There’s a movement happening in the Black community and isn’t necessarily one you’ll see plastered on the front of your favorite digital platform or sprinkled down your timeline. It’s one that is focused on our children and it’s one about freedom, self-reliance, and self-exploration. Black homeschooling is growing and expanding at a rapid pace and it just might be the key to Black liberation, for ourselves, our children, and the generations to come.
In the homeschool space, Black families have become the fastest growing demographic amongst homeschooling families. In fact, in the past decade, the number of Black parents making the decision to homeschool has doubled to include an estimated 202,000 children which amounts to approximately eight to 10 percent of the total homeschool population. Not only has there been a rise in the number of Black homeschooling families, but also in support groups and organizations founded by Black parents looking to connect with and support other families who have made the decision to liberate themselves from the biased and unbalanced school system in America.
“…Black families have become the fastest growing demographic amongst homeschooling families.”
Why? While white families traditionally choose homeschool for religious or moral beliefs, for my family (and the thousands of Black families that choose this path), the decision is much more complex. A combination of subpar education, low expectations, the focus on European-centered learning, and the unfair treatment of our Black children made the “why” pretty clear. Homeschool for us wasn’t a choice we excitedly welcomed with open arms. But, it was one that we knew we had to make in order for us to become free.
To understand the effects that our educational systems (built on racism) have on Black children, their future, and current liberation, it is helpful to examine our own experiences. For me, that required an introspective critique of my education in predominantly white spaces where I didn’t encounter another Black face until well into elementary school and never encountered a Black teacher. My entire primary education was through a white lens that leaned heavily on getting into place and following directions rather than critical thinking and self-expression. As an adult, I can attribute many of my decisions (and lack thereof) to this foundation. It set the tone for years of unconscious behavior, lack of self-awareness, and dependent thinking. It was not until my interaction with my own children in traditional school spaces did I truly understand the stronghold that institutionalized learning had over my life.
It is an interesting place to find yourself when you realize that what you thought was freedom, isn’t.
Enrolling our dark-skinned, Black son into a predominantly white school was illuminating. I use these descriptions to be clear that while, some of his experiences I can compare to my own, there was definitely a more aggressive response to my Black boy’s existence in these spaces. The words “respect” and “disrespect” were thrown around often concerning my son’s characteristically elementary behavior while white peers were allowed room to rest on “boys will be boys”. Labels were swiftly applied and so we swiftly removed him from that environment. The transition to a predominantly black and brown school provided no relief as the focus in these spaces was about control, behavior, and getting children to silently follow orders instead of open, collaborative, learning. We slowly began to understand that, the “good” schools weren’t necessarily good for us, and the urban public schools weren’t interested or equipped to serve our Black children either.
For Black families, the entire educational system isn’t built for us. At every level, there are barriers in place, specifically constructed to prevent Black children from thriving. From the way education funds are misappropriated through states and districts, the blatant school-to-prison pipeline, the rate at which Black children are disciplined in relation to their white peers, and the unacceptable absence of Black (especially Black male) educators, makes traditional school, no matter where they are or how they are viewed, a treacherous place for Black children.
Akilah Richards, a Black unschooling activist teaches that “we can’t keep using the same tools of oppression, and expect to be free.”
So what are our options? Not all of us are in positions to pull our children from school. It took three years for our family to make a transition to homeschool. But, we all can contribute to an environment where we take on the task of educating and liberating our children. Our goals are simple: to raise free children who are not bound by the structures and boundaries of institutionalized education. We wanted freedom, we wanted Black-centeredness, and we wanted to be released from forced European doctrines and history.
In the homeschool community, there’s a period of time, after leaving traditional school and settling into your new homeschool practice that is referred to as de-schooling. This time is generally used to help children heal and decompress from the trauma of school and begin to understand that learning is not defined the way they have come to know. For Black homeschooling families, the de-schooling process is essential for both parent and child. It is a period where you are able to confront your beliefs, your past, and the experiences that have kept you from being completely free. It is a chance for you to think about what’s important for your children to learn, how you feel about learning in general, and what your expectations of learning should (and in often cases should not) look like. It is an opportunity to embrace the freedom of thinking, learning, creating, and living for yourself. And it is not easy.
It has been quite unsettling to lead my children’s learning when I have so much unlearning to do myself. But that’s why I understand that the key to liberation starts with them, our young people. They are our guides. As we wrap up our first year of homeschool, I find myself reflecting on the year behind us. Oftentimes, I still feel uncertain, unsure, and full of doubt. But when I look towards my children, I am affirmed. I ask my son how does he feel:
“Homeschool is way harder than regular school because you have to do things for yourself. You have to think and learn for yourself but, I like it better that way. I don’t want a teacher or someone else telling me what’s right or wrong or how to think or how to feel. I can figure it out on my own.”