When the COVID-19 pandemic hit Michigan this spring, causing nearly 2,000 new cases a day in early April, Bernita Bradley was ready.
Bradley has worked as a parent advocate in her native Detroit for more than 10 years, helping connect both children and adults with educational opportunities. As Detroit schools announced its plans to transition to remote learning, Bradley saw an opportunity.
The co-op is part of a network started specifically to serve Black families in response to the pandemic and the continued challenges in Detroit Public Schools, where 82 percent of students are African-American and just 6.5 percent of sixth-graders are doing math on grade level.
Today, 20 students in the co-op are being homeschooled by their caregivers. Thanks to Engaged Detroit, these new teachers receive one-on-one coaching every week. The coaching sessions range from understanding the laws and regulations governing homeschooling to developing an educational profile of each child to seeing how available household resources can be leveraged for learning.
Engaged Detroit also provides its homeschooling families with opportunities through partnerships like the Detroit College Access Network, which provides college and career pathway support and virtual college tours. The families regularly convene for African drum lessons, and occasionally the families go on educational trips, such as a recent tour of State Line Corp., the company that installs and maintains all the street lights in Detroit.
Natasha, of Consulting by Anée, LLC, one of the Engaged Detroit coaches, has homeschooled her own child for six years. She supports parents along the learning curve common among many new homeschooling families.
“There’s a misconception that parents need to do all the teaching in all the subjects,” Natasha said. “Learning can look so creative and so different from what we thought.”
With already available materials and activities and other free resources, Natasha said, “parents often don’t realize that they actually had a complete school day.” She suggests parents build on the strengths they already have.
Bradley says that early feedback from the homeschooling co-op is positive, particularly how the student-directed learning is leading to increased engagement, including for Bradley’s own daughter, a 12th-grade student who had thought about dropping out of high school.
“Homeschooling works much better for her,” Bradley said, “and now she is on her way to graduating.”
While all families may not choose to homeschool, Engaged Detroit hopes to be there to assist by advocating for the needs and legal rights of those who do. Bradley sees this as an opportunity for schools to partner with more families and help lessen the stress of their transition to homeschooling.