Homeschooling: Fugitive Education for Black Families
Rachel Johnson

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Dissertation Fellowship

Award Year



University of Wisconsin-Madison

Primary Discipline

While the modern homeschooling movement has diversified racially, socioeconomically, and religiously since the 1990s, the homeschooling literature has yet to follow suit. The extant scholarship privileges the experiences of adult, white, middle-class, heterosexual, two-parent, Christian households, highlighting the Liberal Left and Conservative Right, while ignoring the unique concerns of Black homeschoolers. There are many studies in education that shed light on schools’ institutionalized racism and consequent harm to Black students; however, few studies examine the learning experiences of Black homeschooling families. This dissertation centers Black homeschooling caregivers and youth, and how they understand their experiences learning outside of formal public and private schools. This qualitative multi-sited study examines why Black families in Wisconsin and Illinois homeschool, how they understand their homeschooling, and how, if at all, Blackness and antiblackness shape their homeschooling motivations and experiences. This project examines the nuanced decision-making and complex factors that shape Black homeschooling families’ experiences through a variety of data collection methods: semi-structured interviews and focus groups with Black caregivers, interviews with their youth, analysis of their homeschool artifacts (e.g. journals, photos, lesson plans), and document analysis of state homeschooling laws. This study contributes to the growing body of literature on Black homeschooling by including a diverse sample of Black families, attending to understudied regions, and uplifting the insights of Black homeschool youth. This analysis of Black homeschooling families’ motivations, practices, and challenges has implications for efforts to rethink educational possibilities in and outside of schools.
About Rachel Johnson
Rachel A. Johnson is a Ph.D. candidate in the department of Educational Policy Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her dissertation research focuses on Black homeschooling families in the Midwest. She has extensive qualitative research experience, aiming to understand the various ways Black caregivers engage and advocate in schools. In a co-authored paper published in the Harvard Educational Review, she and other Black mother-scholars illuminate how Black parents’ educational decision-making involves a distinct racial calculus regarding the potential for racialized harm and numerous tradeoffs as they search for a “good” school. Rachel has served as a parent representative on several family-school engagement teams, where she advocated for shared decision-making power with Black parents and classroom practices that uplift Black students. She extended her research capacities to evaluation through training in the American Evaluation Association Graduate Education Diversity Internship (GEDI) and at Ubuntu Research and Evaluation. Rachel has co-led multiple culturally responsive evaluations such as a school-based program designed to support Black students’ academics and foster positive relationships. Her experiences as a mother, researcher, and evaluator have cultivated her interest in reimagining and enacting out-of-school educational spaces for Black people. She is continuously inspired by building community with other Black families, inside and outside of her research. She believes centering Black families in research and evaluation is necessary work for creating institutions that value them. Rachel acknowledges her work as part of a long tradition of Black peoples’ quest for education and liberation.

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