Growing racially hostile climate makes homeschooling a viable option for Black parents | Think Piece

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With the heightened concerns of increasing issues in traditional schools, Black parents look to alternative, home-education.

One cannot keep up with the daily reports of racist incidents. In addition to the surge of racially charged encounters occuring in the public view, it is also becoming pervasive in our public school systems.

From derogatory name calling, teachers wearing nooses, to the blatant disregard of teaching Black history, African-American families are fed up with public education. As a result, an increasing amount are choosing home education, more specifically, homeschools as an alternative for their children.

“I never heard of homeschooling when I was growing up,” said Kara, a Black homeschooler of two children. “But now, I think it is essential for Black families.”

Kara is not the only one who feels this way because interest in homeschooling is gradually increasing.

“There are about 2.3 million home-educated students in the United States (as of spring 2016) . . . with about 15% of homeschool families being non-white,” reports the National Education Research Institute (NERI).

Of that, an estimated 220,000 African-American children are either homeschooled, provided home-based instruction by a parent, or are taught at home; an increase from about 103,000 according to a report by PBS.

As compared to the approximately 50 million children attending traditional primary and secondary educational institutions, homeschooling is significantly lower in the U.S. For Black communities, the trend is similar. However, in recent years, Black families have become one of the fastest-growing demographics, next to Hispanics, according to a report in the Atlantic that found Black children to make up 8% of the homeschooled population, compared to about the 15% of the public school population as documented by  the NERI.

The rise of homeschooling

Homeschooling or home education is an alternative to public or private school. Children are provided instruction outside of traditional educational spaces, which occur at residential quarters.

Some children are taught by parents, like in the case of Kara. While other home-education schools are facilitated by a non-parent, or a combination of the two. Now, in many cases, teaching includes online instruction.

According to the Coalition for Homeschooled Children (CRHE), the concept is credited to educational theorist and reformer, John Holt who created a following through his 1970s newsletter, Growing Without Schooling.

The differences between homeschooling and home-based education are funding and regulation. While homeschoolers do not receive public money, some home-based education, like independent study, use government funding which in turn, are under some form of official governance.

Homeschools in Black and White

Initially, white families spurred the homeschool movement. They wanted to educate their children at home because of religious or moral reasons. As well, they typically pulled their children out of school because of lack discipline, safety, bullying and disinterested teachers.

For some Black families, reasons of religion are disregarded all together. They cite the lack of inclusive education for Black children, especially boys, for the main reason to homeschool. For example, Black boys are continually mistreated and less educated in a public school system that ironically, African Americans fought so hard to get into and then receive equal access.

Another main focus is to educate Black children on their history, without a Eurocentric view that is regularly promoted in public education.

Although Holt is considered the founder of the homeschool movement, a liberatory education has been part of Black activism much longer. In the 1960s, The Black Panther Party for Self-Defense offered community-based programs that helped Black residents.

Starting with a free breakfast program for students in 1969, their grassroots pedagogy eventually resulted in the Oakland Community School, a self proclaimed liberation school.

According to the group’s 10 point program, “[The Black Panther Party] want[s] education for our people that exposes the true nature of this decadent American society. We want education that teaches us our true history and our role in the present-day society,” continuing with, “We believe in an educational system that will give to our people a knowledge of self.”

Homeschooling 2.0

Increased access to technology and social media have made it easier for Black families to find each other and connect with fellow homeschoolers. Black homeschooling co-ops are being established around the country, as well as families using Facebook groups to forge stronger ties.

Another way the digital age helps back homeschoolers is through blogs and Youtube channels assisting in expanding pedagogical techniques and networks that encourage interaction between parents, as well as children.

As homeschooling among black families continue to rise, African American children’s education will be customized to fit their specific needs.

*Yolanda Aguilera contributed to this commentary

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Nicole Bovell, M.S. is a veteran special education teacher and researcher.


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