(FinalCall.com) – In 1991, when Paula Penn-Nabrit and her husband C. Madison Nabrit decided to home-school their three boys, they had no idea they would be pioneers in what is now the fastest growing method of educating Black children.
“We were struggling to do what we thought was best for our sons. We had them in a prestigious private school and were struggling to make the payments. When they were dismissed allegedly because our payments were late, we knew we had to do something else,” Ms. Penn-Nabrit recalled to The Final Call.
That something else led them to consider home schooling.
“I said to my husband that I think we can do this. We can’t do worse. We’re better educated than most of their teachers any way and what we can’t do, we’ll find the resources to do,” she continued.
With that determination and commitment, Evan, Charles and Damon were home-schooled. Their parents went from simply parenting to teaching their children. Graduate students from Ohio University taught the boys math and science.
A guide for home schooling resources
African American Home Schoolers Network
Provides information and educational resources on assistance in finding home school support groups, cultural activities in your area, a quarterly newsletter, annual directory, conferences, workshops, networking events, youth activities, educational materials and vendor discounts. Membership is free.
An Internet resource for Black home schoolers, with an Afrocentric approach to learning all the time.
Afrocentric Homeschoolers Association
A self-help, non-profit resource for home-based educating families (deschoolers, unschoolers, homeschoolers, etc.) who want to include Afrocentric material in their curricula.
National African-American Homeschoolers Alliance
Provides support, resources, networking and information to the national Black home schooling community.
National Black Home Educators Resource Association
A collection of a few of the most treasured resources that it believes will build the family.
National Black Home Educators
Promotes parent-directed education and home schooling by empowering parents through information, education and regional support networks.
Homeschool: A Path to Holistic Health
Offers information on Paula Penn-Nabrit’s book, “Morning by Morning: How We Home-Schooled Our African American Sons to the Ivy League,” and her interviews.
(If readers mention this Final Call article in their order, $5 will be deducted from the purchase price. If anyone orders four copies, she offers to throw in a 5th for free!)
A New Nation Homeschooling Network
Offers a way for Sisters with the same beliefs and values who home-school their children to come together to share concerns and resources, as well as provide support and encouragement for the ups and downs of home schooling in order to help mothers realize and utilize their control over their children’s lives.
“They didn’t like being home-schooled, but we assured them that we really loved them and prayed about this. We want you to feel like you can tell us if we’re not doing something right. And they did. The first thing they said was that they couldn’t be there with us all the time,” she explained.
The answer to that was a volunteer project at the Ohio Center for Science and Industry. That was the beginning of how the Nabrits home-schooled their boys to the Ivy League.
“The test of our success for the boys’ grandparents was whether or not they were accepted into the colleges of their choice,” she said, “and they were.”
Their journey is chronicled in her book, “Morning by Morning: How We Home-Schooled Our African American Sons to the Ivy League.”
One day at a time
Morning by morning, according to the National Home Education Research Institute, there are about two million home-schooled students in the United States and an estimated 1.9 million to 2.4 million children (in kindergarten to grade 12) were home-educated during 2005-2006. Home schooling is quickly growing in popularity among non-Whites, too. About 15 percent of home-school families are non-White/non-Hispanic.
“About 10 percent of home-schooled children are Black,” explained Jennifer James, president of the National African American Home Schoolers Alliance. “I’m seeing more and more Black parents interested in home schooling their children because public schools aren’t working.”
She added, “Parents see their child doing well until the fourth grade and then they’re barely interested in going to school. Home schooling is something they can do. We have 3,000 families in our network. We’re primarily online, but we are solely used as a tool for parents to find information on curriculum, textbooks and other resources.”
Indigo Muhammad is 15 and has been home-schooled by her mother since 2000.
“She couldn’t handle public school and she didn’t have to. I took her out and became her full-time teacher. Other parents in the neighborhood saw what I was doing and wanted me to teach their children, too,” said Sudan Muhammad, who has joined other mothers who home-school their children in Washington, D.C.
“We had our first conference call last month. We talked about what we were doing and shared tips and resources, so we can all become successful. My basement is set up as a classroom. Other Sisters come over and we exchange lessons,” she explained.
Better choices for children
Many parents are frustrated with the public school system and can’t afford a quality education at a private school. Sometimes parents whose children can go to private schools find that not to be the answer for their children either. According to the National Home Education Research Institute, most parents and youth decide to home-school for more than one reason. The most common reasons given for home schooling are the ability to (1) teach a particular set of values, beliefs and worldview; (2) accomplish more academically than in schools; (3) customize or individualize the curriculum and learning environment for each child; (4) enhance family relationships between children and parents, and among siblings; (5) provide guided and reasoned social interactions with youthful peers and adults; and (6) provide a safer environment for children and youth, because of physical violence, drugs and alcohol, psychological abuse, and improper and unhealthy sexuality.
“I chose home schooling by default,” revealed Ms. Penn-Nabrit. “I didn’t want to do it, but there was nothing else. My children didn’t want to do it, but there was nothing else. Some mothers dream about home schooling and see it as their calling. That wasn’t me. I just knew my sons needed something that the schools weren’t providing.”
For Joyce Burges, the choice was easy.
“When my son was in the ninth grade and had dropped two points below what his school considered an acceptable grade point average, they gave me two choices, both of which were unacceptable to me and included labeling my son for the rest of his life,” she insisted. “I took him out of that school and his brother and sister, too, who were in elementary school.”
They have since graduated and are currently attending college, while she is home-schooling an 11-year-old.
“If my children can do it, anyone’s children can do it,” she stressed. “Now, I tutor other children to have the same success as my children.”
There are two questions most parents want answers to when they are considering home schooling: “What curriculum to use?” and “What about socialization?”
“We created a network to call families forward to assist them with all of their questions,” explained Ms. Burges of the National Black Home Educators. “We advise and recommend curriculum, reading and phonics books, testing, ACT and SAT tests, as well. We connect veteran home-school moms willing to spend time with new home-school moms to share experiences. We host a yearly symposium in Baton Rouge, La., for home-school parents.”
There are numerous choices for parents looking at various curriculums to serve the educational needs of their children.
“There aren’t that many companies that cater to Black children. We supplement a home-school curriculum with Black history and other subjects. Some parents create their own curriculum, like we did,” explained Ms. James. “We were looking for information and found tons of stuff, but they didn’t speak to us an African American family.”
All of the home-school parents interviewed for this article recommend connecting with other home-school parents as soon as the decision to home-school is made. This can also help with the second concern of socialization.
“Many parents feel as if they only have the one option of public school because they don’t know that home schooling is an option. We help parents feel as if they have more than one option,” offered Ms. Burges, who started her company with her husband.
Degrees above the rest
All parents want academic excellence for their children. How do home-schooled children compare to those educated in a traditional school setting?
Research by the National Home Education Research Institute found the following:
Home-educated students typically score 15 to 30 percentile points above public school students on standardized academic achievement tests. Home-school students score above average on achievement tests regardless of their parents’ level of formal education or their family’s household income. Whether home-school parents were certified teachers is not related to their children’s academic achievement. The degree of state control and regulation of home schooling is not related to academic achievement. Home-educated students typically score above average on the SAT and ACT tests, which colleges consider for admissions. Colleges are increasing their active recruitment of home-schooled students.