A University of Georgia College of Education researcher is investigating what happens when Black parents take ownership of their children’s education through home schooling.
Dr. Cheryl A. Fields-Smith, an assistant professor of early childhood education, has received a grant from the Spencer Foundation for a project titled, “Extreme Involvement: An Investigation of Home Schooling Among Black Families.” She will study home schooling among Black families in hopes of finding new teaching methods that will lead to greater success for Black students in public schools.
“I want to debunk the myth that African-American parents are not as involved with their children’s education as other ethnicities,” she says.
Previous literature suggests that home schooling is something that only middle-class White parents did, she adds.
The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that nearly 2 million children are home schooled each year. Although researchers have investigated home-schooled students’ academic performance, the studies rarely, if ever, focus on the experience of Black families.
“By researching Black families’ beliefs, concerns and desires for their children’s education, we can better understand the reasons Black parents home school their children and how they reach and teach their children at home,” says Fields-Smith.
Fields-Smith, a single mother of two, entertained the idea of home schooling her eldest child while pursuing her doctorate. Although she opted to keep her son in public school, she understands why some parents decide to pull their children out.
“As parents, we know our children better than anyone else. It helps to know their strengths and ways in which they learn most effectively,” she says. “This is an advantage parents have over schools. At home, parents have more flexibility, and they can go more in-depth with what they study and how they integrate the curriculum. They can take kids on field trips or to museums. It’s more difficult to do this in schools.”
Fields-Smith hopes to find teaching methods used at home that can be equally useful in public classrooms. She says she will use a sample of 30 to 50 Black parents from focus groups and interviews to produce evidence about home schooling in Black families.
“Some parents say that public schools need to find ways to address children’s cultural needs and teach a subject from multiple perspectives, rather than just one,” she says. “Perhaps [they] even need to assess children’s needs for exercise and movement, so they can concentrate more easily.”
— Diverse staff reports
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