Thursday, September 19, 2013

Why We Homeschooled Our Gifted Black Boys

by Paula Penn-Nabrit, Parent & Author of:  Morning by Morning: How We Home-Schooled Our African-American Sons to the Ivy League

Usually my answer to Why references Aristotle, All men by nature desire knowledge. As parents, we knew black boys were at the bottom of every measurement standard other than athletics and given Aristotle’s statement, we concluded the problem was 'process based'.  We were interested in how the process of institutionalized education shaped the psycho-social development of gifted black boys and the cultural implications of institutionalized racism on all inhabitants.

We began homeschooling after much prayer and the formulation of mission and vision statements derived from our Allegory of the Blue Cars. In our allegory everyone’s actively involved in automobile production, yet somehow many of the blue cars come off the line missing a wheel.  Some community members are convinced the missing wheels are evidence of a conspiracy to destroy blue cars, while others are convinced it’s evidence of a lack of commitment by the blue car segment of the community. Both are wrong. The missing wheel is evidence of a design flaw and emotionally charged accusations and problem repetitions will not fix it. Instead the design process must be re-tested and all cars, including the blue cars must be dis-assembled, re-examined, re-designed, re-engineered and then re-assembled.

Transferring Allegory of the Blue Cars to institutionalized education we determined Aristotle’s premise meant the absence of seeking must be a reaction to an external design flaw. Our homeschooling vision was our gifted black sons emerging as holistically healthy adults, contributing rather than merely consumptive citizens. Our mission was to create a space where holistic health would be nurtured and promoted as the telos or highest good.

The vision and mission were supported by three constructs with cultural components, namely that holistic health requires: i) acknowledgement and validation of the child as a spiritual, intellectual and physical being; ii) the study, growth and development of each aspect of the child; and iii) the child surrounded by adult versions of himself.
In traditional educational institutions 85% of teachers in K-12 are Caucasian/white women. This is part of the design flaw. It inhibits the ability of the gifted black male child to see himself mirrored in his exploration of the life of the mind.  We hired African and African-American graduate students, mostly male to teach Mathematics, Biology and French.  The history of global education speaks to the viability of single-sex education as an option.  As Caucasian/white women have benefited generationally from institutions designed for them, deductive reasoning indicates an equally specific environment designed for them would be beneficial for gifted black boys.

Our school year was expanded to a 12 month calendar to develop life-long learners committed to interdisciplinary, subject matter mastery and expertise rather than mere testing competence. Our curriculum was repetitive, deep and narrow with limited extracurricular options. Each year they studied Ancient & Global Literature; Biology; Global History & Geography; Mathematics; Philosophy & World Religions; and Politics, Governments & Current Events. Athletics including fencing, football, golf, swimming, tae kwan do and tennis were experienced through Columbus Parks and Rec Centers because gifted black boys must develop social skills to interact across broad economic sectors. Community service and participation in the arts also included. Our sons were active (if not always willing) participants in The Church of Christ of the Apostolic Faith’s Bible Bowl teams, choirs, camps and VBS. (They are 5th generation members of this 100 year old congregation!) By “graduation” each had over 2,500 hours of volunteer service at Columbus’ COSI (Center of Science and Industry) where Charles and Evan developed operant conditioning techniques training rodents for Rat Basketball and Damon created an independent exhibit, The Physics of Juggling. Until his voice changed, Charles was a member of OperaColumbus’ Children’s Chorus performing in Puccini’s Turandot while Damon performed in Mozart’s The Magic Flute as a member of the Opera Guild. From age 7 Evan attended Saturday School at Columbus College of Art & Design and by 13 was working as a protégé with the acclaimed African-American artist Roman Johnson. They attended YMCA Camp, Space Camp, Engineering Camp and Oceanography Camp, traveled through 40 states, much of Canada, and parts of the Caribbean, Asia and Europe.

