Black to School, at Home

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S1: This is the word, a podcast from Slate. I’m your host, Jason Johnson. After year of Covid Lockdown’s and Remote Learning, millions of American families are sending their children back to full time in person school. But many black parents are saying no thanks,

S2: as many parents are flocking to Homeschool due to Covid. Parents themselves are struggling with understanding the freedoms that they have and not trying to replicate a traditional school experience in their home.

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S1: Why more black families are choosing homeschooling. Coming up on a word with me, Jason Johnson. Stay with us. Welcome to A World, a podcast about race and politics and everything else. I’m your host Jason Johnson. The Covid crisis forced many American families to keep children at home for school during much of the last year. That was especially true for African-Americans who saw the most dramatic rise in a home based learning experience of any racial group. The rate of home schooling more than quadrupled, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. But even as many kids are returning to brick and mortar classrooms, a growing number of black families have decided to continue teaching their kids at home. One of the people they’re turning to for help and information is Khadijah Ali-Coleman. She’s an educator and a homeschooling mother and the co-founder of the organization Black Family Homeschool Educators and Scholars. And Dr. Khadijah Ali-Coleman joins us now. Welcome to a word.

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S2: Thank you so much for having me.

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S1: Even though you were homeschooling before covid, the pandemic is a key part of your story as an educator. So I have to point this out. You were defending your thesis at Morgan State University, where I am faculty on March 13th of 2020, which is literally the day before my birthday. So it’s very special, which for many of us was kind of the last day before everything locked down. What was it like finishing your doctorate, defending, knowing your Homeschool parent like it was the beginning of the lockdown? This did it open up something in your brain where you’re like, oh, my God, this is going to be the beginning of a new movement, like how the lockdown effect, how you looked at home schooling.

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S2: I will tell you that even deciding to do my dissertation involving or looking at Homeschool in my doctoral program was community college or community college leadership. Right. And so I had been teaching community college for over 10 years and decided this topic because of the the growth in dual enrolled students that I was having, but also Homeschool students. And so I got a lot of pushback from even deciding to do this because this population is just really was really on the fringes before Covid. So when Covid happened and then all of these stories you hear about moving to virtual learning parents in a panic, school’s in a panic. And really these decisions to Homeschool, it really made my dissertation more relevant than I could have ever imagined. And so I immediately started getting feedback from folks or questions from folks as to, you know, what are your thoughts Khadijah? The schools, you know, is just so much moving to a virtual environment. I feel like I can do it this better myself. And so I immediately started going into MAVEN mode of creating creating YouTube videos on Homeschool and due to Colvert, because this is really a different type of experience, I think, for parents Homeschool in response to a global health pandemic, rather than the experience that me and other veteran homeschoolers had when we were really had decided to Homeschool before the pandemic,

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S1: there were a lot of black people who are moving to Homeschool before the pandemic. The National Center for Education Statistics reported that like homeschooling amongst black people from like oh seven to twenty sixteen had doubled anyway. I have family members who have homeschooled their kids, sometimes also for health reasons. Sometimes it was just for distance reasons. Sometimes it was for safety reasons. In your experience, what are the reasons that black people are choosing to homeschool their children? And how might that differ from white families or Asian-American families or other sort of demographic groups?

S2: That’s a great question, because, yes, prior to covid-19, you were saying all the reasons that you stated and even more their researchers, such as Dr Lia Baker out of the University of Wisconsin, I pulled from her research and of course, my colleague Cheryl Field Smith a lot for my literature review because their data show that, yes, black people choose into homeschooling very different than the experience of white families, where you had black families deciding because of everything from behavioral issues, uniforms, hairstyles, things becoming so punitive to just what many families look at as being racial profiling. I know in my research study, talking to the children themselves, that some of these children who were in public school before deciding to Homeschool failing that before when they were in school, not being able to self-paced or being able to progress further or their success looked at as being not real. And I remember talking to one young lady who said that her teacher couldn’t believe that she had finished reading all these books that were assigned to a class or that she had already read them and had completed a lot of the assignments before they were due and having those types of experiences so very different than where a lot of white families decide to Homeschool a lot because of religious reasons. Also, a lot of times not really wanting to be in a school that they look at as being liberal or not having some of their own conservative ideals. So the difference is very blatant between the two populations in terms of choosing the Homeschool.

