Parents are deciding to homeschool their kids for a variety of reasons. There are concerns of their child contracting the coronavirus along with facing racism, bullying and failing grades. Though parenting in a pandemic was no easy task, a lot of parents were exposed to the benefits of homeschool. (Courtesy photos)

By Marnita Coleman
Special to the AFRO

Joel Osteen, pastor of one of the largest churches in America said trouble is your transportation. He means that obstacles have a unique way of becoming opportunities. Truth be told, who would have thought COVID-19 to be the perfect storm that caused many families to change their educational approach. Flung into the world of virtual learning at the onset of the pandemic, some parents and students have discovered that homeschooling is the preferred learning path for them.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the number of households that homeschool more than doubled from March to September 2020. African-American homeschooling families specifically experienced the most growth from 3.3% in the spring to 16.1% in the fall. While these numbers include households engaged in remote learning due to COVID-19, many parents are opting to continue homeschool as in-person learning resumes in the coming weeks.

Parents are deciding to homeschool their kids for a variety of reasons. There are concerns of their child contracting the coronavirus along with facing racism, bullying and failing grades. Though parenting in a pandemic was no easy task, a lot of parents were exposed to the benefits of homeschool.

African-American homeschooling families specifically experienced the most growth from 3.3% in the spring to 16.1% in the fall. (Courtesy photos)

Everyone’s learning journey will be different for parents and students alike. Homeschooling is not a cookie-cutter course. My decision to homeschool came as a result of family dynamics. My two daughters were in private school when their father and I chose to go in different directions. 

The money got real funny as a result of the split, so private school was no longer an option. At the time, neither was public school because it was too dangerous. I prayed about the direction I should take and was led to homeschool. 

I didn’t think I was smart enough to homeschool. Then, when I was threatened by my family to “not mess them up,” it shook me. At the time, homeschooling was new to African Americans. Few Black folks were doing it and needless to say, acting on something outside the scope of what was normal for “us” raised a brow.

Karen Wilson, a homeschool expert from Charles County, Md., and her husband have successfully homeschooled their five children for the last 18 years. (Courtesy photo)

Meanwhile, I had a dear friend named Tracey who was homeschooling three of her four children, the youngest was a toddler. The three homeschooled children were very intelligent, capable, balanced and happy kids. I spoke with her about the process, and she invited me over for coffee and conversation. Tracey and I sat in the middle of her “classroom,” located in the basement of her house. It was very impressive and looked identical to every elementary classroom I had ever seen.

Tracey gave me everything I needed to get started. I was informed about homeschool laws for Maryland and she gave me a contact at the Department of Education, she told me how to withdraw my children from school, and I received homeschool resources which included an amazing homeschool store in my area. She recommended Christian curriculums, which was my preference, and introduced me to the homeschool community of clubs and support groups. There, parents exchanged ideas, teaching assignments, scheduled field trips and went to the gym at the YMCA. At the end of the night I was certain it was the right move to make. 

The Wilson Family: (l-r) Isaiah, Micah, Shawn Jr, Aryn, Nia, Karen and Shawn Sr. (Courtesy photo)

Karen Wilson, a homeschool expert from Charles County, Md., and her husband have successfully homeschooled their five children for the last 18 years. Three of their kids are now high school graduates, one is enrolled in college with a full scholarship, and the other two kids remain in homeschool with Wilson.

AFRO: What factors made you consider homeschooling your children? 

Karen Wilson: After the birth of our first born, I read a book entitled, “Bringing Up Boys” by Dr. James Dobson. In the book, Dr. Dobson talked about how boys and girls develop differently and how traditional schools are not designed for the way young boys learn. This led me on the path to researching more and I heard an interview with Lisa Welchel who strongly felt that if a parent was considering homeschooling their children, it was a desire put in them by God. 

AFRO: What measures did you take to make sure your children had a well-rounded education?

KW: We first found out what Maryland’s law required. Then, we looked to see what other homeschoolers were doing. We knew we wanted our children to have an education from a biblical worldview which is what helped us to choose curriculum. We talked with other seasoned homeschoolers and we trusted Holy Spirit. 

AFRO:  Describe some of the challenges you faced early on?

KW:  Money. When we decided that homeschooling was the way we were going, I resigned from my job and we immediately became a family of five on an income of one. It was tough, but our conviction to homeschool stood and we trusted God all the way. I tell our children to this day: they may not have grown up with a lot of the goods (things money can buy), but they had the greats (things money can’t buy).

AFRO:  What qualities make for a good homeschool teacher? 

KW: Loving your children and wanting God’s best for them. As parents, we come to the table with so many thoughts and ideas for our children. We really have to hear from God about the path each child has been designed to take and do everything in our power to lead them to their God destination. 

AFRO:  What is your advice to parents who are hesitant or unsure about homeschooling?

KW: You are your child’s first and most important teacher. You care about them more than anyone else and you have their best interest at heart. Like I heard Lisa Welchel say: if you’re thinking about homeschooling, God put that desire in you. Investigate it. Research it. Talk to other homeschoolers and get agreement with your spouse, if you’re married. You can learn “hard“ academic subjects alongside your child or partner with other like-minded homeschooling families to learn. But no one can nurture your child like you will. I’d tell everyone to trust the Lord to guide you every step of the way. 

AFRO:  What resources would you recommend to encourage parents on this journey?

KW: The Homeschool Legal Defense Association is an excellent resource. Their website gives you access to your state’s law. Other homeschooling families or homeschool co-ops in your city, county or state would be excellent resources too.

The rise of homeschooling is not a surprise. At home, there is no concern for children wearing masks, or contracting COVID-19 from a fellow student or teacher. Parents customize curriculums to meet their children’s specific needs and interests. Kids are able to learn at their own pace unlike traditional school and express themselves freely without repercussions or bullying. And, spending the entire day in a classroom is an unnecessary overload when two to three hours of instruction will suffice.

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