Our experiment spoke to Erickson’s 4th and 5th stages of psychosocial development with a specific emphasis on culture. The 4th stage, psychosocial conflicts around personal competence, was met by an environment designed for them, populated with adult versions of them and premised upon a quest for holistic health where their spiritual, intellectual and physical selves were nurtured. Each came to a deep knowledge of himself, his competence and capacity to determine, define, do and be good as a prime mover rather than a reactor.

Their movement through Erickson’s 5th stage, identity and confusion, also was enhanced by homeschooling.  One of the greatest challenges for gifted black children is moving beyond what I’ve coined The Myth of the Exceptional Negro.  This myth takes the normative status of institutionalized racism and creates a neurological pathway internalizing it-convincing the gifted black child there are no others. When a black boy is identified as gifted, he’s relegated to conspicuous other status, standing alone as he’s told You’re not like them, I don’t even think of you as black.  Coming on the heels of the ever-present, I don’t see color, this requirement to stand alone is poignantly conflicting. This stage also presents challenges for non-black children affected and infected by institutionalized racism. How is an Asian or Caucasian/white child (or their parents!) to process the results when a black boy excels beyond the group? How do teachers and administrators cope with such an outcome? Too often the gifted black child is expected to navigate that complex maze while acting as spirit guide for classmates, teachers and administrators. Homeschooling allowed us to deduct this variation of the so-called black tax from our sons’ educational revenue stream.

It was not always a particularly pleasant experience, but I am very thankful we had the opportunity to homeschool our gifted black sons.


Guest Writer's Bio: Recently widowed after 36 years, 8 months and 24 days, Paula Penn-Nabrit is 58 and still challenged by the struggle between power and submission. She married Charles Madison Nabrit in 1976 and after law school helped raise and homeschool their sons, Charles, Damon and Evan. Paula’s written several books, including Morning by Morning: How We Home-Schooled Our African-American Sons to the Ivy League and The Power of a Virtuous Woman, lectured extensively around the world with her consulting firm, PN&A, Inc., teaches Sunday School at the church where her family has worshipped for over 100 years and is passionate about her501(c)(3), Telos Training, Inc. Visit Paula and Telos Training, Inc. @ and on Facebook.  

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Anti-Bullying Signs & Symptoms ALL Parents should know!!

by Carolyn Strong, anti-bullying activist, doctoral student & parent of a highly gifted teen

Bullying is a very pervasive issue, particularly as it relates to gifted children of color, often those unique, quirky qualities that define giftedness can be the same things that bullies use to target a child on the playground. 

These are things that we do not like to think about; but as summers comes to a close, bullying and the gifted child is something that we have to once again pay attention to.

As the beginning of the school year is upon us, I would like to take moment to address some issues that may have forgotten while enjoying the summer.  While students file into classrooms and pick up where they left off with their friends and classmates; there are other, more ominous relationships that will continue as well, the relationship between the bully and the bullied.  

In the interest of full disclosure as it relates our children, we should understand the signs and symptoms of being bullied, along with strategies for intervention.

If a child is being bullied, they may not necessarily come right out and say so. It may be up to us as adults to read between the lines and figure out when a child is having an issue. This is also when knowing your child becomes essential. There is finite list of behaviors that I can give you that will indicate that a child is being bullied; however there are some behaviors that may suggest there is a problem.

Prior knowledge of the child’s disposition is always helpful. For example, one of the symptoms of bullying is a child becoming shy and withdrawn; if this is a part of the child’s personality already, it is probably nothing; if this demeanor is new, then it is probably a red flag. Below you will find a list of behaviors that may be associated with bullying; please use them wisely and take the child’s personality into account when applying them.
-child has become shy and withdrawn
-child no longer wants to attend school
-child has become fixated and begin to come home talking about one child’s treatment of them constantly.
-child may no longer enjoy things that they once enjoyed.
-sudden change in grades and/or school attendance.

If you notice that your child is exhibiting these behaviors, please talk to the child and try to ascertain what may be going on. If you determine that further intervention is needed please seek help, and do not try to tackle the problem alone (see below for Ms. Strong's website).

This week's guest blogger is Carolyn Strong. Carolyn is a parent of a highly gifted teen who is also a blogger and entrepreneur. 

