The decision to homeschool for many families is far from easy, but as a black family, it became the first time I stood upon the soapbox and took action as my first major protest.
For many young people of color, attending school is a systematic welcome wagon of oppression.
Being all too familiar with the structure and challenges of attending a public school, the wave in the distance preparing to greet my daughters was enough to give me pause. Though the more visible challenges of bullying, academic success, isolation, and influence beamed with red flags; it was the less-visible aspects of what it meant to send my children to school that became an increasing point of contention.
Filled with uncertainty and fear, I began the where, when, and how to provide access to quality education for my black daughters. Following the footsteps of some parents before me, we moved to an affluent and predominantly white neighborhood with a “quality” elementary school. That decision would become pivotal to acknowledging my own conditioning and work toward my own liberation.
This “quality” school was touted as a safe institution for my daughters: a community that promoted school beautification, with extra-curricular activities, and an academic program to create a foundation for long-term educational success. When I attempted to enroll my 6-year-old into the school with all required documents in hand, it was questioned. After multiple requests for proof of residence and if “coupons” were required to pay the rent, the hidden elements surfaced and revealed the core problem.
When contacting the school district to share this experience, it was explained, that though unfortunate, this person was clearly “under pressure” and “not a fair assessment of their overall character”. That day in June 2011, the oppressive, marginalizing, and devaluing behavior served as the final straw and became my first day of action.School is defined as an institution for educating children.
For decades, people of color have been conditioned to accept subpar living conditions as a privilege. Benchmarks for success have been and continue to be defined by the allowances of our white counterparts. The continuous indoctrination to the history of oppression while keeping true historical accounts as side note that should be forgiven and understood as an unfortunate circumstance.
Teachers are overworked, underpaid, and unprepared to deal with the needs of our young people today. It’s no secret that schools are overcrowded, test driven, and underfunded, lacking in basic resources with a reductive curriculum. Although the initiatives that some institutions and teachers implement are well intentioned, the paradigm is shifting and, as a result, it’s not enough.
Like many parents, I began homeschooling because I was tired, angry, and frustrated. Tired of fighting the system. Angry from witnessing young people fall between the cracks of education. Frustrated by the walls of failure; but what blossomed was sheer determination. Homeschooling not only requires a hefty time investment, but a financial one as well. Though the frustrations of traditional public school were valid and abundant, I would be remiss if I did not consider the financial impact to our family. Transitioning from a double to a single income is a learning curve that you can never fully be prepared for until it happens.
There are various methods under the umbrella of home education and cyber-schooling was our first step into this world. Cyber-schooling provided a structure and curriculum that eased my worries on how I would effectively introduce learning concepts to my daughters. Additionally, they supplied a free computer, printer, and learning materials. I felt like I hit the jackpot!
After 2 years, we withdrew from cyber-schooling. Virtual classrooms were becoming overcrowded with minimal engagement, subjects were glossed over while maintaining expectations of “mastery”, programs were being cut, and teaching to the test became the staple for academic achievement. More importantly, my daughters were bored and desired hands-on learning experiences to sitting in front of a computer.
As we transitioned to homeschooling, the financial burden of this decision became front and center. Those materials and software programs initially supplied through cyber-school were now my full responsibility. Searching for affordable, quality academic programs, books, resources, and joining local homeschool groups became my full-time job.
Our first year of officially homeschooling was simultaneously empowering and daunting. Each day, we followed a strict 5-day schedule from 9-2pm hitting all core subjects with outings 3 times per week. The more we engaged, the more I questioned. Is this the right decision? Will my daughters have the foundation to be successful adults? What about college? As these questions and more swirled, paired with finding balance between teaching and parenting, stress became my middle name. Academically, they were exceeding benchmarks and required standardized testing. But, emotionally, they were disconnected from themselves and others. The realization that I had single-handedly recreated the one environment I worked so hard to resist was paralyzing. Our relationship became based on hitting benchmarks and achieving the highest level of academic success (a.k.a following the rules). This became the perfect opportunity for some self-reflection or “deschooling”.
These challenges had absolutely nothing do with my daughters’ capacity to learn or desire to play, it was me. In making the decision to homeschool, the variable of my own conditioning had not been factored into the equation. I created a space that neglected their cultural identity and embraced a one size fits all mentality for how and what a child should learn. This was not the image I had envisioned.
Through the support of my husband, family, and friends, I began to the process of deconstructing generations of ingrained beliefs and started over. Dictating do’s and don’t’s became conversations of boundaries and mutual respect. In depth awareness of our culture became a primary focus over euro-centric ideals. Engagement was no longer forced, but created through their interests. Now, my daughters (ages 10 & 12) and I build relationship no longer on the basis of subjugation, but liberation. They have not only embraced a natural love for learning but a greater understanding of their culture and the power it holds. We are a black unschooling family who is socially aware and learning along the way. A way that uplifts, informs, and questions to define; not just accept what is presented.
As this journey unfolded, it was no longer just about supporting my children, but creating a greater awareness of educational choice. Now, I am sharing my resources, connecting and advocating for families who are faced with similar challenges and feel unsupported in a traditional school setting. Unschooling is our choice and one of many segments under the umbrella of home education. No matter which method you choose, challenges will always arise. It’s about acknowledging your own conditioning, valuing the voices of your young people and defining what works best for your family.