On creating a space for students to learn their own history

Torlecia Bates

Homeschool Teacher, Banking Manager, Parent of Three

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When COVID-19 happened, the schools shut things down pretty quickly. But then summer came, and all of the social unrest happened. The George Floyd event was a turning point for me. It hit me in a way that said, “You need to wake up.” I asked my husband, “Are we going to let someone else address these issues, or is this where we step in and take control?”

We weren’t limited to a classroom. I was able to teach my way. And, from a cultural standpoint, everything we did resonated with African-American history. It was a part of every discussion, which in my opinion, contributes to self-worth and self-love and self appreciation.”

I said, I’ll give homeschooling a try. As chaotic and crazy as it was, it was one of the most liberating things. We weren’t limited to a classroom. I was able to teach my way. And, from a cultural standpoint, everything we did resonated with African-American history. It was a part of every discussion, which in my opinion, contributes to self-worth, self-love, and self-appreciation. To me, that is the foundation of building some incredible human beings that can go on to impact the world in such a greater way.

I had to go through what’s considered ‘unschooling.’ If I pull my children from public school, then I’m not going to duplicate public school. You have to find your own rhythm in what works for your kids. My kids like to cook, so we learned in the kitchen. It’s still math. Some days they get up and they don’t want to be in the house. Learning may be going to the park. Then that will translate into, “Let’s talk about the ecosystem and how we can clean up our environment.” Learning is in everything that you do, and if you adopt that mentality, then it becomes liberating because now nothing is off limits.

Someone asked me, “When would you return to public school?” And I said, “When history is reflected accurately in textbooks, and we move towards building a system founded in truth that is both inclusive & factual of all students.” A family like mine, we don’t have that kind of time. My son is growing up. At what age, as an African-American young man, will he be seen as a threat? That’s a scary phenomenon that I have to actually prepare him for. Public school has a long way to go before it can have more inclusive conversation.

When I look out and I see all of these homeschooling parents who are willing to take the risk to re-imagine what school could look like, and they’re operating in their power and in their realm to say, “I’m going to do something different that speaks directly to my kid”—that gives me hope.

Torlecia-Bates
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