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S1: We’re going to take a short break. When we come back, more on black families and Homeschool. This is a word with Jason Johnson. Stay tuned. This is Jason Johnson Homeschool word, Slate’s podcast about race and politics and everything else, I want to take a moment to welcome our new listeners. If you’ve discovered a word and like what you hear, please subscribe, rate and review wherever you listen to podcast and let us know what you think by writing us at a word at Slate Dotcom. Thank you. You’re listening to a word with Jason Johnson today, we’re talking about home schooling for black families with educator Khadijah Ali-Coleman. So one of the things that I think a lot of people misinterpret about homeschooling is the social aspect. I have as a as a college professor, I had a number of kids who were homeschooled and you wouldn’t necessarily know the difference. Dispel the myth about the idea that homeschooling means if your kid is going to be some weirdo, you know, sitting at home who never interacts with anybody, talk about how you can still have a fully functionally socialized child, even if they’re being taught at home.

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S2: What we fail to really address a lot of times is that in traditional schools, when I say traditional school settings, I’m referring to public private charter learning environments. We fail to really be real about how sedimented children’s time is, how even in during lunchtime and recess, a lot of times when you have children complaining because they can’t talk during lunch, and when we even talk about homeschooling, the practice is really dependent on the family themselves. And very rarely do you find black families replicating a traditional type of school setting that you will find in a school. So learning moves from being this is in a desk, books and pens. You know, during covid-19, what became very popular was the pandemic pods. But but really not mentioning that for years. For decades, homeschooling families do what is called cooperatives. And they started where parents you know, let’s say that me and three other parents want to teach our children all together, but we take turns. So you have these these very organic gatherings that happen, but also Homeschool in families taking advantage of everything from the offerings in their state, from Parks and recreation, local clubs, and even some states allow for homeschooling students to still be involved in the sports that are offered by the schools. So it really is dependent on the family, is dependent on where the family is located because state policies differ throughout the nation so that there’s really no federal Homeschool mandate. So what you may find or be allowed to do on one state may differ from another.

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S1: Your early education shaped your vision about what education for black children should look like and what it does look like today. So can you tell us a little bit about your early education? What what inspired you when you were a child? Were you home schooled as a kid?

S2: That’s a great question, Jason, because that’s actually what the research shows as well, that many Homeschool parents Homeschool a lot of it is influenced by their own experiences. No, I wasn’t Homeschool personally, but I’m the oldest of five children and my mother did Homeschool my brother and I’m significantly older than my siblings. And so when he was being homeschooled from middle school, I was a young adult and that was really the first time that that even came into my consciousness as a possibility. My mother was a mathematician. She was brilliant and so learning was fundamental in my home. I look at all of that as influencing not necessarily the decision to Homeschool, but the decision of looking at learning as being flexible. So it could be in any type of space, any manifestation that we can create and that works best for our family.

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S1: What kinds of things do you hear that black families are able to teach their kids at home that they cannot get in a public school?

S2: Oh, wow. That is such a nuanced question. I appreciate that, because it allows me to speak to these so-called soft skills that we always hear about, which are really fundamental to our human experience. Right. So when we talk about the ability to communicate, when we talk about knowing what your strengths are, knowing about these relationships that you speak of, a lot of that really relies on having body agency. Right. You really can’t have a clear idea about what your strengths and interests are, how you relate to other people, unless you have agency to engage in these types of interactions with self and with others. And what Homeschool, you know, that was consistently the message that I was receiving from the young people that I interviewed for my study is that Homeschool and I was able to find out what it is I do. Well, what it is I like, I was able to focus on the things that maybe I wasn’t that strong in, but I had more time in or this is something I really like and I can just go as far ahead as I want. And these are the things that they looked at as preparing them for some of those spaces that we have labeled as being the determinants of success.

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S1: We’re going to take a short break. When we come back, more on home schooling in the black community. This is a word with Jason Johnson. Stay tuned. You’re listening to a word with Jason Johnson today, we’re talking about Homeschool children of color with Khadijah Ali-Coleman of the black family, Homeschool Educators and Scholars Group. What is the point where either you as a parent say, honey, I got to take you out of school, we got to do this at home? Or what is the conversation where your son or your daughter comes to you and says, I want to be Homeschool? And how do you determine when that this needs to be a fundamental change in our education versus they’re having a bad week, right. Versus, you know, they just don’t feel like going to school. How do you know when that moment is? And then I know this is kind of complicated, but I want to add to this and then what’s the ramp up time? Because, you know, if your son or daughter comes home from school today in central Tennessee and is like, hey, I want to get Homeschool, you’re not going to be able to have that set up by next Thursday. So how do you know? And then how do you started?