Carolyn is a motivational educator with an anti-bullying  message of hope for children, families and schools.  Carolyn holds multiple Master’s degrees in both Curriculum and Educational leadership. Carolyn is currently pursuing a doctoral degree in curriculum and social inquiry.  

Carolyn's research focuses on bullying, bullying and the black aesthetic, girl bullying, minority bullying, and minority representation in gifted education. 

For more information about her anti-bullying research and work, go to:

Monday, September 9, 2013

Parent to Parent: Reading Tips Everyone can Use

By Dr. Andrea Blake-Garrett, Parent, Science Educator and Author

“To go from poverty to the professions, you must first cross a bridge called books”.
Dr. Samuel Betances

As parents we love our children. We want what is best for them. We want them to live a better life than we did – right? If your answer is yes, then you must start reading aloud to and with your children now!  Let them see and hear you reading.  As you read point to each word. Speak loud and proud. Allow your voice to fill the room you are in. 

“There is no time to read. Nonsense.” Make time.  There is no law that says you have to read the whole story in one sitting. Ten minute in the morning and ten minutes at night equal 20 minutes a day. That is over 2 hours per week. 

“ My child won’t sit still for me to read to him/her” Who cares? As long as they are in the same room and can hear you keep on reading. In the beginning, my son would never sit still not even for 5 minutes. As time went by he began to settle into his routine and began to sit for longer and longer reading sessions. If there is a bible in the home start reading it.  

I can’t afford books.” Plan a trip to the local library every week. Borrow books to read. Just be sure to return them. Always have at least 3-5 books that are 2 grade levels above your child’s current grade. One of the most important benefits of habitual reading is the growth of your child’s vocabulary. Build both of your vocabularies. Read so often that to them it becomes a habit – a normal routine like washing your face. I even read to my twins while they are sleeping.

“ What to Read”  Start with books where there is a connection – Autobiographies and memoirs. An autobiography tells the story of a life, while memoir tells a story from a life. Require children to write a book report  summarizing the story and indicate important lessons learned.

Be encouraged. Keep On Reading!

Guest writer’s bio:

Dr. Andrea Blake-Garrett is a science educator, consultant and CEO & Founder of Dr. Blake-Garrett's Educational Solutions. LLC. She has taught science to students K-12 in East Orange Jersey City and her home city of Newark. If the authors name sounds familiar that is because she has worked for the Jersey City Public School over 12 years. She challenged the city’s children to “put on the jacket of science” as science supervisor before moving to work in the areas of Science, Home Instruction, Nonpublic Schools & Interagency Task Force. “I live in a scientifically fabulous world and could not write a book without including a little science.” says an animated Dr. Blake-Garrett. She no longer wears her trademark colorful white lab coat but she still has a smile as big and her personality.  She has earned two Masters Degrees from Montclair State University and a Doctorate from Seton Hall University. Born in Jamaica, West Indies, Dr. Blake-Garrett immigrated with her family to Newark, N.J. as a small child, where she now lives with her husband and twins.

To see Dr. Blake-Garrett’s book series written to provide a story for her twins, go to:

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Desegregating Gifted Education:Lessons to Learn from Illinois School district court case

Lessons to Learn from Discrimination in Illinois School District Court Case
Donna Y. Ford, PhD.
2013 Harvie Branscomb Distinguished Professor
Vanderbilt University

On July 11, 2013, Illinois Federal District Court Judge Robert Gettlemen issued a decision holding that District U-46 (Elgin) discriminated against Hispanic students in the district’s gifted program until at least 2009 (see McFadden vs. Board of Education for Illinois School District U-46). Both intentional and unintentional discrimination were found. As the Plaintiff’s expert witness in the case, I urge all school districts to learn from the case and eliminate barriers to gifted education for Hispanic and Black students.

