This is a guest post by Antonio Buehler. He works with homeschoolers to identify individual learning styles so parents can better tailor their homeschooling approach to their children’s capabilities and needs. He also helps students who want to gain admission to a highly competitive college or university. Buehler’s blog is http://buehlereducation.com/

Homeschooling is by far the best alternative for most black children. There are problems in public school for all children, but the institutional racism of traditional schools means that black children have the most to gain from homeschooling.

Today 15% of homeschoolers are minorities, but that percentage should escalate rapidly as parents begin to realize the benefits of homeschooling compared to the tremendous harm of public schooling. Here’s why:

1. Politicians sacrifice the black community over and over again.
The black community is worse off than most other racial groups in America in a variety of sobering ways – from HIV rates to incarceration rates to poverty rates. This situation is driven directly and indirectly by flawed or deliberately destructive government policies that disproportionately harm Black America. For example, the drug war, our foreign policy, minimum wage, public housing and gun control all have a deleterious effect on the liberty, prosperity and security of those in the black community. It’s hard to put a finger on which government policy is the most destructive to the black community, but if I had to choose just one it would be the public education system.

2. Public schools are still segregated.
Non-white students are disproportionately located in the worst schools in the country. There are 1,700 high schools (out of 27,000) that produce over 50% of the total dropouts in the nation. More than one third all black students attend these schools, which helps explain why the graduation rate for black students is only 51%. Kids who attend these 1,7000 schools are more likely to find themselves in economic poverty and/or prison than graduating from college.

3. Public schools expect less from black students.
A culture of low expectations surrounds black students on a daily basis. Whether or not they are made aware of the tremendous achievement gaps between blacks and whites, they tend to recognize that the idealized American vision of being able to achieve whatever they put their minds to does not apply to them. Instead they learn that the academic struggles they may face are merely a symptom of their stupidity and that ANY transgressions are punished harshly in a criminalized classroom. While they are reminded that society has been extremely unkind to the black community, at the same time they are reminded that they must know their place in society, and that demanding equal treatment is disruptive, uncouth and unacceptable.

4. Private schools are not a solution.
Private schooling is a much better option for black students, however, stereotypes and biases exist in private schools as well. Moreover, if a family is socioeconomically depressed they will go to private school through a scholarship or voucher program, and throwing a poor kid into a rich school often has its own problems.

5. Homeschooling solves a huge number of educational problems for black kids.
Homeschooling allows black children to develop in a manner which emphasizes their worth as individuals and not their lack of worth as members of an unfavored racial group. When they learn to read they can do so in a way that is relevant to them, and not in a way that is prescribed by bureaucrats and special interest lobbyists. When they learn math they don’t have to deal with a teacher who assumes the least of them. When they study history, black children can learn about all the inspirational men and women who aren’t prioritized in the Euro-centric curriculum of public schools. Instead of being told how stupid they are or how little is expected of them, they can be free to develop their unique talents to the best of their abilities.

And it is through developing those unique talents, in conjunction with the real education that homeschooling provides that black children will be able to overcome many of the hurdles that government has placed in their way.

23 replies
  1. Kristina
    Kristina says:

    I don’t think this is the answer.

    Unless I’m not understanding something. Who will homeschool children in poverty? Their parents? Most of which have a high school education?

    Doesn’t it come down to educating parents? I’m 23. My already named, future children will be half black, half white. Whatever disadvantages they experience in school, would be supplemented at home. Isn’t the home where we instill confidence? Nurture a desire for learning?

    I know you don’t mean it this way but it sounds like you’re trying to get rid of us ,Mr. Buehler.

    I believe this social injustice would be better
    solved by empowering low income parents. “You’re worth it. Your children are worth it. Education is as important as food and water.”

    Wouldn’t you agree that all parents should home schoolin a metaphorical sense.

  2. Andre Cobb
    Andre Cobb says:

    I understand some of these arguments, but home schooling doesn’t seem to be a particularly well-thought out answer. First of all, when I think of the problems associated with the lack of a good education, I think of poverty. So if a poor black kid needs a good education, and the answer is home schooling, who’s going to be that child’s teacher? The parents of poor kids are typically undereducated themselves, many of whom are dropouts.

