Wednesday Boateng’s first pass at home-schooling her children stemmed from necessity.
Her family lived in a state with no relatives nearby, and her husband’s job required him to frequently travel out of the country for almost a month at a time. Boateng struggled to find quality child care options. So she decided to tackle the children’s early education herself.
“I didn’t know that much about home-school families growing up,” the 44-year-old said. “When I became a mom, I started to look at different options.”
Those options have included whether to send her children to traditional schools or, when it makes sense, home-schooling them instead. That’s why Boateng describes herself as a “periodic home-school mom.” She also chooses what her four children learn, drafting a curriculum that addresses their cultural identities as well as their academic needs. She ensures their history lessons celebrate their Ghanaian heritage and American background while omitting texts that are “confederate friendly.”
Opting for home-school to ensure her children have culturally relevant instruction is something the Boatengs have in common with a growing number of Black families.
‘It’s so important to talk to your kids, whether they are in school or home-school, because whatever they’re being taught is what they believe is important.’
One reason why Black families choose home-schooling is to help their children understand Black culture and history, according to a 2015 report published in the Journal of School Choice.
Whatever the reason, more Black families are opting to home-school. The number of Black children that were home-schooled rose from 3.3% in the spring of 2020 to 16.1% in the fall of 2020, according to U.S. Census data.
The National Home Education Research Institute estimates there were 3.7 million home-schoolers in the U.S. during the 2020-2021 school year.
With each new school year, Boateng decides whether her children will attend traditional school or home-school. She factors in feedback from each of her children, the school options available as a good fit, and her capacity to deliver a good academic program from home.
Home-schooling also gave Boateng a chance to find common interests with her children. She noticed that her eldest daughter, Yaa, was very skilled at drawing. Given her experience as a children’s book author, Boateng curated a business curriculum for Yaa to learn how to launch a book, market it, and publish it online. “With our home-school schedule, we had the chance to be creative,” Boateng said. “She loves drawing, and this inspired her to create her own coloring book.” As a result, both mother and daughter presented their books at the NAACP 2023 convention.
The Emancipator talked to Boateng about her family’s home-school journey and striking a balance between home-schooling and motherhood.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Where do you find resources for home-school?
So one thing I did was mimic what I saw that I liked in the traditional schools. Over the years, I talked to different people. I would consider myself eclectic because I mix and match what I like from different things. There are also paid online schools. Each state usually offers a virtual school option. The resources online will lead you into a crazy rabbit hole, you will never get out. When I realized there were so many options, I just started to think about goals for each individual child.
Does the current situation in U.S. schools regarding Black history and book bans have an impact on the curriculum you prepare for your children?
When I was looking for materials, I found a Christian curriculum that I liked, but it was very confederate friendly. I stopped using the history parts of it, and I continued to use math parts. I went to a Catholic school growing up. My high school was similar to that curriculum. So when I saw it, I immediately thought, I can’t believe we’re still teaching this to kids almost 30 years later. We have not gotten far, obviously. And that’s one of the reasons why I really liked home-school. In our morning routine, I included our African heritage. For example, we did the Pledge of Allegiance, we did a prayer, but we also sang a song that is connected to Ghana. They learned the Ghanaian anthem and the American anthem as well. For me, you can only do that and your own programming, unless you find something that’s that tailored, right?
That’s why it’s so important to talk to your kids, whether they are in school or home-school, because whatever they’re being taught is what they believe is important. And if it’s missing or lacking some representation of who they are, how their ancestry has contributed to the government and the local society, they’re gonna think that it’s not important or that they didn’t do anything that was important.
How do you manage the pressure of home-schooling?
I see it as a year-by-year commitment. I set up goals each year for what they’re going to learn. I say I’m a periodic home-schooler because I adapt to the circumstances. During COVID, we were at home, and then this last year they went to an in-person school. You know, a lot of people feel bad and guilty when they don’t continue home-schooling, but you need to see life as a time-sensitive journey, right? There’s this thing that has to be done right now, and then there’s this thing that you can wait on. There’s this approach that allows you to give yourself some grace.
What would you recommend to other parents who are considering home-schooling?
The first thing I will say is that home-schooling is not for everyone. You need to figure out if it is for you and how much of a career you want to turn it into. It’s okay if you don’t make it your career, but you need to see it as a job, like a real job. You can be very curious, but you can lose passion easily. Everyone will have their own story. What works for me might not work for everyone. But I would strongly suggest it to Black families, especially those who are experiencing bullying.
How do you approach home-schooling for each one of your kids?
You have to let them be individuals because they’re all different. You should try to get to know them, see what they like. For example, one child responded very well to songs, but that doesn’t mean that the next child will. They may not want you to sing a song to them, they might want to draw the picture. In traditional schools, they don’t have those options. In home-school they can. If you see that your child probably won’t do as well in a traditional school, look for other options and see if home-school can be one of them based on your lifestyle.
How do you manage a balance between home-schooling, motherhood, and your own career?
To be very transparent, I haven’t done that well in the last 15 years. Some of it is because we’ve transitioned so many times.
I suggest setting an hour where home-school ends, just like school ends at three o’clock. Set your children’s free time and your free time. That’s one of the things that I’ve tried that does work often. I’m still finding that balance. We’re moving into a different season now because they are getting older. My daughter goes to college in three years. It shocks me every time I say it. I have a friend who also home-schooled her kids who advised me to prepare for each transition. My kids are not going to need me the same way. That is a challenge that people should watch out for.
Melissa Clavijo is the social media producer for The Emancipator. She can be reached at email@example.com.