UPDATE: Congrats to KAT and TRICE, both of whom will receive a copy of Rachel Garlinghouse’s new homeschooling book, Homeschooling Your Young Black Child: A Simple Getting-Started Guide and Workbook!
By RACHEL GARLINGHOUSE
Homeschooling often evokes mental images of White ladies wearing long skirts with their hair badly permed. They drive big vans, carting their herd of children around town to places like the library. But today’s average homeschooler is a far-cry from what many of us think of. You might be surprised to learn that many of today’s homeschoolers are parents of Black children. (This article from The Atlantic does a great job explaining the phenomenon of Black homeschooling.) As a mom of three, I didn’t really get why homeschooling Black children was important until I had an ah-ha moment.
It was an October day when my oldest daughter, then four, came home from her afternoon at preschool and excitedly reported that she had learned about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. at school. She had already learned about Dr. King here at home, and she was thrilled to have been familiar with him being mentioned at school. I did find it a bit odd considering most teachers don’t introduce Dr. King until January.
A few weeks later, at teacher-parent conferences, I told the teacher how excited my daughter was that Dr. King was discussed in class. The teacher looked confused for a moment, and then pointed to a nearby display board featuring Martin Luther, the theologian who started the Protestant Reformation. Apparently my daughter was so excited to simply hear “Martin Luther” that she failed to listen to the rest of the lesson.
Black history wasn’t focused on at all that year, not even in February. I realized that if someone was going to teach my child her history as a Black person, it was going to fall on me.
The following year, my daughter started kindergarten, and I had higher hopes. My daughter’s class did learn and recite a poem about Dr. King, and the teacher did spend a lot of time in February highlighting different individuals who had made a difference. However, as is the case in most public schools, the teachers were limited by district and state guidelines. There’s an overbearing emphasis on state testing and meeting goals and standards. Art, music, PE, foreign language learning, and, of course, history (particularly anything beyond White history), were last in line in terms of importance and emphasis. Despite my daughter’s teacher and her principal being Black women, their proverbial hands were tied. Black history was relegated to February.
This didn’t and still doesn’t sit well with me. As a former college teacher (of eight years), my Black students knew about as much about Black history as my White students: the people and events that were highlighted and glossed over throughout their public or private school educations. They knew a little about Dr. King, Rosa Parks, the Civil Rights Movement, and slavery. They might have read To Kill a Mockingbird or some of Maya Angelou’s poetry. And they knew when Dr. King’s birthday was, because most schools honor it by establishing a three-day weekend.
This made me incredibly sad. So many individuals and groups had put their lives on the line (some losing their lives) for the freedoms that my students and children have…yet my students, both Black and White, knew so little. I wanted my kids to have more. To know from a young age about past and present Black world-changers including artists, musicians, inventors, politicians, athletes.
After the Martin Luther incident, I unintentionally fell into homeschooling. When my oldest was in half-day kindergarten and my middle daughter was in part-time preschool, we’d spend each afternoon reading a few books, doing some workbook pages, listening to Black musicians, and memorizing Bible verses. They LOVED it. They begged me to homeschool on the days I was too tired or busy.
As a former college teacher, children’s ministry leader, and writing camp teacher, I was no stranger to curriculum planning and teaching. It came naturally to me. And so it began. Homeschooling my children. And nine months into my adventure, a friend said, put this in a book. You NEED to write this book. So I did.
I’m often asked why I homeschool my kids part-time. The answers are that I want my kids to know their history as Black people, I want them to have racial pride and confidence, and I want to strengthen my bond with my children, letting them know that I am their first teacher. Homeschooling has also bonded my children to one another as they work cooperatively on a floor puzzle, explained a worksheet to the other, or giggled over a funny book I’m reading them. We have time to work through their learning struggles, move to more challenging work when they are ready (vs. when the entire class is ready in a school setting), and we can focus on the kids’ interests.
My kids already know far more about Black history than some of my college students did. My girls have written letters to Ruby Bridges, thanking her for her bravery. They have created art featuring Dr. Mae Jemison, the first Black woman in space. We wrote a letter to President Obama and received a response that was over-the-moon exciting for my daughters. We sent a letter and artwork of support to the first Black mayor of a small Missouri town (who had most the police force quit when she was elected, allegedly because of her race). We read and talk about the most incredible books like Underground (Shane Evans), listen to incredible Black musicians like Ella Fitzgerald, and examine Black photography books like Dark Girls (Bill Duke). We talk about current events and past victories. We talk about struggles and triumphs. We have watched Marian Anderson sing, Bree Newsome removing the Confederate flag, and listened to Dr. King’s share his I Have a Dream speech. We’ve learned about Michaela DePrince, Misty Copeland, Serena Williams and Venus Williams, Jamie Grace, Darius Rucker, Lecrae, Mo’ne Davis, Oprah Winfrey, Michelle Obama, Madame C.J. Walker, and many more.
