Homeschooling, Unschooling, and Diversity

I was recently inspired to write about the need to welcome diversity in the homeschooling community: people of all races and backgrounds can benefit from the freedom and empowerment of homeschooling, unschooling, and worldschooling. And the homeschooling community and the world can benefit from the presence of that diversity.

Then I read about the incident of racial profiling against Henry Louis Gates, Jr., the pre-eminent African American scholar from Harvard University who was arrested by police after being accused of breaking into his own home and getting upset at the policeman, just down the street from me in Cambridge, Massachusetts. It’s a clear sign that racism is still a problem when a middle-aged scholar is arrested for “entering ones home while black”.

It’s always been my dream that homeschooling could help with the issues around race and fear and hate for supposed outsiders. I performed a rap poem in 2002, when I was 18, called “Whole Education Without Getting Schooled”, in which I said:

“Whole” as in complete with unity

With everyone part of a community

When you know everyone is interconnected

Propaganda that says “hate,” is ineffective

(You can read the whole rap poem here.)

I still think that homeschooling, or worldschooling as I like to call it, has great potential for broadening people’s horizons and breaking down the barriers that separate us.

A common concern about homeschooling is the students could become sheltered when in fact, as worldschoolers, they have the opportunity to have the whole world as their school rather than one building, in one neighborhood, in one city.

One thing is clear: according to a study done in 2007 “Home schooling improves academic performance and reduces impact of socio-economic factors.”:

Hepburn (of the Fraser Institute which did this study of homeschoolers in the U.S. and Canada) said evidence clearly demonstrates that home education may help reduce the negative effects of some background factors that many educators believe affects a child’s ability to learn, such as low family income, low parental educational attainment, parents not having formal training as teachers, race or ethnicity of the student, gender of the student, not having a computer in the home, and infrequent usage of public libraries….

The study also reports that students educated at home outperform their peers on most academic tests and are involved in a broad mix of social activities outside the home.

(You can read the whole article here.)

Homeschooling allows people to grow freely. This improves many aspects of ourselves, one of which is achievement on standardized tests. It also allows our spirit as a whole, our soul, to soar.

Homeschooling is not an elitist option only for wealthy, “well educated”, white families with two parents in the house. On the contrary it seems to be a powerful way for disadvantaged people to get ahead.

And I’m told that more and more people from diverse backgrounds are reaping the benefits of homeschooling. At the same time I’m disappointed at the lack of diversity at the unschooling gatherings I’ve been to. In my next post I’ll address this issue as best I can.

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14 Comments

Filed under diversity, homeschooling, race, unschooling, worldschooling

14 responses to “Homeschooling, Unschooling, and Diversity

  1. For a while, I wasn’t involved in any sort of unschooling community, and when I did start going to unschooling gatherings, a lot of things about the unschooling community surprised me.

    One of which was the lack of diversity. Also how very “normal” a lot of the people where! I figured if people were living such a free life, living without school and its brainwashing, they’d be more likely to question other aspects of our society, as I had (and am doing). That, however, is certainly not the case, as most unschoolers are still part of corporate (white) North America! That was slightly disappointing to me. Where I do find unschoolers to be very diverse, is in terms of sexual orientation and acceptance thereof. I have yet to come across a homophobic unschooler!

    Even though the unschooling community as a whole isn’t as diverse as it could be, I’m still exasperated every time I hear/see the argument that home/unschoolers will end up being isolated and judgmental, since, as much as I love them, my schooled friends are FAR less accepting of people from different ethnic backgrounds, people of different sexual orientations, and people from different economic backgrounds…

    Anyway, sorry that this became pretty long! Just my mini rant on things. 🙂

    Peace,
    Idzie

    • Like you said Idzie about mine: your long response shows my post affected you so I’m glad: thank you!

      It was the same for me with the unschooling scene here in Boston: I was a bit disappointed by how “normal” as you put it, most people were. For some homeschooling was about having a great option: it wasn’t about opening up the door to questioning everything as it was for me!

      But I’ve also met some real kindred spirits: some into Daniel Quinn, wilderness education, lots into organic gardening and sustainable living.

      And I observed the same thing re: sexual orientation: that’s one bit of diversity that I’ve noticed is very well represented and welcomed in the homeschooling scene. I’ve also noticed a large number of Jewish families unschooling.

