By: Cheryl Fields-Smith, Ph.D., Associate Professor; College of Education University of Georgia and Brandon Isome, Doctoral Student; College of Education University of Georgia
Homeschooling among Black families surged five-fold during the Coronavirus pandemic from 3.4% to 16.1% (Eggleston & Fields, 2021). Even prior to the pandemic, trends indicated that Black families increasingly choose homeschooling for their children (Anderson, 2018; Ray, 2015). Research has identified many motivations for Black homeschooling including racial protectionism (Mazama & Musumunu, 2015) and anti-Black racism (Fields-Smith & Wells Kisura, 2013) in the form of discipline disproportionality, barriers to gifted education, and other prejudices. Dumas (2014) characterized these maladies as suffering given the impact on Black children’s self-identity, psychological trauma, and hopelessness, both collectively and individually.
However, research on Black homeschooling has focused on urban areas with large, Black, educated populations and many supportive resources. Less is known about homeschooling among Black families in rural areas, which face numerous challenges including limited job opportunities and digital deserts. Therefore, this pilot study explored the lived experiences of rural Black families through a phenomenological lens of educational research. The study is guided by the following questions:
1. What unique motivations and challenges to homeschool exist among Black parents residing in rural communities?
2. What types of community-based and cultural resources do Black parents living in rural communities rely on for their homeschool practices?
In this study, homeschooling among Black parents has been conceptualized as a form of resistance to overcoming anti-Black policy and practices within and outside of traditional schools. Further, contemporary Black homeschooling represents a reprioritizing of “homeplace”, which is bell hooks’ concept to capture Black mothers’ actions to empower and edify their children against the oppression of the Jim Crow Era. Similarly, by re-prioritizing homeplace in current times through homeschooling, Black home educators promote their children’s positive cultural self-identities and enable their children to reach their full potential (Fields-Smith & Wells Kisura, 2013; Fields-Smith, 2020).
A culturally responsive phenomenological study was designed to document the perspectives and experiences of 12 rural Black homeschool mothers. Of those 12 participants, 11 geographically resided in southern states (e.g., Georgia, North Carolina, Arkansas, Alabama, Tennessee, Texas, and Louisiana), and one lived in California. Two of the mothers were single parents and 10 of the mothers were married. All the women have a post-secondary education.
In individual, online interviews, Black homeschool educators shared their experiences, perceptions, and approaches to rural homeschooling, which varied one from the other. Nine of the 12 mothers participated in one of three Sister Circles (culturally responsive focus group sessions). Initial data analysis consisted of creating matrices to identify initial codes around predetermined themes such as advantages and challenges of homeschooling in rural communities and spirituality.
While analysis continues, preliminary results signal tremendous variance in how Black homeschool mothers defined “rural” beyond the typical markers of farming and fields of crops. Rural communities represented in this study consisted of coastal areas, contained residential subdivisions, and existed in relatively close proximity to large cities or far away from them. The pilot study also revealed three forms of isolation expressed by rural Black home educators including geographic isolation, political isolation, and sociocultural isolation. Indeed, none of the participating home educators were able to refer other Black homeschool family participants from their own communities, which will challenge attempts to scale up this study.
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Dumas, M. J. (2014). ‘Losing an arm’: Schooling as a site of black suffering. Race Ethnicity and
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Eggleston, C. & Fields, J. (March 22, 2021). Census Bureau Household Pulse Survey shows significant
increase in homeschooling rates in Fall 2020. United States Census Bureau. https://www.census.gov/library/stories/2021/03/homeschooling-on-the-rise-during-covid-19-pandemic.html
Fields-Smith, C. (2020). Exploring single Black mothers’ resistance through homeschooling.
New York: Palgrave MacMillan.
Fields-Smith, C. and Wells Kisura, M. (2013). Resisting the Status Quo: The narratives of Black
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