In essence, I couldn’t NOT write the book on Black homeschooling. In just a short year, my daughters taught me just as I was teaching them. We are just getting started! We absolutely love learning outside the “box” that society tries to put us in: a box that tries to limit learning Black history to a single month.
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Today’s essay was excerpted with permission from Rachel Garlinghouse’s new book, “Homeschooling Your Young Black Child: A Simple Getting-Started Guide and Workbook.” Want a copy of “Homeschooling Your Young Black Child”? Drop something clever in the comments section, and two winners will be selected randomly for a free copy. Tweet or Facebook this article and drop the link to your post(s) in the comments section for extra chances to win. Giveaway ends Tuesday, August 4, 2015, at midnight. The author will send one copy each to two winners (addresses in the United States only, please). Good luck!
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Rachel Garlinghouse is the author of Come Rain or Come Shine: A White Parent’s Guide to Adopting and Parenting Black Children. She mothers three children, all of whom were transracially and domestically adopted at birth. Rachel’s written more than 70 articles and has appeared in ESSENCE magazine, on The Daily Drum National Radio Show, and on MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry. She blogs about all-things-adoption at www.whitesugarbrownsugar.com.
Reading Rachel’s description of what her girls are learning along with the various extraordinary experiences, had me in search of the “Enroll Today” button for MYSELF!!! Home schooling is definitely a sacrifice but so is parenting. We essentially are given 18 years to be a parent and while we never stop being a parent to our children, our role/position shifts as the age of majority approaches. We go from Parent to Advisor. The ability to provide an “outside of the box” experience to your children, coupled with simply more time to love on them and witness the milestones personally is simply PRICELESS!
Omg omg please pick me!!!!!!!!! I this page #proud2beblack
This is WONDERFUL! My husband, who is White, and I are always looking for ways to ensure that our three children are as knowledgeapossible all facets of Black history as possible. Textbooks (purposely) omit so many important figures and triumphs. Thank you for writing this book!
Would love to win a free book. We will begin homeschooling my black son next year. It’s something we’ve struggled with whether to do our not. So glad to read this encouraging article!
We teach our girls at home. Of course, it was not my initial plan, but after receiving my education license and spending time with a few of the teachers I realized that I didn’t want those influences over my daughters. They have attended school before in the middle of our home school journey, but we continue to learn at home because now they see the value in it. It blessed me when both of my daughters at one time or another shared with me that they learn more from me than they did at school.
The value I see from it all is that they do have nearly as many insecurities that I had as child. They are more secure in who they are, and have a greater understanding that we are all different in some ways and that is okay.
Thanks for sharing your homeschool story 🙂
As a mom of twin toddler girls, I think this is awesome! I’ve been looking for new ways to engage my daughters, as well as my niece and nephew, in conversations about cultural pride and black history. I’m often amazed at how my parents were able to do so while working full time. Fortunately, we had shelves filled with Black history books and no cable! Lol However, those books lacked illustrations and content that are sure to keep little ones short attention. This book definitely does not fit that mold. Thanks for sharing!
Clever, I am not. haha. I’m not sure I really every understood the importance of Black history growing up in a mostly white small town community in the middle of nowhere. Now, I’m in a much bigger place with a whole lot of diversity raising three kiddos with special needs. My two girls are brown and my son is whiter than white. We make quite the team. Although I am not homeschooling (yet)–at least not officially, our activities are not like those of a typical family and my kids (and I) would put this book to great use. I’m not going to lie, I struggle as a white mom from that small town white community knowing what is age appropriate and emotionally appropriate for my kids. I’m hoping I’m doing okay! 🙂
Reading this article brought up many emotions. As a mom of three (two boys and a girl) living in a town that is mostly white doesn’t teach about black history even during black history month for the younger grades. Additionally my four year old daughter recently started to question why we are brown while everyone else is “peach”. It makes me nervous but was also a wake up call that I need to do more for them in this area. This article definitely inspired to begin my research and put together a curriculum for after school. Thanks!
