With the shut-down of schools due to the pandemic, the term homeschooling has been mentioned in and out of conversations about children having to do virtual schoolwork at home. This is not homeschooling. Rather, virtual classroom lessons at home is following a curriculum outlined by a school institution. This is the opposite of homeschooling.
Approaches to homeschooling have as many variations as there are homeschoolers. The one thing that is consistent, however, is that the parents or guardians define, structure and administer the education. Not an institutional curriculum. Even if a parent chooses to access an institutional curriculum or borrow text books, the fact that the parent is administering the learning is the difference. Another major difference is that homeschooling has an official definition whereby a parent sometimes adheres to and applies the guidelines and regulations of homeschooling as defined from state to state. Some parents unschool - a complete disassociation from any state regulations or structured curriculum at all.
Evolving as a homeschooling parent by witnessing the growth of my then children, the phrase ‘sovereign learner’ came to me. The basis of homeschooling provided a self permission to be. As our people, a nation of people indigenous to what is now called Long Island are misrepresented as extinct, the right to self actualize and see oneself as a human entity in the world is the ultimate right to life itself. Included in this is the ability to think and apply their own minds to everything learned. This allowed them to become part of all that is grounded into what has been separated into math, science, reading, writing, the arts and so on through a state sanctioned curriculum.
One simple example, learning about heat conduction on a surface to one learner could be through cooking with what’s called a ‘good pan’. A good pan is a cast iron skillet at just the right temperature to scramble eggs or sauté vegetables upon hitting the surface. Cast iron heats differently than glass pyrex. Both surfaces can cook but with a different outcome due to surface and heat distribution. To another learner heat conduction and surface could take a different path. This is where innovation on the part of the parent comes in. However, this does not mean the parent has to know everything, but does have the breadth and motivation to reach out to other sources or references that do know. Homeschool groups and individuals were very resourceful for this kind of networking. Simple common sense also comes in handy so that people, places and things around us everyday can also be useful in learning opportunities.
Technology back in the 80’s when I was homeschooling was not what it is now but computer screens are not the complete answer anyway. What seems like a dependency on electronic devices and connectivity is really tragic. It does take an involvement on the part of the parents to know their children, their natural talents and learning styles. Internet connectivity has nothing to do with any of that.
As the child evolves, the parent does too and learns to take advantage of every opportunity that can be found in the simplest things around us. I used supermarket circulars for calculating what were actual savings for grocery shopping. My children did not run around the grocery store, they were too busy shopping. As toddlers, they matched pictures of items on coupons with what was on the shelves. (I clipped the coupons of certain items and arranged to be where the items were so they could find them). Matching the pictures with what was on the shelves was fun and It was that motivation that would continue to move them through many learning opportunities I never imagined. They were the ultimate sovereign learners.
I had been asked along the way about being concerned about my children getting a good education due to homeschooling as if attending public school was a guarantee. Successful education does not mean a vertical topping to be ‘the best’ (a typical thought process of oppression - it’s either the best or the worst).
Just as not every student who went to public school became a school shooter, not every student who graduated with high honors live that delusional perfect American prosperous life. Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, the school shooters at Columbine in 1999 and other numerous school shooters since went to public school. The challenges of growing up in a chronically oppressive society still kicks in no matter where or how the schooling occurs. Educational success is not determined by trophies, grades or degrees. Those are objects that can be bought and manipulated. Rich privileged parents (I.e. entitled) defrauding, misrepresenting and buying their children’s way into prestigious universities were in the headlines not that long ago. None of that stuff is a true indication of being educated.
During the years we homeschooled, some of the neighborhood children were curious and would come by. In October they would come to see what we exchanged for thanksgiving gifts (our native tradition for Nunowa). They would ‘miss the bus’ which at first I thought was an accident and said they could stay with us since their mother already went to work. After awhile I began to notice that missing that bus was happening too many times and I could no longer allow them to stay with us for the day for legal reasons. I could have been accused of contributing to those children’s truancy.
