By Erickka Sy Savané
As the mother of two young African American girls, I’ve been thinking about homeschool for a while. There’s been this knowing inside of me that I can’t let my kids continue to be taught in a school system that was never set up for them in the first place. I mean, we had to fight to be integrated into America’s school system so what makes us think that they would teach from any other perspective than that of a white European? Then there are the undeniable signs from the outside that keep coming. Like, discovering just recently that the most revered children’s book author in American history, Dr. Theodor Seuss Geisel, who is celebrated for a full week every single year in public school, was nothing more than a racist who regularly depicted Blacks and Japanese Americans as “savages.” Many credit his vicious attacks against the Japanese during World War II with helping lead to their eventual mass incarceration. I had the same sinking feeling when I found out that the Indian leader that I had been taught to idolize as a child, one Mahatma Gandhi, was no better. He constantly described Africans as “savages” in his writing and campaigned relentlessly to the British ruling class in S. Africa for the better treatment of Indians. Then there’s our new Secretary of Education, Betsy Devos, who could single handedly undermine all progress in education for everybody. So what am I waiting for?
Well, like many moms, I have questions because taking control of my children’s education is kind of a big deal. The good news is, there are many African American moms who are homeschooling and thriving. Recently, I caught up with a few who were willing to share their experience.
Meet Keisha, a 37 year-old single mom of two. For Keisha, now in her second year of homeschooling, deciding to pull her 14 year-old daughter and 9 year-old son out of public school was about creating a better work life balance. “I travel a lot with work, and with regular brick-and-mortar schools I would have to rush home. Now my kids can travel with me,” she says, adding that it’s important to take time to research before jumping in. She spent the summer before committing to homeschool checking out different curriculums online, before ultimately choosing Time4Learning. She says that the platform is very entertaining, flexible, and it cultivates independence in kids. “They haven’t been on a mandated schedule since we first started,” says Keisha, “and not only do they get the job done, they exceed the standard with more time left to have fun.” It’s a skill that she feels will set them up nicely for college when there are no teachers breathing down their necks. She feels that homeschooling is especially important for African Americans because you can teach kids African American history that’s not being taught in schools.
“With homeschool, you get complete autonomy to teach whatever you deem, in whatever way you want. It could mean going to a museum, and teaching them about Egypt. In the end, it creates a more cultured child that doesn’t have to feel inadequate in any situation.”
Robin, who is currently homeschooling 3 kids, with a fourth that is now in college, chose homeschool when she noticed that her 7-year-old would come home crying everyday, one child got left on the school bus, her youngest would have tons of homework, and her kids were bickering with one another nonstop. “I felt completely out-of-the loop in regards to what was actually happening at school,” says Robin who with her ex-husband’s support, and freelance work for a company online, left her job to homeschool. She also uses the Time4learning platform as a supplement because with multiple children it allows them to work independently online. “My 5-year-old uses it a lot, and one day he was reading,” she says. But before we start thinking that we can sit them in front of the computer and like magic, school is done, there’s obviously more to it.
“My younger kids tend to work independently, but with my high school kids I like to have discussions. It works out well because I’m learning new things and starting over too so we’re learning how to problem solve and figure things out together.”
It’s a skill that her oldest, who is now in college, greatly appreciates. Ultimately, Robin is happiest about the bond that homeschooling has created for her entire family.
Obviously, there are a million-and-one questions that could be asked, but a big one that can’t be left on the floor has to do with socialization. How do kids learn how to interact with other kids?
“Good question,” says Robin, who acknowledges that it was a big question for her too.
“There are tons of homeschooling groups, and some parents teach classes. There are also library activities, and family meet-ups at different locations. Some high schools even allow homeschool kids to attend their dances and other events. There’s never a shortage of activities.”
Both moms stress that homeschooling is a process, and it’s not about doing it perfectly- which is a very real issue for a lot of us because no one wants their kids to be behind academically. It’s definitely encouraging to see these two African American single moms homeschooling multiple children, and it brings me a step closer to making my decision.