, home
schooling is yet another manifestation of school choice in Oklahoma.
The words alma mater are sometimes applied to the Roman goddess Ceres, the goddess of bounty and agriculture. And though homeschooling
moms do nourish their youngsters with food (when Lincoln was six he told his mom, "You’re such a good cook you could get a job at
Denny’s"), they also nourish them with instruction.
The psalmist compares children to olive plants. And as Bible commentator Matthew Henry observed, nourishing parents love to see their little
ones "straight and green, sucking in the sap of their good education."
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Dutcher is research director at the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs