An exclusive interview with Rasheeda Denning on homeschooling, inclusion, virtual volunteering, and more

Rasheeda Denning talks homeschooling and virtual volunteering with Goodera

Every year, more families are moving towards homeschooling their children. Surveys show that there are an estimated 2.5 million homeschooled children in the United States alone. Globally, homeschooling is experiencing a steady growth rate of up to 8% every year.

What is homeschooling?

Homeschooling is a mechanism wherein parents educate their children at home instead of sending them to a public or private school, the traditional way. The homeschooling movement began in the 1970s when popular authors and researchers suggested homeschooling as an alternative approach to education.

There are a variety of reasons why families choose to homeschool their children. This includes dissatisfaction with the educational options available, the belief that children are not progressing within the traditional school structure, etc.

It is equally interesting to note that Black homeschooling families are on the rise because parents are concerned about the quality of schools in the area that they live in. They are worried about reasons such as peer pressure, racism, etc. at school.

Black homeschooling families also aspire to provide their children with history and social context that is missing from schools.

Black Homeschoolers of Central Florida, Inc.

Black Homeschoolers of Central Florida, a networking and support organization, was founded by Rasheeda Denning in 2009. It was founded with the objective to connect homeschooling families to the support and resources they needed. Through the group, Mrs. Denning strived to find other families of color in the Central Florida area that were educating their children at home.

As the community grew, Rasheeda quickly found that families were scattered throughout the state and that there was a strong need, not only in the state of Florida but beyond, for homeschooling support. In due time, families from areas throughout the U.S. began to join Black Homeschoolers of Central Florida.

In 2017, Black Homeschoolers of Central Florida, Inc. became a 501(c)(3) Non-Profit Organization.

In this interview, the Executive Director of Black Homeschoolers of Central Florida, Rasheeda Denning, talks about their journey, vision, virtual volunteering and much more.

1.    What was the motivating factor behind the finding of Black Homeschoolers of Central Florida, Inc. (BHCFL)?

Black Homeschoolers of Central Florida, Inc. was founded to address the need for black homeschooling families to find safe spaces to connect and receive support in educating their children at home.

Our mission is to provide classes, guest speakers in career fields, field trips, host an annual graduation/awards ceremony, provide a lending library, informative communications, support, motivation, family to family connections, and connections to other support groups at the local and state level.

Black Homeschoolers of Central Florida works hard to empower children and inspires parents to harness the power within to educate their children.

2.    Can you walk us through the biggest challenge you faced during the initial years of BHCFL?

Initially, our greatest challenge was in connecting families. Everyone lived at great distances from one another and we were not able to physically meet anyone. We were strictly an online group. Meeting face to face was a very important component that was missing.

Once we established a calendar of events and began to meet in person, that gave us the ability to connect, build, learn, and grow together.

3.    What are some of the biggest success stories that stand out to you from your last ~12 years of running BHCFL?

The world is our classroom, and we work very hard to bring what is learned in books, to life for our youth, through our hands-on field trips.

We’ve been able to take our families on historic field trips out of the state and out of the country. Our children have written and published books in a specialized class that we provided, and now their books can be found in the catalog of our local library for all to read.

Our youth have had class studies from across the board, from entomology to aviation, financial literacy to agriculture, marine science to survivalist, and STEM classes. We have also helped families meet their homeschooling needs by being a landing point for resources and information based on the needs of our communities.

Perhaps one of the biggest highlights would be that we established a Community EXPO event that gives a place for homeschooling families and community members to network, attend free educational workshops, and connect with organizations, college representatives, and community resources. The Community EXPO features an array of vendors, as well as youth-run business initiatives and children’s activities.

4.    Who are the major beneficiaries of your programs? Why have you chosen them? Can you speak a bit about the impact you were able to deliver through BHCFL?

The major beneficiaries are the homeschooled youth and their families. What makes us unique is that we don’t just see the homeschooled child – we see the whole family unit. We have a passion for uplifting and supporting the family in whatever needs they require.

BHCFL is a village, a place that homeschoolers call home. We provide a safe, supportive, and learning environment for our homeschooling families, which is especially important for families of color that may not get the support they need in other places.

At BHCFL, families find a welcoming environment that provides guidance and equips the parents with the skills and confidence they need to be successful in their homeschooling journey.

Our youth flourish in an environment where their culture and history is celebrated and explored. This village encourages education, self-love, and growth. Not only does Black Homeschoolers of Central Florida, Inc. help build friendships, but in our village, friends become family.

5.    Can you give a few examples of activities/volunteering opportunities that you provide at BHCFL?

We find out what the youth are interested in and then we find instructors in that field that would be willing to teach our youth. It could be art classes, photography classes, medical classes, learning how to be a stockbroker, or day trader. We’ve even had a bat house building class – once we completed them, we donated them!

The possibilities are endless.

We also look for Education Workshop presenters, Math and Reading tutors, Writing Support tutors, College and Career Readiness Coaches, and Guest Speakers that are career professionals in the arts, sciences, technology, engineering, and business fields.

6.    What is your opinion about virtual volunteering? Can you elaborate on how virtual volunteering helped your non-profit? What value do you think corporate volunteers bring to the table through virtual volunteering?

Virtual volunteering is new to us because we are a hands-on organization. With the onset of the pandemic, we had to move what we would normally do in-person to a virtual setting. We were searching for new ways to bring guest speakers and engaging presentations to our youth virtually without interruption.

Virtual volunteering has been very helpful because it has allowed us to continue bringing educational content to our students. Corporate volunteers add essential support for non-profits.

7.    What did you love the most about the virtual volunteering sessions you conducted in partnership with Goodera?

Our first guest speaker video submitted in partnership with Goodera will be shown this week to our students. I love the fact that the corporate volunteers brought excitement and creativity to the work they submitted to us.

If you enjoy what you are doing, the students can feel that energy. We look for content that is engaging and can hold the attention of the youth.

8.    For our readers who are eager to support your organization, what are the best ways they can do it? What requirements should the volunteers meet?

You can help us with the purchase of our facility and have the building named after you, or you can sponsor one of our teaching rooms which will include a plaque honoring your contribution to our cause.

We also have Programs and Supplies Sponsorships. When you become a sponsor of Black Homeschoolers of Central Florida, Inc., you are helping us continue providing programming and services for our homeschooling families.

Our member dues do not fully fund our programs, so our greatest need is monetary support. Donations can be made by texting “BHCFL” to 44-321 or going onto our website to the Donate to Programs page and donate from there.

The requirements for volunteers if you are submitting a pre-recorded guest speaker video are that volunteers must speak English well and make the video short and to the point, so it captures and holds the attention of the youth. Eye contact in the video is equally important. I suggest a 3–5-minute video.

For any educational content that is submitted, such as learning and teaching aids, we encourage making a Kahoot game to accompany and reinforce content.

9.    Any concluding words?

Investing in our youth is investing in our future.

Black Homeschoolers of Central Florida has partnered with Goodera on several impactful virtual volunteering opportunities. Interested to contribute? You can take a quick look at these opportunities and participate here.

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