Is Homeschooling about Race?
When determining what schooling option best fits children, race is a common factor embedded in the decision process of families and students. On one hand, research on race and education highlights the disproportionate numbers of Black and low-income students who become marginalized within underfunded schools. On the other hand, scholars also highlight White students being situated in well-funded schools. While some families opt out of public schools for private or charter schools, we see others opting out of conventional schooling altogether to homeschool their children. Missing, however, is a better understanding of how race influences the homeschooling decision- making process.
In Sociology of Race and Ethnicity, Stewart addresses the experiences of homeschooling families for what it can tell us about racial hierarchies and racism in conventional schooling. This study uses data from in-depth interviews with 67 Black and White homeschooling and conventional schooling mothers. Using sociodemographic characteristics and mothers’ interpretations and responses to schooling, Stewart addresses the racialized contexts that may result in the student being either pushed or pulled out. In these pathways, Black mothers are more likely to respond to a push out of conventional schools based on their children’s experiences of racial discrimination or segregation. On the other hand, White mothers often respond to a pull out of conventional schooling to individualize and personalize their children’s academic programs.
In sum, Stewart shows that mothers’ schooling justifications are shaped by preexisting racial hierarchical structures in schools. Thus, this shows that home- schooling is racialized and reproduces inequalities in schools. In other words, the existing structure of schooling is highly racialized in ways that restrict the agency of Black mothers’, while enabling the agency of White mothers. This piece draws attention to racialized patterns in homeschooling which reproduce inequalities under school choice and “redress” discrimination in schools.