I have had a few people ask recently if we are still homeschooling. We are. Their usual follow up question is, “What’s your experience been like?” Well… I had high hopes for being in community with other Christian moms who were homeschooling. I thought I would be able to learn from a community of other moms, have access to great curriculum, and have the support of our family and community. My experience hasn’t been any of that.
BEING THE ONLY MINORITY FAMILY IN A CO-OP
In the Spring of 2015 James and I decided to home school our oldest son, who was in Kindergarten at the time. I had done some reading about the Classical Model of education and a mom from our church recommended her co-op that met near our neighborhood. I was hesitant, but knew I needed all the help I could get, so I signed us up for her co-op that summer. I had no idea the difficulty I would experience as a minority mom navigating the predominantly white Christian home school world. I wrongly assumed, “we’re all Christian that should be enough for genuine relationships to develop.” I couldn’t have been more wrong.
I remember walking into home school orientation and being overwhelmed by the amount of blonde hair and blue eyes. I was the only minority mom in that room and, it being our first interaction with the co-op, I was surprised that no one was welcoming. I saw other moms welcoming each other back after the summer break as I meandered around looking for my seat, watching other moms avoid eye contact with me. I thought to myself, “Lord, please don’t let this be the norm.”
The next few months were a whirlwind as I learned the home school culture. On co-op days, the kids would work on different activities in the classroom and then break for lunch, which the moms joined in on. Lunch felt more like I was back in high school rather than an adult gathering. Cliques of moms formed in the church cafeteria where we had lunch. I occasionally sat with other moms and tried to stir up conversations but it was awkward at best. I remember one day specifically, when I was sitting alone, my kids had gone outside to play, and the director walked into the cafeteria. She looked directly at me (by directly I mean we made weird eye contact), and saw me sitting alone, while the other white moms sat a table over. I could tell she was debating what to do. She ended up choosing to sit with the other moms. I realized that day, if the leader of this co-op is going to ignore me, I cannot expect other ladies to be open to building a relationship with me. After a year of trying to fit in and only feeling more and more like an outcast, I decided my family would not be coming back. Since the end of that school year, I have been figuring home school out on my own.
BECOMING A CURRICULUM WRITER AND HISTORIAN
Despite my experience with a co-op, I knew I wanted to keep homeschooling, so I started researching Classical Education curricula. I was disappointed to find that every home school curriculum I researched centers on European culture. Much like my experience growing up in public school, it seemed like home-school was trying to force me to believe that European culture, experiences, and history sit at the center of human history. The only white ancestor my children have is James’ Irish paternal grandfather who James never met. Our family, on my side and James’, descend from the Native inhabitants of Mexico who were colonized by the Spanish… and the French. No matter how hard I looked, the story of Native American and Mexican history, along with other people groups of color, was never more than a side note in any world history curriculum for my kids. That means, now, on top of teaching my children the basics of math, reading, and writing, I have to research and create history curriculum. One that includes a narrative that discusses and dignifies our people’s heritage, so my kids will appreciate who they are and where they come from. In American culture, where most of the heroes we celebrate are white, I have to make it a point to talk about minority accomplishments and discoveries that have contributed to the building of our country.
If you’re curious, here are a few resources that I’ve found helpful:
Books for Kids
- A Young People’s History of the United States
- The Track Series
- The Undefeated
- Me Frida and the Secret of the Peacock Ring
- Ghost Boys
Books for Parents
- Open Veins of Latin America
- Our America: A Hispanic History of the United States
- An Indigenous People’s History of the United States
- Fire & Blood: A History of Mexico
- Mexico: From the Olmecs to the Aztecs
OVERCOMING HOME SCHOOL STEREOTYPES
We live in a predominantly low-income (and quickly gentrifying) African American and Latino neighborhood. I have lived in low-income neighborhoods like this all my life. Growing up, no one I knew ever home schooled. Usually, if you had to stay home from school, it was because they expelled you. It wasn’t until I became a Christian that I learned that you could teach your kids at home. My experience isn’t an isolated one. Since we began homeschooling, both James and I have been confronted with cultural stereotypes from within the minority community. As we have wrestled with these stereotypes, we quickly realized that garnering support from our family and friends would be difficult.
A couple years ago, my neighbor came over to visit in the middle of a week day to talk and she asked why my kids were home. I told her I taught them at home. I was their teacher. Her eyes widened and with a concerned look she asked, “Isn’t that illegal? Won’t you get arrested if they see you out with your kids during the day?” I had to explain to her, and many other minority moms since, that homeschooling is legal. People who grew up like me have either no concept of home-school or hold stereotypes about home schoolers. Sometimes they think you’re in a cult. That’s a fun one to explain, especially when ironically, your husband also works for a church. What is most difficult is the push back I get from other Mexican moms about not working. They see me as having achieved something that often feels unattainable. A college degree. I’m college educated, shouldn’t I be at work? Why don’t I let the “real” teachers educate my kids so I can go out and make money to help my husband. It’s exhausting to have your own people see you as trying to act “white” or not supporting your family because you don’t work. What makes it worse is knowing the home school moms who could empathize, only see you as an outsider.
A HOPE FOR A BETTER TOMORROW
Though it is a lonely road to home school my children as a minority, my family has continued to persevere. We will continue to have conversations hoping to educate minorities on the value and benefits of homeschooling, while helping our white peers see how closed off to “outsiders” their culture is. We hope that as our society seeks to be more racially inclusive, so will home school communities. We also hope that more minority parents will have opportunities to take their children’s education into their own hands through home school. I’m hopeful when I see articles like The Radical Self-Reliance of Black Homechooling, and pray that more communities of color can experience the benefits of homeschooling. Hopefully, as time goes on, minority families will not only be welcomed into co-ops, but will lead and shape their culture. I pray stereotypes and assumptions about home school will be debunked, and future generations will grow up learning the stories, value, and contributions of civilizations of color.