Tag Archives: homeschool

Sharing Stories: How homeschooling has brought us closer

I will admit that I am often frustrated with the lack of knowledge that many fellow Black Americans have regarding our political and social history in this country. With my undergraduate degree in Interdisciplinary Studies which was a study of African-American Studies and Mass Media, with a minor in Writing, I often ride a high horse thinking I inevitably know more. That lasts for about a firm hour before I am brought back to reality and realize that I am as ignorant of our history in this country as the best of them. Yesterday, I watched a video about the Black girls held for two months at the Leesburg Stockade with my partner, amazed at how I had never heard an inch of the story before (or, if I did, not remembering any of it). Things like that happen quite often with the advent of social media and the freeness in which information can be shared and accessed now. A voracious reader and a lover of documentaries, I am learning something new everyday.

Me and the teen in 2018

A lot of the new stuff that I learn about Black history in America occurred during the times that my mother, grandmother and great-grandmother lived. I recently have been able to make familial connections to history because of a memoir that was recently found, written by my great-grandmother Susie C. Lewis. She and my great-grandfather Ira Andrew Lewis were educators who started schools in Louisiana for Black children, one school bearing his name to this day, I. A. Lewis School in Ruston, LA. However, when he suddenly died, my great-grandmother had to leave Louisiana to make a new life for herself and children and had to make a decision. With the money she had, she could go to California where she had family or go to Washington DC. With the funds she had, DC was an easier and less expensive trek and that is how my grandmother came to the DC area with her mother and how my mother and I were subsequently born in DC.

I didn’t know anything about my great-grandmother’s journey before I read the memoir. I don’t think my mother did either (my mother died in 2014, but, gave me a copy before she died). The memoir was rich with stories of how my great-grandmother was born in Mississippi and became a woman in Louisiana, her life so vibrantly lived as an educator, wife and mother. Many of the themes resonated with today’s times, for, she was truly a remarkable person. But, again, I would not know any of this if it wasn’t for the memoir. And, who is out in these streets writing memoirs regularly? Your mother probably didn’t. Mine didn’t. And, I have so many questions that I will not be able to ask my mother. So, that history that she lived will either be gone or have to be accessed from others who knew her and can share her stories. My mother was private, so, that probably will not be happening. A lot of people, I am learning, are private, too. They believe, what has happened has happened. When our ancestors and elders live(d) with this belief and practice it, we lose a lot of history that could possibly help us make better choices, feel affirmed on our path or validate some things we feel intuitively, but, would benefit from a shared story. That is why I am doing my best to change that narrative.

This week, I learned how important homeschooling has been in unlocking the stories that I didn’t realize I wasn’t sharing with my daughter. My daughter is a 10th grader who is also dual-enrolled in community college courses. This semester, she is only taking one course and the other lessons are ones she gets from home, whether it is directly from me or interests she pursues on her own. This semester includes an assigned literature review of books by Black women (including her great-great grandmother’s memoir) as well as some unschooling interests she has, from teaching herself to play the guitar and piano to writing movie reviews and reviews on retro vinyls (she has a record player she uses religiously).

We sit in shared space a lot, me working on my doctoral studies– I am in the midst of comprehensive exams until March– and she working on projects. In these shared spaces, she may remark about issues she may have with her best friends who she regularly communes with via social media or she may try out new Spanish words she learned to see if she is pronouncing them correctly. During these moments, I remember my own teen experiences and share them with her, re-living history and bringing her closer to understanding previous generational norms through stories that often include her late grandmother, or other relatives as supporting characters. Today, I teared up as I relayed to her a story about how I had an epiphany at 15 years-old about behavior I was displaying that I was ashamed of and how that made me feel and what I did to address it. The story was accessed when she shared with me issues she is having with a friend and asked me what my thoughts were.

The teen and I when she graduated from 8th grade a few years ago

I often wonder during these sharing of stories how homeschooling has helped facilitate a relationship with my teen that I believe would not be possible if we were not homeschooling. In the course of a work/school day, extra-curricular activities, dinner prep, chores, etc., when we would have time to share these stories? She was in public school for middle school and, comparing our interactions from then to now, I know that if she was not home with me or on the road with me during this homeschool journey, I would be greatly out of the loop regarding what is going on with her. As it is now, the way things are, I think we are in the midst of sharing stories that will help shape her understanding of the history that gave her life. My wish is that this exchange of stories continues.

Khadijah Z. Ali-Coleman is the founder of So Our Youth Aspire (SOYA) and is 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. She is also a homeschooling mom.   Her new children’s book Mariah’s Maracas is now on sale.


A School Wish-List From a Public School Parent

My lovely daughter in 3rd grade in 2011

As a social entrepreneur working many roles—from college instructor to arts administrator, I have a lot going on during the day to keep me busy. When my third-grader used to come home after school, the last thing I needed to worry about was how effective a job her school was doing in teaching her in a safe and educational environment. It should be a given. But, sometimes, it’s not.
While I actively engage my daughter at home with learning resources—we frequent the library often, I teach her social media platforms and with her dad, a fellow technophile, we give her access to new technology—I didn’t always feel confident that she was getting all that she should be getting from her neighborhood school. Eventually, we took her out of school and home-schooled her for her 5th and 6th grade years.

My 11 year-old ready for 7th grade at a new school in the Fall after two years of being home-schooled

Well, she auditioned for a performing arts school in May and got it (yay!) and will be going back to public school in the Fall. I began writing a list of some of the things I wished could be a guarantee for my daughter’s school and took to Facebook and Twitter to ask other parents to weigh in. I wanted to see if other parents had some of the same woes that I had before and am a bit worried about with school and I also wanted to hear about some things that I may not be privy to. All in all, there over a dozen things that came up, but here are the top 3 that made my list.
1. Smaller Student/Counselor Ratio
We know that class sizes in public schools are expanding with some classroom almost bursting at the seams. This surge in students doesn’t only impact burdened teachers who now have to manage large classrooms of students who extend outside the numbers of best practices. But other school personnel are impacted as well, in particular, guidance counselors.
Single mother Rayona Y. who has children who attend Baltimore County schools wrote,
“My son is only a sophomore, but I see the senior counselor struggling so much, trying to handle all of her graduates– their transcripts, colleges, etc. Having more than one counselor would relieve that pressure, and stop the underclassmen counselors from neglecting their students to help the senior counselor out.”
2. Better Communication With Parents
Prince George’s County, Maryland mom Keba S. answered my Facebook question of “What Would Go On Your Wish List for Your Child’s School” short and succinctly when she wrote, “Consistency, Better Communication and Better Structure.”
As a fellow PG County parent, I co-sign this request. My daughter started public school in PG County in 2010 for 2nd grade after being schooled in private school in her early years. The immediate shock was realizing how hard it was to communicate with the teachers. They aren’t allowed to talk to you during the school day during their planning period, they can’t talk to you before school and unless an appointment is made you probably won’t hear from them apart from that one scheduled Back-to-School Night that is scheduled early in the year.
This lack of communication makes it challenging for parents to find out information about their children to be pro-active regarding any potential issues that may crop up. It also restricts parents access to the school community , blocking efforts to build necessary rapport with those who interact with their children.
3. Stop Teaching to Test
And, while we all see the necessity of measuring performance outcomes, one parent echoed my sentiment that the teaching to test mentality has got to go.

Anne Arundel County, Maryland mom Quineice C. wrote, “Smaller classes, fewer standardized tests and better Arts programs. My son is intelligent, but he really struggles with the standardized tests (e.g. MSA’s).”
What would go on your wish list? Add it in the comment section.


Khadijah Z. Ali-Coleman is a writer, educator and performance artist, founder of Liberated Muse Arts Group. Learn more at KhadijahOnline.com