Why don't more African Americans school their children at home? By many accounts, there is every reason to avoid public schools, with their low academic expectations for black children, their general avoidance of black history, and their reputation for violence and negative peer pressure. The reason may be found in the opening pages of Freedom Challenge
, a collection of essays by people of color who homeschool. "I can't do it because I'm black," one teenager sadly insists after listening to a speaker tout the advantages of homeschooling. "I walk into some business to get a job, they want to see my diploma, I tell them I educated myself according to my own interests, and it's over. They say, 'Right. Another dropped out nigger.'" With that bold beginning, this book sets out to challenge that notion and encourage others to buck the system. It does so by example; the essays are all penned by parents and children who have taken the leap into homeschooling. Their experiences, written in lively, insightful passages and accompanied by black-and-white family photos, should inspire others to follow.
The contributors are 20 families who span the globe, including one military family of six that takes its homeschool on the road to Japan and another that lives on a boat in a co-op community in a Sausalito, California, harbor. While the book primarily focuses on African Americans, it includes two multiracial families. The stories--some written in first person, others in a question-and-answer format--are frank and revealing. One essay deals with the issue of racial politics when a black homeschooling network is challenged by an Asian family entering the group. Editor Grace Llewellyn, a white former teacher who has written two other books on home education (Real Lives: Eleven Teenagers Who Don't Go to School and The Teenage Liberation Handbook: How to Quit School and Get a Real Life and Education) closes with a helpful list of books, magazines, and other resources primarily aimed at multicultural homeschoolers. The combination makes this a rare, mandatory read for anyone who falls into either category. --Jodi Mailander Farrell
Whatever the quality of the nation's public schools, it's clear African American students are particularly affected by their weaknesses. It's not surprising, therefore, that Llewellyn--editor of Real Lives: Eleven Teenagers Who Don't Go to School
(1993) and author of The Teenage Liberation Handbook: How to Quit School and Get a Real Life and Education
(1991)--found more than a dozen parents and children willing, even anxious, to share their experiences with what Llewellyn calls "unschooling." Some of their narratives are formal essays; others use an interview format. The learning resources these families draw upon can be as ordinary as a bug or a lamp and are limited only by the parents' or the kids' imaginations. Although homeschooling is an option for only a small fraction of the children who want to learn, true believer Llewellyn certainly makes it look good for all in this success-story collection. Appendixes include a transcript of a homeschoolers-of-color discussion group, advice on how to start homeschooling, and a long list of useful resources. Mary Carroll