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Tuesday, December 20, 2005

On being black and homeschooling.

If you didn't know my race previously, you do now. I am black. (african american, brown, non-white... whatever)

There has been a great stir in the news lately because the number of black homeschooling has suddenly increased. As a black person, homeschooling is not a decision to be made lightly.

"for the black community, teaching at home was frowned on because of the civil rights battle to get into public schools in the first place. Mike Smith with the Home School Legal Defense Association says the times are changing."

But just as those first pioneers forced thier way into public schools to get quality educations for thier children, many people like myself are now fleeing.

Why so late in the game? Easy... we didn't feel welcome, at first. Here's my personal story: I first looked into homeschooling when I lived in New Orleans. I called the local homeschool association and had a very pleasant conversation in length. Finally, I was invited to come to a homeschool meeting, and the place was set, but the woman did not know the date. However, she did ask for my description so she would know me when I arrived at the park. Unon giving my description, her tone seemed to change (now I could be paranoid, but....) and she told me she would call me back with the rest of the information... it never happened. (of course I will balance that by saying, she was one person, and I was living in a city where David Duke was currently running for senate, but that was my experience)

Fast forward a few years later and a few states over, and I explored homeschooling more agressively and had a homeschooling friend bring me to a meeting. While I was the only black person there, I received a warm reception but also had that weird feeling I get sometimes of feeling like a science experiment.

Me being the only one there, did not last long. Over the next two years, the number of black homeschoolers I bumped into went from 1% to about 15 percent. And everyone seems comfortable in thier own skin and with people who are in different skins.

The major difference between the struggle for African Americans to break into homeschooling vs integrated schools was the very subtle resistance in the beginning, but the joy in it is as homeschoolers teaching thier kids to be individuals, they were more easily able to accept individuals different from them. One person at a time, one new friend at a time, few *homeschooling black children that I know of, have ever been made to feel that they were different or not worthy because of the color of thier skin. (*one African American teen that I know of has felt excluded from social activities)

Now on the other hand, I do see many African Americans continue to isolate themselves from non-black homeschoolers. I have belonged to a couple of email groups, where whites have been called awful things and white parents of black children have been mistreated.

update: It has been 4 years since I wrote this and I have already seen a culture change where while there are African American homeschool groups, there is less of a culture issue, and the groups are generally loving and inclusive of all. This is probably due to the extreme growth of the black population in homeschooling including more people who are more friendly to other races.

I am very greatful to the homeschooling community for thier ease of acceptance of the black community into their ranks. I am even more thankful to homeschooling parents for keeping any negative race views they may have had to themselves and not passing them on to thier kids. ...

And I call on African American homeschooler to be less exclusive and separate from homeschoolers as a whole. Because I have a dream that one day, at a crowded homeschooling activity, no black mother will make a rushed bee-line for me with a relieved and grateful look to find another "one of us" there. But that they will walk by and say "hi" just like everyone else.


Heidi said...

"Because I have a dream that one day, at a crowded homeschooling activity, no black mother will make a rushed bee-line for me with a relieved and grateful look to find another "one of us" there. But that they will walk by and say "hi" just like everyone else."

I'm white, and I also wait eagerly for the day when race is not a reason for separation and isolation.

Anonymous said...

I loved both your posts heidi and ahermitt!!!! Although I am white well not really (im native american and hispanic but my black friend likes to call me white lol and i often get mad at her for that lol.) I totally love the fact that you are doing something that you feel is best for your children no matter what others think or say! I am definately homeschooling (with the help of tutors) my kids exspecially after finding out about a dozen cases of mrsa in new jersey where i live!!! A best friend of mine just died last year from that!!! My friend told me that she was going to go within 6 months and i didnt believe her! God rest her soul, Ill love her and miss her forever! Im just appalled at all the diseases and crap going around in schools, another person i know has a daughter with herpes soars all over her face and she gets to keep her in school with that contagious disease!! If this is what the public schools are letting into the classrooms, im not letting my kids near the front gates!!! Anyway, back to your post ahermitt, I have been reading many of them as I see you really care about your children and are educated enough to know that you can give them a great education from home as well! Im sure you probably recieved all kinds of people giving you grief over the decision as I have, its unruly, Im absolutely TERRIFIED to tell the childrens father (they are 3 and 4 now) because he will surely lie to his parents and say dreadful things about me, he may even try to use that as a pawn in court to gain custody of my children. I better have them involved in all sorts of activities to ensure they are socialized before he gets wind of this homeschooling idea. You ladies are lucky you dont have to worry about vindictive exs who will use anything that they can to gain custody of your kids!!! Anyway God Bless you both for being great moms!!!


