Our Black Unschool Cooperative will be a full- and part-time play, social and learning cohort for Black children 5 to 10* years old. We will be Black parents who are also friends, deeply committed to raising our children with a strong sense of Black family, friendship, and community. We will be helpers to each other’s children, but we will also be their aunties. Our LOVE for them will guide our support and care.
WHAT IS UNSCHOOLING?
“Unschooling lets children direct their learning. Rather than following a set curriculum, unschoolers are led by their interests, and those interests inform how and what they learn—with parents and surrounding community members there to provide kids with the resources they need.” –from matermea.com
Black unschooling and homeschooling are on the rise. The positive outcomes of unschooling and homeschooling for Black kids are many, including the virtual disappearance of the so-called “learning gap” in both reading and math, and the “belief gap”—the gap between what their teachers believe they can achieve and what students can actually achieve.
There are many different reasons that Black parents are choosing unschooling and homeschooling, including systemic racism in traditional schools. But Black unschooling is more than a reaction to racism. It is a proactive way to build Black community and instill self-love in Black children, while supporting them in child-directed learning that is based not on broken, outdated ideas of schooling, but on who they are, who they come from, what they’re actually interested in, and who they want to be in the world.
One of the most exciting things to me about unschooling is creating an environment for my children that nurtures the innate excitement they have about learning. Most traditional schooling is rote, rigid and outdated. In this country, it is also deeply white-supremacist. Unschooling gives me an opportunity to support a Black-centered, child-directed, play-based learning experience for Black kids. That is the goal and commitment of our group.
– Mia McKenzie, author, activist and co-op parent
HOW OUR CO-OP WILL WORK
This is an evolving project and families will be able to bring their ideas for the cohort. That said, as of now, this is what we are envisioning:
Our co-op will be a full- and part-time play, social and learning group, meeting 5 days per week (or 3 days for part-time) for 6 hours each day. All “teaching” (we use this word loosely, as our days will be play-based and child-directed) is covered by the parents in the cooperative, both by supporting the kids ourselves and by providing outside support (for example, paying for a dance teacher to lead a one-hour dance class).
How much time must parents contribute to the cooperative?
Parents are expected to: (1) contribute 6 hours per week, per child. So, if you have one child in the group, you are expected to contribute 6 hours per week. If you have two children in the group, you are expected to contribute 12 hours per week. Again, these hours can be filled by you supporting the children on-site or by you providing for classes by an outside supporter, such as a dance, yoga or music teacher, or a combination of both. (2) Attend a one-hour zoom meeting, every other week, to check in with the group. And (3) gather with the group to build community between now and Fall 2022.
What this might look like:
If you have one kid in the group, you might be expected to provide ONE of the following:
– 6 hours of “teaching” per week OR
– $180 per week for dance or other classes by an outside teacher OR
– 3 hours of “teaching,” and $90 per week for dance or other classes by an outside teacher
In our cooperative, parents will take on equal responsibilities in making the group sustainable and thriving. “Equal” responsibilities may not always mean “the exact same” responsibilities. Different parents and families have different things to contribute to the co-op. As an intentional community, we will work together to figure out what roles are the best fit for each family.
Who is this group for?
Children in this co-op must identify as Black (identifying as “Black AND…” is fine). Priority will be given to children who also walk through the world as Black people.
Every family in this cooperative must have at least one Black parent. Priority for joining will be given to families with two Black parents. Black parents are the only ones who will act as “teachers” in this co-op. Non-Black parents may support the group by paying for classes by outside teachers (who will also be Black) and helping with administrative and operational tasks.
Where does the unschool take place? Indoors? Outdoors?
Currently, we expect to come together at the home of one of our co-op families on the border between Amherst and Pelham, MA, where there is a classroom space and 2 acres of land (including an acre of forest). But this could change if another family’s home both meets the needs of the group and turns out to be in a more convenient location. We could also end up using multiple locations if that works best. Each family will have a say in this and in everything we do.
This will be a play-based unschooling group, and we expect that most of it will take place outdoors, as long as weather permits, even when COVID-19 becomes less of a concern. Research shows that outside is the best place for most kids to spend their days, even if it’s just sitting under a tree reading books.
How many children will be in the co-op? What ages?
We are currently envisioning a group of 6 kids between the ages of 5 and 10* to start in Fall 2022. It is our hope that this cohort will continue in the co-op for as long as families wish, growing and learning together through elementary school and perhaps even beyond (in other words, there is no “aging out”). We intend for this to be a long-term community.
What might a day at unschool look like?
That will be up to the kids! But here are some things that might happen: Playing. Books. Games. Catching chickens. Making movies. Talking about Fannie Lou Hamer. More playing. Running around. Writing stories. Shouting. Learning a new language. More playing. More books. Visually deconstructing the art of Basquiat. Doing science experiments. Growing a garden. More playing. Etc. Go home. Come back tomorrow.
This sounds amazing and I have a few questions! OR We’re ready! How do we join?
Get in touch and let’s set up a time to chat. Community is awesome, and it’s also a commitment, so let’s make sure we’re a good fit for you and vice-versa.
*We may be able to include younger children (aged 3 to 4) who have older siblings in the group.