Black families are choosing to homeschool at an increasing rate. Ama Mazama, an African-American Studies professor at Temple University, writes in the Washington Post that racism is fueling the trend.
According to her research, the number is small, only about 10 percent but growing. The Black parents who decide to homeschool point to two motivating factors: school curriculum and teacher bias.
Many of these parents believe that schools promote a Eurocentric worldview and ignores perspectives of history from people of color.
Moreover, Mazama said she interviewed Black parents who complained that White teachers bring a racial bias against Black students to the classroom. They also unfairly punish Black students for minor infractions, sending them into the school-to-prison pipeline.
In an interview with NPR, Camille Kirksey explained the decision to homeschool her 8-year-old son. The motivation stemmed from observing how teachers treated her son, Brandon, at his private pre-K school in Detroit: “It was a mostly Black school with mostly White teachers, which didn’t really bother me until I saw the difference in how they treated certain kids — especially boys. They seemed to be very harsh, kinda barking at them, ordering them around.”
Kirksey and her husband agreed that she would quit her job and homeschool Brandon. She looked forward to giving him a perspective that she believed was lacking in the curriculum.
“As Black people, I really want my children to understand that we are a huge part of history that is not always told,” Kirksey said to NPR.
Schools in low-income Black communities are often violent places. Removing their children from that environment is another reason for the upsurge in homeschooling.
The BBC, in noting the trend, interviewed Sonya Barbee, a single parent in Washington, D.C. who is raising an 11-year-old son. She told the British news network that gun violence and frequent fighting pushed her toward homeschooling.
“It was just too much. To me, it’s not a good environment for a kid, and even though I work full time, so it’s really hard for me, I still feel like it’s the right decision,” Barbee said.
More troubling to Barbee was that her son was “losing his love of learning.”
How does a Black parent begin homeschooling, a domain dominated mainly by White, rural evangelicals?
Well, Black homeschoolers have a network of their own: National Black Home Educators, a nonprofit based near Baton Rouge. According to its website, NBHE seeks “to promote parent directed education and homeschooling by empowering parents through information, education, and regional support networks.”
Eric Burges and Joyce, his wife, began homeschooling their five children in 2000. Joyce Burges explained the needs of Black students in a CNN opinion piece:
“…Black children require a certain kind of attention and understanding. Many of us are concentrating on a more urban attitude – an attitude that, in my opinion, that does not promote excellence but a mindset that is mediocre and accepts the status quo. We need to raise the bar. We, as parents, must exert a powerful influence in determining the quality of life we want for our children. We do not want to produce functional illiterates. We must teach our children well. It’s time to raise the standard of our culture so that the minds of our girls and boys can be lifted to see beyond sports, bad music, sexual promiscuity, drugs and perhaps even tennis shoes.”
Mazama said Black homeschoolers generally have two objectives: self-knowledge and self-esteem. Many of them find educational materials about Black history and Africa from a number of sources, including books, documentaries, and the internet. They also expose their children to successful Black professionals. Ultimately, their goal is to develop educated, self-confident children.