Deborah said...

I really like your blog! I check in once in awhile and always enjoy what I read.

One thing I have really enjoyed about homeschooling is the diversity of friends we have because of it! We have several black families in our little circle of homeschooling friends.

We do live in California, and I suppose diversity is just more normal around here...but I don't think my boys would have as many black or other minority race friends going to the local public school as they do from church and homeschooling.

And can I just say I've always hated the words "black" and "white"? Even as someone who tends toward the whiter end of the scale, I'm still not as white as a piece of paper!! I always say "Caucasian" when asked my "race" because I'll say anything to avoid pointing out the fact that I look like I need a tan :)

Big Momma said...

I'm eagerly awaiting that day also. I'm usually the queen bee.

Dessi said...

Hi. I'll be honest here. As a white American male, I will never know what it's like to be a minority. When I saw the title "On being black and homeschooling", I first thought it was going to be this long string of how terribly you've been mistreated. Lots of minorities, it seems to me, spend so much time thinking of racism that they are more guilty than those they accuse.

You are not one of these. You seem to be an intelligent, open-minded lady. I also long for the day that we don't even talk about race because nobody even notices.

I enjoyed this (and many of your other) posts, and we'll be checking back often. :)

(husband of a homeschooling mom)

Amy said...

I feel a bit marginalized myself when I contact local homeschooling groups. Not because of my race but because I'm not religious at all.

I live in a small town in Texas and every homeschooling group around here is Christian-based. I have no problem with getting involved with a Christian group, but they basically told me I would have less privileges than those who were active Christians. LOL!

So, we decided not to join a group unless we found one that is open to *all* kinds of people, regardless of religion, race, creed...

I long for more diversity amongst homeschooling parents and I think that time is coming. With public schools only declining, more and more people are pulling their children out.

Hang in there!

Amy :)

Anonymous said...

This is a very good blog. I know you talked mostly about the race problems with public schools vs the homeschooling community but I see much more. My wife and I are starting to homeschool our 2 year old because of the academic problems with public schools and for socialization. It is funny that many thinks that public schools teach children better social skills. The truth is that public schooled children only socialize with their own kind or group (smart children, age groups, race, sports groups, ect). Public schooled children learn to be prejudice and they learn to put them self into a group.

Anonymous said...

So glad I found your blog. I know this post is older, but I wanted to make a comment on it anyways :-)
I homeschool and I am white BUT my husband is black and of course my children are bi-racial. I always get questions that I know I would not get if my kids were not bi-racial. Like, "So, what does your husband do?" "That's nice that you get to stay home"...what if he were white would it not be nice that I got to stay home or maybe they would think it was normal?
It's small things but things that I notice. I think it is funny when someone sees an interracial couple with kids and a sahm and a dad with a really good job they don't get it...like they can't get passed the stereotypes of it all. Now please understand I am not saying everyone is like this but I DO get random questions and comments that I would not get otherwise.
In any event, I am glad I have found your blog and hope to follow it some more.

Rendla said...

In response to Amy's comment, I had the opposite problem. I wanted to join a group that was open to "*all* kinds of people, regardless of religion, race, creed..." I contacted them through e-mail and it seemed like it would be a good match until I mentioned I was a preacher's wife then all contact stopped.

Since my oldest is a preschooler I decided that for the time being I won't join a group. We will just go to the library's story time and maybe take some classes at the recreation center.


Ahermitt said...

