How One Alabama Mom Is Redefining Education for Black Homeschoolers

When Yalonda Chandler’s oldest son was in sixth grade, his academic difficulties left her with a tough decision. Although he attended a great school, it wasn’t meeting all of his academic needs.

“My son was always the youngest in his class, and it was always a struggle for him. We had to have these conversations every year about whether to hold him back or not. The school had a requirement that he had to be 80% proficient in math in order to go on to the next grade level. He was thriving socially but academically, I just kind of knew that there were lots of holes there.”

Yalonda, a middle school teacher herself, decided to try something differently the following year.

“I didn’t even realize that I was making the decisions to homeschool. I just kind of said, ‘I think that we should try to do some things differently for next year.’ He came home with me and we worked on the areas that needed attention. I was just patching the holes in his knowledge and understanding. I didn’t really know what I was doing.”

Yalonda found that homeschooling changed their lives in unexpected ways, including bringing her closer to her kids.

“Homeschooling is one of the greatest parenting decisions that I’ve ever made with him. Not only did it change my son, but it also changed our family dynamic. I was able to invest more time with him and realized that his academic difficulties stemmed from test anxiety. He needed more time to be able to do the things that he needed to do, and he progressed very quickly while at home.”

Yalonda decided to also bring her daughter home and homeschooled her eldest two children from 2012 until 2015 when the family moved to Alabama. Due to a lack of homeschooling community, she decided to return them to the local public school.

Black Homeschoolers of Birmingham students Madison and Averi create chalk art at monthly park day event.

“When they went to high school, it was very evident to all of their teachers and their peers that there was something different. They knew the material, and it wasn’t difficult for them. A lot of times people think that if you are coming from homeschooling to public school that your kids are going to be behind and it’s actually the opposite.”

She started a business, and was content with her children’s education until her two younger children were of age to enter public school.

“I kept feeling this tug to pull them out. And then my youngest son had some very traumatic experiences in first grade which just kind of led me to a path where I realized, I’m going to have to homeschool again. But if I do it this time, I have to find a community. So, I just invited people to join me. And before I knew it, things were just blossoming.”

Yalonda joined a local Facebook group for Black homeschool families and went on to help form a group called Birmingham Area Homeschool Moms. When the pandemic hit, interest in homeschooling and their community group exploded.

“That was the catalyst that changed the trajectory of my life, so to speak because I was just happy being at home doing what I was doing at home. But all of a sudden now people were asking, ‘how do I do this? I want to do what you’re doing, but how do you do it?’”

When data reported that thousands of Black families were missing from public school classrooms in 2021, Yalonda and her group caught the attention of local and national media.

“There were thousands of Black students missing from public school classrooms and people wanted to know my opinion on why this was happening and where they had gone. My phone started ringing off the hook in 2021 with people asking for help to teach me how to do this.”

Black Homeschoolers of Birmingham founders Jennifer Duckworth and Yalonda Chandler speak alongside students at the Birmingham City Council meeting.

Yalonda came alongside Jennifer Duckworth to rebrand Birmingham Area Homeschool Moms to Black Homeschoolers of Birmingham. Together, they have successfully grown the community to over 400 families in the Birmingham Area. They also recently founded Black Homeschoolers of Montgomery which has 53 families participating. It was just the community she needed to support her return to homeschooling her two youngest children.

Yalonda started a coaching program to teach other families how to homeschool, but parents also continued to ask if she had a program or school that they could send their kids to while they were at work.

“So, I started with a STEM program in 2022. I knew that I couldn’t do a K—12 program. It just wasn’t viable for me to kind of just jump in and try to do that by myself. The oldest child in our program was 10th grade. We would separate the younger students from the older students, and I had a teacher who taught the younger students while I taught the older students. That was great, but then I kind of felt like I still needed to be more. I knew that families need it more than just something that was twice a month.”

Black Homeschooler of Birmingham students visit Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum and meet renown motorcycle designer Pierre Terblanche in his 3D printing studio.

So, in fall of 2023, Yalonda launched Legacy Builders Academy. She currently has seven students enrolled and hopes to welcome at least 12 students in the fall.

“I’m just really excited being able to have those students in a smaller environment and to nurture particularly that age group, fifth grade to 10th grade. It can be a difficult time at that age, and if I can take them and place them in a small nurturing environment where they can kind of just be themselves and have some freedom of exploration, the kids are going to be okay. They’ve surprised me, even within our home school community, how much they were able to thrive.”