By Joe Roberts @jrobertsjourno
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Videographer / Director: Scott Murrish
Producer: Joe Roberts, Ruby Coote
Editor: Grant Hanson-Vaux
It’s all thanks to her father, Derrick Grace II – an author and mentor to Florida youth who developed his own set of homeschooling curriculums after making the decision to pull his son out of first grade in 2016.
Grace II, of Tampa, now spreads a message of individualism and self-sufficiency, and has built a business around his ‘Unlearn and Relearn’ curriculum, which is available for others to purchase, alongside a range of books containing guidance for adults.
What’s more, the 28-year-old has garnered attention for posting a series of videos online showing his daughter Derrica and son Derrick Grace III loading guns and reciting facts learned from their homeschool experience.
The heavily-tattooed entrepreneur, who soon plans to buy his daughter an AR-15 rifle, told Barcroft Media: “To me school is a day care. It’s a place where the adults take the babies while they worry about adult life.
“I’m not a huge fan of the school system state-wide, or on a national level. I think they do a whole lot to dilute the mental progression of our children. So I think it’s absolutely a necessity that we take it into our hands.”
Since taking his children’s schooling into his own hands, Grace II has had an obvious effect on their development. Ask Derrica what intellectual property is, and she will respond confidently with: “They can take your possessions, but they can’t take your mind.”
And if you ask her what she would do if someone broke into her family home, she won’t hesitate to tell you she would use the Glock 42 handgun to defend herself, because the recoil has “less strength”.
Grace II explained: “[My] curriculum includes guns because violence can take place anywhere in the world at any given moment. I’m a firm believer that if you have guns in your house, an educated mind is far greater than a wondering mind.”
Both nine-year-old Derrick and six-year-old Derrica are fully-versed in loading magazines into Glocks, Mac 11s, and even an Uzi, fully extending their arms, and pulling the triggers.
Although the children usually practice with empty magazines, they have accompanied their father to shooting ranges to experience the recoil that comes with actually firing rounds.
Derrica, who also enjoys gymnastics and has a “lucky bullet” displayed in her room, said: “If somebody was trying to kill me or if somebody is trying to kill my father, or my mom, or my sisters, anybody that’s my family members, [I would] shoot them. If somebody broke into my house I’d shoot them.”
The siblings make use of their father’s small arsenal of five guns, which at one time comprised 12 firearms and now includes a Glock 30 nicknamed “Big Black” and an AK47 affectionately known to its owner as “Brown Sugar”.
For Grace II, this is all an important part of his curriculum and bringing his children up in a way that shuns much of society’s traditions and customs, so as to gain what he says is a more individualistic perspective on life.
“The mantra behind it is us whitewashing the traditions and conditions we were taught to believe,” he explained. “It’s built on four elements: self-love, self-education, self-awareness, and self-reliance. I think those are key to live a mentally free and fruitful life.”
Grace II is open about his troubled upbringing, where, despite coming from a family with a strong history in law enforcement, his day-to-day life involved breaking into houses and cars, and generally rebelling against a school system he felt neglected his particular talents.
“I was a terrible child,” he explained. “At Christmas time we would cut Christmas lights just for the hell of it, to ruin people’s holiday. I know I broke into at least 20 cars as a child… we would just go in these guy’s houses and sit there and just go through their stuff.”
Grace II, whose father is a Secret Service retiree and whose grandfather worked as part of both a Sherriff’s office and the Tampa PD, would continue to get into trouble into his teens, before starting work as a 911 dispatcher in 2008.
Despite this seemingly respectable job, he still found himself getting into trouble in his personal life, at one point being involved in a fight at a children’s birthday party, where his assailants attempted to steal thousands of dollars worth of his jewellery.
Reflecting on the incident, Grace II recalled how he used the services available to him as a 911 dispatcher to track down the people from that day: “I used some of my resources to find addresses, locations, names of almost everybody in that family.
“…I found them eight months later. My AK47, that was my weapon of choice that day. But we ended up robbing them, taking everything he had, making him take some articles of clothing off. My goal that day was just to belittle him as best I could.
“…I have evolved I am a different person now, but I wouldn’t change anything. I think respect is a huge thing.”
Grace recalls how, during these troubled years, he would have bought a Bazooka rocket launcher if he could have afforded it: “Just to say I got the biggest gun in Tampa.”
Referring to the incident at the children’s party, he said: “When there was like 30 of them, I definitely would have just used the Bazooka and just blew the whole parking lot up.”
For Grace II, this is part of a past he has made real efforts to leave behind. After losing his job as a 911 dispatcher in 2012, due to taking time off on a holiday and allegedly mishandling a 911 call, Grace II decided to try to make a more positive impact and became a mentor to young people.
