April 20, 2024

Education For Live

Masters Of Education

Home-schooling becomes a solid movement among Black families | Local

8 min read

Ashley Jacobs moved to Columbia with her family in July 2020, right in the middle of the pandemic. At the time, her oldest child was going into kindergarten, and they had to make a decision about her education.

Originally, she was set to enroll in a traditional school, but the coronavirus interrupted that plan.

“Once we looked, we really weren’t comfortable with what seemed to sometimes be kind of a casual response to implementing and enforcing COVID-19,” Jacobs said.

Her daughter has never enrolled in public school, and now the Jacobses are homeschooling both of their girls with no intention to change.

“We were looking for a space that our girls could be celebrated for who they are, feel welcomed, feel included, feel comfortable, affirmed, accepted, you know, all those things,” Jacobs said.

Levi Scott, right, sighs as he works out long division

Levi Scott sighs as he works out long division in his head Nov. 1 at his home in Columbia. “Home-schooling takes learning your child’s learning style,” said his mother, Jolanda Scott, left. “So, for him, he prefers when I don’t instruct. He’s very, very independent.”

Since the start of the pandemic, the number of children of color who have switched to homeschooling has increased by 400{e4f787673fbda589a16c4acddca5ba6fa1cbf0bc0eb53f36e5f8309f6ee846cf} in Missouri, according to the Show Me Institute in St. Louis. A Census Bureau Pulse Survey found an uptick in home-schooling, from 5.4{e4f787673fbda589a16c4acddca5ba6fa1cbf0bc0eb53f36e5f8309f6ee846cf} in the spring of 2020 to 11.1{e4f787673fbda589a16c4acddca5ba6fa1cbf0bc0eb53f36e5f8309f6ee846cf} that fall.

In Missouri, Black families switching to homeschooling rose from 3.3{e4f787673fbda589a16c4acddca5ba6fa1cbf0bc0eb53f36e5f8309f6ee846cf} in the spring of 2020 to 16.1{e4f787673fbda589a16c4acddca5ba6fa1cbf0bc0eb53f36e5f8309f6ee846cf} last fall. Health and safety during the pandemic were significant factors, but the racial tension that erupted in the summer of 2020 contributed as well.

Because Jacobs was home-schooled in high school, it “was not this foreign idea,” she said. “It was on my radar as far as my own children.”

The Jacobs family

As a family of faith, the Jacobses used prayer to help decide that home-schooling was the best option they could offer their children at the time.

“Every year we pray about it again and explore our options again because we don’t feel like there’s one way and only one way every year,” Jacobs said.

Curriculum books and notebooks stand on a shelf in the Scott residence

A learning calendar and list of organism classifications hang on the wall in the dining room of the Scott house. “Over the last three years, we’ve gone through different curriculums and have settled on our current one because of his learning style,” Jolanda Scott said of her son Levi.

She said she likes the flexible pace of home-schooling and the personal attention she can give to her daughters, Alana, 7, and Aliya, 4.

“I love how I can literally see with my own eyes their progress and what areas they’re weak in,” she said. “We can speed up or slow down. I’m intentional about pulling learning moments throughout the day to support what they’re learning.”

A typical day starts early, with Ashley waking up Alana, 7, and Aliya, 4, between 7 and 7:30 a.m. and making time for prayer.

“They have literally a little schedule on the wall that has pictures for my daughter who can’t read yet that go through the routine of making their bed, brushing their teeth, getting dressed,” Jacobs said.

Class starts at 9:30 a.m. in a separate room that has been rearranged to look like a classroom. Aliya goes through her daily numbers, letters and shapes for daily reinforcement, while Alana takes piano virtually.

They learn the basics in math, language arts, break for PE and end the school day between 3 and 5 p.m.

“That’s the beauty of it,” Jacobs said. “If we want to kind of shift things around, we can.”

Levi Scott stands in the doorway of his kitchen

Levi Scott stands in the doorway of his kitchen as he waits for dinner Nov. 3 in Columbia. Currently in sixth grade and home-schooled, Levi is learning math and science at his grade level, while taking 12th grade English.

Social media gives her a tool to have her children mingle with other home-schoolers in spaces such as libraries, playgrounds and science centers. They are, in essence, field trips.

In becoming their teacher, Jacobs said she was challenged by the different ways her girls learn.

“One child is more of a kinesthetic learner, and the other one’s not, so figuring out what’s going to work best for my child was the first challenge,” she said.

Jacobs and her husband will continue to reevaluate the situation every year, but she encourages parents to consider the option.