    Also, when he talks about the problems associated with sending them to private school, he’s right is saying that there are downsides to sending a poor kid to a school with kids that are economically more advantaged. But isn’t that going to follow the kid where ever he or she goes anyway? Why not deal with it in school, which is where most of us have to learn how to deal with the world in ways we can’t begin to imagine at home? So while I think the author has a preference for homeschooling for a few good reasons, this shouldn’t be one of them.

    • Kimberly
      Kimberly says:

      If you’re implying that a homeschooling family must be rich, I haven’t met one yet. I haven’t met one even close to it. People make sacrifices for what they want. Which may mean moving to an extremely cheap area, forgoing luxuries (yes,even cars) and getting creative with income generation.
      Most people aren’t willing to do this because they like their stuff.
      I think the issue of black people homeschooling is more of cultural influence than poverty.
      Black people have always had it ingrained in them that they were dumb and basically the last 200 years have been efforts to dispel that myth. So the knee jerk reaction is to conform in order to meet the image of what an educated person is supposed to look like.
      Whites have never really had that ingrained in them so they don’t feel a need to conform as much.
      Homeschooling really is the only answer for blacks because they will most likely excel farther than their institutionalized counterparts.
      It is also because of the fact that failure isn’t looked upon the same way for blacks and whites. So, blacks don’t really have the option of mediocrity.

  3. Karen
    Karen says:

    This is old news. Homeschooling is superior when it’s done well. Black children are peculiarly vulnerable to flaws in the American educational system. Combine those two facts, which everyone knows, and homeschooling looks great… except who is going to do it and how are they going to be adequately supported and compensated? Most black children are being raised by single mothers. You can’t take away institutional schooling from those women without a functioning support system to replace it. Your services, for which you are paid, are not that support system.

    The real dirty secret of American education is that getting your American child a good education requires two things: 1) a privileged, educated mother who is 2) willing and able, because of her privilege, to go to absurd levels of selfsacrifice. People don’t recognize this because the selfsacrifice of a homeschooling mother of 8 in rural America is going to look a lot different from the selfsacrifice of a professional mother of 1 in a city from a part-time employed mother of 3 in a suburb. But from the perspective of the adult woman, not the children, not her husband, and not outsiders who have neither obligations nor rights in the situation, the similarities come down to this: we give our lives as free adults up to equip our children for adult life, and get no compensation from society, for love. But we can do, barely, this because we are or were married, not because our love for our children is better or something. We can barely afford your services, Antonio. Don’t try to sell them to people who can’t afford them at all.

    • Cathy
      Cathy says:

      Wow Karen, this is amazing! It just blew my head off when I read this because it is so true, and written so succinctly and to the point.
      But it also applies to mums who don’t homeschool (like me) and who want their kids to do well in ‘traditional’ schooling.
      “The real dirty secret of American education is that getting your American child a good education requires two things: 1) a privileged, educated mother who is 2) willing and able, because of her privilege, to go to absurd levels of selfsacrifice.”
      Yes, I am a (somewhat) privileged, (highly) educated mother. But I don’t homeschool (here in Australia, people don’t, really, unless they live in the country. Besides, I’m not prepared to make that much of a sacrifice.)
      But, as the oldest of my three daughters turns 8, I am realising that it is my sole efforts that will make the difference. Dad’s not home in time to help with homework, or at school to be with the teacher every day. (Although he does work 4 days and do the school run on the 5th so he’s more involved than many.)
      If I want my child to excel, and have all the choices open to her as a result of that, I am going to have to put in the hard grind day after day supervising homework and helping set up organised systems of support.
      It doesn’t just magically ‘happen’.
      To mums who don’t have the advantages I have, it would be an impossible task.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      I agree. Karen’s comment blew me away. It’s totally true. I am surprised I have not heard this said out loud more often. I am trying to figure out if this is a controversial thing to say, or if most moms agree.