      It’s the issue of race and economics that I really wish we could address more as unschoolers.

  2. From my understanding of the Gates arrest, the neighbor calling the police seems to be a racial issue, but the police officer’s attitude and resulting arrest seems to be largely a class issue.

    Issues with Home-schooling seems to be lack of diversity of point of view. Why is this?

    • Sorry, I don’t really follow both your comments Carman: how was the police officers attitude and arrest a class issue and not a racial one?

      And what lack of diversity of point of view are you referring to in homeschooling?

      Anyway, thanks for commenting, just need to hear more before I can respond!

    • Btw I thought this article did a good job of giving the play by play explanation of what happened:

      http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5jNR4dcq5sivgbez2rttRVWtTMXoAD99IQOM00

      • Carman

        I heard on NPR that the police officer was an instructor for racial awareness training within the police department. NPR also mentioned that the Gate’s IDs did not have his address listed on them.

        My point about Class is that Cops often feel looked down upon and disrespected, as working class “joe’s”…. aka maybe there was class tension partly instigated by the Gates arrest. Boston has plenty of both racial and class issues. Obviously, it’s impossible to separate the class and race issue involved in this case. Plus, Gates was physically exhausted from flying back from China! Extremely tough position to be in. I feel really bad for Gates, but I also feel it’s a more complicated situation than it appears, which is why it’s being discussed in the media. It’s not a simple “cop pulls black guy over who’s driving a nice car” situation. Just my opinion.

  3. Celeste Earhart

    I think that one reason we don’t have more homeschoolers of different backgrounds is that our message has perhaps not reached (or reached out to) different cultures enough. Most people see homeschooling as an extension of private schooling, which has always been considered more of a “white elitist” thing to do. Most people of different cultures or socioeconomic backgrounds either want to set themselves apart from that, or don’t think they can afford that kind of school for their kids. I came from a low SES family, but we still found it affordable to homeschool through the Boston school in California, which gives you the freedom to Unschool/Worldschool any way you choose, (and you still get a REAL high school diploma when you graduate, not a GED). Now you can actually homeschool for free online through virtual academies, or through charter schools, if you want a more rigorous/academic curriculum. Some of these schools, like Sky Mountain charter in CA, actually GIVE the parents an 1800 education budget that they can use to purchase books/materials/lessons for their children, and they provide curriculum support. I am sure other sates have similar programs. But the word is not reaching those of different backgrounds that it is affordable, if not FREE to Homeschool/Unschool/Worldschool, and you don’t have to have a degree or even a diploma to teach your kids at home, because there are FREE educated professionals and resources available to them outside of the public school classroom.
    I think homeschool has long had a sort of “Underground” reputation as well, and a lot of people still wonder if it is “legal”. Do to the kind of racial profiling you described that still goes on, most people of ethnic backgrounds want to keep as far away from anything that might be illegal as possible for obvious reasons! I remember how we weren’t supposed to “tell” anyone we were homeschooled when I was a kid, back in the early days of the movement. You had to say you were in “private school” if somebody asked, otherwise you could be taken to court for truancy! We have come a long way, but this air of mysticism and secrecy still surrounds homeschooling that we as Unschoolers/Worldschoolers/Homeschoolers need to work hard at breaking out of/demystifying.

    Thank you, Eli, for raising these concerns and helping to get the word out there.

    Celeste Earhart

  4. Celeste Earhart

    One more note: I only mentionted the GED vs. Diploma thing because my husband never believes me when I tell him I have a high school diploma because I was homeschooled, even though I have shown it to him. I meant nothing deorgetory towards GED’s. It is just a stigma about homeschooling I wish to erase.

    • Great points Celeste: I think misconceptions about the availability, affordability, and nature of homeschooling still turns many people from all backgrounds away. There are def many ways to do it very cheaply.

      As Matt Damon said in Good Will Hunting: “You dropped a hundred and fifty grand on a f****n’ education you coulda got for a dollah fifty in late chahges at the public library.”

      Seriously, the library is an amazing free resource I’ve continued to use for my education. And now of course there is the internet.

      And I think you’re right that people of color do face extra fears when considering homeschooling that need to be dispelled. BUT I’m also talking about how even when they do homeschool they still are not welcomed into the scene enough.

