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What is "unschooling"? My Reflection Matters believes "it takes a village"

MRM – Eli Whitney-41.jpg
My Reflection Matters
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Members of the My Reflection Matters Village recently visited Eli Whitney Museum in Hamden. My Reflection Matters founder Chemay Morales-James says for Village members, "learning happens everywhere."

The number of homeschoolers in Connecticut has increased since the start of the pandemic.

The Connecticut State Department of Education reported a "slight decrease" in students returning to public school in 2020, "attributed to an increase in homeschooling."

Families are asked to log their "exit" from public school with the state agency. There were 550 exits reported in 2019, and that number rose to "around 3,500 in 2020." By 2021, that number was at 2,300, though the Department of Education notes "students who have not returned to school by October 1 could still have returned to school any day after that for the remainder of the year."

This spike is well above the AP's recent calculation for "18 states that shared data through the current school year," where overall "the number of homeschooling students increased by 63% in the 2020-2021 school year" and "fell only by 17 percent this school year."

While the pandemic was a major factor driving families to consider homeschooling, parents also responded to the national "reckoning with race." As one testimonial explains, "For many parents of color, this included questions about whether it would be healthier for their child to be educated outside a system they viewed as replicating injustices."

This hour, we learn about one approach to "unschooling" in our state.

"It takes a village to raise free people," says Connecticut parent and social liberation "eduvist" Chemay Morales-James. She founded My Reflection Matters in 2016 "to provide the tools necessary to support and nurture the development of healthy racial and ethnic identities of Black and Brown children and older youth."

The My Reflection Matters Village launched in 2020, a co-learning membership co-op "for caregivers whose families have opted out of traditional education and are walking the path of liberated, self-directed education."

We hear from Morales-James as well as education consultant and community organizer Dr. Vanessa Liles. Plus, Sylvia Maribei shares her experience as a parent in the Village.

GUESTS:

  • Chemay Morales-James: Social Liberation Eduvist (Education Activist); Founder, My Reflection Matters; Co-Chair, Waterbury Bridge to Success
  • Dr. Vanessa Liles: Education Consultant and Community Organizer; Partner, My Reflection Matters; Co-Project Director, PT Partners
  • Sylvia Maribei: Parent; Member, My Reflection Matters Village

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Katie is a producer for Connecticut Public Radio's news-talk show Where We Live. She has previously worked for CNN and News 8-WTNH. She enjoys Victorian novels and walks with her dog Sonny.
Lucy is the Executive Producer and Host of Connecticut Public's morning talk show, 'Where We Live.' She’s a longtime public radio reporter covering several beats including immigration, juvenile justice and child welfare issues, education, veterans affairs and the military.