Tuesday, April 26, 2005

African-American Homeschoolers: Hope for America's Future

This article is the second in my series titled "Homeschooling: Hope for America's Future". I focus on the growing trend of African-American homeschoolers (also known as black homeschoolers) as a way to address the achievement gap between white and black children. The public schools have not been able to achieve this in the 50 years since segregated education was outlawed. It is time for black parents to take matters into our hands and many of us are rising to the challenge. See below.

Homeschooling, the national phenomenon that is growing at the astounding rate of 4000% in 20 years and it is growing very quickly in the African-American community as well. Black children today are 5 times more likely to be homeschooled than they were just 5 years ago. Although African-Americans only represent only about 3% of all homeschoolers, the rates at which they are coming to homeschooling is increasing. Black parents who homeschool, like most other homeschooling parents, are concerned about safety and effectiveness of public schools, lack of proper moral or religious instruction and negative peer influences. Additionally, though, some African-Americans are also concerned about the lack of adequate amounts of African-American history taught in the schools as well.

Despite the changes of the Civil Rights era, many black parents are not convinced that their children will get the best education possible in a school setting. African-American families tend to be concentrated in urban areas and it could be for this reason in part that African-American families are more likely to feel that their children are not getting an adequate education than white families. Continued political battles over options such as school vouchers have left many urban black families wondering what they can do to take the education of their children into their own hands. A startling rise in school violence that has shaken our country shows its impact most heavily in the daily violence that occurs in urban school districts. Drugs, gangs and bullies represent additional obstacles to learning in urban school districts that have caused many black parents to consider homeschooling.

African-American families in suburban school districts are also increasingly dissatisfied with the educational experiences of their children. Public schools in general continue to fail many African-American students and recent studies have shown that even in exclusive suburbs, there is an achievement gap between black and white high school students. This gap is thought to have many possible causes. Some causes may include racial insensitivities or low expectations towards black students by teachers, negative peer pressure to avoid academic excellence by other black students or lack of parental involvement. All of these possible causes of black underachievement can be overcome by homeschooling. By returning education the home, African-Americans have a chance to level the academic playing field for their children. In generations past in which blacks predominantly received their education at home because of segregation, rates of literacy in the black community were actually higher than they are now. In many ways, homeschooling reflects a return to a history of self-education among blacks.

Ironically, some in the black community argue that parents are ignoring their responsibility to the community at large by pulling their children out of local school systems. Although such sentiments may be noble, increasing numbers of black parents are not willing to wait another 50 years for the American legal system to produce a dramatic change in the educational success of their children. Parents are unwilling to sacrifice their children’s futures for the sake of keeping the status quo. Most parents feel their primary responsibility is to their children and that by producing responsible, law-abiding citizens to become future leaders they are in fact making a very important contribution to society. There are many other ways that African-American families who homeschool can continue to contribute to school reform. Attending local school meetings, contacting politicians and voting for candidates who support school reform are some ways black homeschooling families can stay active in the American educational system. Every family, whether homeschooling or not, has a serious stake in American education. The very future of our country depends on the education of our children.

There are some hotspots of growth of African-American homeschoolers around the country. Much of the growth in African-American homeschooling families is originating from the suburban communities of Atlanta, Richmond, Virginia and Prince Georges County, Maryland echoing the rise in homeschoolers among the affluent and well-educated nationwide. Mocha Moms, a support group targeting African-American stay-at-home moms, has been credited with contributing to the rise of homeschooling among African-Americans. With their local groups that pool resources, some of the Mocha Moms choose to homeschool. Other resources specifically to encourage African-American homeschoolers are proliferating and interested families will most likely begin by joining local support groups, researching on the Internet, buying homeschool magazines and checking out books on homeschooling from the local library.
The time is now to begin changing the future of America by ensuring the best education for all of America's children. Start homeschooling today!

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