Is Homeschooling Best for Black Families?

February 18, 2016  |  

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By Charise Harris

Is homeschooling the best option for your children? Bullying, mistreatment and lack of proper education is causing an increase in the number of Black families choosing to homeschool their children. Over 200,000 children are being homeschooled in the Black community.  This number is quickly growing for this demographic the reason can be connected to the expectation that has been created for young black children and their ability to be educated. The recent cases of racially motivated violence also creates a tense atmosphere for education. Will this trend continue?

The Atlantic delves deeper into the rise of Black families deciding to home school:

Marvell Robinson was in kindergarten when a classmate reportedly poured an anthill on him at the playground. After that, the gibes reportedly became sharper: “Why are you that color?” one boy taunted at the swing set, leaving Marvell scared and speechless. The slow build of racial bullying would push his mother, Vanessa Robinson, to pull him from his public school and homeschool him instead.

Marvell is one of an estimated 220,000 African American children currently being homeschooled, according to the National Home Education Research Institute. Black families have become one of the fastest-growing demographics in homeschooling, with black students making up an estimated 10 percent of the homeschooling population. (For comparison’s sake, they make up 16 percent of all public-school students nationwide, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.)

And while white homeschooling families traditionally cite religious or moral disagreements with public schools in their decision to pull them out of traditional classroom settings, studies indicate black families are more likely to cite the culture of low expectations for African American students or dissatisfaction with how their children—especially boys—are treated in schools.

Marvell, now 7 and in the second grade, was the only Black student in both his kindergarten and first-grade classes, and one of only a few black students in his San Diego elementary school, according to his mother. And Marvell’s Asperger syndrome—a high-functioning form of autism that makes social interaction difficult—only added to the curiosity and cruelty with which his fellow classmates approached him, Robinson added. She was concerned the school wasn’t doing enough about it. “I just thought maybe I could do a better job myself,” she said.

“They said, ‘kids will be kids,’ and the only solution was for Marvell to be monitored—like he had done something wrong,” Robinson said. “In the end, I don’t think that anyone should have to monitor my kid” because of other kids’ behavior.

Robinson allowed Marvell to finish first grade there and began homeschooling him when he started second grade in September. Robinson adjusted her nursing schedule to include 12-hour shifts on the weekends so she could take on educating Marvell during the week. Her husband, a sous chef at a restaurant in downtown San Diego, continues to work full-time and participates in lessons when he can.

And while her primary motivation was giving Marvell individualized attention, Robinson was unable to separate her worries about racial bullying from the decision. “If he hadn’t been bullied I would have really looked into transferring schools, or going back to where I grew up in Kansas,” she said. “At least in Kansas it was more racially diverse. I assumed that’s how the schools would be in San Diego, but I was wrong.”

Robinson likely joins hundreds of other African American parents who’ve decided to homeschool their children because of dissatisfaction with the traditional campuses. Indeed, Joyce Burges at National Black Home Educators has watched her membership grow “exponentially” in the 15 years since the organization was founded, a trend also reflected in Marvell’s home state of California. While Burges’s national conferences in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, used to attract only around 50 people, they now attract upwards of 400, she said—a noteworthy number for the first organization for black homeschoolers in a sea of predominantly white organizations.

Research conducted by Marie-Josée Cérol—known professionally as Ama Mazama—also offers insight into the growing trend. A faculty member in the African American Studies department at Temple University in Philadelphia, Mazama began homeschooling her three children 12 years ago and realized quickly that there was little research on black homeschoolers.

“Whenever there are mentions of African American homeschoolers, it’s assumed that we homeschool for the same reasons as European-American homeschoolers, but this isn’t really the case,” she said. “Because of the unique circumstances of black people in this country, there is really a new story to be told.”

