A Upbeat Family Story Against Long Odds

Bill McClellan has a story to tell from the St Louis area.  It’s an account of a family having limited resources, but led by parents with some gumption.  Mistakes and conditions can be changed to the up-side.

McClellan: Brothers pursue their education against long odds

Edna Fuller had three sons. Each had a different father. All of the fathers were of the absentee variety. An indication of that is the boys bore their mother’s last name. Maybe the third father was blameless in that regard. He was murdered before his son was born.

At any rate, that was the family. Edna and her sons. They lived in poverty in Pine Lawn.

The St Louis Post Dispatch published Mr. McClellan’s column last Friday.

Ms. Fuller met and married Leroy Williams Jr. and lived in St Louis suburb that had a school. But it wasn’t a great school.  After moving there, the school soon lost its accreditation, which would seem like a impossible scenario in the strictly rigid world of public schools.  Homeschoolers are keenly aware of accreditation concerns, as many public school advocates find it shameful and abusive homeschool parents aren’t certified teachers and our ‘schools’ aren’t accredited.  We’re not expert enough.

But this happened to the Fuller/Williams family:

Then came disaster. Virgil fell at home and hit his head. A school nurse saw the bump on his head and did not believe his story. She hotlined the family. A caseworker investigated, and the state took custody of Virgil and James.

It’s easy to see how something like this happens. A stepfather. A mother who seems irresponsible. It sounds like a recipe for abuse.

The odd thing — the heartbreaking thing — was that Leroy was not mean. He was kind and loving. The boys refer to him as Dad. And Edna, although guilty of some bad decisions earlier in her life, was not really irresponsible. She worked as a nurse’s aide. Still, the state erred on the side of caution.

Heartbreaking indeed.  The little boys were separated, going into foster care. This particular incident hits home with me.  One summer, our twin boys had matching black eyes. One got his shiner meeting a baseball with his face and the other took it from a soccer slide.  I soon realized it was better to leave them home than take them shopping or on other errands. The  clerks’ questions were abundant during the off-school season – I didn’t want to imagine where our overly vigilant society would go in a town that doesn’t know me or our family.

In their neighborhood and with that school nurse, Edna and Leroy’s family didn’t have what we had. Our community took our word for it.  Many of our friends and family laughed at the vision of explaining to every suspicious busybody how those bruises occurred. Besides the fact, we’re crazy homeschoolers.

It’s not really funny when the powers-that-be can swoop in, frightening and tearing up a family for months or years because an authoritative decision was made to be overly cautious.  Strangers can’t hear you as well.

When the boys were finally returned home, the family made some life-changing decisions.  Not finding the public school education acceptable, they started homeschooling their two youngest boys.

The boys were home-schooled through grade school. Then high school. The high school math included algebra, geometry and pre-calculus. That was Leroy’s specialty. Doorman by day, math instructor by night.

Meanwhile, some of the kids in the neighborhood were falling by the wayside. James and Virgil were not part of that scene.

They also took advantage of the programs that helped their kids. The boys also volunteered their time in the same activities that nurtured them.  Edna and Leroy did a great job preparing their kids.

Their two sons will soon be college students at the age of 16 and 17.

This is an inspiring story for any family feeling desperate and frustrated about their child’s education.  It is better to educate than incarcerate. Virgil and James are living proof.

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