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For many Black children and families across America, the Covid19 pandemic has created a major shift in their educational opportunities. More and more Black families are choosing to homeschool their children.
“I think you’re going to see more and more parents, Black parents, homeschooling their children like never before,” says Joyce Burges, the founder of National Black Home Educators. In fact, the number of Black homeschooling families has climbed in recent years, from just 3% at the beginning of 2020 to over 20% by October 2020.
And while the Covid19 pandemic continues forcing many students into virtual learning environments, many Black parents are choosing to homeschool for other reasons. “I don’t want my kids to be subjected to racism in certain ways so early,” said Didakeje Griffin, a homeschooling mom in Birmingham, Ala.
Others cite educational freedom, including the opportunity to learn and celebrate their own culture. Whether intentional or subconsciously Black educational freedom can sometimes be stifled in mainstream white-dominant educational institutions. In fact, the Griffin family celebrates Juneteenth rather than the fourth of July, and focuses on Black Lives Matter as well as teaching Critical Race Theory to her two children.
Avoiding the school-to-prison pipeline is another reason for parents to keep Black children out of public schools. In schools across the country, Black students are suspended at over three times the rate of their white counterparts. Educators continue to label Black students negatively; hence, Black students are three times likely to receive punishment.
Homeschooling can bring out the best in Black children. It allows their creativity to flow without fears of getting in trouble for being different or ‘disruptive.’
“This idea of white supremacy and the inferiority of Black people lingers today,” said Dr. Cheryl Fields-Smith, a professor at the University of Georgia who studies Black homeschooling and its cultural significance. “We are overcoming racism through homeschooling. I don’t think white people can say that.”
Black Homeschooler Pod
One community in Birmingham, Alabama, has created a cooperative learning environment for Black families who are homeschooling, called Black Homeschoolers of Birmingham. Jennifer Duckworth and Yalonda Chandler are the founders of the group.
According to Ms. Duckworth, “My son, being a young Black boy with positive self-esteem about himself, can sometimes be threatening, for lack of a better word, to some teachers. They’ll create an identity for the Black and brown children that they don’t even realize they’re doing.”
Meanwhile, the Black Homeschoolers of Birmingham recently celebrated their 70th family joining the cohort. They’re up from just two families when they began in 2018. “The African-American and African culture, we are the culture that has been homeschooling our children since the beginning. And so I feel like it’s just in our DNA,” Ms. Duckworth added.