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Trends in African-American Home Schooling
Jennifer James

African-American families are joining the ranks of homeschoolers by the thousands. Read why.
It’s 7:30 on a typical Monday morning and thousands of African-American children are not headed to the bus stop or being dropped off at school, but rather, they are headed to their kitchen table or to their in-home classroom. These children are home schooled and today there are more African-American home schooling families than ever. In fact, African-American families are joining the ever-growing home school community at an increasing rate for a variety of reasons and my family is one of them.

My husband and I decided that home education would be the greatest way to educate our daughters who are now four and two. Home education, in our opinion, affords the greatest amount of educational freedom and intellectual exploration. Even at such young ages, being able to learn at an individualized pace in a loving and supportive environment is most ideal.

In addition to the advantages of individualized attention and educational freedom, home schooling also allows my husband and me to teach our daughters cultural relevance and self-importance. This is vitally important, not only to my family, but to most African-American home schooling families across the country. In fact, African-American homeschoolers, although becoming home educators for a variety of reasons, look to provide a culturally uplifting education for their children.

As the Director and cofounder of two home schooling organizations, I have learned some things that are most common among African-American homeschoolers. For example, I have learned that those who choose to home school do so for a variety of reasons and I have also learned that those who are truly committed to home schooling create a thriving home education environment for their children. I have also gleaned that home schooling is not conducive to all families and that there are some challenges within the African-American community that render home schooling difficult, but not impossible. Here, I will discuss the trends in African-American home schooling from my vantage point as a home schooling leader.

One of the principle reasons why African-Americans home school is due to the lack of cultural resources and African heritage books, curricula and lessons provided in public and private schools. This coupled with cultural misconceptions, especially for African-American boys, and the lack of cultural equality taught in textbooks drives many African-American families to provide this on their own. Many African-American families go to extra lengths to provide quality African-American positive books and lessons to their home schooling curricula. These families, therefore, capitalize on the opportunity to provide an education for their children where African-Americans, Africans as well as the African Diaspora are viewed as active participants in all subjects and not simply as inactive bystanders. Families also oftentimes supplement multicultural lessons with field trips to local African-American museums and historic sites.

In addition to cultural reasons, African-American families are choosing to home school for several other reasons. Across the country, percentages reveal that the majority of African-American children attend public schools, but regardless of race, socioeconomic status or location in America, families across the board are speaking out about the lack of quality education, school violence, teacher apathy and anti-religious attitudes in public education. African-American families share and echo these concerns, but additionally, they choose to home school to remedy, on an individual basis, the achievement gap that plagues the African-American community. Many families sincerely believe that the only way that their child can successfully overcome the achievement gap is to teach them at home under their direct supervision.

Parents believe that their individualized attention working in conjunction with lessons tailored to their child’s abilities will foster better-educated children. Although there are no definitive statistics that account for the educational progress of African-American home schooled children, families claim that home schooling has opened educational exploration, intellectual stimulation and understanding in ways that traditional schools are not able to replicate.

Although families attest that home schooling has dramatically improved their children’s educational abilities, not all families have been successful homeschoolers. One of the most prominent reasons behind the failure of home schooling for some families is due to the lack of African-American support groups on the local level. As a home school leader, I believe that in order for families to home school well, they must have access to local support foundations in order for the children to feel that they have home school peers. The lack of support groups in the African-American home schooling community, therefore, is one area that needs immediate attention. In additon to that, not all parents are cut out to be homeschoolers. Some parents may find that they do not have thr time or will not provide the dedication that home schooling demands. In these cases, traditional school in addition to supplementary work is recommended.

In addition to the lack of support groups, some families find that their child needs the traditional school structure and environment in order to thrive educationally. Recognizing this, these parents tend to supplement their child’s schoolwork with outside curricula and lesson plans.

While home schooling appears to be an approachable educational alternative for many families, there are inherent challenges within the African-American community that render home schooling difficult, but not impossible. The national African-American community has a higher percentage of single parent, dual income and grandparent-led households. While home schooling ideally would suit the traditional “Mom at home”, “Dad at work” family dynamic, non-traditional families are finding creative ways to home school their children well. Although home schooling may prove too difficult for some nontraditional families, others are finding that home schooling is the only educational alternative that they are willing to consider and they are finding the means to educate their children at home irregardless of family status.

Home schooling across the country and in most neighborhoods is growing by leaps and bounds and it looks as if more families, especially African-American families, will join the home schooling movement in America each year. I am extremely excited about where home schooling is going in the African-American community and I feel truly privileged to be an active part of it. I sincerely believe that home schooling will produce bright and eager-to-learn young adults ready to take on the world and improve our communities.

About the Author

Jennifer James, a writer and home school mother of 2, is the Director of the National African-American Homeschoolers Alliance. She has been featured on Fox News.com and BET Nightly News. In her role as a home school leader, Jennifer has also been interviewed by Reuters, The Christian Science Monitor, the Korean Broadcasting System and the Monthly Magazine World Report.

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