Is Homeschooling Best for Black Families?
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?