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Public School is Failing Students of Color; The Homeschool Alternative

We’ve seen video footage far too many times of law enforcement officers and supposed educational authority figures physically tossing black children around like rag dolls. Brown and black children abused and mistreated and held back because the natural state of their hair was offensive to administrators and teachers. Fellow students of different races and nationalities who assimilate easier, taking indecent  liberties to embarrass them by ripping their hair out of the follicles or suddenly snatching extensions off of their heads. Our kids are being called the “N” word at alarming rates and even though we have an enduring history of putting on our poker face and muscling through the social stressors of simply trying to learn, it’s eroding the fiber of our childrens psyche, their self-esteem and draining their love for learning.

There is a better way of tailored education that just might work for your household. But first it takes an entire paradigm shift. I had the privilege of having a very lively, passionate, intellectual conversation with Compton native, and ER front liner (grateful salute), Doctor Myiesha Taylor Schlitz (and spoke briefly with her husband William Schlitz) about their homeschool experience and the book that encapsulates their proven success path. The what, the why, the how, the whole thing. Open your mind, read below, and buy their book to implement the homeschool mentality even if you decide that public or private school is more suitable.  

Let’s first give our parents in quarantine practical, proven help with their kids before diving into the homeschool alternative.

CS: It’s so encouraging to see such an accomplished family make such incredible strides academically. We see hope and possibility for ourselves through you all. During a time when many families have been tossed into becoming teachers at home, spending more time with their kids than ever, many parents feel very clumsy, like this time is almost a fail. We are nearing the end of the school year, but what advice do you have for parents who are also teachers in quarantine?

MTS: I would advise parents to not stress.  Realize that this crisis homeschooling is not true homeschooling.  As such, you aren’t going to be able to be as effective. Homeschooling parents during non-pandemic quarantines spend much of our time outside the home. Our children are in many activities that range from speech and debate to city youth orchestra.  Our children are in theater, and on sports teams, they take music lessons, and have swim practice. Parents cannot teach a child everything they need to know, so outside experts are invited into the lives of our children by way of homeschool classes, seminars, math clubs, and tutors.  Most of this is not available during quarantine.  And resorting to full-time online isn’t necessarily healthy. 

Therefore, relax in the knowledge that you cannot be a superstar homeschooling parent without tools, resources, and access to society.  As such, take this time to PLAN.  Plan your next steps.  Realize that homeschooling is a MINDSET and traditional school is only one [instrument] in your arsenal at your disposal to be utilized as necessary.  …now that a very commonly used tool is out of commission, you have to learn how to use many of the other [strategies] in your toolbox.  That is not necessarily a bad thing. 

Dr. Taylor urges us to shift our perspective from the drop your child off/pick your child up and treating their time in school as a compartmentalized piece of their lives. Instead she directs us to take a holistic approach to developing the whole person, that’s our responsibility as parents and guardians. We are their first educators and must begin to see every opportunity as a chance for them to learn a life skill. The world is their master classroom, not just a physical redesign of a classroom in the house.

CS: If someone still feels like they don’t have an academic rhythm can you share easy-to-apply tips to establish a routine/schedule/discipline?

MTS: I stand by my much-offered advice to focus on Language Arts and MathPeriod.  If you can teach a child critical thinking and problem solving skills (Math), and how to take in information, formulate [an] opinion, and express that opinion via written and spoken word (communication/language arts), they are poised to be life-long learners, content contributors, and thought-leaders in their spheres. 

Therefore, if you focus on finding the best math curriculum (online tutors, online classes, etc), you may be surprised by how much progress your child makes when he is the “only student” a teacher has and cannot opt out of participating.  Reading comprehension can be something as simple as reading for pleasure and then writing a five-paragraph essay…Younger children can watch an educational show (there are tons of fantastic educational shows on PBS, Great Courses Plus, Crash Course, etc.) and simply tell you the main points they learned (or draw a picture if you’re busy). 

Routine, schedules, and discipline become less important right now during a pandemic so I would not focus on that right now.  We have many suffering humans, and our children are rightfully anxious about the world right now.  Home can be a safer haven if the stress levels are lower. 

Before Dr. Taylor and her prodigy of a daughter, 17 year-old Haley Taylor Schlitz, the youngest graduate in Texas Woman’s University’s history; Magna cum Laude in Education and closing out her first year of law school at Southern Methodist University’s (SMU) Dedman School of Law, co-authored their book, The Homeschool Alternative, it was vital to Dr. Taylor to establish a proven track record of success as a benchmark and guide to then share their achievements with others. Once her kids got to the high school and college levels and were thriving uniquely as whole individuals, development intact, true to their own personalities and idiosyncrasies, she knew regardless of their career paths, they had already won.

