Meet the founders of Black Homeschoolers of Birmingham

Yalonda Chandler, left, and Jennifer Duckworth, co-founders of Black Homeschoolers of Birmingham. (Amarr Croskey, for the Birmingham Times)
By Nicole S. Daniel
The Birmingham Times

In 2020, with a shared vision, Yalonda Chandler and Jennifer Duckworth co-founded Black Homeschoolers of Birmingham (BHOB) – a community of homeschooled families with a “vision…to create a safe place for black and brown children to learn, play and grow,” according to the band’s website.

When the two met through a Facebook group, they realized they shared some similarities when it came to wanting a community of black schoolchildren.

“[Chandler] had planned an event at Explore Playground and Splashpad in [Hoover, Alabama], to which she invited black and brown school children, ”said Duckworth. “We continued from there.”

Last month, Chandler and Duckworth hosted the second annual BHOB Summit at Perfecting Reconciliation Church International in Bessemer, Alabama.

“This year’s conference was stellar, and so many attendees left empowered to begin their journey home,” Chandler said.

About Jennifer Duckworth

Duckworth is a wife, mother, and educator from Chattanooga, Tennessee, where she grew up as the only child in a two-parent family. Her father, Jimmy McGintis, was in insurance and her mother, Anne McGintis, was a history teacher at several Chattanooga-area schools for more than 35 years.

Duckworth’s mother taught middle school, high school and college and later established the Hamilton Resource Center, a resource center similar to Duckworth’s Neighbor Foundations in Birmingham, which provides support to families in the community seeking to access the GED or after school. – care programs, among other services.

What Duckworth didn’t know at the time: “My mother was indirectly raising me to be an educator,” she said.

Duckworth has always wanted to teach, whether it’s ballet movement or in a classroom setting. In fact, she was a ballet dancer from the age of three until her twenties.

“I always wanted to be a teacher, … but I never admitted it until maybe four or five years ago,” Duckworth said.

Growing up, Duckworth attended private schools in Chattanooga. After graduating from high school, Duckworth continued her education at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, where she earned a degree in communication studies and psychology. On the first day of school, she met her husband of 14 years and business partner, Jeremy Duckworth; they now have a son, Xander, 11, and daughters, Carleigh, 9, and Phoenix, 6.

Duckworth has been homeschooling her three children for seven years.

“About four years ago, my neighbors [in Vestavia Hills, Alabama]we saw my husband and I home schooling our children and asked if I could teach their child,” she said. “At the time, the child was struggling in kindergarten, [and] I said, ‘Of course.’

Duckworth brought this student from failing to become the most improved student in his class. She thought that if she could do this for one student, she could help others.

This has been the catalyst for Neighbor Foundations, a customizable ‘love your neighbour’ based learning resource center that offers a wide range of services, as well as a safe environment for children to learn in a way that is meaningful to them. is clean. Through Neighbor Foundations, Duckworth also teaches kindergarten through fifth grade students in math, reading, and writing.

“Besides being a wife and a mother and of course home schooling is what I do,” Duckworth said, adding that Neighbor Foundations was able to provide tutoring assistance to several schools and non-profit organizations in the community.

“Due to [the COVID-19 pandemic], when people found out I was homeschooled, they asked me to help them transition to homeschooling,” she said. “That led to BHOB.”

After years of homeschooling, Duckworth began to crave a community of homeschoolers, especially black homeschoolers. While she went out with her children, she communicated with the families and invited them on outings. Eventually, she crossed paths with Chandler through the BHOB Facebook group — and the two have since teamed up to grow BHOB and its community.

About Yalonda Chandler

Chandler is a wife, mother, and homeschooler from Norfolk, Virginia. She was raised in a two-parent military family with her younger brother, Ashanti McDaniels, and younger sister, Candice McDaniels. Their stepfather was in the United States Navy, and the family eventually moved to Bermuda when Chandler was in ninth grade. She graduated from high school with 12 other students in her class.

“It was a wonderful experience,” she said. “I have been able to travel on school trips…and I have access to [different educational perspectives]. That’s where my love of teaching really blossomed,” she said, adding that her travels have taken her to Europe, England, the Netherlands and New York.

Chandler always wanted to be a teacher because she saw the impact teachers had on her. “My biological father, Melvin Grigsby, says he remembers walking into my room when I was about 4 or 5 years old and teaching stuffed animals,” she said.

Teaching comes naturally to Chandler, she said. There are times when she’s been in groups where she’s not there to teach but somehow finds herself in a leadership role.

After graduating from Roger B. Chaffee High School on Naval Air Station (NAS) Bermuda, Chandler returned to Norfolk and attended Norfolk State University, where she earned a degree in English Education in 1998. She then taught. seventh and eighth graders in the area for 10 years at Norfolk Public Schools, Calvary Christian School and Norfolk Christian Schools.

“I felt like my calling in life was to teach,” Chandler said.

She married in 1998 and had Kailyn Showers, now 22, and Cameron Showers, now 21.

“My babies grew up coming to my class and being around my students,” she said.

In 2011, Chandler married her current husband, Orlando Chandler, who is currently a pastor of care at Christ in Me Church in Pell City, Alabama; they have two children: Madison, 11, and Matthew, 10. When Chandler was pregnant with Matthew, she had complications that forced her to stop teaching in the classroom.

“Because I needed to be bedridden for an uncertain time, they couldn’t hold my position,” she said.

It was then that the idea of ​​homeschooling was born.

“At that time I had a newborn and a sixth grader, so life was out of balance,” Chandler said.

Because she had been a middle school teacher, Chandler knew her son was not ready for the emotional, social, and academic rigors of being in college. She and her husband discussed home schooling, which she started doing in Virginia in 2011.

In 2015, Chandler and her family moved to Birmingham for ministry purposes. At the time, they didn’t know many black school children in the area. Chandler tried home schooling in Birmingham for about a year, then decided to place his older children in a public school system outside of Birmingham. She also enrolled Matthew and Madison when they were in kindergarten and first grade, respectively. It didn’t work out, so Chandler pulled Matthew out of school and started homeschooling him.

Chandler describes her kids as very outgoing and outgoing, so she started looking for black homeschoolers again and posted on the Black Homeschoolers of Alabama Facebook site. Eventually, she met Duckworth – and the two are now BHOB partners.

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