By: Andrea Dillon
Homeschooler Delina Pryce McPhaull of Woke Homeschooling is helping parents address tough aspects of American history with her curriculum: Oh Freedom! A Conscious U.S. History Curriculum. I got the chance to get some answers with Delina in an interview. Check it out below.
Delina Pryce McPhaull of Woke Homeschooling
Hi Delina! Thanks for joining us here on A2Z Homeschooling to tell us more about your self, site, and curriculum. First off, can you first tell me a little about yourself and how you started your homeschooling journey?
I have always homeschooled my children. Growing up, though I wasn’t homeschooled, I had a positive impression of homeschoolers. So it was something that I was always one of the options on the table for me. As I started out in the world of work, I realized it was hard for me to enjoy my life in a 9 to 5 job with two weeks vacation. I wanted more flexibility for myself and so I knew once my kids were school-aged, I would want that flexibility for our family life as well.
What about Woke Homeschooling? What does that mean?
Woke Homeschooling is homeschooling while conscious of historic inequities that exist among racial groups. It’s teaching the reality about the world we live in without sugar-coating and pretending that the past was rosier than the present. The word should not connote arrival. We’re all learning and growing and committed to greater awareness.
Let’s get into your curriculum, what inspired you to start creating your own history curriculum?
In high school, a close family friend introduced me to African American history and she told me that if I was going to know Black history, I would have to seek it out on my own because it wasn’t going to be taught to me in school. She “assigned” me to read The Autobiography of Malcolm X, introduced me to Dick Gregory and James Baldwin, and the poetry of Nikki Giovanni. After that, anytime I was given an assignment in school where I had a choice of who I would research or how I would do a project, I would pick somebody Black.
So, I had that baseline framework and this continued to be something I sought out in my college courses. But it wasn’t until around 2015 that I began taking deep dives into history as a part of a racial justice and reconciliation group. I began reading again and now as an adult, understanding more about US racial history, policies, disparities. This time, I had kids. That changes everything, doesn’t it?
When the news is showing Black men and women being killed by white vigilantes and police and no one is being held accountable, now I have to explain what is happening to my kids. I have to tell my son why he can’t run down to the street pretend-playing with a toy gun in his hand.
I could see the thread from history to the present, and I knew I had to teach to see that too.
Again, I knew that if I was going to teach my kids a more complete and dare I say, a more “woke” history, I wasn’t going to find it available for me in a boxed curriculum. And I thought I could just supplement (like I did for myself in high school). But the more I read the textbook assigned in the boxed curriculum I was using, the more I felt like they were missing a big chunk of the story. If history was so rosy and wholesome with just a few mishaps here and there, then why do we see the issues we have today?
By the time I was done finding my own resources, music, documentaries, etc. I knew I had a resource that other parents could implement as well. I didn’t set out to write Oh Freedom!, much less start Woke Homeschooling. But I am thankful I play a role in empowering parents to change the narrative, especially in homeschool spaces where these resources are lacking.
I notice you have two different options on the site. What is the difference between Oh Freedom! and Oh Freedom! Secular Edition?
When I first shared Oh Freedom! with the world, I shared what I had done with my kids. And that included prayer before starting our history lessons. I knew that this was hard truths I would be sharing with my kids.
I remember what it was like to learn about slavery for the first time and realize that, because of the color of my skin, I would have been born enslaved. That’s a hard reality for a child to swallow and it’s not hard for me to remember sitting in an elementary school classroom understanding that for the first time. It’s an out-of-body experience and then the rest of the non-Black kids are staring at you too.
I was thankful to be able to give my kids the space to process through moments like that in our homeschool setting. One of those ways was through prayer. In the introduction, I shared the prayer framework that we used to pray before starting a history lesson. But the introduction was the only thing religious about the curriculum. None of the resources that I included in the curriculum were religious. Even though I thought my approach was not one of *those* resources with scripture on every page and problematic inferences and theology, I understood why customers (even Christian ones) would shy away from anything that even smelled like Christian homeschool history curriculum. I get it. So when people started asking me to create a secular version, either because they were not religious, or they wanted to use state funds to purchase, I consulted with some secular homeschoolers, and quickly created a version that omitted the prayer guidance and religious-sounding language.
Is there anything you wish you’d done differently?
Oh yes! My intention was to share what I had done with my own kids but I didn’t do enough research into all the books I recommended. I rightfully received a lot of criticism for the resources I used to teach Native American history. I am working on revising the curriculum to delete those resources and replace them with by own-voices. I’m determined to make that right.
Can homeschoolers use the curriculum without the Journal? What does the journal offer and how is it used with the curriculum?
You can absolutely use the curriculum without the journal. You can simply use a notebook or binder where your child can keep track of the information. The most important part about the journal is the exercise of processing what you’re learning. Like I said, US History is full of landmines. How does it feel to know this information? What connections did you make? What stories made an impact? Why is this important to know? These are conversations to have out loud but also things to journal.
What grades are recommended for this curriculum and can this be used as a stand-alone curriculum or would this be more supplemental?
Parents have to know what their children are ready for. I think that’s the most important consideration. The curriculum is not designed for kids to navigate independently. Because of this, it can be used for a wide range of grades (we recommend grades 3 to 7). Because you are their guide through history, you can adapt it to their needs, learning styles, and maturity level. As I say in the introduction, there’s no way to study U.S. History without touching on ugly subjects like dehumanization, rape, exploitation, class, land theft, war, torture, lynching, etc.
What was the hardest part of creating your curriculum?
Time! For more than a year, this curriculum existed in sticky notes and notes in the margin of the curriculum that I ended up ditching! Because I enrolled my kids in College for Kids at a local community college, I was able to have buckets of time to work and get it done.
As you can imagine, it’s not just getting everything down on paper, it requires graphic design, website development, social media..a lot of moving parts that have to work together. Having buckets of time to complete projects is a luxury I am starting to reclaim now that my kids are getting older and can learn more independently.
What do you hope homeschoolers and their parents get out of your curriculum?
I hope parents get a deep appreciation for the power of truth-telling. I had a friend ask me, “How are you going to teach your kids to love this country if you tell them all the bad things about history?” And I’m sure she’s not the only one with this concern (I’ve heard it from others). I can only hope my kids have a healthy relationship with the country of their birth, not a nationalistic view that is informed by manipulations and omissions of historical facts.
Truth-telling is going to set us free from the problems that have burdened us for generations.
I also hope that, because there is so much reading and discussion, parents strengthen their bonds with their kids and meaningful conversations emerge from doing this together.
My ultimate hope is that kids who are presented with a different narrative will be world-changers! We can’t keep telling the same story and expect different outcomes. Let’s tell the truth this time and see what happens.
Do you have any plans to create more curriculum? If so what topic do you think you might tackle next?
My plan for 2020 was to plan homeschool trips to historical sites relevant to the Oh Freedom! curriculum and maybe write a guide to these sites for other families to use. But then a global pandemic happened. Everyone stopped traveling and everybody started homeschooling. And all of a sudden, after a string of killings of Black people, many more people started to lose their taste for white-washed history. So, we’re meeting the moment by prioritizing our plans to offer a robust high school edition and world history.
Oh Freedom! – High School Edition is our newest curriculum and we’re about to introduce A Whole New World History with video lessons and live classes. We’re going to study every continent pre-colonization, colonization, and decolonization. I can’t wait. I’m enrolling my own kids!
Thanks so much, Delina! I love this curriculum and I am excited to share it with my homeschoolers!
Do you have questions or comments about Oh Freedom! A Conscious U.S. History Curriculum? Let us know in the comment section below!