Let Them Know How You Feel About a New Homeschool Advisory Board in Maryland on March 3

I graduated my daughter from our homeschool last Spring, a month before she earned her associates degree from the Community College of Baltimore County in June. She is now across the country at her university while I still do research and community organizing in Maryland. I also continue to direct Black Family Homeschool Educators and Scholars (Have you gotten our new book?)

Earlier this month, I got wind of a proposed HB832 bill to launch an advisory council for homeschooling in Maryland. This bill was introduced by Delegate Sheila Ruth who represents Baltimore County in Maryland. Ruth, a former homeschooling mother was advised by the Maryland Homeschool Association‘s Aleesa Giampaolo Keener to create the bill. Many homeschooling advocates (myself included) were alarmed to learn of the bill because additional oversight of homeschooling as a practice could lead to detrimental impact on accessibility and freedoms that allow homeschooling families to provide optimal learning experiences for their children. Homeschooling children do not face any types of hardship or learning barriers, proportionate to their population and compartively to traditionally schooled children, that warrant a need for an advisory board. I tweeted this displeasure and was invited by Delegate Ruth to meet and talk about it.

I invited five other Black parents, from different parts of Maryland, and who are currently homeschooling their children, to the meeting with Ruth. All of these parents had concerns about the possible negative impact of an advisory board and the very real possibility that the council will not be reflective of the diverse homeschooling community in Maryland. As it is now, the only organizations in Maryland that are allowed to be umbrella organizations to facilitate portfolio reviews to gauge compliance are orgs that identify as churches. (NOTE: If this is inaccurate, I would love to be proven wrong. I have not learned of any secular orgs that are legally identified as umbrellas and not listed as a religious org). In addition, the state has historically only met with reps from the white-led groups– Homeschooling Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) and Maryland Homeschool Association, and a Black-led Christian Homeschool collective* when discussing homeschool relevant policies, so there is not a history of the state being intentional with including a diverse set of representatives at the table. What about the homeschooling parents who are not Christian, are working homeschooling parents, are not in two-parent households or considered low income?

Delegate Ruth recently released this list of FAQs regarding the proposed HB832 and is sharing that there will be a Ways and Means Committee hearing on March 3 at 1pm online for people to be able to express their thoughts regarding this proposed bill.

You’ll need to sign up March 1 from 8-3. Register here, then login on 3/1 & click “Witness Signup”

Why is this so important for me when my daughter is no longer being homeschooled and there are no more portfolio reviews in my near future? Well, I will be honest and say that the recent attention to homeschooling due to COVID has been both a curse and a blessing. For those of us who have been homeschooling prior to COVID, it has been wonderful seeing some of the pre-conceptions about homeschooling being dismantled and folks beginning to understand that homeschooling is not some right-wing cultish practice that only white families engage in. Some are recognizing that each family’s homeschooling practice is as unique as the family. But, many have flocked to the homeschooling ecosystem to profit off of newly homeschooling families who are not yet aware of all of the possibilities that a homeschooling practice can bring. Many are still tethered to an idea of learning that looks like a classroom in a traditional school setting. When you view learning through only that lens, you are attempting to replicate a traditional school setting, unable to truly assess what the best approach could be for your children who are now in need of you, the parent, to curate their learning experience with their needs and interests in mind. This advisory board is reflective of a vision of education that is not aligned with how the majority of homeschooling parents operate. Many of us left the public schooling system because of a mass-production approach to learning.

Delegate Ruth told us in our meeting that the point of the board would be to learn how the state could best serve homeschooling families. I said that, rather than create a board, plan public forums where homeschooling families can choose to attend and share their feedback. Get better data collecting tools so that you are getting feedback from the majority instead of appointing a few folks who are not representative of the diversity within the homeschooling community. Optimize the systems that are in place instead of creating new bureacracy. For example, one of the parents in the meeting suggested having a survey presented to parents during their portfolio reviews. And, the data collected should always be about making things available to all children, not creating new ways to take away options, earn money or imprison parents within a frenzied network of policies that don’t benefit the children. I care about all of this because I would love for homeschooling to be a viable option for those after me if they so choose.

