A group of Black mothers came together in 2016 to address concerns about the safety and welfare of their children. Today, these women are working to dismantle the systems that have negatively impacted the Black community by establishing a network of their own schools.
In the age of COVID-19, panicked parents turned to an alternative form of education called micro-school, where small groups of children learn together in private homes. For the Black Mothers Forum, a Phoenix-based parent advocacy group, micro-schooling is a means to provide quality education and nurturing environments for Black children. The group of mothers, many public school teachers, have been advocating for school reform which invalidates school-to-prison pipelines and supports Black families in the aftermath of nationwide violence.
“We could be advocating 24/7, and still not make the impact that we wanted to see. So, what do you do, do you go charter? Do you try to keep working in the public school system? Nope, nope, not us. We said, well, we can do it ourselves,” said Debora Colbert, executive director of the Black Mothers Forum, in a Yahoo News report.
The BMF micro-schools are comprised of 5 to 10 students. In a self-paced learning environment, students are taught in a classroom for 25 hours a week by a learning guide. Janelle Wood, President of The Black Mothers Forum, Inc., explained to AZ Family, the benefits of their micro-schooling approach. “These particular models take more of a group homeschool approach with the feel of the Montessori where the children have autonomy to grow at their own speed and to master their materials at their own pace,” she said.
Launched mid-pandemic in Spring 2021, the first micro schools have occupied throughout the Valley in spaces like churches, non-profits, and shared school buildings. Since then, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey has pledged nearly $4 million in the last year propel the mothers’ goal to expanding their network of microschools to 50.
Since last school year, the Forum has added an hour of instruction to each school day. Students are given an opportunity to start each day by expressing their emotions, and prioritize independent reading. This personal approach is intended to encourage students to feel safe and supported in the classroom.
“That’s what I really like about our model for kids,” said Kylie Chamblee, education coordinator at BMF schools. “Because it can be challenging but then it can also be rewarding, because they’re getting what they need.”
BMF micro-schools are free and open to all student grades K-8. Enrollment is available for the South Phoenix, Northwest Phoenix, and Tempe locations.
You can learn more about the group’s micro-schools here.