Today is the last day of school. I know that my little men are looking forward to lots of picnicking, swimming, staying up late, carnivals and hanging out with their friends. For the first week of summer vacation, I intend to allow them to enjoy themselves no questions asked, but the following week, we will begin what I like to call summer homework, much to the consternation of the boys. For 1-2 hours a day I will actively teach my children. Some will be review for them and some of it will be new to encourage them to explore.
Two months is a very long time to go without actively learning. One of the things I have tried to instill into my children, is a love of learning and the importance of an education. I use the summer vacation to teach my children that which the school system will not, their history as children of the African Diaspora. We will also use this time to talk about social justice. As they have aged, my approach has changed to asking what they think, rather than just filling their heads with facts and history. Summer is when dedicate myself to encouraging them to think critically, because it is a skill that they will not be actively taught in school.
Summer can be about fun, but it should also be about learning and bettering oneself. Minority children cannot depend on the education system to teach them the skills that they will need to be successful because education, like any other institution, privileges dominant bodies. This means little things like story time not including books with children of colour, or ignoring the history of racism beyond teaching the underground railroad. To this day, there are adults who do not know that slavery existed in Canada. It took me years of research to fill in the blanks, and I do not want my children to grow with the same ignorance, because White supremacy is still the unofficial law of the land.
Even as I draw up lesson plans for the next two months, I know that it is a direct reflection of my privilege. There is a constant debate in the media about the absence of Black parents, and about a supposed failure by Black parents to invest in their children’s education, without acknowledging that class plays a huge role in who has the time to do the things that I do. If one is working a full-time job and a part-time job to put food on the table, and pay the rent, there is little time to attend parent teacher meetings or help with homework let alone. Class is a huge reflection on which kids have parents who are able to actively participate.
This bit of extra work will make the world of difference on the possibility of my children being successful. Not only will they grow with a strong sense of self, they will be able to think critically and they will learn to question rather than just accepting the status quo. There will be days when the copious whining will get to me and I will be tempted to give up, however, the knowledge that this can do nothing but help them will sustain me when the times get tough. What lessons do you believe that schools need to focus on and how do you feel that they are failing our children?