Couple won't abandon religious convictions

Bucks County Courier Times/May 5, 2004
By Ben Finley

Bristol Township -The Hankins' kitchen table is cluttered with a pink backpack, a microscope and the latest edition of "Math 2 for Christian Schools" from the Bob Jones University Press.

The seven Hankin kids, ages 2 through 14, surround the long gray table with their mom and dad. The parents requested their children's names not be printed.

The 14-year-old talks about building a car that won't pollute the air when he grows up to be an engineer. Their youngest son wants to be a fireman or a missionary. Their 11-year-old daughter hopes to be a mother some day.

But Tom and Babette Hankin are breaking the law.

"We're not trying to make waves," Tom Hankin explained. "But we have these convictions, and we're not going to back down from them."

The parents, both 42, aren't following the state's home education law. The law requires the Bristol Township School District to oversee their children's home education. Instead, the parents are teaching their four school-age children on their own, which they have done for more than six years.

The Hankins have countered the law by suing the district, claiming the state's home education law infringes on their religious freedom. They believe that school districts in general are anti-God and anti-Bible. Complying with the state law would be a sin, they said.

"It really gets down to a fundamental question of whether children belong to the schools or to the parents," Tom said. "We want to be responsible for their upbringing."

The Croydon couple also said they want to challenge their kids academically more than they think a public school would.

The school day is divided up into math, science and English in the morning. Bible study, piano lessons and foreign language occur throughout the afternoon.

"Ich bin Schuler und lerne hier Deutsch," the 9-year-old said, proving his German skills. His words translate into English as "I'm a student and I learn German here."

God is woven into much of what the children learn. Math books work equations into stories from the Old Testament.

Their history books teach through a Christian lens.

From an "American History Book" published by Bob Jones University Press:

"We do not know why God allowed the white people to take the land that was the home of the Indians for so long. We do know that God loves the Indians, and that they can become members of God's family if they accept Jesus Christ as their saviour."

The family belongs to a branch of the Free Presbyterian Church of North America in Montgomery County. About half of the families they go to church with home school their children, the Hankins said.

Tom is a computer programmer, and Babette is a stay-at-home mom and former paralegal. The couple met at Bob Jones University in Greenville, S.C.

The older kids said they don't yearn for public school, noting that their mom uses traditional school as a threat when they're misbehaving.

"I'm shy," said the 14-year-old. "I don't think I would do well in public school."

Tom Hankin said he doesn't object to the school district knowing that he and his wife are home schooling their children.

"We just don't want the school district or state to control it," he said.

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