Thanks so much for sharing this. I completely agree with you. Our children need to be nurtured and loved. They need to see themselves celebrated over and over again in science class, math class, history, and art by reading about phenomenal people of African descent in every subject area. They will not get that in public schools or most parochial or private schools. There are so few African American independent schools so homeschooling is the only option. Thank you.
I would love to win! Living in an area where I only know 2 other Black homeschoolers, this book is needed for children so they can see images of themselves and not be made to feel like an “other”.
Shared on Twitter: https://twitter.com/LifeWithBandM/status/626411492485693440
I’ve been tempted to full-on homeschool my kids when they hit school age. Until I make a decision for sure, I’ll definitely be supplementing whatever they learn from their teachers. I don’t think learning should end when they come home from school. I think that’s when what they’re learning should really be elaborated on and applied. And gaps be filled in.
My sons are 1.5 and 3.6 and I often wonder how I’m going to create a knowledgeable, successful curriculum and have been dipping into many different sources for homeschooling options. I already educate then what I can about their color and what it means in this world, and I am constantly looking for different ways to expand their understanding of life and what’s important for them to be awake and aware of. I would be honored to understand your process and incorporate what I can into my setting.
More love to you & yours
Thanks so much for this excellent post. As a recent graduate and a person who is really passionate about children’s education, especially in the teaching of black children about African/ African-American history, this was a very good resource for me. I appreciate the great work you are doing, and I really wish you lots of success. This is a great thing you are doing, and I will definitely share this link with my friends and family and members of my social networks. Thanks!! https://twitter.com/africanminded/status/627324774516002817
I’m so glad I found this site!! Will definitely use it for future reference. The child’s first school is in the home.
My husband and I have struggled finding a school district that we think would meet our future brown kid’s needs. Even as a college graduate, I feel so inadequate in taking on the task of home schooling. Hopefully this book with give me courage.
Love this. If I don’t win this book I will be buying it. I have two young mixed children and an underlying fear that traditional schooling is gunna f their lil heads all up. My husband and I discuss homeschooling. In September I start with my oldest part time. ::gulp::
I LOVE this! I’m starting my first year of homeschooling this Fall. It’s refreshing to see so many parents of color taking an initiative to school their children and teach them what they want them to know. I shared this post in 2 Homeschool Facebook groups and I tweeted this post.
It’s so exciting to find this article!!! I’ve been on a prayerful search for ways to incorporate our history into our homeschool on a regular basis. This would be a phenomenal tool have in my library!
Thanks so much for sharing! https://twitter.com/MrsMicheleB/status/628572806729613316
I’ve never been a great writer or written anything that is so amazing to make me win an item as precious as this book. But I love books and I love the world they bring you into an I’m going to share this love. I have my first and only child 2 years ago and she has more books than toys, a few stuffed animals and one black doll she is unable to carry (yet!). my goal as her parent, guardian, friend and most importantly mother is to encourage her and teacher all the things I’ve had to teach myself in life. I want her to embrace and love her own culture first and see the value and richness that runs throw her blood ( I have no idea how I am going to do this!), but it will be a wild journey taken by all of us including my husband. He supports my choice as a high school technology teacher to start from the blackboard first and not the tab of a keyboard! This book will be a superb value to me, I’ve always wondered about home schooling, even home schooling part-time is fine by me as long as our children indulge in their history to take part in the future. This book would be a great beginning!
I’m a mom of 10 who has been homeschooling for most of the past 20 years. Would you believe that I just realized this year that not only have I been actively teaching my children a mostly Anglo-saxon view of the world, but that that is all I have known?!? For some reason, God opened my eyes to that truth this summer so now I am searching for ways to teach my children and myself our history – not just the history and views that exclude the value and contributions of those that look like us. Where I’ve been struggling is with finding information on our history prior to slavery. I don’t want to have my children view themselves as freed slaves, but as part of a creative, intelligent people whose past includes fantastic accomplishments as well as tragic periods. I hope this all makes sense. Thank you for what you are doing! Tammy
Thank you for sharing! This article encourages me to focus so much more on African American History! Thank you for your commitment!
I love it! Its so encouraging to see other blogs by black homeschoolers!!
Wow! Pick my family. I am only a month in and am so glad I joined this closed group and scrolled through to view your article. I am fired up and excited to incorporate my girls culture into their curriculum. My child had a not so nice kindergarten experience is why I decided to homeschool. I love it, we are so close. I am contemplating doing it again next year and I’d love to read your insight