Several months ago, I had connected with author and homeschooling expert, Zakkiyya Chase, in a homeschooling group we belong to after seeing her post about a new book she had just published titled, NO DREAM DEFERRED: Why Black and Latino Families Are Choosing Homeschool. I couldn’t believe my eyes–FINALLY, someone had written a book that laid out many of the core reasons my husband and I have chosen to not enroll our young children in a traditional school setting!!
As an educator, many teachers in my circle couldn’t understand my decision to not put my kids in the very same buildings I have worked in for so many years. I mean, I get it. There was a brief period during my early years of teaching that I actually believed in public education, because that’s what I was conditioned to believe was the only and best form of education–especially as a Brown person who comes from a lineage of people who were denied educational rights and access to quality education. Like I said. I get it. However, it didn’t take long for me to figure out that traditional education was not working for a large portion of my students–particularly Black and Brown students. Not to mention the struggles I and many of my own close family members experienced attending public and private schools. So when I was offered an opportunity, over ten years ago, to work at the Metropolitan Center for Research on Equity and the Transformation of Schools, it was a no brainer! While I knew the current educational American system was doing what it was intended to do–fail and limit the “have nots”–I still believed it could be “fixed”, and I was determined to be a part of the change movement at Metro.
Always an educator and now a mother, I continue to hold on to the belief that the way we educate children in the U.S. can and should be different. However, this requires something much bigger than reform. It requires a dismantling of our current educational system in order to offer an equitable and liberatory education for Black and Brown communities that have suffered the most in America’s schools. James Baldwin had said that “the paradox in education is that as one begins to become conscious one begins to examine the society in which he is being educated.” In my experience, the consciousness or wokeness Baldwin was talking about in his statement, has never come from our educational system, because our system, as Paulo Freire had mentioned in Pedagogy of the Oppressed, was never set up to liberate the minds of the oppressed. That consciousness almost always has come from either individuals working within that system that have intentionally created opportunities for students to self-explore and question existing structures or parents, friends, or other folks outside school that have provided similar experiences for Black and Brown youth. However, having only a handful of teachers and leaders across the country that believe in and practice culturally responsive and self-directed pedagogy to the degree they are able to within an oppressive structure isn’t enough. We need these types of practices to become institutionalized in U.S. education to have the impact we need for our Black and Brown kids.
What I appreciated about No Dream Deferred is that Zakkiyya lays out for parents and caregivers the research outlining how the current traditional schooling structure fails to meet the psychological, social-emotional and academic needs of Black and Latinx children and, in fact, causes more harm than good in these critical developmental areas. While she could have easily made this book all about her personal opinions and journey to homeschool, Zakkiyya chose to include the voices of Black and Latinx homeschooling families, who, unlike many White homeschoolers, have chosen to home educate for fear of their children being mistreated as a result of their racial and ethnic identities and not having opportunities to learn about themselves from a decolonized viewpoint. Zakkiyya spits facts–not generalizations–and she successfully did this in a way that speaks to the everyday person, which many research based books don’t always do or aren’t able to accomplish.
While the intended audience of this book is for Black and Latinx parents or caregivers considering alternative educational options for their children, I highly recommend educators and anyone else interested in transforming (NOT reforming) American education to read No Dream Deferred as well. You can’t successfully change systems if you never stop to listen to those who have chosen to leave the system that you are aiming to change. So, while I will not give up on the belief this transformation can happen, until it does, home educating, specifically unschooling, my children is the only liberatory option we have right now.
Learn more about No Dream Deferred: Why Black and Latino Families Are Choosing Homeschool and check out Empowered Home Educators by Zakkiyya Chase for resources and information regarding homeschooling for all shades.