I used to be one of those parents, someone who thought home schooling was a fringe movement, driven by overprotective parents with cray-cray ideas who didn’t want their children exposed to new peers and different ideas.
But over the years I’ve come to recognize home schooling as a viable and beneficial choice for families and children who are not thriving in traditional public schools. The most recent estimates suggest that about 2 million students nationwide are home schooled, or more than 3 percent of all school-age children.
Plenty of Great Reasons
Their reasons are as varied as the families who choose home schooling—from reinforcing religious and moral instruction to dissatisfaction with public school climate and academics to addressing special needs or mental health concerns.
Sometimes what it takes to open your mind to is speaking to passionate, persuasive advocates like Latasha Fields.
I recently had the pleasure of speaking at length with Latasha, a Louisiana native, mother of four and an evangelist for home schooling, especially among African-American families. Latasha and her husband are ministers and founders of the Christian Home Educators Support System (CHESS), and Latasha is also an Illinois state coordinator for parentalrights.org.
Even for parents who don’t share Latasha’s religious beliefs, it’s easy to get swept up by Latasha’s enthusiasm for the time she spends with her children and the excitement she exudes about the lessons she customizes for her children.
“I believe each family needs to establish their values,” she said. “It’s all about building the family structure. Even if nothing else happens, we built a strong family bond. The education is unlimited, but the blessing is the relationship.”
Eleven years ago, Latasha said she was called by her faith to pull her oldest daughter out of her traditional public school in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and start teaching her at home. She was pregnant with her second child and had no idea what to do, how to navigate state laws or where to find support.
“In the African-American community, there was no connection to the home schooling community for us,” she said.
But her daughter made the adjustment very easy for her. “She just gravitated to it, she didn’t buck or give us any challenges,” she said.
Latasha said her daughter bought into the switch, but others were harder to convince.
“Her being home with me was something she enjoyed,” she said. “The conflict I encountered was external, it came from other people. There was just no awareness of home schooling in the Black community. People just thought I had lost my mind!”
After the first year, the family opened up a summer camp, and then she started home schooling other children during the school year. She later organized a home schooling co-op.
“I have literally embedded myself into home schooling. This is my life until my 2-year-old turns 18.”
Her daughter, Vetiveah, is now a senior at college and on the Dean’s List. Latasha said her daughter is grateful for the academic discipline and strong study habits she learned at home, which prepared her to succeed in college.
Latasha now home schools her two younger sons, 11-year-old Ronald and 8-year-old LaRon, along with three other students who attend her home school part-time. Her 2-year-old daughter Tahije is also home, playing and soaking up the learning.
Lessons start around 9:30 a.m. every day, and the kids study their core subjects until 12:30 p.m. The rest of the day is devoted to arts, music, physical activity and other outside enrichment.
“I’m very structured. I’ve used the same curriculum since I started, an individualized self-paced curriculum. That’s one of the blessings of home schooling, you can be creative and find the flow that works best for every family.”
She Has Been Able to Respond to Her Kids’ Different Interests
“With my boys, I’ve had to change things up and get creative because my boys are more visual,” she said. “They love science and history, and they want more online lessons and science experiments.”
Latasha now lives in Chicago, and even though home schooling is an increasingly popular option among parents nationwide, she still finds it a tough sell with African-American families.
Sometimes, the barrier is financial—many single moms cannot afford to stay home to teach their children, even if they are unhappy with the academics and environment they find in their neighborhood schools. She shares resources with parents in her local library, and also works with parents in suburbs just west of Chicago.
“We are so indoctrinated to outsource your children. I know it’s really hard, but I tell them, sometimes you cannot see how valuable you are to your babies. It just brings such great pleasure to me.”