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S2: I’ve been Homeschool and off and on, so I’m in the new transition in my life. I actually graduated my daughter this past May from my Homeschool. She came to me before she started ninth grade to say that she wanted to to go back to Homeschool. And so she had been Homeschool prior to middle school and came back and was like, I would like to return to Homeschool. And for me that was significant because I knew that in middle school she had a large fan base. I know that she had had many positive experiences. There were some that weren’t too great, but for the most part it was positive. So when she said she wanted to to Homeschool, that was to me, I need to do everything to support this because she’s now at a point where she knows the differences and she knows what she wants. But these are some things that I looked at and these are some things that I would recommend. First of all, whether you Homeschool or not, I really recommend having the ability to have conversations with your child and creating a space where they feel comfortable to share with you how they are feeling. And you are observant enough to see things that they may not say. That type of engagement will really determine what you act on if you have a child that you know that they may not be so open to to share. But there are things that happen in the school that you know, and our intuition, we have it for a reason that, you know, are not in place or not functioning in a way where you can make a decision on whether or not you want your child to just push through it or you want to provide for them not to have to engage in a toxic environment. It is not going to be an easy decision if you have no Homeschool before. And you need to know that.

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S1: What are the challenges that people may face in terms of homeschooling when you’re a single parent?

S2: What I am learning from women who are single moms and also working is that we share a lot in common, and that is that the jobs that we take on usually are ones that we know are flexible enough to either include the ability to bring our children or have hours that accommodate us to be able to work and also have our children engage in activities and things where it’s not really a conflict. For example, I don’t teach anymore. I teach college anymore. But I did for over ten years while my daughter was home schooling her because the flexibility of teaching college, I could bring her with me. And that actually is what led her to want to just start taking college classes while she was in high school and she earned her associates two months ago. But those are the kinds of things that you have to determine. So it really took me off of a trajectory of what I was on if and I would have gone on if I wasn’t homeschooling because I literally was taking jobs and doing things that were going to be conducive to me being able to homeschool. So a lot of mothers who are serious about homeschooling have decided that their work is going to be what is convenient for them to still be able to be successful as Homeschool is.

S1: Do you think that they’re going to be more black families? Who wants this pandemic is completely over, like I want to keep doing this, or do you think, you know, you’ll you’ll have some startup fatigue and there’ll be people like, you know what? I just cannot wait to send Dre and Keisha best school. This is to take it too much energy. What do you think? What do you think this Homeschool movement’s going to look like in, you know, two years?

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S2: I think it’s going to even out. I think it was still rising before the pandemic, but I think is going to have a mix of both of what you mentioned, whether it’s the parents who are really just waiting now for the schools to get us together. Right. You’re definitely going to see a return. But what I think is really interesting is that and what I haven’t seen the media cover as much is that not only are black families choosing to Homeschool in record numbers, but a lot of teachers are leaving the profession because a lot of teachers are saying there isn’t decision making. That respects them as educators or they don’t feel that their health and their well-being is being taken care of, and my group has seen an influx of former teachers trying to get in on the Homeschool craze and creating their own medical schools and renting their services out as contract teachers. And so it’s really interesting if taking a look at the ecosystem and I think by twenty, twenty three we’re going to see those of us who are veteran homeschoolers are probably going to still try to put a stake in maintaining this notion that Homeschool and does not have to replicate a traditional space and is going to be interesting to see how now all this influx is going to influence the ecosystem. And I’m really curious to see where that goes.

S1: Dr. Khadijah Ali-Coleman is the co-founder of the Black Family Homeschool Educators and Scholars Group. Thank you so much for joining us out of work today.

S2: Thank you for having me.

S1: And that’s a word for this week. The show’s email is a word at Slate Dotcom. This episode was produced by Ahyiana Angel and Jasmine Ellis. Aisha Solutia is the managing producer of podcasts Slate. Gabriel Roth is Slate’s editorial director for audio. Alicia Montgomery is the executive producer of podcasts at Slate. June Thomas is senior managing producer of the Slate podcast Network. Our theme music was produced by Don Will. I’m Jason Johnson. Tune in next week for word.