      Penelope

      • Karen
        Karen says:

        I think it’s nearly unsayable because it reveals that the feminist revolution was really just about giving women power as long as we act like men. We still don’t get power as women.

        • emily
          emily says:

          What if we’re just experiencing a feminist “dip,” in Seth Godin’s words. Just like taking a big leap and starting a new career necessitates a few years of being broke and frustrated, women gaining rights takes a generation of having to work double before truly gaining freedom. Change takes a long time, if you believe in the possibility of progress at all (and after seeing Tino Sehgal’s show “Progress” at the Guggenheim a few years back i’m not sure i do).

          • KateNonymous
            KateNonymous says:

            If everyone homeschools, then we have even more unemployed teachers (mostly women), and we’re asking women (since homeschooling is most often done by mothers) to take on that job for free, which is likely to require them to quit whatever other job they have.

            I think one could make a reasonable argument that pressure to homeschool is based on sexism, and leads to increased female unemployment.

            Note: That does not mean I believe homeschooling is bad across the board, or that the act itself is sexist. I’m speaking of the pressure to do so.

            Penelope, how do you choose which sweeping generalization to make?

      • Cathy
        Cathy says:

        I suggest it is both controversial AND most mums would agree.
        This applies to those looking from the top and the bottom of the privilege pyramid.

  4. Lorraine
    Lorraine says:

    Mr. Buehler makes a powerful case. But as has been alluded by other commenters, African American kids are as unlikely to get a quality home school education as they are to get quality public school education.

    Karen is right on the money re: privileged mothers being “the real dirty secret of American education”

    Behind most elite US college or university graduates you’ll find a self-sacrificing, educationally privileged mother. These talented, ambitious women know how to “work the system” to get the most out of it for their children–and the women give up their prime earning years to do so.

    For a cogent, qualitative and quantitative look at mothers’ child-rearing sacrifices, take a look at Ann Crittenden’s excellent The Price of Motherhood

    Here’s Crittenden on “The Mommy Tax”:”…if a college-educated woman has one child, she will lose about a million dollars in lifetime earnings…People do not think about this. When they think about what a child costs, they think about diapers, school tuition. The biggest single cost is the loss of income to the parent who takes his or her time to be with the child.”

  5. leftbrainfemale
    leftbrainfemale says:

    But truthfully, there are those who don’t fit the “educationally privileged mother” mold. I know, because I am one of those moms. I home educated my daughters for eight years(thankfully I do have a husband who does work – but we have lived for years on the scraping the bottom-of-the-barrel lower income level) despite the fact that I do not hold a college degree. I had the benefit of loving parents who taught me to educate myself, and I had a few years of working as a secretary to my credit – but that’s about it. At least in our state, a degree was not required, and somehow, I now have teen daughters who either meet or exceed expectations in their public school classes. So never assume it’s impossible – with a little ingenuity and a genuine love of learning, most people can do more than they think they can! And just because I did end up putting them in public school does not mean I’ve hung up my “credentials”. I’m still here on the frontlines, teaching (or reteaching if necessary) wherever I see a lack.

    • Karen
      Karen says:

      Sure, it’s not impossible, and I wouldn’t dissuade an individual from doing it. In fact, in my own life, I encourage people to do it – but that’s because the more people I have personal reciprocal relationships with who are homeschooling, the better it is *for me*.

      It’s not a systemic solution though. You were lucky. Even having a husband, you were lucky. What would have happened to you if you got really sick?

    • argh
      argh says:

      Support is privilege. We live in a society where support is privilege. Not credentials, but support.

      Your privileges were two parents who raised your together, almost certainly within wedlock. And you are yourself raising children within wedlock.

      Ms. Trunk could have so easily found some black homeschooling women to talk about this issue.
      http://nfahm.blogspot.com/2005/12/on-being-black-and-homeschooling.html

      topical link, not hard to find!

