School Choice & Charters

Black Home Schooling Parents Meet in the Deep South

By Mary Ann Zehr — August 01, 2005 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

When Joyce Burges first started home schooling her children 15 years ago, the African-American mother of five turned to a white home schooling mom from her church to show her the ropes.

After a few years, Ms. Burges and her husband, Eric Burges, felt they knew enough about the practice that they could mentor others, and they particularly wanted to reach out to African-Americans. So in 2000, the couple from Baker, La., founded the National Black Home Educators Resource Association, or NBHERA. The organization uses the Web site www.nbhera.org, a newsletter, and an annual symposium to support black families who are home schooling. The group held this year’s symposium, its fourth, July 29-30 here in Baton Rouge.

The Burgeses have persuaded a number of African-American families to educate their children at home. “Black people like familiarity,” said Ms. Burges, who now home schools the two youngest of the couple’s five children. “They were not familiar with home schooling but they were familiar with me—being black.”

The annual meetings haven’t attracted large numbers. This year’s drew 60 adults and 56 children, mostly from the Baton Rouge area. But the Burgeses keep a database of about 2,000 home schooling families nationwide.

African-Americans need their own home schooling association, said Ms. Burges, so they can exchange ideas about curriculum that covers the contributions of black people to American society. The kickoff event for the symposium included a dramatic depiction of two African-American heroes—the abolitionist and journalist Frederick Douglass and the educator George Washington Carver—given by Cedric Saunders, a home schooling parent and storyteller from Kansas City, Kan.

Racial Issues

Attendees gave different reasons for why they home school. For some, racial issues are an important factor.

“The system has failed our children,” contended Marcy Clark. The St. Paul, Minn., woman and her husband, Gregory Clark, are teaching their three sons and one daughter at home. Ms. Clark said she’s concerned that standardized test scores of black children lag behind those of whites, which she attributes to educators’ having low expectations for black students. She’s also worried how young black men are overrepresented in the nation’s prisons.

“Why would I put my three black sons in a room with teachers who have no clue about their culture?” Ms. Clark asserted. “[The teachers] don’t care and don’t give significance to African culture, which is part of African-American culture.”

Ms. Clark has helped to start a resource group for black home schooling families in St. Paul. The group, which is affiliated with the NBHERA, has 20 families participating.

By contrast, Bobbie and Daniel Williams, who home school their five children in Jacksonville, N.C., said racial issues didn’t play a role in their decision to home school.

Ms. Williams said she teaches her children at home so they won’t receive “negative influences” from other youngsters and so she can spend more time with them than if they went off to school each day.

Her husband said he is opposed to some of the instructional decisions of public schools, such as his belief that they require students to read Harry Potter books and to teach that homosexuality is an acceptable alternative lifestyle.

The keynote speaker, Gregg Harris, a white pastor and home schooling parent from Gresham, Ore., spent several hours talking about what the Bible says about the roles of men and women in marriage and parenting.

Most home schooling parents interviewed here said they are churchgoers. But some said their religious beliefs didn’t play a big part in their decision to home school.

Mr. Burges said many African-Americans resist schooling their children at home.

He and his wife first started home schooling because they disagreed with how their local public school wanted to handle some difficulties their eldest son was having in school. But Mr. Burges soon discovered that his own parents were against home schooling. “They said, ‘You guys are traitors,’ ” he recalled. “ ‘We fought to get into the schools, and you are getting out of them.’ ”

But in time, they’ve come around to support home schooling, he said. “If you talk to them now, they’d think it was their idea,” he joked.

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Law & Courts Webinar
Future of the First Amendment:Exploring Trends in High School Students’ Views of Free Speech
Learn how educators are navigating student free speech issues and addressing controversial topics like gender and race in the classroom.
Content provided by The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
Start Strong With Solid SEL Implementation: Success Strategies for the New School Year
Join Satchel Pulse to learn why implementing a solid SEL program at the beginning of the year will deliver maximum impact to your students.
Content provided by Satchel Pulse
Jobs Virtual Career Fair for Teachers and K-12 Staff
Find teaching jobs and other jobs in K-12 education at the EdWeek Top School Jobs virtual career fair.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

School Choice & Charters Opinion The Biden Administration Is Right: Charters Need to Be More Accountable
The proposed changes to the federal Charter School Program are just common sense, write Jitu Brown and Randi Weingarten.
Jitu Brown & Randi Weingarten
3 min read
Illustration of students and teachers holding puzzle pieces.
<b>F. Sheehan/Education Week and iStock/Getty</b>
School Choice & Charters What's Behind the Fight Over the Biden Administration's Stance on Charter School Funding
Proposed new rules for federal charter school funding have drawn the ire of many in the charter school community.
8 min read
Publish Charter school parents stage a counter protest as thousands of public school teachers, administrators and supports march through the streets of Sacramento during a protest held at the California State Capitol urging state legislators to provide more funding for public schools in Sacramento, Calif., on May 22, 2019.
Publish Charter school parents stage a counter protest during a march in Sacramento, Calif., that advocated for more funding for public schools in 2019.
Jessica Christian/San Francisco Chronicle via AP
School Choice & Charters Opinion Families May Like Their School But Want More Options. That’s Where Course Choice Comes In
Educational choices have grown inside each school as a result of the pandemic. Families should take advantage of this.
3 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty
School Choice & Charters Mich. Public School Advocates Launch Effort to Stop DeVos-Backed Proposal
The former secretary of education is backing an initiative that advocates say would create an unconstitutional voucher system.
Samuel J. Robinson, mlive.com
4 min read
Student with backpack.
surasaki/iStock/Getty