High school teacher Jasmine Boddie, though not a homeschooling parent, seen here at home helping her children with school work Sept 2020. Photo by Aswad Walker.

By Maya Pottiger for Word in Black

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In the pandemic-related “mass exodus” from public schools, it’s younger students, mainly kindergarteners, who are opting into other forms of schooling.

Across the country, more than 340,000 kindergarten-aged students, about 9%, haven’t enrolled in public school. According to a New York Times analysis of government data, the steepest drops in enrollment came in elementary-aged students, while enrollment actually increased in high school grade levels.

A previous Word In Black analysis found that while enrollment declined nationwide, it was sharpest among kindergarteners. At the time, the Office of the State Superintendent of Education in Washington, D.C. announced a continuation in fewer public school applications for the 2021-2020 school year, citing a 21% drop in total applications. The report noted the largest declines were in “pre-K 3 and non-entry grades.”

The Times also found that the decline in kindergarten students was largest in schools in the poorest neighborhoods.

In D.C., many families are turning to homeschooling. Citing health concerns, special needs and culture competency, Black families saw a huge jump in home school, up from 3.3% in April 2020 to 16.6% in October.

This trend was highlighted by the New Yorker in June. The article discusses the struggles Black families go through when deciding to pull out of public education: “Winning access to public education was one of the central victories of the civil-rights movement. Several parents had relatives who saw homeschooling as ‘a slap in the face’ to the legacy of Brown v. Board of Education.”

However, especially as Critical Race Theory is being lambasted, the ability to create your own curriculum was a draw. It is important to note that CRT was not taught in K-12 schools and was previously only common in some higher academic circles.

“We are not seeing ourselves in textbooks,” Maryland-based LaNissir James told the New Yorker. “I love traditional American history, but I like to take my kids to the Museum of African American History and Culture and say, O.K., here’s what was going on with Black people in 1800.”

Parents transitioning to homeschooling have found a vast amount of online curriculums available for free or for an affordable cost. One of the most popular offerings, according to the New Yorker, was former Fort Lauderdale teacher Iman Alleyne’s course called Black History from a Decolonized Perspective.

“When we talk about being in spaces where our histories are continuously distorted or ignored, where a child cannot see themselves or their ancestors in the retellings of stories on how things have been created or develop, that is an assault on your mental state,” Khadijah Z. Ali-Coleman, who is working on a book about Black homeschooling, told the Washington Post. “Home schooling becomes a safe space.”