      Instead we get yet another not-black, not-female person telling black women about another massive undertaking they need to busy themselves with without support, infrastructure or community impetus. Oh, I suppose they could pay this expensive consultant guy who wrote the screed chastising them.

      I don’t even know that this sort of thing is profitable to discuss since no black women and no black homeschooling women are even part of the conversation. This is not the first time I’ve seen this kind of blog post or news article. And they never can seem to find those black homeschoolers, just not-black men who can pontificate about What the American Negro Oughta Be Doing.

      • Penelope Trunk
        Penelope Trunk says:

        I agree that support is a privilege. I hadn’t thought of that before, but I think it’s true.

        A couple of other things:

        First, the guy who wrote this is black. That’s why I had it as a guest post and not written by me.

        Second, the brunt of this conversation has not been about black kids and what black moms should do. The conversation in the comments has been about how white moms feel that homeschooling is something only very few, very lucky women could pull off.

        Penelope

        • Karen
          Karen says:

          He’s black, and he was raised by a single mother in an Eastern Pennsylvania mining town? And I’m looking at his picture… come on. I think there are some fairy stories going on here.

  6. Karen B. (black mom)
    Karen B. (black mom) says:

    Black mother chiming in here: Black children — the successful ones — have to learn to navigate various social/racial situations they discover in community settings, i.e. the physical school. Just as P. Trunk always says work is about a lot more than skill sets, school is about a lot more than book learning. There are critical emotional/social situations that children learn in a school and not in a home setting. The private schools are expensive here but they also put my child in a community of “wealthy white” children. I have concerns about that. The public school in my area is mostly black and the talk is that there are a lot of school fights on campus. My fear with homeschooling is that my child will grow up an outsider to the modern black success experience of navigating race.

  7. Karen B. (black mom)
    Karen B. (black mom) says:

    I hate to agree but while he may have some African heritage, he certainly did not have a typical black experience based on his looks.

  8. Muchacha
    Muchacha says:

    Hi, black home schooled kid chiming in here.

    1) Homeschooling IS hard, for all parents and economic classes involved. I personally went to a private school before transferring to “independent study” in middle school. I experienced no racism from the teachers, although I did occasionally become the butt of racial stereotypes.

    2) Both of my parents are college-educated and we are not struggling economically any more than the next middle-class family, so home schooling is a little bit easier for us. However, it is incredibly ignorant to assume that all/most black kids and families are impoverished, or will end up in jail. My cousin (also black) didn’t end up in a gang OR a jail, and he was in a public school. He is now in the air force, and we’re all very proud of him.

    Another cousin of mine (black) is still in the same public school, and in all AP/college prep classes. She’s well on her way to being valedictorian of her mostly Caucasian/Asian class.

    So really, homeschooling is a huge decision, regardless of your race. It can prove to be beneficial or detrimental, regardless of your race. I won’t ignorantly state that race means NOTHING, because it still means something in this world, but it certainly means a helluva lot less than it did 50 years ago.

  9. Karen B. (black mom)
    Karen B. (black mom) says:

    Muchacha — Were you homeschooled for high school? Tell me about your social life. No judgment here, just curious. Did you date? Who were your friends? Did you have enough black friends? Did you have enough friends of a diverse racial groups? Again, simply asking questions.

  10. Scott
    Scott says:

    Very good column. I have seen the statistics how both black and white homeschooled kids score in the 80th percentile on average compared to public school student’s average 50th percentile, in which blacks do much worse than whites.

    We homeschool, live on a farm, and run an internet software business. I am american indian. At homeschool, my children are able to study our tribe’s native language and our people’s history. We are able to study math properly, and software development, go on trips to Washington DC and other places any time we feel like it. None of this would be possible in the horrid prison camps that are called public schools.

  11. Lisa P
    Lisa P says:

    This is one of my favorite homeschooling posts on Penelope’s blog. One of the prevailing lies about public school is that it is better for disadvantaged children. Furthermore, support comes from relationships and institutions not from money. Maybe the comments implying that a poor single mother can’t afford support are from people who have never met anyone below a certain income level, I don’t know.

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