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Why Do You Homeschool?

Why did you decide to homeschool? All of us who homeschool know this is a never-ending question. But what happens when you can't really answer this question truthfully? For the last five years, my answers have been some shade of the following:

"I have a spirited child."

"School just wasn't for us."

"As an educator, I wanted to teach my own kids instead of others."

But the blatant truth is: inescapable racism and police interventions. I held the truth back, softened my reasoning and usually didn't tell too many people until I got to know them and knew it was safe. You learn very quickly as a person of color that it is not safe to just walk into rooms shouting out truths about racism. Which is tricky, because I cannot tell you the number of times people have come to me in "secret" to confirm that my bi-racial child is in fact Black. And it's because of these reasons I only told our truth when I felt it was safe.

Often times, I felt that I too was perpetuating the racism enacted against my child by not speaking out and keeping our story "light" for the community around us. But I again learned that telling people that school administrators wanted to unjustly police your child made them watchful of you. It labels your child as a threat before they even walk in the door and that was the last thing I wanted to add onto my baby. So I stayed silent, allowing fun conversations about empowered choices and people who decided to venture out into "radical" forms of education to go on around me. All the while knowing that these "radicals" often times weren't understanding enough of the system to recognize what it meant to restructure your life for the safety of your children.

I started doing my research because I certainly didn't feel traditional or radical or any of the common labels used to describe what I was doing for my children. And it was in my research that I realized everything I needed to know and all the support I needed could be found in our family ancestry. To truly understand what I was up against really means knowing the history of the education system. And for me, it started with the Catholic missions that enslaved my Native ancestors. It continued on with boarding schools that dedicated themselves to educating Native American children by "removing the Indian from the man." It advanced itself to the use of reading scores that are taken in at 3rd and 4th grade and used as part of the data necessary to predict the number of prison beds that will be needed by the time those children are of "prison age". Prison pipelines. The 13th amendment and it's loophole clauses. The unjust statistics of suspension and disciplinary measures that schools would take out on Black and brown children. To today, my baby, in school against all the polticial policies enacted against him.

Despite all of these very clear-cut truths and easily found facts, I still sometimes find it difficult to honestly tell people why we decided to homeschool. I've realized that many people want so desperately to believe these things are in the past or are up for interpretation because they are just too difficult to face. And our truth is very uncomfortable.

Today I share my truth with you knowing the hurt that comes along with it. And also knowing that it is insignificant compared to the danger and violence that is being experienced in silence because of the need to make people feel comfortable. What the world is being forced to face is the truth of our humanity- and lack thereof.

This morning, I received the news that West Contra Costa School District broke their contract with the police for the 2020-2021 school year, and I cried tears of joy. It was the first time I truly felt completely confident in my decision to homeschool. The fact that enough people out there understood exactly what is happening to our children and finally made a move to change it is so validating. I look forward to seeing more developments as the Black Lives Matter movement calls our attention to unite and fix problems in our society.

As we navigate this new consciousness, I encourage all of you to think about the questioning and trust you give to the people in your lives when they are faced with policing and injustices. Are you making space for the uncomfortable truths embedded in our educational and social fabric? Are you listening and supporting your friends and relatives who are creating new spaces for themselves to exist outside of these injustices? Or are you perpetuating the problems by expecting to have only fun and light-hearted conversations that prevent families like mine from sharing our truth? I encourage all of you to make space for all stories. For the uncomfortable. The inconvenient. The ones that make you question your own morals. Because it is in that space that we can truly see each other and heal.

Laurie Gracia-Alikhan

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