    • This video does a good job of showing each person talking about their side of the story:

      http://myprops.org/content/NBC-TODAY-Show-Cambridge-Officer-Gates-Provocative/

      I don’t think the officer is a hateful racist. The irony is he probably arrested Gates because he felt ashamed of Gates calling him a racist. He probably felt overwhelmed by a lot of feelings and arresting him seemed like the easiest thing to do. But by doing that he really did appear to be a racist and did have something to be ashamed of!

      This is really about the deep wounds, shame, and injustices that still exist regarding race in this country.

  5. Nkonyezi

    Great Article! Alot of truths in there.
    I wish there was more diversity amongst unschooling,homeschooling or whatever name you want to call it, but I believe that there is alot of misconceptions of homeschooling/unschooling out there amongst the “regular” population and also a great fear. A fear that if they homeschool their child, they will be less smart then their publicschool counterparts or they won’t measure up in college or in life.. It’s sad that alot of people are trapped in this ignorant cycle. The other day I was went to see a movie with my friend and afterwards I was talking to a friend of his moms and when his mom mentioned I was homeschooled, her friend had this “omg you’re homeschooled? Is your IQ less then a tenth of 1percent?” look on her face. It was partially annoying and also disturbing to think people still carry that mentality around with them. And then also I think part of it was my race. You don’t see many unschoolers of other races. That is one thing I’ve enjoyed about unschooling thanks to my moms various efforts to make a globalthinker ,is being able to break these sterotypes homeschoolers/unschoolers having a certain look/mentality. For me the true definition of unschooling isn’t running wild, or not doing any tests.
    It is the ability to deconditionize one’s mind to see life from a different, more broader perspective. The ability to see the world isn’t black or white but it has shades of gray,yellow,pink ….
    What happened to Dr. Gates is awful and it’s sad that our president had to back down from his statement(which in my opinion was true) that the police officer acted stupidly, for fear of reprocussions. Mostly because he has be careful of being called a racist if he sides to much with Prof. Gates. I also, am sad/dissapointed to say that amongst many unschoolers there is some sublimenal racism. How do I know it’s there?
    I know it’s there by the people they associate themselves with. If their whole circle is predominantely one race and it doesn’t seek to become more diverse, that’s a sign of sublimenal racism. If they are willing to support someone that is doing something good that looks like them but won’t support someone doing something just as good but they happen to be a different color, that’s sublimenal racism. If the parents of a child do not avidly seek to make their child aware of diverse cultures and ideas, in place like the U.S that has racism written on every billboard. There child no matter how much they say they have “unschooled” them will have racist tendencies. Apart of unschooling, I believe yes is letting your child or teen make their own decisions but I think it is must if not a mandatory requirement for every homeschooling/unschooling parent in the U.S. specifically to emerse their child in other cultures whether the child wants it or not. Why? Why even ask why is why but if you must ask why, then the answer is turn on your television set, flip on your laptop and go online, walk down your local grocery store isle see who smiles at you on your can of iodized salt, go to a YMCA and see whose faces is on the “needy” list,or even in your “health” conscious stores, and look on the make a donation fund photo and you’ll find the answer.
    A few simple thoughts from a unhomeschooler..

    Keep sharing your thoughts Eli, they are most interesting: )

  6. Thank you so much for posting this and sharing your thoughts and experiences Nkonyezi! I especially liked how you said this:

    “For me the true definition of unschooling isn’t running wild, or not doing any tests.
    It is the ability to deconditionize one’s mind to see life from a different, more broader perspective.”

    That’s exactly what unschooling is about to me too. And like you say it requires a special effort: our environment inevitably affects us and we live in a society that is racist.

    And there are plenty of ways to make sure a child learns about diverse cultures and ideas: model that behavior yourself mainly, encourage, and just talk about how important it is.

    Because it is important: None of us are free unless we’re all free. And we lose so much richness, and dignity, when we don’t welcome diversity.

    Your comments and everyone else’s here really do encourage me to share more of my thoughts so I thank you!

  7. Pingback: Diversity, Unschooling Conferences, and Steinbeck, MLK, and Gandhi Quotes « Eli Gerzon’s Worldschooler Blog

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