Tuesday, November 24, 2015

The Everyday Lives of Black Canadians Homeschoolers: Monica Wells Kisura. In loving Memory.


Dr. Monica Wells Kisura (Trinity Washington University) recently passed away after battling cancer. She was a brilliant, vibrant beautiful woman and she will be deeply missed. I am so grateful that we have Monica's contribution in the Natural Born Learners: Unschooling and Autonomy in Education reader. Monica, your words live on! Here is an excerpt from her chapter:

Q: What are the conditions necessary to get more black families to even consider homeschooling to begin with, let alone move to an unschooling approach?

In the United States, you have a very different social context, the Civil Rights Movement, and the fact that many people fought so hard to integrate schools, and to have a place at the public school table. The older generation feels a sense of betrayal, which is a strong word, but there is a sense that to homeschool means one does not appreciate the struggles that people who came before them went through to give African Americans an opportunity to have a conventional, especially public school education. We must take into account these looming psychological barriers, which have cultural roots and may be preventing many from even considering home education.

The second piece when you talk specifically about unschooling as an approach, which is self-directed learning that allows the child’s interests to move the curriculum, you have the issue of black parents feeling like this approach would be disregarded. Grace Llewellyn’s (1996) book, Freedom Challenge, is written by black homeschoolers themselves. Llewellyn made the observation that black families are already battling the social issues of supposed racial and intellectual inferiority, so there is more of a tendency to lean toward a structured approach. Tracy Romm (1993) made a similar observation in his 1993 dissertation, Home Schooling and the Transmission of Civic Culture in which he examined the lives of four white and four black homeschooling families.

One of the challenges these families are facing is getting their children to a place where they feel society will accept and acknowledge that these children have a certain level of intellectual ability and capability. Thus far, it seems to be true that most black parents are leaning towards a structured approach. Ironically, they are less inclined to use standardized tests. In fact, most of the parents that I have spoken with, whether they were structured or eclectic, did not, nor do they plan to use standardized tests or exams to measure their child’s progress.

I think it is going to take another generation, frankly, for more people to become comfortable with the idea of homeschooling, first of all, and then possibly another generation beyond that before more families to move toward unschooling.
What I have discovered is that, when I ask the question, “If you could change anything about your experience as a home educator, what would that be?” Almost all of them say, “I would be more relaxed.” So I do believe that there will be, and that there are signs that families are moving toward, a more relaxed approach to learning. Given that mainstream homeschoolers came to light during the sixties, seventies, and eighties, but most black homeschooling families, even those so called “old-timers” really did not get on board until the nineties, there is a ten- to twenty-year lag, so this is why I am calculating that it may be another ten to twenty years before black families really feel comfortable with home education as an alternative, and then unschooling as a viable practice.

I want to conclude with something that may be a bit radical, a thought that occurred to me fairly early in my research. After interviewing a number of homeschooling families, and again thinking about this in the much broader context of political-economy, I began asking what political changes, what economic changes have occurred to open this opportunity for people to homeschool? It dawned on me that, since the decolonization movements in Africa and the Caribbean, and since the Civil Rights movements in the United States during the sixties, homeschooling is probably the most radical statement that black people have made regarding self-determination and resistance. I think that home education, particularly for this segment of the population, has the potential to be very radical, and move the community as a whole to a different level of consciousness.

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