Thanks for the comment Marie-Anne. I am sorry that has been your experience. I have noticed that inclusive groups can try to exclude the religious... sad... and oxymoronic.

Anonymous said...

I have experienced social coldness that I have finally realized is race based ( or maybe class) among the homeschool community near me. It was shocking at first, then I felt really angry but now I am praying for the Lord to grant them eyes to see in the spirit and not the flesh. Our current geographic location probably has something to do with it too- south east.

To sum it up- I'd say - "The Big Freeze" and it's NOT me- I'm very out going and am very comfortable with other races.

It's really wrong though...I'll probably write an essay about it soon :)

Ahermitt said...

Dear Anonymous,

In the four years since I wrote this I have found that it just pays to be persistent. Even if it is hard, be outgoing and upbeat and in the end, and coldness you feel should melt. It it doesn't it is the loss of others, at least you tried.

Carletta said...

I'm an African-American homeschool mom who has also seen a big change in the homeschool community since we began homeschooling.

I have only visited one group where I felt people were uncomfortable with my presence there (for whatever reason). I visited several times before moving on.

I agree with you that it pays to be persistent. Since then, I have interacted with many different homeschoolers in a variety of settings, and 100% of my experiences have been positive.

I love being a part of the homeschool community!

Barbara Frank said...

Just happened to see a link to this old post while checking out this week's C of H (thank you for hosting, btw--it looks great!)

I've been homeschooling for 25 years. In one support group we were in for many years, there was only one black family. Today all their kids are grown and doing great. I'm sure it was hard for them at times but clearly well worth their perseverance.

Personally, I'm thrilled to hear that more black families are getting into homeschooling. There was recently a good article about this trend in the Chicago Tribune. I linked to it here:


Have a great day!

Anonymous said...

I personally think that Blacks should have groups and events for their children. Black children shouldn't be made to feel uncomfortable because others fear them. But I admire you for hanging in there although you felt uncomfortable or sensed some uneasiness with your presence. Glad to see more Black Homeschoolers, makes me feel good to see it..

Kat said...

I am smiling at some of your chirps, pretty good sense of humor. As for paranoia. I can not help you, I get the exact same reaction and I am white in a very supportive homeschool town, so what is it that makes me weird? oh, I use Texas Virtual Academy. that makes me just too close to a 'conformist' for the rest of the 'unschoolers' here abouts. I used to take it personally now I just let it roll off. thankfully there are as many virtual schoolers as there are everyone else. keep your chin up. it all balances out.

Foresttrailacade said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

This blog post is well intentioned, but delusional. Or perhaps it's just the comments.

People like to see people who look like them. If you are used to seeing people who look like you everywhere you turn, if the default is people who look like you, if you can go somewhere and pretty much be assured that most will look like you....then you don't really understand.

It has nothing to do with wanting to exclude others.

To the OP I would guess that most do not rush to you when they find "another one" because they have been mistreated or because they like to exclude people. They do it because ..... (let's repeat what I just wrote above).

Race does matter and ignoring it and acting like everyone is the same is a real disservice. We are all equal as humans, but we are not the same. Ignoring this is a disservice to the little minority children who are in for a wake up call when reality slaps them in the face. And it's a disservice to the non-minorities who grow up with insensitive attitudes because "racism doesn't exist. We all get along so if something happens you need to stop pulling the race card."

What's the solution? I don't know...but digging our heads in the sand is not it. FWIW I'm black who was raised around mostly white people. I've learned that race doesn't matter until it MATTERS. If you are not prepared for this because in your little world we are all the same, la la la, then it's going to hit you hard. Kids need to be prepared to deal with life- period.

And people like to be around others who can understand these things without having to go into dissertation mode.

Ahermitt said...

To the last commenter. Not dillusional. Perhaps a bit naive. This was written 7 years ago and while my views have morphed to something closer to your ending statement the young-in in me can't help but wish.

Charmain Reid said...

I'm a black single mom standing on the eve of homeschooling my 13 yr old daughter. I'm terrified. I'd appreciate someone to talk to regardless of their race.