Wednesday, June 3, 2015

An interesting experience - a tale of two homeschool open houses

An interesting experience - a tale of two homeschool open houses


This week I attended two open houses.  The experience was telling.  At the first open house, which was very well-attended, initially, I was the only African-American parent in attendance.  Everyone was warm and inviting and the class offerings looked interesting.  But I wondered to myself if the history, the literature or the math would highlight any of the African contribution? What would my children go away feeling and thinking at the end of the class? I’m sure they would learn, but where would they see themselves.  Then two other Black parents showed up.  As Black folks tend to do (or at least some of us), I tried to make eye contact so that I could greet them.  Both women went out of their way to avoid eye contact and not speak.  Nor did they acknowledge each other.  Interesting, I thought.  But upon deeper reflection, as I watched these women go and embrace others in attendance who did not look like me, I began to feel quite sad.  I wondered what in their experience made them uncomfortable with greeting someone who clearly looked like them.  Two days later, I attended an open house for a web-based, online African-Centered Homeschool program that was not well-attended.  Yet, the experience was starkly different.  I knew 3 of the people in attendance, but they did not know each other.  We shared openly about experiences related to being wounded in our educational experience.  I learned so much about what education really is – and it’s not just about finding the right class for your child.  I learned that real education brings the family closer together, it does not divide them.  Instead, it cultivates a child who deeply respects the parent and strengthens family, cultural and community bonds.  There aren’t many programs whose goal it is to not only educate, but also to heal oppression and re-build families.  After the second open house, I had a better understanding of why those women may have behaved in that way.  Could they have been wounded too? Probably so.  I feel more compassion for them now and less disdain.  I am also more firm in knowing that any and everything that I use to educate my child must be fortifying him so that when goes out into the world, he never has to question himself or try to prove himself to anyone.  He will be standing on a strong foundation.  Baba Wekesa gave a great example of what it means to be standing on a firm foundation.  He used the example of cooking.  He said that if you feel good about your cooking and you taste someone else’s food that tastes good, you can enjoy it, appreciate it, applaud it.  But it doesn’t make you question whether or not you deserve to be in the kitchen.  The same with education.  If you know your history, your contribution and you walk in it, then if you end up in a learning environment where no one looks like you, you never have to question your right to be there or compare yourself to others.  You know that it is your birthright! I did NOT feel that way growing up. My educational wounding began in 2nd grade.  I still remember their names:  Kendra Phul, Paula Coward and Susie Steinbach.  These are real names! I was Level 1 tracked and one of the few Blacks.  Naturally, all of my friends were white girls because that’s all that was in my class.  On the playground I was teased by Blacks – I thought I was white, I hung around all the white girls and I could not salute the flag (I was raised as a Jehovah’s Witness).  So I got it coming and going.  Homeschooling is allowing me to heal those wounds.  I feel very different in a room of people who don’t look like me than when I was younger.  I am confident and I am self-assured.  I can truly honor and respect the culture of others while proudly affirming and serving my own.  In my humble expression, I believe that is what an education should give us.  I am really looking forward to Zion taking the Sankofa Math course and Black Body Chemistry course with AYA.  As Baba Wekesa said, it is not enough for our children to know they created the pyramids.  So what? Can they think and compute with the same precision as our ancestors? I’m going to bring it on home now (as they say in church), but it was a delightful experience to do Ethiopian multiplication alongside my sun yesterday.  For more information about AYA, visit: The 2015/2016 course descriptions will be online by July 1.

Monica Utsey
Co-founder Sankofa Homeschool Community & Sankofa Homeschool Collective

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