Although homeschooling has been a practice in the United States longer than public education, it was not until the 1980’s where significant growth had occurred in comparison to the growth rates of other schooling choices. While some argue that homeschooling as a practice has no measurable outcomes because there is no consistent structure in which information is shared, studies indicate that the choice to homeschool is very personal and dependent on many factors. For instance, some parents make decisions to homeschool and forego enrolling them in school sometimes based on their own experiences in institutionalized schooling. African American parents also choose to homeschool because of environmental issues. What African American parents identify as problematic environmental issues largely entail racialized disparities. For instance, more African-American families are choosing to homeschool in response to hostile environmental influences in public schools that range from biased instructional content to biased attitudes and perceptions of school personnel. In a soon-to-be-published autoethnography about my experience as a homeschooling parent enrolling my daughter in community college, I discussed my own reasons as being the lack of school choice options, my own experiences with traditional schooling and inherently racist policies for enrollment in the county that I lived in. The reasons to begin vary. But, regardless of the reasons Black families are choosing to homeschool, the first question parents should ask themselves before diving into this schooling method is, “Do I have the capacity to curate my child’s educational experience?” When determining this, you must first assess your social capital which will determine how many opportunities you as their educational curator can provide. Social capital is your series of connections to networks that will serve as resource to create your child’s learning experience.
Some people have large quantities of social capital because they are socially active, possibly very extroverted and members of many groups. I have a good friend who is part of a sorority, is part of many community groups, maintains contact with her group of friends from her college alma mater and regularly participates in alumni events and has done so for more that 20 years. When she has any type of event or needs people to support a new venture of hers, she gets overwhelming support from these networks because she holds an abundance of social capital.
I struggle with making connections with others and tire of large groups very easily. I am not part of a sorority and have a handful of people I have kept in touch with over the years. I do not have a close family structure and I do not have much connection with any of my alma maters even though I had a fairly pleasant college experience. I am introverted and do not make personal connections often. But, I have social capital through the work I do as a creative, community worker and as a former journalist. Because my work required me to create spaces for others, interview and showcase others, I became privy of people, ideas and happenings outside of my normal purview and became known to various individuals and institutions. When I decided to homeschool, I had an awareness of certain opportunities because of this social capital and I had a knowledge of where to look for opportunities that weren’t always public knowledge.
A homeschooling parent’s social capital determines how rich a child’s homeschool experience will be. If a parent is not apt to look effectively within or outside of their natural setting for opportunities for their children to make connections, apply learning, and express themselves, then, the educational experience they curate will not reach its optimum impact. If you struggle with building your own social capital through unique relationships with others, here are some way to begin building your social capital in a way that will benefit your children you plan to homeschool:
- Join Online Homeschool Groups to Discover Resources You Never Considered Before
Online homeschool groups have been a valuable resource for me since I started homeschooling more than ten years ago. I’ve met other parents, learned about free events and classes in the area and considered different learning strategies when I join groups where parents gather. The past few years, Facebook has been a valuable source for homeschooling, as there are national groups that include folks from across the country to more niche groups that are specific to your region. Homeschool groups help you build your social capital by putting you in a space to network, share and gather information. Here are some of the groups I recommend on Facebook (some are niche groups for those specifically located in the DC, MD and VA area (DMV) where I live:
2. Sign-up for Mailings from Your Local Libraries, Recreation Centers and Museums
Free and inexpensive offerings abound at your local libraries, recreation centers and museums. When I was homeschooling for my daughter’s elementary years when she wasn’t in public school, the recreation centers were a rich resource of opportunity. She studied gymnastics, Spanish, tennis, swimming and science– yes, SCIENCE– at our local parks and recreation centers. The quarterly catalogs allowed me to get an early start to planning her annual curriculum as I could count on courses at Parks and Rec to be fun, interactive and convenient components of her routine.
As a performer, I perform at libraries and museums often and many of the families in the audiences are homeschooling families. Libraries are becoming interactive educational spaces more and more and most offer everything from book clubs and computer classes to history performances and special research rooms. Visit your libraries and meet the librarians to learn what special mailing lists you can become a part of to be in the loop regarding free events and programs. At libraries, you also come across flyers and notices for local festivals as well. When you come across this info, be sure to visit websites so you can join mailing lists and have information come straight to you.
3. Check Out Local Colleges and Universities for Community Programs for Youth and Children
All public colleges and universities have programs for youth and children. Some have programs only during the summer while some have programs during the school year. My daughter attended the Young Terps Scholars summer program at the University of Maryland, College Park when she was 14 years-old and she has attended programs at other colleges and universities, including Morgan State University when she was younger. At the University of Maryland, during the Young Terps Scholars program, she stayed on campus and took a writing course that she received college credit for. The program offered a scholarship that she was eligible for and received that assisted with costs. Morgan State University offers this convenient catalog of offerings they have for the summer.
In short, building your social capital is a necessary step in preparing to homeschool your children. It requires legwork, intention and a willingness to go out and gather information by placing yourself in spaces that are not always familiar.
Are you a homeschooling parent who has suggestions on how to build your social capital to optimize your homeschool toolkit? Share your comments in the comment section below!
Khadijah Z. Ali-Coleman is a homeschooling mother, a multi-media strategist and professional creative who has built an expansive interdisciplinary career as a professional in higher education, media, student development and the arts. You can join her mailing list and register for her courses for homeschooling families at StudentMediaOnline.com