He has since spoken at numerous schools and juvenile corrections facilities throughout Hillsborough County in Tampa, and now shares his knowledge with a much larger demographic, travelling the US with Derrick III and Derrica, as well as his two one-year-old daughters.
Of course, homeschooling helps the father-of-four to make his own schedule, which in turn allows him to bring his children on-stage at events around the country and showcase the results of his own brand of education.
Homeschooled children in the United States account for a very small number of overall students, with just 3.3 percent of students between 5 and 17 being taught at home for the year 2015-16, according to data released by the Department of Education last September.
But while a 2012 report from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) showed parents were homeschooling mainly out of concern for their children’s safety or to help them avoid temptations such as drugs, Derrick’s decision to keep his children out of school comes from his personal philosophy of self-actualisation.
“My biggest aim is I want them to be self sufficient,” he explained. “I think it’s 100 percent unfair to raise our kids to be dependent on us until 16, and then force them to be dependent on strangers untill they’re 70.”
While distrust of ‘the system’ plays a big role in Derrick’s overall project, safety is still a big concern for the Tampa native – which is why he chooses to focus so heavily on gun education and making sure his children can defend themselves.
As with so many cities in the modern United States, Tampa has experienced its own issues with guns and gun violence in recent times.
Just last year, the city’s Seminole Heights neighbourhood was rocked by the indiscriminate shootings of four separate residents who were seemingly targeted for nothing more than being out in public.
It took 51 days before the first arrest was made in the case, during which time, residents were advised not to leave their houses alone.
Derrick recalls the events well: “The guy was just shooting random people for two months. Killed four people. By just popping out at night. No reason, no personality traits in common, no nothing. Just literally coming to the area and shooting at random people.
“It’s a jungle outside. These people are at a place where have no moral compass, they’re killing kids and all, they just don’t care.”
There’s no doubt the young entrepreneur has come a long way from his days spent breaking into houses and cars, but Grace II has had trouble escaping his complicated past.
In 2014, he was involved in an altercation with the mother and brother of his current partner, in which he ended up shooting at them both from a parked car, hitting the mother in the hand, and the brother in the arm. A three-year-old Derrica was in the back seat of the car at the time.
Resolute that the pair had started the confrontation, Grace II explained how he warned the brother that if he opened the car door, he would use deadly force.
“I told him, ‘Listen, if you open the door I am going to kill you’,” said Grace II, who related how his warning was ignored and he was compelled to follow through on his promise.
“I just leaned out to the left and started firing out the passenger door, but because [her mother] jumped in the way, she had her hand up, so I ended up shooting her. She did lose a finger but they were able to put it surgically back on… and I ended up shooting him in the arm.”
Following the shooting, Derrick says the brother threatened to use his own gun. He continued: “I’m like, ‘Go get it, let’s have a shootout.’ But for a split second I forgot Derrica was in the car.
“I’m like, ‘Damn, I can’t have a shootout. She’s in the car’… he may not be a good aim. He may shoot wild and if something happened to her then I would have to go back home, retrieve something even bigger, and try to come back and kill everybody that’s related to you.”
Grace II was not charged for the incident, and credits his dad’s affiliation with the police as one of the factors that helped him to avoid any repercussions for the shooting, as well as Florida’s infamous ‘stand your ground’ law.
He continued: “A lot of people get so desensitised by movies, television, and music and they think that shooting is just like shooting on Grand Theft Auto. Absolutely not. It’s a whole different experience when you smell somebody’s flesh burning when you see the blood.”
Looking back, he is disappointed in the incident and says he wouldn’t want anyone to mimic his actions, but maintains that he “wouldn’t change anything,” even having his daughter in the car.
“Had she not… seen somebody shot, I don’t think she would be a strong as she is… I am pro-peace. I love people. I don’t bother people. So, when people bother me, I take it real personal because I don’t bother them.”
Grace II literally wears this mantra of hardship leading to personal strength on his face, where, among the dozens of facial tattoos, is inked a large ‘ABC’ for ‘Adversity Builds Character’.
It’s a philosophy that seems to fuel much of the no-nonsense material in his Unlearn and Relearn curriculum, but the ‘ABC’ theory seems at odds with his contention that he is exposing his children to guns and preparing them for violence out of necessity.
Grace II said: “For anybody that said [you shouldn’t give kids guns] I would tell them just, look at America. I don’t watch the news, but social media tells me enough of what’s going on out here and it’s just too many random acts of violence.
“People could literally be like, ‘I’m gonna get a Cuban sandwich’ and never come back home because somebody was just like, ‘I’m gonna randomly shoot up this sandwich shop’.
“…People are doing the most weirdest things, they’re shooting up Walmarts, they’re shooting up movie theatres, eateries. You can literally just go grab a soda and get shot in America.”