25 January 2014 ~ 4 Comments

Barack Obama: Calvert Homeschooler?

Calvert Education Services — once known as the the Calvert School’s “Home Instruction Division” — is proud to claim many accomplished, well-educated alumni such as William F. Buckley and Pearl S. Buck, but none more prominent than President Barack Obama!

Recently a Calvert School alumnus pointed out that Wikipedia suggested that President Obama was homeschooled by Calvert.

Believe it or not, this was the first time this had come to our attention.

As we would advise any of our students, we did some independent research to verify this claim. After all, finding something on the Internet does not make it true!

First, we checked our own student records.  As is our privacy policy, we do not disclose anything about our students without permission — even if they happen to be a public figure — and so are waiting for the White House press office to respond to our query for permission in this regard.

However, knowing how much has been written about the President’s early life, we searched a variety of biographies.  Here’s what we found:

We started with a well-known biography of President Obama’s mother, Ann Dunham, “A Singular Woman: The Untold Story of Barack Obama’s Mother,” and found this excerpt:

In the house in Semarang (Indonesia), Ann had converted a room into a schoolroom, with desks for Maya and several other children from expatriate families. Lesson manuals, textbooks, workbooks, and school supplies arrived in boxes from the home instruction department of the Calvert Day School in Baltimore. A rotating roster of parents served as teachers, meeting in various households. Kadi Warner, whom Ann enlisted to teach world and United States history, told me that the Calvert system was the oldest formal homeschooling curriculum and was highly respected. “It was the standard internationally then,” she said. “If you went through that, you were prepared.”

Scott, Janny (2011-05-03). A Singular Woman: The Untold Story of Barack Obama’s Mother (Kindle Locations 2782-2792). Penguin Group US. Kindle Edition.

So, it would appear that President Obama was part of a homeschooling co-op, a common use of the Calvert curriculum today.

Next, we checked what many consider the definitive biography of President Obama, “Barack Obama: The Story” By David Maraniss (Simon & Schuster), and found this reference on page 221:

President Obama's mother Stanley Ann Dunham with family in Indonesia

Referring to the President’s mother, Maraniss describes her days living in Indonesia with her children “Barry” (Barack) and Maya.  This excerpt suggests that as her children grew older she supplemented what he was being  taught at a local school.

“In the back row of the third-grade classroom, on wooden chairs behind a long wooden desk, the boy seated next to Barry was Mardanus Hasmoro, known to friends as Mardi, who had returned to Indonesia after four years with his family in Australia, where his father had served as an air force attache.  He was fluent in English but could recall only a few words of Bahasa Indonesia. One day Barry brought in one of the  English-language correspondence workbooks from Calvert School in Baltimore that his mother had used with him during their predawn sessions at home.  “When I saw it, I said, ‘Hey, this is the one I used to from in Australia!  And I had already finished it,”  Mardi recalled.  “‘This answer is this, this one is this,” blah, blah…and we became fast friends.”

By the way, the Calvert Answer Keys are not intended to be shared, President Obama, but we imagine the statute of limitations has passed on this infraction!

You can also find the excerpt on Google Books HERE.

Finally, here’s an interesting comment from EducationNext that speaks to how Ann Dunham’s efforts to ensure her son received a high quality education — which led to his admission to a well-regarded private school in Hawaii, and ultimately to Columbia, and Harvard universities — influenced his thinking about the role of parents in education.

” The fact that his mother worked so hard to compensate for “inferior Indonesian schools,” writes Shelby Steele in A Bound Man: Why We Are Excited About Obama and Why He Can’t Win, may have instilled in Obama a belief that “momma…developed the academic skill upon which Obama’s successful life was built.” In fact, parental involvement is a theme of many of Obama’s speeches on education policy. “There is no program and no policy that can substitute for a parent who is involved in their child’s education from day one,” he told a Manchester, New Hampshire, audience in November 2007. “There is no substitute for a parent who will attend those parent/teacher conferences, make sure their children are in school on time, and help them with their homework after dinner. And I have no doubt that we will still be talking about these problems in the next century if we do not have parents who are willing to turn off the TV once in a while, and put away the video games, and read to their child. Responsibility for our children’s education has to start at home.”

You’ll find the entire article  HERE.

We’re proud of the role that Calvert is reported to have played in The Leader of the Free World’s early education (Hello, White House Press Office?).  This naturally leads to the question of how many other prominent leaders were educated by Calvert.  We’ll share some examples in an upcoming blog post.

In the meantime, we would love to hear from other parents who have used Calvert to educate their children (or those of used it as children themselves).

  • Have you used Calvert overseas?
  • Or as part of a co-op program?
  • Or to supplement gaps in your local schools?
  • Did the Calvert curriculum play an important role in helping your family find an unconventional path to achieve academic or career goals?
  • How did it affect your thinking about the role of parents in education?

Please share your story with us in the comment section below.

Who knows, perhaps someday researchers will access this blog to learn how one of our next Presidents was educated!

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