Inside The Science of More Black American Families Homeschooling Children: 5 Things to Know

Inside The Science of More Black American Families Homeschooling Children: 5 Things to Know


In this Jan. 26, 2018, photo, Chemay Morales-James, right, and husband Shane James, left, work with their children Keanu, left, and Judah during a home-school art class in Watertown, Conn. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)

While these are not figures from the government, the National Home Education Research Institute estimates that there were an estimated 3.135 million school-age (K-12) homeschooled students in the U.S. during the 2021-2022 school year. The NHERI conducts and collects research about homeschooling.

Homeschooling is an education model in which parents educate their children at home instead of sending them to a traditional public or private school. In homeschooling, the parent or guardian can choose the subjects to be taught (based on a child’s age and ability) as well as the curriculum and methods of teaching, plan the schedule, and teach or facilitate instruction, as described by the NYC Department of Education.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, a government agency, in 2016, the percentage of students who were homeschooled was higher for white (3.8 percent) and Hispanic (3.5 percent) students than for Black (1.9 percent) and Asian (1.4 percent) students. But this has been changing. There has been an increase in homeschooled Black children.

Here are five things to know.

1. Boost in Black homeschooling

The number of Black households homeschooling their children increased drastically from 3.3. percent at the start of the pandemic in 2020 to 16.1 percent by the fall of that year, according to census data. This marked the largest jump of any racial group.

2. Homeschooling: ‘A form of resistance’

The move toward homeschooling for some Black parents is a pushback to the exclusion of Black history in public school classrooms.

Lawmakers, mostly Republicans, over the last few years have called on schools to remove critical race theory – a concept that legal scholars say acknowledges that racism is both systemic and institutional in American society – from their curriculum. Even though critical race theory itself is generally not included in the grade school curriculum, this has affected the teaching of Black history in general in schools. Most recently, Florida’s Department of Education rejected an Advanced Placement African American studies course.

Cheryl Fields-Smith, a professor in elementary education at the University of Georgia, told CNN that Black parents are opting to teach their kids at home not only because of the lack of an inclusive curriculum but also because of bullying and racism in the school systems, among other things.

“I conceptualize it as a form of resistance,” Fields-Smith told CNN. “Instead of accepting the status quo, families are resisting what’s happening in their schools.”

She added, “Some families say they chose to homeschooling because they were living in majority White school districts and wanted to teach their children to have confidence in their Black identity. Others expressed a desire to shield their children from the nation’s polarizing racial climate.”

3. Cultural gap plays a part

Sherri Mehta, of Laurel, Maryland, who began homeschooling her two children in 2020, told CNN she was also becoming concerned about her children facing a “cultural gap” or racism because they weren’t being taught by teachers who looked like them in their school district.

Mehta splits homeschooling responsibilities with her husband, and they teach different subjects, such as Black history and slavery. She also says she wants to avoid having her kids experience the racial trauma she experienced in a public school in Richmond, Virginia, where competing against sports teams with names such as the Rebels and the Confederates.

“There is a sort of innocence lost, and I just think my kids are deserving of something different,” Mehta said. “They’ll face racism. It’s not going away. But having the experience they have now of being surrounded by this nurturing of their entire being, I think what they have now will help them face challenges as they get older.”

4. Black homeschooling resource

One resource Black parents have been turning to for guidance in developing homeschooling for their children is the National Black Home Educators. A member-supported grassroots organization, the NBHE aims to empower parents to educate children. It was founded by Eric and Joyce Burges in July 2000. They home-educated their five children, and all of them graduated from their home school.

According to its website, since its beginning, NBHE has prompted the start of several support groups around the country with National Representatives in nearly 26 cities.

5. Homeschooling: ‘Doin’ It Our Way’

A new podcast mini-series, “Doin’ It Our Way” hosted by  Marissanne Lewis-Thompson, explores why more Black families are opting for homeschooling over the classroom. For the podcast series, she interviewed a number of Black parents about their choice to homeschool.

“I think it’s important to note that the reasons all varied for these parents. You know, there was one who –ZIP code played a factor in where their kids could go to school, which was cause for concern — you know, limited Black representation in a curriculum that centered around Eurocentric narratives,” explained Lewis-Thompson during an interview with NPR.

She continued, “Another parent based her decision on her own experiences in the classroom. And then there was another due to one of her kids being bullied and her oldest not being challenged in the classroom. And this kid was pretty advanced for his age. And when his parents pushed for him to be put in classes that reflected that, they were shut down by school administrators. But then there are things like teacher biases, racism in the classroom that have also played factors into why these Black parents, but also other Black parents, have said we have to do it our way.”

Self-identity also plays a role, she said.

“But I think it all comes down to they want their kids to succeed academically. They want to make sure that what they’re learning is reflective of their identities so they know who they are, their ancestry, all those sorts of things that make them special and beautiful – and, you know, the aspects of culture that are missing in the textbooks that are, you know, relatively relegated to the same people,” she pointed out. “You know, you always hear about Martin Luther King, Jr. You will also learn about Rosa Parks. And you will learn about segregation. You will learn about slavery. But what goes beyond that? This is an opportunity for parents to give their kids that.”

In this Jan. 26, 2018, photo, Chemay Morales-James, right, and husband Shane James, left, work with their children Keanu, left, and Judah during a home-school art class in Watertown, Conn. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)