Home schooling allows for children to have their own safe spaces, and this is something that is especially needed for students who have historically been marginalized, according to Johnston, who is Black and advocates for diversity within educational spaces. The goal is not separatism, Johnston said, but rather creating an additional space where they can feel at ease. Furthermore, Johnston added, the creation of a special educational environment allows them to learn about their culture as presented in everyday life rather than just as a “unit study.”
Other reasons include maintaining a tightknit family and ensuring family values are upheld. Some families home-school for protective reasons to shield their children from bullying or racism for as long as possible.
In general, home-schooling rates increased during the pandemic, research shows. Heather Rowe, who is half-Nicaraguan and the mother of a girl in the sixth grade, pulled her daughter out of school after seeing how “miserable” she was with schooling during the pandemic.
“Once a child begins to be miserable during education, it’s a very, very slippery slope until they hate it,” said Rowe, who lives in Barrow County. “You can’t have your child hating school in what’s supposed to be some of the best years — the most exciting and adventurous years.”
Rowe, like many parents who begin home-schooling their children, found that giving her daughter, Dixie, one-on-one attention provided insight into her education she didn’t previously have. They could spend more time on the concepts she didn’t understand, and dive deeper into the ones she did.
Vargas Bamidele was interested in home schooling in part because she wasn’t happy with the way traditional schooling works for young children.
“I feel like children should have a play-based learning environment first,” Vargas Bamidele said. “And the school system in the United States doesn’t really foster that at all. It’s mostly just rigorous academia.”
Vargas Bamidele also decided to home-school her children because the schools in her area didn’t meet her academic standards — and she was worried that her son would “fall through the cracks.” Paula Mellom, interim director for the Center for Latino Achievement and Success in Education at the University of Georgia, said this is a reasonable concern.
The percentage of Hispanic residents in Georgia increased from about 9% in 2010 to 10.5% in 2020, according to U.S. Census Bureau data. Mellom said many teachers and school systems were not equipped to meet the specific cultural and linguistic needs of Hispanic students. Even within the Hispanic community, there are ties that create different cultural identities.
The inability to understand some cultural nuances has led to greater marginalization of the Latino community within many Georgia classrooms, Mellom said.
Mellom said that if students are put into an ESL program, systems in place make it difficult for the student to stay up to speed. They can be pulled out of class for ESL purposes and miss crucial lessons from standard classrooms, which can cause them to fall behind. At home, students can learn at their own pace.
They can also go outside more.
Vargas Bamidele frequently takes her kids outside to have a play-based learning environment. It’s not the only way she’s able to customize her children’s curriculum. Rowe often takes her daughter outside to hike. Maria Williams, a mother of three who are mixed, with both Latino and African American heritage, chooses to home-school her kids year-round so that they can travel and compensate for off days.
Prior to home-schooling her 13-year-old son, Williams, who lives in Johns Creek, noticed that he was dissatisfied with school — he wasn’t enjoying it, and it was always a fight to get him to do his homework. Dean, they discovered, was bored. He learned up to the ninth grade science level when he was only in the sixth grade through home schooling.
“He said the best thing (about home schooling) is that he didn’t have to wait for anybody,” Williams said, laughing.
Williams said that while she did not initially factor in race or ethnicity when deciding to home-school her children, she’s seen the positive effects.
“We live in a predominantly white neighborhood. So everything they do, there is very little diversity,” Williams said. “They get confused. You start hearing things like, ‘Mom, I don’t like my hair. I don’t like my skin.’ … Once you start exposing them to more diversity, you start seeing that love for how they look and their heritage come back.”
Through home schooling, parents said they are able to take charge of their children’s education — and protect them, at least for a little while.
“I realized that the best kind of education is different for each kid,” Williams said. “I always have a doubt in the back of my mind if we’re doing the right thing or not. But I see them thrive. When I see them thriving and learning and pursuing their passions, I realize this was just the right choice for us.”