CS: With three kids and as busy careerists how did you decide to homeschool your children?

MTS: Our decision to homeschool was 100% motivated by our children.  We started homeschooling in 2013.  At that time Haley was 10 in the fifth grade and just entering into a critical phase of growth and development.  This time of pre-adolescence solidifies the foundation of your relationship with your child.  This is also a time where studies show that the academic performance gap begins to widen between girls and boys due to toxic social situations and pervasive negative gender roles and stereotype bias.  As a woman who studied chemistry, and is now a physician and scientist I understood how detrimental this mindset can be and if left unaddressed, becomes woven in the fabric of how my child would see herself in the world.  Further, in a society that values physical appearance of women over intellectual ability, it is no surprise that these societal values manifest in the school.  While homeschooling does not insulate a child from society, if done correctly, it does allow the parent to monitor the intake of negative messaging and help the child process the message in healthy and useful ways.  A young human who is learning about herself, her world, and how she fits into that world, needs guidance.  It is for these reasons I pulled my daughter out of traditional school after the fifth grade. 

CS: At what point did you know that it was time to write a book and why?

MTS: once you start homeschooling, you see educational opportunities in every activity.  Your mind shifts into thinking how you might make this “regular life activity” an academic lesson of some sort.  A child taking piano lessons is not just a child doing an “extracurricular activity” anymore.  It becomes an opportunity for public presentation skills, performance, discipline in practice and preparation, and music theory.  With this shift in mindset, we would take the most common of activities and morph them into something that focused on the details of its execution and highlighted all the life skills involved allowing us to create curriculum content and document mastery… 

I also kept records [in the form of a separate blog for each child] in case we were ever interrogated and the quality of their education challenged.  I was particularly concerned about this when they were younger in case I had to put them back in public school, or for any reason I couldn’t continue homeschooling them.  As they advanced, and I had legitimate and validated objective data of their performance available, this became less of a concern.  Once they graduated from high-school and started college, and subsequently did well in college, I knew the quality of the homeschool education surpassed anything they would have gotten in any institution.  It is then we decided to write the book. 

We wrote the book because it became apparent through our process that the idea that people have about homeschooling is inaccurate.  We wrote the book because Black families are realizing that the institution of public and private school may not be working for their children and homeschooling is a legitimate alternative. 

CS: As busy professionals how did you determine how to structure/organize your homeschool set up?

MTS: What makes homeschooling different from “crises homeschooling” is exactly this opportunity to plan, structure, and organize.

For us, we adjusted our work schedules so that we could work more from home when possible.  Most of the time, just having an adult present is all that is necessary (even if they are not actively engaged with the kid).  The child can be given instruction in the morning, and their progress intermittently checked throughout the day by a working-at-home parent.  William had the ability to work from home which was great.  When he couldn’t be there, we have wonderful parents that can sit with a child. 

I am the one that does the bulk of the research, vetting of curriculum, evaluating the children and selecting academic material and online learning.  We also used a hybrid (homeschooling utilizing a brick and mortar “school” that teaches homeschool classes”) which allowed for the child to attend “school” for a couple of days a week (for the benefits of what that offers). 

William is the enforcer.  He helps ensure that our plans are executed.  He also is a great teacher/tutor for the liberal arts.  He also…takes the children to their activities all around town, waits with them there, and brings them home safely.  The two biggest issues for us were babysitting and transportation.  The fact that he was able to carry a heavier load in these areas really helped us pull it all off.

At 17 Haley Taylor Schlitz is an experienced harpist, has been a Democratic delegate (Civics class cannot replicate this rich, political experience), and is a legacy member of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc., to name a few credentials. She has been featured on Good Morning America (just over a four minute view) and is highlighted as part of the #BeyGood Black History in the Making campaign. She’s a beautiful teen who is articulate, kind and confident. When I asked her how homeschool prepared her to finish her first year of law school here’s a synopsis of what she shared:

HTS: Homeschool taught me what kind of learner I am. Knowing yourself, your style of learning to help yourself with efficiency, maximizing how much to study, using whiteboards and other tools can equip you with what you need to finish well. My classes were phenomenal and really engaging. So far Criminal and Torts are my L1 favorites, Contracts and Property were my favorites this semester.

Stay connected with Myiesha and Haley online, and purchase their book on Amazon.

You can watch our Homeschoolin’ Facebook Live series with Dr. Taylor below.

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