When I talk with Black parents about homeschooling as a viable educational choice for our children, some of the most common responses I receive are: Black folks don’t homeschool. We can’t homeschool. We have to work. I don’t have the time. I’m not a teacher. I just don’t have the ability! All of these reasons are valid. Yet, I’d like for us to look at home-based education from a different perspective by exploring the reasons why Black parents do homeschool their children. Furthermore, let’s explore how that “why”, as deep conviction, becomes what I call the “ability currency” that parents use to invest in their children’s capacity to thrive.
But first, I want to make a clear distinction between homeschooling and what many parents across the country were thrust into because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Homeschooling is a lifestyle choice. This pandemic has left so many of us with no choice but to school at home in forced, shut-in, panicked, and in many cases, inequitable distance learning. However, the benefit of it all is that we are now in a position to reimagine what education is and how it is best obtained.
When I first started homeschooling my youngest child, I was terrified. When she was in the first grade, I began to suspect that she had some kind of learning and processing difference and needed extra support. Her teacher was using punitive tactics to try to get her to do her work faster in class. We weren’t getting the answers or support we needed from the school and over the next couple of years, I could see the light fading from her bright, innocent eyes as she lost confidence in herself. In my gut, I knew I had to do something different. She needed a customized and individualized learning environment that was safe for her to be herself, not compared to anyone else, and not punished for the unique ways that she sees the world. This was and is my “why”, my deep conviction that has given me the ability to homeschool, even through extremely difficult circumstances.
Customized and individualized education is actually one top reason that many Black parents homeschool. Other top reasons include:
- The desire to accomplish more academically than in conventional schools.
- For the parents to transmit values, beliefs, and worldview to the child.
- The desire to provide religious or moral instruction.
- The desire to develop stronger family relationships between children and parents and among brothers and sisters.
- Concerns about the school environment, such as safety, drugs, or negative peer pressure.
There are several types of “ability currency” that give parents the leverage to invest in homeschooling and to sustain it. Some currencies take the form of dollars, community, culture or strong emotional and physical health. So what, then, is the ROI for the Black community when we reimagine what ability to homeschool means, use our various forms of “ability currency” and choose homeschool?
Here are 5 benefits:
Freedom from Institutionalization- Our children don’t experience institutional factors that lead to low academic performance, exposure to violence and integration into the Preschool-to-Prison Pipeline.
Advanced and Accelerated Learning- Our children achieve higher math and literacy scores than traditionally-schooled students of all races and ethnicities and tend to place in higher grade levels than is normal for their age.
Positive Self-identity- When learning emerges from a central place rooted in our identity and glorious humanity as African people, our children develop a positive self-awareness that carries them confidently throughout their lives.
Self-Awareness- When our homeschool environment is a safe space for customized learning that gives the child permission to explore their interests and validates their individuality, our children are grounded in who they are, who they want to be, and what kind of life they want to lead.
Meaningful Social Connection- Contrary to popular belief that homeschooled children are not properly socialized, homeschooled students have many opportunities to socialize with a diverse population through community-based volunteer work, by joining homeschool cooperatives and building relationships with local businesses and organizations. Our children develop the ability to adjust to a variety of social situations and contribute in meaningful ways.
We are now entering into our 6th year of homeschooling. Not only is my daughter confident in who she is, she loves to learn and is astonishingly overcoming all the learning differences she was diagnosed with and achieving well beyond her “grade level”. By the way, I also homeschool my son, a high schooler who is achieving well beyond his years. Our successes have come through many valleys of hardship; divorce, mental illness, health issues, financial crisis and more. It’s not always an easy journey, but it’s absolutely worth it!
If you don’t homeschool, why? Think of all reasons that may lead you to conclude that you don’t have the ability. I encourage you to think about the reasons why our children and community benefit from homeschooling, how your children could thrive, and look at the ability currency you do have and need. Homeschooling is a viable option for our people! The Black Homeschooling Sustainability Initiative, an initiative of Denver Independent School, is committed to support our community with the resources you need. Let us be the ability currency you need to get started! If you want more information, to share your schooling-at-home story, or to partner with our efforts, contact us at info@BHSI.org or visit bhsi.education.