Infusing Reiki into Your Homeschooling Practice

Before I homeschooled my daughter for high school, she was in public school for middle school. When I was homeschooling her for sixth grade, she had wanted to audition for the local magnet program that offered performing arts and she got in. She had been homeschooled for fifth and sixth grade and returning to public school was a mighty transition. Some of the things she discovered while in middle school was that other kids can stress you the heck out. She shared with me during her last year of homeschooling for high school that she was constantly bullied in middle school. She wore locs at the time and she said that other children often made rude comments about her hair and her looks in general. She also had interactions with teachers that were often stress-inducing. She would frequently call me from the bathroom at school, upset about something, and I would walk her through some self-soothing techniques. All of these techniques involved deep breathing. At the time, I didn’t know that I was facilitating a reiki session. 

What is Reiki?

I became familiar with the term “reiki” before I became a mother in 2003, but it was never anything I pursued study in or delved deeper into for my own interest. I knew that it was a mode of stress release and folks would get reiki sessions where someone laid hands or held their hands over areas of your body where you needed healing. I decided to learn a bit more in 2019 as I was in the last phase of my doctoral studies and needed to build my own personal self-healing tool kit. Graduate school was nearing its end and I had comps, a dissertation proposal defense and research looming on the horizon. If I thought too much about it all, I was on the verge of flipping out. On top of that, I was homeschooling my teen who was dual-enrolled in community college and required a lot of guidance as a growing teen. I came upon a social media post of an online friend offering reiki certification and I thought, “why not”? The advertisement promised enhanced serenity and an opportunity to self-soothe. That sounded like just what I needed.

The author is pictured conducting a Reiki session with a client

Reiki as a Tool

When I enrolled in the class, I learned that reiki is a Japanese term and its genesis was borne from an understanding of the connection between mind, body and spirit. It relies on you to believe that we are energetic beings who have the power to impact our own self-healing and impact the energy around us.

After taking the first reiki class, I went on to take three more classes until I was certified as a Master Teacher. I earned my certification through practice with others and myself. I taught my daughter some aspects of reiki that I think are useful and easy for anyone to apply when feeling stressed out and in need of calm. Here are some main take-aways:

  1. Breath is everything. How you are breathing can give you an idea of how you are feeling. Typically, if your breathing is anything other than steady and full-bodied, something is a bit off. Short, shallow and rapid breaths typically indicate anxiety. If you are not breathing, and, instead, holding your breath, that is also an indication that something is off. Are you fearful of something or waiting expectantly for something? Exhaling is so important. Taking the time to be conscious of your breath and how you are breathing is paramount in reiki. Teaching this practice to your child arms them with the knowledge of how to check-in and reflect on their own feelings based on how they are breathing.
  2. Visualization is powerful. Much of my reiki training revolved around visualization activities that led to certain revelations and epiphanies. Visualization activities with our children can include simple meditations where soft instrumental music plays and you are speaking affirmations to them as they lay still with their eyes closed. Afterwards, you can check-in with them to see how they felt during the exercise and afterward. Encourage them to write down their thoughts. Help them make it a habit where they are conscious of how positive or negative their thinking is and how it makes them feel and what it makes them do.
  3. Quiet is fuel for the body and soul. One of the things that reiki brought back into my life was the appreciation for intentional quiet time. Whether I was performing reiki on another person or on myself, I am always required to enter a state of quiet that has become a blissful respite for me. Encouraging my daughter to appreciate quiet has been one of the trickiest things to do when she is convinced that she can’t live without music on 24/7. But, I have noticed the little ways that quiet finds its way into the routines she has created for herself. Whether it is the way she engages with her plants or the way she prepares to study, she is refueling herself with the quiet.

In closing, reiki is a wonderful practice that I am grateful to have added to my personal self-care toolkit. It has also been beneficial as a roadmap to self-healing and optimized mindfulness practice. I recommend it for you and your family to learn more about today!

Dr. Khadijah Ali-Coleman is trained in Usui Holy Fire Reiki I, II and III. She offers personal Reiki sessions and offers group workshops for Black homeschooling parents and families. Learn more at BirthYourCreativity.com and email her at info@liberatedmuse.com to schedule a class.