Amber O’Neal Johnston likes to say, “In my house, Charlotte Mason has an Afro.”
Johnston is among generations of homeschooling parents inspired by the 19th-century Christian educator. She believes in Mason’s philosophy that children should be treated as full-fledged people and that educators cooperate with God to create a learning environment rich with books, nature, experiences, and ideas.
But as Johnston claimed her Black heritage over the years, things changed. Her once “bone straight” hair is now worn natural. “It’s big. And I love it,” she said during a Zoom interview, showing off a heavy mass of curls behind a white and patterned headband.
Johnston wants her four kids to claim and love their Blackness too—but she noticed how the books on Charlotte Mason reading lists, full of white authors writing about white characters and history, taught a different lesson.
It was her eldest daughter who shifted Johnston’s view when she remarked, “You said we study important things at school. We study only white people.”
Johnston was stunned.
Since then, the homeschooling mom has worked to bring Black figures and history into the Charlotte Mason approach. She became a board member for the Charlotte Mason Institute, taking the Victorian woman’s philosophy and infusing a “necessary dose of Blackness into it.”
Five years ago, Johnston started a group in the Atlanta area for homeschooling families of Black children. Her website—HeritageMom.com, named for children being a heritage from the Lord in Psalm 127:3—is now a popular destination for Charlotte Mason families and other homeschoolers seeking resources such as multicultural hymn studies …
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