This month we are bringing you a carryover from our Black History Month theme of spotlighting Black excellence, Last month for Black History Month, HomeLife Learning spotlit movers and shakers in the Black community who exemplify the idea of Black excellence. We had such a wonderful experience with our BHM Spotlights of the day, but Black History is American History and we didn’t want to stop at February. That’s why today we are sharing a fabulous interview that we had with Cheryl Carter, leader of the Collegiate Learning Center, Outschool teacher, and homeschool mom for over 30 years. We had a wonderful conversation together, and I was able to glean so much awesome wisdom from Cheryl. I hope that you will also enjoy what she has to say.
Tell us a little more about yourself. What brought you to the path you’re on today?
I’ve been homeschooling for over thirty years. I have five children, my oldest is 31, working full-time and in a PhD program. My second oldest is now an adjunct professor at a college, and my third is a missionary. She chose that even though the college she went to was a secular college. I volunteered for years with my homeschool group helping kids get into college. Presently we are still homeschooling our 11 year old twins. I’ve seen homeschooling evolve because when I first started homeschooling there was not a lot of choice in curriculum. Financially I made the decision to be at home, but now I see that parents almost have too many choices and it can be overwhelming. At one point people said, “Don’t do anything online!” but now we see that if kids aren’t doing anything online, they’re going to be behind. Now there is definitely a place for online education.
I have five kids, and I homeschooled them all from the beginning. For me it’s a calling to be home with my kids. We tried public school and Christian school for one year each, and we wanted our kids to love learning and to not be a statistic, so we set rather a high bar for our kids. That’s why we got into homeschooling; we wanted our kids to be different, and we didn’t want them to be a statistic. Now people are seeing the trend happen over the years that there is more Black homeschooling, and I think the pandemic has something to do with the numbers, but I think that now people are more and more seeing other people who look like themselves homeschooling and it encourages them to try it as well. I’ve been married 36 years to the love of my life, we met in college, and we have a ministry together for families.
Professionally, my mindset has always been to volunteer. So when we started homeschooling, I always volunteered to work with older kids at co-ops when my kids were younger, so that by the time they were ready to go to college, I would be ready for that because of helping other people.
I hope that many jobs being remote and the pandemic open up the door to homeschooling for families that might not have seen it as an option. Do you find that to be what you are witnessing?
A lot of homeschoolers are uneasy when starting out, particularly in the Black community. We’ve been told we’re not good enough, and so we don’t feel good enough to homeschool our kids. So I know parents now who are homeschooling now who didn’t like their charter school, and they didn’t realize they had any other option until now. I think one day it’s going to level the playing ground for education because it’s going to help people who don’t feel equipped to think that it’s something they can do.
How if at all do you feel that being a homeschooler as a black person is a unique experience?
Asking a Black person to define what it’s like to be a Black homeschooler is like asking a fish to define water. I would think that in many ways, it’s like everyone else. But I think if you interviewed my kids, who were all raised Christian and all went to secular colleges, they all did some kind of evangelism on their school campus. It’s interesting that all of my kids don’t go to a Black church, but they’ve all looked for the body of Christ to be a mixed church. In some ways, I’m happy about what we’ve done, but they’ve shared with me some experiences that they had growing up as the only Black homeschoolers. They’ve shared things that people said to them, like being called the N word, and then they felt the burden of that. So in some ways, I’m doing things differently for the 11 year olds because of what the older ones have told me about their experience. We are more open now and so we’re very careful and don’t blindly say we’re going to go somewhere without checking if it’s a diverse place and if the leadership is accepting of them.
Cheryl and I continued to talk about the courses she teaches.
Mostly focusing on writing, Cheryl teaches both creative and history-based writing courses on Outschool and through her website. One thing that struck me as particularly beautiful was the way she expressed that learning the hard truths of our history is of course important, but so is creative writing and finding a creative outlet, producing art that goes out into he world. She expressed that it’s not a hard divide between knowing our hard history or exploring creative, joyful entities. Both are important for us to thrive in the world today. Cheryl prides herself in pushing kids to get published, and also to have a Christian worldview where they can argue and reason in the secular arena.
If you are interested in learning more about Cheryl’s Outschool courses you can visit her classroom on Outschool or her website www.collegiatelearningcenter.com.