Homeschooling has traditionally been for white families who keep their kids home for religious or spiritual reasons.
But that’s changing — about a third of home-schooled students now are minorities and their numbers are rising. But it’s not necessarily for religious reasons; many parents choose to home school to keep their children safe.
Uzuri Asad home-schools her four children ranging in age from four to 12 years old. Class begins every morning with meditation.
“If you’re educating in a diverse environment then you need to present educational materials that are diverse as well.”
A lot of afternoons they end up at the Indianapolis Public Library, which has a center dedicated to black literature and culture.
“As a country in general – there’s a cultural bias, of course, because the story tellers are going to make themselves look the best,” Uzuri says. “If you’re educating in a diverse environment then you need to present educational materials that are diverse as well.”
Before they were even married, Uzuri and her husband Bashiri decided they would home school their children.
“And the best way that I think of doing it is taking my perspective and educating myself on those particular things and then passing that onto my children without having to worry about reeducating them after they’ve gotten indoctrinated in one particular system, only to have to have them figure everything else out all over again like I had to do,” Uzuri says.
Black parents are one of the fastest growing demographics who are opting to home school their kids.
Joyce Burges is the CEO and co-founder of the National Black Home Educators. She says home schooling has traditionally been for white families who keep their kids home for religious or spiritual reasons, but that’s changing.
“Home-schooling is the black ship movement of education in this country today, especially because of African American boys being labeled,” Burges says.
She’s home schooled her five children and now helps home school other kids around her home state of Louisiana. She says there are a variety of reasons why African American families choose to home school, but the most common one is parents fear public school will taint their children.
“The way that the school systems are these days, you know that’s not a level playing field all the time.”
“Tainted meaning they don’t want them to be bullied and now-a-days parents are even more concerned about safety,” Burges says. “If I send my child to this school is my child going to come home today? And so parents say, ‘You know what Joyce? I just don’t want my child to be in a system that’s going to make them feel that they’re not somebody.'”
That’s one of Uzuri’s fears for her children.
“I can’t possibly put her in a school environment and tell them that she wants to do something and they tell her no because that baby will get sent home a whole lot. She will get in arguments with her teachers because she’s not easily swayed,” Uzuri says.
Uzuri says many factors played into their final decision to homeschool their children including the punishment used in school against African Americans.
Studies show black students are less likely to be recommended for gifted and advanced classes, and multiple studies show that African American children – especially boys – are disproportionately likely to be suspended or arrested.
“The way that the school systems are these days, you know that’s not a level playing field all the time and there’s a lot of holes in the educational process that could be filled if they were correctly addressed,” Uzuri says. “There’s a certain way you have to address certain issues.”
But home-schooling comes with a price. Uzuri earns some money working side jobs, but the family largely has to make ends meet on what Bashiri makes. Plus they have to cover all of their kid’s schooling expenses out of pocket.
“If I had to work a full time job so that things could be different for our family for whatever reason, I would put them in school but it would take me a long time to find one,” Uzuri says. “And I would be killing myself to get them out.”
She says in her experience, other forms of schooling force children to bend into a mold that is not natural in order to make other people comfortable. Uzuri says it’s a gamble she’s not willing to take.
“I cannot put them in an environment where they’re treated unfairly for no reason. And that goes from educational to spiritual, personal, physical, emotional. None of that will be suppressed. I won’t allow it,” Uzuri says.
It’s easy to home school in Indiana, but critics say it may be too easy. State law exempts home-schooled students from the curriculum and program requirements of traditional public schools.
This means home-school families aren’t require to regularly report attendance or curriculum to the state. If prompted, parents are required to provide proof of 180 days of instruction.