Homeschooling is on the rise in Black America, with an increasing number of Black parents opting to teach their children at home, not just due to pandemic restrictions but because Black children are often treated unfairly by the school system and do not learn Black history in current school curricula.
Homeschooling is up across the board. By October 2020, the nationwide proportion of homeschoolers—parents who had taken their children from public or private schools to educate them at home—had risen from 5 percent at the start of the pandemic to more than 11 percent, according to the Census Bureau. For Black families, the increase was much sharper. Around 3 percent of Black students were homeschooled before the pandemic but by October, the number had increased to 16 percent, The New Yorker reported.
Typically, homeschooling parents are college-educated. A 2013 study found that of the 54 Black homeschooling families interviewed, 42 had one parent with at least a college degree, while 19 also had graduate degrees, The Conversation reported.
Here are 5 things to know about the rise of Black homeschooling in the U.S.
For Black families, the ability to improvise a curriculum is a major reason to try homeschooling. “We are not seeing ourselves in textbooks,” said Maryland-based LaNissir James, who has seven children ranging in age from 5 to 23. “I love traditional American history, but I like to take my kids to the Museum of African American History and Culture and say, ‘OK, here’s what was going on with Black people in 1800,’” James said.
April VaiVai homeschools her daughter, Cameren Queen, for similar reasons. “The No. 1 thing is to throw out all of those standards that white America will tell you your child should (know),” VaiVai said. Curricula and teaching practices fail to emphasize Black excellence, for example, ignoring early accomplishments of Africans and African Americans in math and science, The Atlantic reported. Accepting these standards, VaiVai said, is what “screwed us up.”
There has been very little research on Black homeschoolers, but in 2009, Cheryl Fields-Smith, an associate professor at the University of Georgia’s Mary Frances Early College of Education, published a study of two dozen Black homeshcooling families in and around Atlanta. She found that 80 percent of the Black parents said they homeschooled due to “pervasive racism and inequities.” The parents complained that their kids were frequently punished or seen as troublemakers, inappropriately recommended for special-education classes or medication. Some students were bullied, The New Yorker reported.
Many school in the Black community are neglected and underfunded. For example, in Baltimore’s public schools, eight out of 10 students are Black. Many of the schools were recently found to have broken heaters. Students were forced to learn in frigid temperatures, The New Yorker reported. The city’s Black public school students rarely pass their math or reading tests and their schools are chronically underfunded.
A study by sociologists Edward Morris and Brea Perry found that Black boys are twice as likely as white boys to receive discipline at school. This includes office referral, detention, suspension, or expulsion. The same study revealed that Black girls are three times more likely than white girls to be disciplined for “less serious and arguably more ambiguous behavior, such as disruptive behavior, dress code violations, or disobedience,” The New Yorker reported.
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Advocates of school choice claim that homeschooling gives low-income parents access to institutions that can better serve their children, The New Yorker reported.
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