When I remembered that the first of February isn't just my birthday, but also the first day of Black History Month, I decided to give a friend of mine a call and see how she is celebrating with her homeschool family.
It turns out that this local African American mother uses teachable moments year-round to educate her son about Black History, and by no means restricts this training to the month of February. She makes a deliberate effort to teach her son, 12, about as many people as possible, and does not dwell on the main biographies that most children are taught about, such as MLK, Rosa Parks, Jackie Robinson and Oprah. Although those are important figures with valuable lessons for our children to learn, history is full of others who shouldn't be neglected. She will send her son off with a question and he researches the answers, such as
- who invented sneakers?
- who is Vanessa Williams?
But when I asked her about support and fellowship here in the Austin area (she lives in Round Rock) she admitted there wasn't much. Hers is the only African-American family in a local group they participate in, and although they are also a part of Christian Minority Homeschool, (an Austin and surrounding areas group) it is comprised of people of any minority group, and is not purely an African-American homeschool group. She said that there is a lot more local support on the East Coast and in the D.C. area. I had googled around and found some internet groups but she doesn't utilize them.
Like most homeschoolers, she doesn't rely on a certain curriculum or book to teach Black History. She discusses the books her son reads with him and explains that the stereotypes that some books perpetuate, such as all white people are evil, are untrue; all people are not the same. Some people hurt and others help; she teaches that you can't lump entire groups of people together.
She also makes an effort with her son to trace his own family line and learn about the people in his ancestry. Alex Haley, author of the book, Roots, was able to trace his lineage to the port of Annapolis where Kunta Kinte disembarked from a slave ship. Although every family can't trace their lines as far as he was able to, they can still learn from their living relatives examples of how to live and what to value.
If you'd like to read more from Teresa Dear, check out her Black History book and DVD list at her blog.