By Nomalanga Mhlauli-Moses
In September 2014, I started the second year of our home-school with my two children; my five year old son who is now in Kindergarten and my eight year old daughter who is now in third grade. Our first year in home-school was full of ups and downs and a lot of learning!
When it is all said and done, I often say that deciding to home-school is the best decision that we ever made for our kids. Leading up to our decision to home-school, my two kids were both “the only Black kid” in their respective classes. My son was in pre-school and my daughter was in the first grade. We lived in a beautiful upscale neighborhood which had excellent ratings for their public schools.
What I leaned (the hard way) is that even if the school is great, it doesn’t necessarily mean it will be great for your child if they are the only kid in the class who is Black. In our unfortunate experience, the first alarm bell was when I received a report from my son’s preschool that he was being “violent”.
I am not one of those mothers who walks around under some delusion that their child is perfect and attacks anyone who suggests otherwise. Having said that, I will say that my son is anything but violent! I have actually often wondered if he was too “soft”; he’s not, he is just a kind and gentle soul.
The second alarm bell came when I was told my daughter was put in some kind of “program”, without my consent.
Knowing that Black kids are more likely to fall in the Preschool to Prison Pipeline, I couldn’t believe that I was seeing it about to play out in front of my eyes, with my own kids.
We ended up removing our kids from their respective schools and home-schooling them but before we did that (we let them finish the school year), we made some drastic changes and we made them quickly!
Here are three things that every Black parent needs to do, especially if your child is the only Black kid in their class:
1. Affirmations: In the morning while getting ready for schools, I did affirmations with my kids. “I am important, I am smart, I matter and what I say matters.
2. Be a strong presence at the school: Even though I worked full time at the time, I had Fridays off. Every Friday, I was at one (or both) of my kids schools, helping, playing with my preschooler’s class at gym, “observing” and I volunteered to be a “classroom Mom/helper” and went on field trips. After I quit my job and transitioned into working for myself full time, I was an even stronger presence. Other ways to be present are to join the PTA or just take a day off and sit in. (As a general rule, if you ask nicely, schools will comply)
3. Communicate: Stay in constant communication with the teachers, Principals and even the Superintendent. By the time my kids left their schools, their teachers knew me (and my husband) very well and so did the Principal, Program Directors and even the Superintendent!
As a final thought, I will add that Black kids are very vulnerable in public schools already and when there is little to no diversity, they become even more vulnerable. As a parent, you are their first line of protection. Not all families can home-school full time but every family can home-school part-time. Supplement your child’s learning and be vigilant about making sure your child has the best education.
Nomalanga is a Business Coach. Her programs help busy women who struggle to balance Marriage, Motherhood and Money-Making™. Nomalanga is an experienced business owner, instructor, author and avid blogger.