WESTERVILLE, Ohio — It appears home schooling has gone mainstream in more ways than one.
Fox News recently reported that home schooling has experienced a 4,000% increase during the past two decades, noting an especially marked increase among black families. Black children are now five times more likely to be home schooled than they were five years ago.
Home schooling is a movement that is growing in black urban and suburban communities such as Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, Atlanta, Richmond, Va., and Prince George's County, Md.
“In the past, many African-American families didn't know that home schooling was an option or didn't understand the dynamics of home schooling,” said Jennifer James, co-founder of the Chapel Hill, N.C.-based National African American Home Schoolers Alliance. “As it has become more mainstream, more of them are seeing it as a viable option for them.”
“It's a growing trend,” commented Alex Jones, a Catholic convert from Pentacostalism who works with the Archdiocese of Detroit. “Parents don't want to expose their kids to the inferior education, the moral climate and the violence so often found in the public-school system.”
Black home-schooling parents agree. “Schools are just not really working,” said Paula Penn-Nabrit, author of Morning by Morning: How We Home Schooled Our African-American Sons to the Ivy League (Random House, 2003).
Penn-Nabrit and her husband, Charles, of Westerville, Ohio, began home schooling their three sons 12 years ago in response to the cost of private school and their concerns about race and core values. All three went on to attend Ivy League schools — two attending Princeton and the third attending Amherst.
“The most consistent reason I'm hearing from parents is that they are beginning to seriously question the impact of institutionalized racism on our children,” Penn-Nabrit said. “Eighty-three percent of K-12 teachers are Caucasian, white women. Yet there has been no serious analysis of how that variable plays out among the high proportion of low performance among black boys in schools.”
A variety of organizations provide a valuable network and support for home schoolers of color. They include groups such as the Afrocentric Home School Association, the National African-American Home Schoolers Alliance and Mocha Moms — an organization of black stay-at-home mothers with 81 chapters in 27 different states.
Although their children are only ages 5 and 2, Jennifer and Michael James founded the National African-American Home Schoolers Alliance in January. “We wanted to have a network in place for them once they reach school age,” Jennifer said. Currently, the organization has more than 150 members in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom.
Crystal Welsh, of South Euclid, Ohio, is a member of the Afrocentric Home School Association. She began home schooling her 5-year-old son, Jared, last year and plans to begin home schooling her 10-year-old son, Jabari, next fall.
“Jabari is gifted and talented,” Welsh explained. “Because of peer pressure from classmates, he didn't do as well as he could have. He didn't want to be ostracized by his classmates. He went from a child who put his hand up all the time to being a child that didn't say a single word the entire school year.”
In the last month alone, Welsh said she has discovered a number of families that have been home schooling for a long time. “Here I thought I was being the radical one, and I'm meeting people who have been doing this for 15 to 20 years,”
She explained that she has already seen a difference between the socialization of her two sons.
“Jabari has been socialized to think, ‘I can only play with children who are in my age group,’” Welsh said, “but our youngest son doesn't mind playing with those who are much older or those who are younger.”
Tim Drake writes from St. Cloud, Minnesota.