The homeschooling population in the United States is predominantly white and concentrated in suburban or rural areas. In 2016, black children accounted for 8 percent of the 1.7 million homeschooled students nationally, according to U.S. Department of Education statistics. What federal education data don’t show, though, is what’s driving those 136,000 or so black students and their families into homeschooling. Nor do the data reveal the tenacity and tradition that bond this homeschooling movement—a movement that challenges many of the prevailing stereotypes about homeschooling, which tends to be characterized as the province of conservative Christians, public-school opponents, and government skeptics.
For VaiVai and many other black homeschoolers, seizing control of their children’s schooling is an act of affirmation—a means of liberating themselves from the systemic racism embedded in so many of today’s schools and continuing the campaign for educational independence launched by their ancestors more than a century ago. In doing so, many are channeling an often overlooked history of black learning in America that’s rooted in liberation from enslavement. When seen in this light, the modern black homeschooling movement is evocative of African Americans’ generations-long struggle to change their children’s destiny through education—and to do so themselves.