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Pier Penic is a freelance writer who homeschools her two children. She is also the Director and Founder of Culture at Home-An educational outreach and support group for African American Homeschoolers in the D.C. area.

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No Boundaries, No Limits!

Whether you have experienced a divorce, are separated, widowed or happily single, the idea of homeschooling your child/children can seem a bit out of the ordinary. But, many African American women won't let their immediate situations deter them from the option of homeschooling. Most people see the average or typical homeschooling mom as a somewhat privileged married women who does not work outside of the home. The reality today is that there are single parents who are raising children by themselves and for many who desire to homeschool, they should never give up that option but support for many of these moms is non-existent.

Blanch is a single mother in the Washington D.C. area who has been homeschooling her 11 year old son and works part-time. . When asked what she felt was the biggest challenge in her homeschooling experience, she replied:

"Same age friends are hard to come by. My son has 'associates or acquaintances' but only one homeschooler that he often interacts with besides conversing on the phone. He has another homeschool 'phone' and 'chess' friend. As well as another friend who he meets and plays with at a local pool. However, his parents have yet to bring the child by our house to visit for the day.

Trying to find a local play group with other children, especially boys who are close in age is a challenge for us. Many parents are too occupied with their own schedules to meet for a regular 'play group'. Also, a few of the homeschool children my son came to associate with through the past four years, they return to school."

When I inquired about joint custody with her son's father, she implied " No and thank God: considering the issues with the other half.. I have full custody of my son." How important is it for Blanch to squeeze in some extra time for yourself? "Squeezing in extra time for myself is very important. However, what I fail to do consistently is take that 'down time' of tranquility for my well-being. I usually try to take time out for myself when I come home from work. Monthly, my son and I stop by the local bookstore and take a moment to eat lunch at the Cafe together. But one of my real extra time to myself is making it to a monthly book discussion to share some 'adult conversation' time with other adults."

I asked Blanch why she chose to homeschool. She replied, "I chose to homeschool, because I literally was fed up with my county's school system when my son was in the second grade. By the time I pulled my son out, I had already submitted a 'hefty' load of complaint letters to the Deputy Superintendent of our regional school, his assistant, the principal (and complaints about her as well). By the time I pulled my son out, I dreaded each weekly call from the principal regarding my son's so called, 'behavior.' I recognized at the time that I couldn't continue coming to the school or attending weekend 'patchwork behavioral academies' within the county. I felt strongly, and to this day, that much of the concerns regarding my son were two fold -- behaviors of teachers and, would you believe, the 'guidance counselor' and his reaction to their words and behaviors. Words and statements from teachers and the counselor in particular that astonished me: for example, my son's first second grade teacher refused to call him by his first name after he had corrected her several times. In addition to my son's 'first second grade teacher's comment, I requested his removal from her class. The guidance counselor felt it was quite appropriate to tell a 7 year old child that '....those who didn't listen to authorities would end up in jail.' She had my son fearing that he was going to jail. This teacher, needless to say, was not from the area but from New York City. Another audacious comment she said to my son was 'Your father doesn't love you...' Do I need to explain my son's reaction to her comment that his father didn't love him? Her comments were the straw that broke the camel's back, as they would say, and moved me to remove my son from school, leave a full-time federal job and work part-time."

Blanch's biggest challenge in her homeschooling experience is the social factor. " One of my biggest challenge, especially this year, is social activities with other homeschoolers and children for my son. This past year was the worst year we've ever had with extra-curricula activities; for example sports and frequent 'hanging or meeting up' with other homeschool children around my son's age."

But, her greatest reward in homeschooling her son is obviously the academic exposure that he is receiving. "His education surpasses the local public schools/education and a few private schools. We've attended and participated in some fantastic field trips to the Smithsonian, Kennedy Center, plays, museums/galleries. He's learning art, ceramics and music by local popular artists. He's taken advantage of local science workshops at the University of Maryland's MRSEC. We've had the chance to meet some interesting historical representatives. And above all our schedule is flexible, because a lot of our so called 'outside interactions and activities' are learning experiences. I know for a fact that my son would not have experienced the cultural exposure if he was attending the public schools."

I asked her if she belonged to a support group/family group/church group that supports her as a single parent educating her son at home. She replied, "Yes, I'm a member of three homeschool networks (the Prince George's Home and Leaning Network, Cultureathome, and Maryland Home Education Association and one resourceful homeschool listserv (bwhe).One of the biggest support that would be nice is a set of friends to hang-out with on a regular schedule, which is one of the reasons why I enjoy taking my son to his MRSEC classes. I get a chance to meet another with another homeschool mom for small talk and food."

Jackie, a court reporter in D.C. homeschools her 13 year old son Miles who is in the 8th grade. Her reasons for homeschooling were clear and concise, "The teachers have no creativity! They are overworked and underpaid." She does not share joint custody with the father of her son who lives out-of-state. She felt that finding extra time for herself or having a social life is not important. She stated, "It doesn’t factor into anything." Jackie chose to homeschool because she honestly believed that the "school system" was not meeting her son's academic needs. She stated "It was academics all the way." Her greatest reward for choosing to be a single parent homeschooler was seeing her son's progression academically. "There is a comfort in knowing and seeing his progress and exposure." But she also stated in regard to single parent homeschooling is that..."It's confining!! very few understand the sacrifices one must make in order to be successful at homeschooling." Jackie has joined a few support groups but the financial demands as head of household is still a major factor. She also felt that the child's father or type of spouse that you had can make a difference in your success at homeschooling. "If you have a deadbeat spouse or one that does not support the aspects of homeschooling, it can be very difficult."

Ninon, a single mother in Virginia who homeschools three children ages 8 months, 3 years and 6 years was determined to find a way to work from home so that she could stay home and educate her children. She decided to start a daycare and aftercare program from her home which ended up be financially rewarding as well as having the benefits of experiencing home education. "I take care of 4 other children during the day-all toddlers and I get 3 older children in my aftercare program from 3:00-6:00 p.m. during the week." When asked about handling the demands of running a daycare and homeschooling her own children she states, "You don't think about it. You have all these kids and you teach all of them together like one big school. I do a lot of storytimes with the kids, we visit the library a lot, I teach them all and I have the older kids do their homework after school." Ninon also believes that having the daycare is a positive social presence for her children. She likes the idea of her children socializing with all ages of children. Ninon is not a member of any homeschool support group but she has a lot of support from her extended family members who will watch her children on weekends.

University Professor and single mom Dr. L. Toms knows how demanding and hectic a full-time schedule of grading student papers and teaching your own child can be. She homeschooled her son for the first 13 years of his life while pursuing a PhD and also teaching at the university level. She always brought her child to class with her and had him do his homework during her lectures. During the summer, her son would spend time with his father who was out-of-state. She always believed that homeschooling your child is possible no matter what situation you are in.

As more single/divorced parents consider the idea of homeschooling their child/children, more resources will eventually have to be made available for this small and growing group of educators. But these women are proof that boundaries and limitations are not a factor when it comes to their children's education.