Around 3.1 million students in America were homeschooled between 2021-2022 according to the National Home Education Research Institute. This is a significant increase from around 2.5 million students in the spring of 2019.
While the pandemic exacerbated the number of families taking on this method of educating their children over the past few years, many Black parents are intentionally opting to remove their kids from the mainstream school system. Some reasons include discrimination within the system and a desire to be in control of the history their children are taught. In addition, several studies show that kids who are homeschooled tend to outperform public school learners in terms of standardized achievement tests.
For those who choose to go this route, now that back-to-school season is here, what does it look like for homeschooling parents who aren’t following the standard curriculum?
Yetunde Shorters, an entrepreneur who focuses on purposeful leadership and personal branding for women, homeschools her five and a half year old twin girls. She decided to do so because she wanted to give them a “robust world view and prepare them for 2044 and beyond.” For Shorters, “back to school” isn’t really a thing. Her daughters don’t get a six-week summer break as she believes in continuous learning.
“We do not follow traditional summer breaks because the idea that you take a break from learning feels and sounds absurd to me,” she says. “Growing up in Nigeria, even after the school year, almost everyone went to something we called ‘Lesson’ during the summer break. We probably had one week off before school kicks off again, and one week off after. We were always learning. It is important to create an environment that fosters learning, rather than school being something to get away from or get a break from.”
That said, they do switch gears and have seasons where they focus their learning on new areas of exploration.
“We usually ask our girls what they are interested in learning about in a new season and we go in on that topic,” Shorters says. Currently, one of her twins is gravitating towards biology while the other wants to learn more about history.
The idea that homeschoolers don’t necessarily have summer breaks isn’t surprising considering it’s a self-directed type of learning. This means you can choose when, where, and how your kids learn and have the freedom to create your own rules. That said, homeschooling parents can choose to have a summer break if they want to or even have breaks throughout the year that align with their schedule as a family.
Like Shorters, Arielle Lewis, a stay-at-home mom to four children and owner of Naturally Beautiful Family, doesn’t have summer breaks for her kids. They have been homeschooled all of their lives so that she can instill values around freedom, purpose, and creativity as well as have control over their curriculum.
“We do not follow or mimic anything the school system does, which is kind of our point for homeschooling,” she says.
Instead, their family focuses on consistency and continues their normal routine while traditional schoolers are immersed in the hustle and bustle of the back-to-school season. This can be beneficial considering the ongoing conversations around summer learning loss or summer slide–the idea that taking a break from learning during the summer leads to declines in academic achievement.
Although Lewis doesn’t follow a summer break, and in turn, doesn’t have the traditional routine of most parents when classes are set to begin, she does prepare an outline and sets goals for the year in terms of what she wants her kids to achieve.
“I do not adhere to it strictly because I like a free flow learning environment,” she says. “And the best feeling is seeing how they always surpass my expectations without even trying. Learning and opportunities for learning come so natural. I love to see how advanced our children are while spending more time in life at the same time.”
One thing homeschooling parents (and those considering homeschooling) may consider doing as the summer concludes is updating their curriculum or seeking out new learning opportunities for their kids. Tapping into new resources, learning materials, and expanding your community could be ways to do this.
“The great thing is there are endless resources for homeschooling families to acquire supplies, learning materials, and free or extremely cheap programs, classes and memberships,” says Lewis.
Facebook groups dedicated to homeschooling and homeschool co-cops–when families collaborate to achieve shared goals–can be helpful if you need support and ideas. National Black Home Educators also has an abundance of resources.