“There’s a lot of support out there if somebody wants to do it,” she said.

The Scott family

Jolanda Scott is a mother of five, with three still in school. Two of her sons, Gideon and Levi, are twice-exceptional, meaning they are gifted students who also have a disability. Her daughter Naomi was not yet in elementary school during the pandemic.

The Scott family stands in the kitchen

The Scott family stands in the kitchen while Jolanda Scott makes chili and cornbread Nov. 3 in Columbia. Because the family is often busy with schooling, extracurriculars and other obligations, many of the household duties are shared.

All three were home-schooled during the height of COVID-19. Afterward, Gideon went back to school, Naomi started public school and Levi remained at home.

“(Gideon) thrives in the academic environment, but he wasn’t being challenged to pay attention to what he was doing,” said Scott, a former third-grade teacher at Blue Ridge Elementary School.

“I brought him home so he could learn how to do his work with precision and not just show that he understood the concept, and not just, kind of like, this was fun.”

Gideon has now entered the eighth grade and is able to pay attention and advocate for himself to make corrections, she said. He has also been placed in several advanced placement classes.

“It’s giving him the rigor that he needs, and he’s allowed to do more extracurriculars than we are when we’re home-schooled,” his mother said.

“He’s able to get the interaction that he’s been looking for; that’s really been the benefit of putting him back in public school as he was just missing people.”

A learning calendar and list of organism classifications

A learning calendar and list of organism classifications hang on the wall in the dining room of the Scott house Nov. 4 in Columbia.

Levi is in the sixth grade, learning math and science at his grade level and also managing 12th grade English. Scott decided staying home would be more productive for him.

“There are days that he is like super chill … and there’s days that he can cuss out a sailor. I’m, like, home’s a really great idea for you,” Scott said.

Both COVID-19 and racial tensions played a role in the family deciding to pull both Gideon and Levi from traditional school. Gideon wanted to return earlier, but Scott had reservations at the time.

“At that point I’m like, ‘There’s no way in hell that I’m putting my sweet-natured Black boy in a predominantly white school on the south side of town without being sure enough to know who he is,” she said.

Teaching at home during the pandemic was an opportunity to introduce the full scope of history to her children, she said, including the impact of women and other cultures.

“A big win was to really be able to give them value in who they are as Black men and not be afraid, but know how to be respected, to know when they’re being sold a line and how to speak up for what truth is,” she said.

Naomi Scott, left, and Gideon Scott, right, attend public school

Two of Levi’s siblings, Naomi Scott, left, and Gideon Scott, right, attend public school. Jolanda and her husband place emphasis on the children’s ability to choose their educational wants. 

Surrounding the boys with material that is inclusive was important to Scott. When they first came home because of the pandemic, she had them read a lot of books about different cultures.

They learned about Black men, Black women, Afghan women and Hispanic women, as well as Asian cultures.

“A lot of women, she said, because they’re going to see the value of men everywhere.”

At the same time, the George Floyd protests were spreading across the country.

“(Levi) had made some comment that if he got pulled over, there’s a chance that he’s going to get killed anyway,” Scott said.

She quickly went to Facebook in search of friends married to police officers who could talk to her son.

Levi Scott watches a gaming YouTube video

Levi Scott watches a gaming YouTube video on his phone after dinner Nov. 3. Levi typically spends his downtime either watching YouTube videos, anime or chatting with online friends on Discord.

“Our friend comes over, white man, and sits down at the table with my then 10-year-old.” she said. “They have like an hour and a half conversation where my kid is able to ask somebody of another culture, why are Black men getting killed in the streets?”

During this talk, Levi discovered that the officer served in Iraq. Levi had just read “The Breadwinner,” about an Afghan girl who secretly earns money to buy food for her family. He was able to ask the former soldier about the Taliban.

“Those are big-deal moments that we have,” Scott said. “Ask your questions, and let’s go find a person that’s lived it.”

As a certified teacher, she has found that the only difference between traditional schooling and home-schooling is the learning style.

“It’s so much based on the kids’ personalities. And so because I know all three of them are going to be able to thrive in the environments they’re in educationally, they’ll get what they need,” Scott said.

Scott works at Christian Fellowship, a multiethnic and multicultural church. Her family also attends worship there, which she believes is important for her children.

“You’re going to learn that other people’s experiences are valid and your experiences are not the only ones that matter in the room,” she said.

A family portrait magnet

A family portrait magnet next to a DIY magnet that reads “Jesus is God’s best gift!” When Jolanda Scott began home-schooling her children, she used it as an opportunity to introduce material that was inclusive and multicultural.

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