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More Black Missouri Families Have Switched To Homeschooling, And Not Just Because Of COVID

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Mishawnda Homeschooling
Courtesy of Mishawnda Mintz
Mishawnda Mintz homeschooling her two youngest children, Solomon, 12, and Shaia, 16.

The U.S. Census Bureau says Black homeschooling numbers jumped by 400% throughout the pandemic. But these Missouri homeschool mothers explained that COVID isn't the only reason.

More Black parents are choosing to educate their children at home. That’s partly due to the pandemic — but not entirely.

“I think that most of us didn't know anybody else that looked like us that did it,” said Mishawnda Mintz, a Black mother of four who has been homeschooling her kids in Kansas City for 16 years. “It was looked at as something maybe that white people did.”

Mintz owns WhatupHomee, an online community that connects Black homeschoolers. When Mintz started homeschooling, she told Up to Date, most of the homeschoolers around her were white.

Many Black families were interested in homeschooling before the pandemic, Mintz said, but parents might have felt alone like she did, or worried they wouldn’t have the means to homeschool.

But that’s changed over the past couple of years, as social injustice and racial disparities intensified by the Trump administration caused many Black families to feel that at-home education would be safer.

“Of course with George Floyd and what happened with him I think families felt like they didn't have anything to lose, when you add to it the pandemic and putting your kids in harm's way,” Mintz said.

Dannielle Davis runs a consulting business for homeschooling parents called "The Circle of Excellence" and is a professor of Higher Education at St. Louis University. She is also a Black mother, and began homeschooling her son shortly before the pandemic. She said she was not surprised by the sudden increase in Black homeschoolers.

Dr. Davis and son.
Dr. Dannielle Davis and her son, Bryce, on a trip to Jamaica to study marine biology.

Davis said many Black parents were given a better window into their child’s public education during COVID-19, and they didn’t like what they saw.

“One thing that black parents have been sharing in some spaces is that they got a firsthand look through virtual education for the first time, and saw how their kids are actually treated in the classroom,” said Davis. “No longer were they outside of the classroom walls and in another space unable to hear how their children were being shamed, how their children were being mistreated.”

Another big topic among Black homeschoolers is history curricula. Like many other new homeschoolers, Mintz started with a Christian, conservative-leaning curriculum. She found the history books elevated white men and left out the majority of Black people.

“I like to call it American mythology,” said Mintz. “These men that are fallible, we make them seem like they are gods and they are without flaws. And then, we minimize how our people were treated and kind of erase them from history.”

Mintz essentially created her own curriculum from scratch.

“I started pulling together my own resources in order to teach my kids Black history within the context of American history, because Black history is American history. American history without Black history is very much American mythology,” Mintz said. “I think maybe we wouldn't have some of the racial biases and prejudices if people really understood how much Black folks contributed to building this country and how much we still do.”

Homeschooling across the board, even pre-pandemic, has often been criticized by those who believe that it isolates children.

Rhonda McAfee is a Black homeschooling veteran, who started educating her children at home in 1995. That year, she and her husband moved from Wyandotte County to Johnson County in pursuit of a better school district. After the move, McAfee ended up deciding to homeschool her children because she felt God was calling her to do so.

Rhonda and Family
Rhonda McAfee at a book signing for her book, "Homeschooling Worked For Us: You Are Your Child's Solution," with her husband and children.

All three of her children graduated, and she wrote a book called “Homeschooling Worked for Us: You Are Your Child's Solution. McAfee strived to surround their kids with other children and people with different backgrounds, and said the stereotype that homeschooled kids are not well socialized is wrong.

“It was very important, when we raised our children, that they interacted with other children,” said McAfee. “My children participated in competitive sports and by the time they were teenagers, they were a part of the community college which prepared them to be launched out into the world and have a good foundation.”

Usually, Mintz added, homeschooled kids are even better socially equipped than their public or private school counterparts.

“Pre COVID, we were out of the house Monday through Thursday and Fridays,” said Mintz. “We would meet up with our homeschool community and our friends and take field trips and things like that.”

Homeschooled children also tend to be more conversational than children who are traditionally educated, she said.

“The beautiful thing I love about homeschoolers,” Mintz said, “is that most homeschoolers, no matter the age, can have a conversation with anybody.... They're very self-confident, assured and articulate.”

Davis added that research proves homeschooled children actually have a better connection to their community than traditionally educated children.

“In a lot of homeschool settings, community engagement is one very important thing,” Davis said. “Volunteering in the community on a regular basis, doing things in the community to promote change ... that's a part of a lot of homeschoolers' curriculum.”

McAfee says homeschooling can have a profound impact on a family and how they navigate the world.

“Homeschooling changes your life,” said McAfee. “ My kids will forever be changed because of the time that we invested in them.”

Bek Shackelford-Nwanganga is a news intern for KCUR 89.3.
As Up To Date’s associate producer, I construct daily conversations that give our listeners context to the issues of our time. I strive to provide a platform that holds those in power accountable, while also spotlighting the voices of Kansas City’s creatives and visionaries that may otherwise go unheard. Email me at zach@kcur.org.