Hispanic and White students both represented 42%-46% of the school district, depending on the year. At the elementary level, the district has two gifted programs that begin in grade 4 – SWAS and SET/SWAS. SWAS (School Within a School) was comprised of majority White students (98%); SET/SWAS (Spanish English Transition School Within A School) contained only Hispanic students who had exited ELL classes (they were bilingual and/or English proficient). Note that there were no Black or White students in SET/SWAS.

Each year, White students in U-46 were over-represented in gifted education while Hispanic and Black students were extensively under-represented in gifted education, specifically the SWAS program. Despite the over 40% of Hispanic students in the school district, in most years, they were only a miniscule 2% of SWAS classrooms. As the Court found, even Hispanics born in the U.S. (20%) were not allowed – denied the legal right –to attend classes with gifted White students. SWAS and SET/SWAS were located in different school buildings; these gifted students never attended classes, events or school trips together.

Using the equity formula that I shared, which provides a 20% allowance, the Judge indicated that Hispanic students should have been at least 32% of gifted education in this specific district. The equity or allowance formula is available in Ford (2013).

Specifically, the Court found that the district discriminated against Hispanic students who had exited from the district’s ELL program by segregating them into a separate gifted program, not allowing them to be in classes and activities with gifted White students. Judge Gettlemen’s decision renewed the Brown v. Board of Education (1954) principle that ‘separate is inherently unequal’.

… the District had viable proven alternatives to the segregated SET/SWAS program, the most prominent and obvious of which is a single, elementary gifted program that provides individual students with language supports when those students needed it. The District chose instead to separate gifted Hispanic students from their white peers, thus perpetuating the cultural distinctions and barriers to assimilation that our nation’s civil rights laws are dedicated to prevent. That this segregation occurs at the stage of a child’s education and life when he is most vulnerable to identifying his opportunities by cultural differences only aggravates an otherwise disparate impact on these children (p. 29).

In addition to physically segregated programs which he found to be intentional and based on race, the Court also found that policies, procedures and instruments used by the district to screen and identify gifted students resulted in a “serious disparate impact” on minority students. Judge Gettlemen found a combination of intentional and unintentional discrimination regarding (a) screening and identification tests, (b) designated cutoff scores, and (c) criteria in weighted matrices. Noteworthy is that a nonverbal intelligence test (i.e., Naglieri Nonverbal Ability Test) was deemed culturally neutral and effective at identifying Hispanic students for admission to SET/SWAS but was not used for admission to SWAS. Equally important, it was found that teacher referrals were biased against Hispanic and Black students and, thus, contributed to their under-representation, a subject which I have written about extensively.

These issues raise serious questions and reservations regarding the educators’ and decision makers’ intent, along with measures, policies, and procedures to increase – or deny – access to gifted education for Hispanic and Black students.  This is also a pipeline issue – lack of access to gifted classes in elementary school contributes to closed doors in middle school, high school, college, and careers. Sadly and empathetically, as Judge Gettlemen stated:

“one can only wonder how many other highly talented and gifted Hispanic children were educated in an unnecessarily segregated setting rather than integrated with the full range of children in the District” (p. 30).

In U-46 and many other school districts (New York City and Florida are often in the news), the gifts, talents and potential of Hispanic and Black students have been compromised and denied, representing a great waste of human capacity. Not only do these non-White students suffer – our nation suffers. Education is reportedly the greatest equalizer – a believe that I support with all of my heart; thus, our Black and Hispanic students need and deserve access to gifted education. To deny them this right is indeed inexcusable, indefensible, and intolerable! As Judge Gettlemen noted, giftedness exists in every racial and ethnic group (p. 21). The sooner educators and decision makers accept this reality, the better off we all will be.

The entire court consent is available beginning on page 21 at

Recommended reading: 

Ford, D.Y. (2013). Recruiting and retaining culturally different students in gifted education. Waco, TX: Prufrock Press.

Our guest blogger this week is Dr. Donna Y. Ford. Dr. Ford is our one of our nation's foremost experts on multicultural & gifted education. Author of numerous books on the subject, Dr. Ford is a sought-out speaker, expert witness, and highly respected scholar. See more information about Dr. Ford's work and history on her website: