It's back-to-school season. However, in our family, we won't be going back anywhere. We have chosen to educate at home.
Now, hold on one minute before you judge. Believe me, I never thought I would be one of "those moms." Let me explain how and why I have chosen this unlikely route and why I think more black parents who have the resources and ability to do so should follow suit.
My son's name is Khalil. He is 11 years old, naturally curious, talkative, full of light and highly energetic. He was blessed to attend outstanding early-childhood and preschool programs. He thrived in the intimate environments of preschool. He talked, walked and met every milestone on time.
However, as he grew from the cute baby into a gentle giant, I noticed how others began to perceive him. Tall stature and brown skin became symbols of someone dangerous. Teachers became fearful of him. He was told that he was bad, often accused of doing something wrong without being given the benefit of the doubt. He could not afford to have a bad day. Meanwhile, if blond, blue-eyed Billy had a bad day, he just needed a hug.
I wasn't completely surprised by the disparities in the way my son was treated compared with his white classmates. From the moment Khalil was born, I knew I would have a fierce battle to fight raising a black male child in America. We see case after case of black males being labeled, targeted, and then either imprisoned or killed.
I believe this road begins much earlier than most parents think. It starts in elementary school, when little black boys are prejudged and labeled. They feel the change in how others perceive them and are often unable to recover from the psychological effects of prejudice at such an early age. Some become angry, while others simply disengage.
In addition, I noticed that as the classroom sizes grew, so did Khalil's frustrations with school. I saw a change in my own son. He became depressed and frustrated. The child who loved reading, creating comic books and doing science experiments now begged me not to send him to school. How could this be?
We also spent more and more time on homework. Instead of an hour of review, I often spent several hours a night reteaching materials that he could not grasp while at school. Unable to get proper assistance from the schools, I chose to get my son tested privately and quickly discovered that he was autistic.
His frustration at school was a sign not of rebellion but of sensitivity. It was a sign of a child who needed someone to take the time to notice that he was not able to learn in a sedentary environment. It was a symptom of his craving more activity and his preference for learning in a visual, hands-on manner.
By this time, we had lost all faith in the school systems, both public and private. (We tried both.)
I know in my heart that my decision to bring my child home to be educated saved his life. Why?
2. Children learn best from people who love them versus those who are suspicious of their every action.
3. We are able to focus on black history every day! This will instill a sense of pride, not shame, for all that we have accomplished as an African people.
4. I am able to address his special needs and create a customized education that focuses on his strengths and not his "disability."
5. There's reason to believe that home-educated children outperform publicly and privately educated children.
How we choose to educate our children is ultimately a personal choice. But I wish to remind you that we cannot always wait for someone else to do what we can do best for our children. True, we can spend our time lobbying to change the school systems; or we can put half that time and energy into creating educational opportunities for us and by us.
Remember, educational choice is not limited to public, private and charter schools. We have the right to educate our children in our homes and with our values in a safe environment.
This black mom homeschools. Will you join me?
Julia Dumas Wilks is a child of the King, aspie mom, word nerd, home educator and ancestor hunter. Follow her on Twitter.
We want to hear your story. Send pitches for My Thing Is, a forum for personal narratives by The Root’s readers and contributors, to MyThingIs@theroot.com.