When public health concerns about the pandemic hit Georgia in early March, many parents temporarily transitioned their children to various learning-at-home modalities.
Cheryl Fields-Smith, an associate professor in the Mary Frances Early College of Education’s department of educational theory and practice, said the number of children being homeschooled has skyrocketed in the past decade. In addition, she’s seen a dramatic increase in homeschooling inquiries due to COVID-19. Because of these increases, Fields-Smith co-founded Black Family Homeschool Educators and Scholars. The organization is a research and education group committed to documenting the lived experiences of Black homeschooling families.
“We would like to become the space that Black families who homeschool can access to learn more about the practice of homeschooling Black children,” she said.
The group plans to host a teach-in, which will enable homeschool educators and scholars to interact and share information about best practices with Black homeschooling families. While the teach-in will focus on Blackness, the event is open to all and will take place July 20-24. To register for the teach-in, visit the Black Family Homeschool Educators and Scholars’ website.
“There are numerous studies about the experiences of homeschooling families,” said Fields-Smith, who has researched Black homeschooling families for more than 15 years. “But the literature is slowly growing pertaining to Black homeschooling families in particular. The voices of Black homeschooling families and scholars have yet to be heard in substantive ways.”
More African-American families, particularly in the South, are choosing to homeschool their children because of the lack of Black history in public school curricula, as well as the disproportionate disciplining of Black students. Although homeschooling has the reputation of being a predominantly white enterprise, new statistics suggest that African American and Latino families make up a rapidly growing number of homeschoolers.
Initially, this trend surprised Fields-Smith given the long African American history of fighting for quality public education. "But when you dig, you see that historically, we've always been self-taught," she said. "When we were denied resources for school, we did it ourselves. I see this as a new iteration of the long history of African Americans fighting for education."
“Parents feel that their children aren’t being challenged,” she said. “Before school systems label Black children as trouble makers or special needs, many parents decide to educate children themselves. Also, many Black children don’t have access to gifted education and are overlooked, even when performing well.”
Fields-Smith recently published a book based on her research of single Black mothers who homeschool titled “Exploring Single Mothers’ Resistance Through Homeschooling” and is the co-editor of the forthcoming book titled “Homeschooling Black Children in the United States: An examination of homeschooling in practice, theory and popular culture.”
Related links: Department of Educational Theory and Practice