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Thinking Ahead: High School or Homeschool

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About This Site

Monica Z. Utsey is an accomplished writer and editor. Her work has appeared in national magazines including Heart & Soul, the Crisis Magazine, and Upscale. In addition to writing, she and her husband operate two successful businesses, One Word Tees & Baby Soul for Boys, clothing lines that feature motivational words.

Monica is also the President of the Southern DC Chapter of Mocha Moms, Inc. She is a foreign language enthusiast, avid reader, breastfeeding peer counselor, and proponent of Attachment Parenting. She is currently working on two books: Etiquette for African-American Children and Attachment Parenting for African-American Families.

She and her husband Eric have been unschooling their only son, Zion, age 4 since birth. Monica is a member of the Capital Area Homeschooling Community in Washington, D.C., and facilitates its book club for the early years (ages 3-6). Her future plans include returning to her Alma matter, Howard University, to teach about Afro-Latino Language and Culture.

When I first started talking about homeschooling, my husband raised the question of sports. So our compromise was that I could homeschool through high school as long as I allowed Zion the option of attending a high school with a competitive sports program if he so desired. See, my husband comes from a long line of athletes. His uncle, Willie "Butch" Utsey was one of the best schoolyard basketball players in Philadelphia in the 1960s. My husband's first cousin, Andre McCarter, was one of the top four high school basketball players in the country in 1972, eventually earning him a full scholarship to UCLA. McCarter went on to play professional ball with Kansas City Kings and the Washington Bullets, later becoming the assistant coach for UCLA. My husband Eric participated in many Sonny Hill & John Chaney (Temple University Basketball coach) summer league basketball clinics and was varsity point guard for his West Catholic High School in grades 9-12. It's no wonder my son is a basketball enthusiast! It's in the genes.

My husband's concern is whether or not my son will truly be able to experience the benefits of team sports if he does not attend high school. Currently, my son (a natural athlete) participates in soccer, basketball, and t-ball through various recreation centers. But as my husband says, "scouts don't come to those games." If my goal as a homeschooler is to raise a child who follows his passion and has a love for life and learning, who's to say basketball or sports won't be it? At the tender age of 3, my son actually enjoyed watching documentaries on Michael Jordan. Strolling through the isles of Costco one day, he asked for Michael Jordan DVD. I thought he meant Space Jams (starring Michael Jordan), until he walked over and picked up Ultimate Jordan, a documentary about his life and career. But is high school worth it?

Recently, we rented the movie Love Don't Cost You Nothing, starring Nick Cannon (of the movie Drumline). This is one of those "coming of age" films about high school, only this time the cast is African-American. Nick plays Alvin, a loser, nerd, and overall unpopular guy. All the "cool kids" make fun of him in school because he and his three best friends like to rebuild cars for fun. One of the rebuilt cars will be entered into a competition for an engineering scholarship.

What are the cool kids up to? Well, they are most concerned with wearing designer clothes, knowing the right people, and, of course, sex (no drugs in the movie thank God!) Being a part of the cool crowd is so important to Alvin that he forgets about his academic pursuits and uses the $1,500 he saved to buy an essential automotive part for the car he's building to enter into the engineering competition, to instead pay the most popular girl in school to "pretend" to be his girlfriend for two weeks. In his mind, this will help him become cool. In the process, he sheds the old Alvin and his nerdy friends to become a cool guy, complete with Sean John attire, a platinum gold chain, a new hairstyle, and a nasty new attitude. As a more cool guy, he's no longer interested in spending his weekends working with his nerdy friends or becoming a future engineer. He also becomes rude, condescending, and mean spirited toward others--just as he has been treated when he was a member of the "losers" team.

Of course, in the end he gets the girl and finds his way back to engineering. But that was a movie. How often does this really happen for our African-American boys once they veer off the road? Too many end up in prison or on unhealthy paths for the rest of their lives. All this got me to thinking: do we really want to take risk this with our son? When I think back to my high school experiences and what I had to do be a member of the "cool team," I don't know if it's worth it. What characteristics do the cool teams hold in high esteem? 1) excluding others 2) following the leader 3) disrespect for authority 4) low emphasis on academics. Hey, these are all the reasons I wanted to homeschool! On the other hand, maybe my son will be mature enough to navigate the treacherous terrain of high school. I often hear folks say that girls fare better in these situations than do African-American boys. I remember when I was in high school it was okay for girls to be on the honor roll and high achievers. But for boys, if you couldn't slam dunk or kick some butt, you were a nobody. I don't want my son to ever have to sacrifice his love of achieving in order to fit in.

So what's the solution? Well, since Zion is only 4-years-old, we've got plenty of time to lay a strong foundation and pray. Who knows, he may not be interested in basketball or he could go on to high school, graduate level-headed and become a homeschooled NBA star. He may become a famous percussionist (he's been playing since age 1). He could decide to go to college at age 15 and study sharks (his current fascination). Whatever he decides, we will support him 100 percent and thank God for the blessing of traveling the journey together.

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