How Homeschooling Can Heal

Yes, I am still here. Life has been extremely busy in the last few months, and blogging has taken the appropriate back seat to managing a home and all the associated caps that come with it. If we skip to the highlight reel,

  • We survived Halloween (we’re not celebrators). Thank goodness it was unseasonably cold, so very few visitors came to the door, even with our lights out.
  • We installed the lion’s share of our fall garden. If we get a few more of these dips into the 40’s and below, we might actually have more than two carrots this spring.
  • The youngest can now hit the road on her own. Watch out world, we did the best we could.

Another thing that has kept writing on the back burner is my reading, and wanting to share my insights, but marrying that with the fact that I am a slow reader. I finally concluded that a moment of transparency might be as helpful as any wisdom posted in 2020 when I finally wrap up 230 pages. Honestly, I was one to drift off in reading , slowing me down to begin with, and being last on the planet to subscribe to Netflix didn’t help. How do y’all manage the binging possibilities??!! Oh, help, Holy Ghost!!

I was first introduced to Bell Hooks’ Belonging: A Culture of Place after hearing Dr. Cheryl Fields-Smith, who has completed a great deal of research regarding African-American single moms and homeschooling. (She will soon expand her work to include two-parent families and homeschooling). Her findings include the observation that African-American homeschooling parents, in having home as a priority, offer kids a place of healing from the scars of traditional school systems: the disproportion in disciplinary actions taken toward our kids, the inequities in school choice policies, and demeaning of parents who seek to be partners in education.

Her work is not exactly revelatory in its conclusions. In an article on why black kids should be homeschooled, Antonio Buehler points out how our children are often sacrificed for political expediency, and how low expectations undermine our children’s ability to achieve. Another reality for some of us is that gifted education access is generally granted to white, middle-class students, making the potential for homeschooling as a way of closing the gap between exposure and experience a more attractive option.

I will add that I do not believe these issues of belonging are limited to African-American students and families. With relatives who teach special needs children, I hear similar stories. I imagine that parents of children for whom English is not their first language have the same issues. There are all sorts of children whose needs are not met by the system.

My heart hurts for these children. Our decision to homeschool came under the most normal circumstances imaginable. Though we are not the parents whose spiritual calling kept us awake in the middle of the night, we were not removing our children from a bad experience. There was no racist incident that enraged and challenged us to do this ourselves. There were no bad experiences with school administrators or teachers. We did not feel as if the kids were not included, or were missing out on programs reserved for more exceptional or economically advantaged kids. We simply made a choice for our family over societal expectations.

Ms. Hooks , in speaking warmly of her upbringing on a Kentucky farm, describes home as a place of healing, of grounding in preparation to face the world outside. If we expand and embrace this idea that home education is a way to bolster our children and send them out as confident, smart, and well-grounded individuals, then how we design our schools takes on a new level of importance. This is larger than curriculum, though curriculum that builds upon our basic values is an integral part of this dynamic. The priority we place on family values must be as important as the value we place on academics and achievement. Blind faith in educators, politicians, or even places of worship will not be enough if we do not prioritize covering our children at home.

So, I am just beginning to read this book, and I am sure I will have more to say about it once further along, but my reading thus far reminds me so much of a conversation I recall with my dear friend Robin. Robin and I were co-workers at one time. The first time I visited her office, I noticed her seemingly eclectic grouping of memorabilia, including a picture of Dorothy’s ruby red slippers from The Wizard of Oz. When I asked Robin about the picture of the slippers, she responded, “That is my favorite movie.” She went on to say, “Dorothy had to go all that way for her to realize that everything she really needed was back at home.” How simplistically profound. Bell Hooks states that same concept in this way:

‘….I had lived where there were living elders teaching values, accepting eccentricity, letting me know by their example that to be fully self-actualized was the only way to truly heal. They revealed to me that the treasures I was seeking were already mine. All my longing for that community of like-minded souls, was waiting for me in Kentucky, waiting for me to remember and reclaim.’

(Hooks, Belonging: A Culture of Place, pg. 20)
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