All that to say, children crave learning when they are affirmed, it is part of how we are wired as human beings. Sovereignty and self-actualization are critical in that process. When oppression is enmeshed in institutional indoctrination, (aka curriculum) not to mention authorized contempt - there is a profound effect on development. No entity that held my nation of people extinct was qualified, competent nor authorized to school my children. I chose to homeschool.
I will say here that one’s parenting skills will also be on demand and challenged as the need to look inward and self examine is non-stop. What a thought. Suffice it to say homeschooling is a specific approach to education and way of life. It is for us to understand that learning does not end. It is a part of human growth. Homeschooling is not doing assigned schoolwork at home because a building is closed.
I am already getting long on this so I will stop here but if you are interested in more of my particular homeschooling experience, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. These days there are many homeschooling sources that can be found by simply typing the term in any search engine.
As an aside, here is a learning activity suggestion:
In light of the current events, learning about critical thinking whether you are homeschooling or not is very important. A computer and internet connectivity has nothing to do with it. The current events notwithstanding, in this American environment of chronic oppression, critical thinking - or any thinking at all - can be a matter of life or death.
The interactions, behaviors and discourse of late have felt paralyzing, frustrating and alienating but it doesn’t have to be. Helping young learners understand predatory behavior is to help unlearn chronic oppression. What they are witnessing all around them can be very simple to explain once the explainer gets it straight. It only gets complicated when a perversion is protected or when one is powerless over it or when one is part of it.
Using campaign speeches, debates, interviews and even how events are reported are readily available to the public easily accessible. What perfect learning material.
Teaching critical thinking is to be able to make decisions from a sovereign mind rather than a mind defined by outside entities. With regard to communications, speeches, interviews, etc a learner can identify the nature of what they hear or see when they become practiced at critical thinking. Wholesome exchange among equals is respectful, responsible, informative, thoughtful and enlightening. Toxic exchange on the part of a predator is meant to dominate, destroy and escape responsibility for perversions. The predator uses violent and distracting tactics in order to do so. Here are some examples (and also a vocabulary list for the learner’s ‘tool box’):
Insult / Humiliation
Throwing things, pounding a fist
Going off topic
Guilt and Blame throwing
What does interrupting mean? What happens if there are interruptions while you speak your truth? Does it help if I try to force you into a lie by calling you names? Shout at you? Make up a false story? Cry? Throw things?
The second part to this would be to ask (age appropriately), which is worse, the bad actor who lies and humiliates or those who do not, cannot or will not put a stop to it?”
Education never ends. It is a part of our human growth throughout our entire lives. To institutionalize an ending to the learning process by symbol or object (diploma, report cards, degrees, rules, roles, rituals, pomp and circumstance) is simple minded and destructive.
Before I go I want to share a tribute to a dear friend of mine who was a true educator as a calling. She did what educators do, she brought knowledge to everyone who wanted what she had to share.
Her name was Leothy Miller Owens
Long before there were such outlets as Barnes and Noble or Borders, Books and Music and others with ‘special interest’ sections, she gathered books, writings and teachings of creative writers, authors and scholars some of whom are now very famous (or infamous) who produced books and other media about the histories, folklore, poetry and contemporary issues of African, African-American, indigenous first nations and other cultures around the world. She drove these books in her car to the community until she was able to open her store which would become a Brooklyn institution, NKIRU BOOKS. It became a gathering place where great discussions and debates took place. It was a very very different Brooklyn back then, it was known as "The Peoples Republic of Brooklyn." Even after she opened the store, she would continue to participate in block parties and neighborhood festivals by loading up her car and bringing her treasures to the people.
Among many others, she was a dream come true for homeschoolers who were driven to bring truthful history and the contemporary world to their children. I am going to resist saying all I could say about her golden life at this point because this could get long.
In 1996, The Seeds of Many Nations Homeschool Collective, an organization I co-founded for homeschoolers of color, held its first and only conference at Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn with the invaluable support of the Director of its Women's Center, Professor Safia Bandele, another visionary. We named this gathering, “The Leothy Miller Owens Homeschool Conference”
This year Leothy Miller Owens would have been 68. She passed away in 1992 of cancer.
There is honor when we remember us.
Wanegun ka piwokan - Blessings and take care of yourself
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