Blacks turn to home-schooling
THE WASHINGTON TIMES
An increasing number of black families nationwide are choosing to
home-school their children as they become fed up with what they call
the country's "inadequate" public school system.
Blacks now make up nearly 5 percent of the estimated 1.7 million
children who were home-schooled last year, according to estimates
by the National Home Educators Research Institute in Oregon, a non-profit
organization devoted to research on home-based education.
That's about 85,000 black children — almost 10 times as many the federal
government estimated in 1999, when blacks made up only 1 percent,
or 8,500, of the estimated 850,000 home-schooled children.
"It's growing, and it's happening every day, in every county,
in every state," said Joyce Burges, co-founder of the Louisiana-based
National Black Home Educators Resource Association. Mrs. Burges has
collected the names of about 500 black families from around the country
in the group's database since she and her husband, Eric, founded the
association in 2000.
"We're finding that there are more and more African-American
home-schoolers out there every day," said Mrs. Burges, who has
home-schooled her five children for the past 14 years.
Pockets of black home-schooling families are popping up in Virginia,
Maryland, the District, Georgia, Louisiana, California, New Jersey
The increase has been most evident in Prince George's County and Atlanta,
Ga., where home-schooling advocates say they have been seeing in recent
years more black families attending home-schooling workshops and conventions
or establishing home-schooling support groups in their communities.
Black children also are dominating the ranks of local gym classes,
religious Scouting troops for home-schooled children, Christian support
groups and curriculum-supervision programs for their parents — another
sign home-schooling advocates say that more black families are joining
"The number of support groups and programs available for home-schoolers
is limitless," said Anita Gibson, an administrator at the Landover-based
SHABACH Homeschool Academy, which oversees black home-schooling families
"We've seen an increase in general, and we can say that the numbers
are exploding," Ms. Gibson said, adding her academy membership
has grown from seven to 17 families since it was founded seven years
The reasons black parents provide for giving up full-time jobs to
home-school their children varies from family to family.
Most of them said public and private schools in their neighborhoods
are failing to provide their children with strong moral values, a
quality education or a history of black culture and identity. Large
class sizes and lack of one-on-one instruction also are to blame.
"People are just getting disappointed with public schools,"
said Gilbert Wilkerson, a home-schooling father of four children and
founder of the Virginia-based Network of Black Homeschoolers, which
has about 300 members nationwide. "We're finding that the public
schools today are not doing enough to make black children competitive."
Karla McKinney, an Atlanta mother who home-schools her two daughters,
said the city's public schools were not living up to her standards.
Black families make up about 10 percent of the nearly 29,000 home-schooled
students in Georgia, advocates said.
"Kids are falling through the cracks in our public schools here,
and the children are not being provided the same quality of education
as their counterparts in other neighborhoods," said Mrs. McKinney,
who founded the Village Lights Homeschool Association, which is based
in south metropolitan Atlanta.
"So parents are getting savvy, and they're taking matters into
their own hands," she said.
Wendy Ward, who lives in Northeast in the District, said she turned
to home schooling so her three children could build family relationships
and get the moral grounding she believes public schools don't provide.
"It's about educating the whole child and preparing them for
life in general," Mrs. Ward said. "Home schooling is not
a foreign concept anymore. It's catching on, and more and more people
are choosing to do it. It's all about building family relationships,
something you wouldn't be able to do if your children were at school."
Another factor that may be fueling home schooling's popularity is
that it is no longer considered as a faith-based movement.
"Now it's about parents spending quality time with their children
and giving them the best opportunity for a quality education,"
said Kelly Painter, director of academic services with the Calvert
School Education Services, a Baltimore-based home-schooling curriculum
The movement may not compete with or eliminate public schools, "but
it will certainly cause the bar to raise," Ms. Painter said.
"It lets everyone know that there are options out there, and
that benefits everyone."