In a 2012 report published in the Journal of Black Studies, Mazama surveyed black homeschooling families from around the country and found that most chose to educate their children at home at least in part to avoid school-related racism. Mazama calls this rationale “racial protectionism” and said it is a response to the inability of schools to meet the needs of black students. “We have all heard that the American education system is not the best and is falling behind in terms of international standards,” she said. “But this is compounded for black children, who are treated as though they are not as intelligent and cannot perform as well, and therefore the standards for them should be lower.”

Mazama said schools also rob Black children of the opportunity to learn about their own culture because of a “Euro-centric” world-history curriculum. “Typically, the curriculum begins African American history with slavery and ends it with the Civil Rights Movement,” she said. “You have to listen to yourself simply being talked about as a descendent of slaves, which is not empowering. There is more to African history than that.” Mazama’s studies show that black parents who choose to homeschool often teach a comprehensive view of African history by incorporating more detailed descriptions of ancient African civilizations and accounts of successful African people throughout history. This allows children to “build their sense of racial pride and self esteem,” she said.

Head over to TheAtlantic for the full story.

Moms, have you contemplated homeschooling your son or daughter?

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  • curiousk

    The reports I’ve heard show that home-schooled kids have plenty of interaction with other home-schooled kids (outings, meetings, trips). Also, they excel in career, community involvement, college, avoiding crime and violence, etc., when compared to public school kids. For us, it wasn’t feasible, but for my nephew, it worked well. When school vouchers make real school choice possible, many of these same advantages will be available to many more families.

  • Ang

    This child’s situation is different due to his Asperger Syndrome. In most cases, I think homeschooling should be a last resort. The value of social interaction should not be undermined. Kids need to be around other kids their age. Being at school with other kids provides them the opportunity to learn to interact with other people, including people who are different from them. Group projects and playing at recess is when kids learn conflict resolution skills, cooperation skills, sharing, etc. You aren’t graded on these things but you do use those skills throughout your life. People get so caught up in protecting kids from every little thing that they forget that every bad experience from your childhood is not life shattering. Some of those bad experiences had valuable lessons. Unfortunately, dealing with people you don’t like and people who are jerks is apart of life. You want kids to start developing those skills at a young age so they are not deer in headlights when they step on a college campus or into the workforce. What experiences will they have to draw from if they have been in a “classroom” alone with their mother most of their life? I know there are programs for homeschooled kids to do field trips and sports together, but that doesn’t make up for being with other kids everyday. Kids also need time away from their parents to develop into their own person.

  • Electric Relaxation

    I’ve been contemplating homeschooling my boys. I need more information though. I don’t have any problems with bullying or harassment but I think I and they would like not following the rigid school district schedules. This isn’t the only reason I’d consider it but it would be nice to start school a little later in the day, work at our own pace and be able have dental, medical appointments, etc and not have to yank them out for those because I could schedule around our homeschool schedule.

  • 1Val

    Are black parents receiving education deduction in their property taxes for home schooling their children? Why would black parents pay into public education system yet refuse to use it?

    • Rochelle

      Well, to answer your question, people do that all the time when they enroll their child in private school.

      • 1Val

        That’s the fool in them.

        • too_real

          You pay for other social services and don’t use them I’m sure (e.g., welfare). This is no different.

          • 1Val

            I too receive welfare via mortgage reductions and tax breaks. And heaven forbid if I ever needed government assistance I have paid into that system to use it. So no I’m not a proponent of black parents paying into public school system they refuse to use.

  • Michelle

    I don’t have children, but I am one of the people that support the home-schooling system.
    I keep coming across testimonies from Black people, who shared their stories about being bullied by either fellow students or by their teachers (in some cases, both). Incidents in which Black students were given unjustified disciplinarian actions (suspension, detention or expulsion). Black students, who weren’t given the same consideration for learning disabilities. Or, they were misdiagnosed with learning disabilities and were placed in special education classes. Students were denied allowance into honors/AP classes because faculty members felt that the students couldn’t handle the work load despite the children’s history for high grades. Students were dissuaded from joining STEM-related extra curricular activities, but were heavily asked to join sports-related extra-curricular activities. Guidance counselors’ attempts at persuading high-achieving Black students to not apply to high-ranking universities/colleges, after graduations.

