Photo: Getty Images
By Rasha Almulaiki and Sherri Kolade
Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a continued surge in interest in homeschooling and increased demand for alternative educational settings.
Since 2020, the number of Black households homeschooling their children has climbed five times. According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s experimental Household Pulse Survey, the first data source to offer state and national-level looks at the impact of the pandemic on homeschooling rates, an estimated 11 percent of families with school-age children reported homeschooling.
The number of American households who were homeschooling at the start of the 2020–2021 school year increased by 5.6 percentage points and more than doubled from the previous year. According to Word in Black, it served as the ideal spark for a history of underfunded and under-resourced schools and fresh attempts to conceal or erase history.
When Jania Otey’s family tried to enroll her son in public school in 2008 but couldn’t find any options, they decided to make the leap.
“I am aware that there are some excellent schools out there, says Otey. “However, we truly wanted to be able to direct our children’s education because it is what worked best for our family. We had serious worries about the surroundings kids would be in,” she was quoted as saying in the story.
It went well. Caleb, her eldest son, graduated from high school at the age of 16, and this year he plans to double major in Bible and computer technology at Faulkner University. He is also just one credit away from being a junior between his high school coursework and his dual enrollment university courses.
Caleb displayed his scholastic interests at a young age. At age 2, Otey recalls him as being “ready to sit down and have school.” Even though she hadn’t considered it before, the idea stayed with her.
Homeschooling is an excellent way to catch up because you have a little bit more control over your schedule than in public school, according to Caleb. “It’s a good opportunity for kids and parents who want to do the extra work so they can get ahead.”
While homeschooling jumped in numbers for people of all ethnic backgrounds, this move to homeschooling occurred primarily for Black families due to factors such as schools being under-resourced and underfunded, continued critical race theory debates and other negative elements impacting students.
These elements “may impact the degree of trust that Black families have in our public education system, which may explain why some Black families are choosing to leave behind traditional schooling methods,” Dr. Javaid Siddiqi, president and CEO of The Hunt Institute, wrote to Word In Black.
Joyce Burges, who began the National Black Home Educators in 2000 after homeschooling her children in the 1990s, said that many people are jumping on the bandwagon.
“One of the beautiful things about Black families — they love family,” Burges says. Whatever it is they’re doing, they want to include their children and build a legacy. “And that’s what I’m finding now with this young group of people.… Those are some of the reasons that I feel this is gonna last.”
Homeschooling Resources in Detroit
On March 23, 2020, Governor Whitmer issued a stay-at-home order caused a statewide school closure which was scheduled to end April 5, before a later announcement that mandated schools remain closed for the rest of the academic year.
Upon the release of Whitmer’s “MI Safe Schools Return to School Roadmap,” a set of recommendations that local districts used to create their own reopening schedules for the next school year. By the fall, most Detroit area schools were open, scrambling to provide a viable hybrid or virtual learning model.
Many issues quickly reared their heads on this new, makeshift model, from truancy, technology glitches, loss of personalized instruction, and the long-term effects and attention span issues from interfacing with a computer screen for eight hours a day.
“When COVID hit and students learned from home, there was a lot of chaos and parents were able to see the kind of environment that their children are dealing with,” said Bernita Bradley, founder and president of Engaged Detroit Homeschool Co-op, a Detroit homeschooling advocacy run by and for parents and caregivers.
“They may have always wanted to homeschool, but the pandemic gave them a way to seek out how to do non-traditional schooling so that they can be a partner in their kids’ learning and not feel disregarded and out of touch like they may have in the schools.”
Bradley spoke to the Michigan Chronicle on the issues with the chronically underperforming Detroit Public Schools, the responses from parents and the work of Engaged Detroit to empower parents to take their child’s education into their own hands.
Engaged Detroit was started in response to the pandemic and the ongoing difficulties in Detroit Public Schools, where 82 percent of pupils are African American and just 6.5 percent of sixth graders are doing arithmetic at grade level. The co-op is a member of a network created expressly to assist Black families.
Currently, the parents of 48 households are homeschooling 119 children through co-op-provided resources. Caregivers receive weekly one-on-one tutoring through Engaged Detroit. The topics covered in the coaching sessions include learning about the rules and legislation regulating homeschooling, creating an educational profile for each kid, college resources and exploring how to use resources already present in the home to support learning.
“There are a lot of myths about homeschooled kids as socially awkward or being behind their peers,” said Bradley. “But we address these fears of parents by inviting them to walk through all the possibilities and community support we have built to all lean on each other as a network. Homeschooling doesn’t have to be intimidating and it can be what your child needs, that focused attention and environment, to get what they need to do well with education and life.”