This February 2022 we honored Black History Month by showcasing different key players in the homeschool community who are helping to expand the offerings for Black families who have made the decision to homeschool for their families. We have been so excited to show you some of the brilliant minds at work in helping to lead the way for the Black community.
Now that February is over and we are moving into March, which is Women’s History Month, we’ll dive a little bit deeper into the journey so that we can remember that the Black community is a part of who America is 365 days a year. The story of Black homeschooling is not relegated to one month. So we still have two more amazing features to present to you, in our continued focus on Black excellence.
Earlier this month I had the privilege of speaking to Khadijah Ali-Coleman, founder of Black Family Home Educators and Scholars, Here is a glimpse at all of the many things we talked about. I hope that we will have a chance to work together in the future!
What led you to the creation of Black Family Homeschool Educators and Scholars?
I was offered an opportunity to publish my doctoral dissertation in 2020. My study focused on dual enrolled African American homeschooled students and their perceptions of preparedness for community college. I was honored for an opportunity to publish my research, but, instead asked if I could edit an anthology of different writers focused on Black homeschooling. During my research, I recognized the lack of research done on the topic, and I wanted to curate a text that added literature to the education field on the topic. The publisher agreed and I reached out to another researcher to co-edit the book. The other researcher had already made a name for herself as the most prolific researcher on the topic. So, I thought it was best to have her be a part of the project as a co-editor. Upon meeting with her, we talked about creating a community that brought researchers on Black homeschooling together with homeschooling parents, and from there we called our partnership Black Family Homeschool Educators and Scholars. Because I have a background in community organizing virtually and in real time, I decided to call our first convening a teach-in so that everyone was viewed as having valuable input– not just the academics– and it was action oriented.Ali-Coleman 2022
What have been some of the positive impacts of your work with Black Family Homeschool Educators and Scholars?
The inaugural teach-in in 2020 took place when COVID-19 was impacting traditional school places and Black families were choosing to homeschool in record numbers. The US Census says that Black families homeschooling increased from 3-5% to 16% in 2020. Folks flocked to our teach-in and subsequent virtual events to gain quick insight into the practice of homeschooling. We created a Facebook group after the teach-in that attracted 800 members within months. We are currently over 2k members in that group today. We haven’t had any formal measurements of impact yet because we are not a nonprofit and are still developing as an organization. The person I started this group with is no longer affiliated with the group, so in the past few months I have had to step back and make some decisions on how I want to move forward. She lured away a lot of the researchers we had planned to work with together as a team so she could do her own thing, so I am deciding in what ways the group will approach research. I am a media maker and have already done a documentary on my own homeschooling journey, so I am working out a plan to engage homeschooling parents in media-based auto-ethnographic work where they are both researcher and practitioner.Ali-Coleman 2022
Tell us about the BFHES Virtual Teach-In – what is it, when does it happen, what are some of the positive things that have come out of it?
The BFHES Virtual Teach-In is an annual event that takes place during the summer. We have an interactive members-only website devoted to the teach-in that allows participants to fellowship and watch sessions that are live or pre-recorded. Sessions revolve around topics that homeschooling parents express interest in. Past topics have focused on co-ops, building income as a homeschooling parent, homeschooling neurodiverse children, arts-based learning and more. We have attracted participants from across the country and a few from other countries. Some of the positive things we are seeing is the rising involvement of fathers and continued participation of parents who have been with us since 2020.Ali-Coleman 2022
How is the Black homeschool experience unique?
While Black people are not a monolith, there are some things that large numbers of Black homeschooling families cite as being reasons they chose to homeschool. For starters, many Black homeschooling families choose homeschooling because they believe homeschooling allows them to center learning from a cultural perspective. So often, mainstream education centers whiteness as a narrative default. Homeschooling allows Black parents to shift perspective that highlights the historical presence and contributions of people of the African diaspora. Homeschooling also allows parents to recognize that the history of Black people in America does not begin with enslavement. In addition, some Black families find that homeschooling allows their learners to engage in a learning environment that honors their humanity in ways that many public school systems do not. Using my experience as an example, when I homeschooled my own daughter off and on for 13 years, I recognized her strengths, interests and aptitudes early on. Rather than tie her to a routine that worked against her strengths, interests and aptitude, I curated a learning experience that recognized who she was and supported her positive youth development. Many Black parents choose homeschooling as a way to liberate themselves from a system that so often labels Black children as being deficient and subpar learners.Ali-Coleman 2022
What if any message do you have for homeschoolers who are not in the Black community who would like to be allies? How can they also support Black families who homeschool?
I think great allies are those who recognize and are honest about the inequities that exist in our nation. Black people should not have to debate with others about the value of their humanity. There is enough research and historical precedence that exists to illustrate that inequities exist to impact the social, political and economic power of Black people in this country. A great ally treats all people with grace and compassion.Ali-Coleman 2022