    • lc smith

      Michelle! You have just summed up why you need to be in the vanguard of the creation of a separate black state. All that is needed is an electoral majority in any state and total political, educational, and judicial control would result. Such a sate would still remain in our federal system with the protection of the 10th Amendment. 45.000 black millionaires and thousands of talented black people could contribute to making this the single most prosperous state in the Union! 400 years of white privilege and discrimination out the door! The Mormons have a state and Mexicans will soon have one. Go for it!

  • PeoplePlease7

    Great idea if you have the means and the right curriculum. Hopefully MN can feature Dr Umar Johnson’s lectures/thoughts on public education pitfalls, they are very relevant.

  • yoda

    Racism and stuff like how schools aren’t very secure is a motivating factor for me to consider homeschooling. I don’t have any children yet though. The schools I went to were pretty much all black so I had no problems with racism. Did get bullied though. You can’t shield your kids from racism forever but I do think it’s a good idea to homeschool for a while. Also I do see that in homeschool networks kids can meet other kids that are also homeschooled. I think that’s great.

  • Taz

    If you have time, $, and resources to do it

  • Hokiegirl87

    Ok, I am going to throw this out there and I am more than expecting to get the backlash so here it goes:

    I am tired of the argument “Oh, my child is being teased/bullied so I will home school them instead.” Well, what is going to happen when they enter into the workforce? Do these parents with this kind of thinking actually believe that the workplace is going to be this magical place where everyone likes their child and no one will say anything mean to them??? Mean girls grow up to be mean women, period. You are not going to go through this life and escape people picking and hating on you for some reason or another. If you are a minority, it is even worse. But to go to HR or quitting a job every time someone says something mean to you is not going to work. Yes, of course is shouldn’t happen and it is wrong but you can’t report every occurrence of ignorance. That would just take too much time. You got to learn how to stand up for yourself and get a backbone, quick.

    I get home-schooling for quality of education reasons, but there is more learning that takes in place in school than just academic. Social learning takes place too. I do not know one person that did not have a horrible picking/teasing moment in middle school or high school but we made it.

    I do not know what the solution is because now kids will come to school with a gun or hurt themselves because bullying is getting so bad…perhaps the school should enforce harsher penalties for bullying, I don’t know, but pulling your child out of school altogether is not the answer because you are just avoiding the problem and that is not going to work for their entire life…

    • yoda

      The kids who bring weapons to school scare me and that’s why I could consider the homeschool. I think that some people do wanna shield their kids from the bullies of the world but you are correct, it’s not realistic.

      • Hokiegirl87

        I agree with you that is a serious threat but people bring guns into workplaces and public areas too nowadays. Nowhere is really safe anymore…that is the sad part…but you can’t stay locked up in your house either…

        • yoda

          Nowhere is safe and that makes me really sad.

    • PeoplePlease7

      The new age liberal culture we live in refuses to acknowledge fighting back, humiliation or creative revenge as practical tactics to confront bullying. That turn the other cheek stuff does not work. Teach them martial arts, shanking the bully with a pencil, pepper spray and a beat down, carrying a gun in extreme cases, etc…

      Sadly many kids don’t learn this until their self esteem is totally ruined. The adults in their lives lied to them…

    • Ang

      You are right. People must not realize that there is a good chance their child might end up being one of few black people in their office or college classroom as well. Then what? Are they going to tell their adult child to just work from home? You are so right about mean girls turning into mean women. Ironically, I witnessed more mean girls in higher education than I ever did in middle school and high school. You never know who you are going to be forced to deal with in life. You can’t quit your masters degree program because there are “mean girl” type women in your class. Kids need to be taught how to deal with uncomfortable situations.