Words by: KayCee Hendrix
When you’re a Black family at the beginning of your homeschool journey, you’re usually lost and looking for a village. This is where Facebook homeschool groups come in. It is so easy to type ‘homeschool’ in the search bar and get a list of 50-11 groups to join. When you’re new to homeschooling and need all the help that you can get, what are you going to do? You’re going to join the group with 30,000+ members. AWESOME!
Here’s the kicker: Only about 2,500 of those members are Black, and there’s a good chance that another 2,500 identify as non-white. When you start reading posts and doing your research on whatever curriculum everyone is currently raving about, your Black-self unknowingly lights a match by creating your first post that goes something like this: “I really like the looks of XYZ, but the book list isn’t very diverse. How easy is it to swap things out?” It sounds like an innocent enough question, right?
In reality, it is the equivalent of setting a pile of dry leaves on fire in the forest on a windy day. The commenters say, “Stop bringing race into everything! These books are classics! That’s just how things were back then! Maybe you should use something else, then?”
While you defend yourself, sometimes, a handful of allies in the group will try to dampen the noise with facts. However, what usually happens is that your defense falls on deaf ears, an argument ensues, the facts are ignored, and — more often than not — you’re removed and banned from the group. Wait. What? How’d you get banned?! You DM an Admin who blandly replies: “The group’s rules state that we don’t discuss politics here”. Sigh.
I wish I could say in-person co-ops were better, but they’re not. It’s the same story, only with the stinging pain of getting to feel the hurt in real-time with the added bonus of watching white children side-eyeing your child’s brown skin, excluding them from groups, and having the local mom-clique act like they’re doing you a favor by letting you chit chat from a distance.
Repeat for every group, times infinity. Sigh again.
The general rule for homeschooling groups of all types seems to be that if you are not a straight, white, Christian, nuclear family… proceed with caution. This kind of experience has made Black homeschoolers feel as if we need our own Green Book, a guide to staying safe in homeschool groups. We’ve carved out our little corners of the community, created our own curricula, started our own online groups and local co-ops, and launching podcasts and YouTube channels. We are out here doing our best to raise kids that won’t have to recover from their childhoods. Some may say that doing this is creating more division. I call foul.
I’ve watched other homeschool moms ask for history resources that “aren’t too liberal” because they paint the ‘Founding Fathers’ in a bad light. I’ve been told that my son will grow up to be “like those thugs that get what they deserve when they don’t listen to authority” because I didn’t spank him. I’ve watched perfectly calm disagreements and openness to educate on the confederacy turn into “tHe IrIsH wErE sLaVeS tOo.” Recently, I’ve watched at least three homeschool groups fall into fiery balls of racist wreckage after George Floyd was murdered. The drama always seemed to be started by someone with a “Blue Lives” police flag as their profile picture — and if they’re really special, their cover photo quotes the bible, or…MLK. Sigh, yet again.
I have DM’d my fair share of Black homeschooling parents after it all goes down to reassure them that I see them. That we can’t show everyone the light, and that, hey, if you got banned and still need support, here are some Black and African-centered online groups that you can join instead. Sometimes I feel like I have to be a version of Harriet Tubman for Black homeschoolers.“Come with me and let me lead you to freedom. Tell a friend. We’re in this together.”
Black homeschoolers (and Black people in general) are tired, y’all. When we vent on social media, don’t show up to local homeschool events, or don’t respond to the endless threads of requests for resources on diversity, know that it’s because we’ve tried this before. We tried including ourselves. We tried to suggest books to read. We tried to educate, have our voices heard, and to scroll past the microaggressions. Enough is enough.
We continue to need our own homeschool groups; the safe spaces that smell of cocoa butter and collard greens, where history books about liberation are the norm. There, we are reminded of the glory of belonging to the first civilizations and of the promises of greatness inherited from the strength of our ancestors that pave the way for our children. They are where we feel supported, heard, and where we don’t need to walk on eggshells to ask for resources that edify our place in history. They provide what we seek in the larger, more diverse groups: a way to homeschool freely without having to justify our questions, comments, tone, or existence. Yet, in 2020, it’s still not always safe to be Black in homeschool groups, so having our own groups won’t be changing anytime soon.
KayCee Hendrix is the homeschooling mom of three and the writer behind the lifestyle website, Abundant Freedom Homeschooling.
When she’s not ordering far too many books to read in a year, dealing with never-ending piles of laundry, or retwisting someone’s locs, she can usually be found sipping twice reheated coffee over a board game or the Sudoku app on her phone. Follow her homeschooling adventures on Instagram & buy her a coffee here.