When Zamar and Jessica Bojorquez’s two oldest children reached school age, the Moorpark couple made a firm decision: they were not sending their kids to public schools. The reason?
“It’s too much government over your children,” says Jessica, a Thousand Oaks High School graduate who was born in the U.S. and has family members back in Mexico. “They [public school teachers and administrators] do things behind your back and don’t want to get parents involved. That was why I wanted to stay away from public school systems.”
She and Zamar, who was born in Mexico and who works for a high-level contractor in Ventura County, also had concerns about public schools pushing sexual and political agendas contrary to their family’s convictions.
Many families “are struggling with the new rules in schools,” Zamar told the Guardian in Spanish. “They are asking the kids if they are a boy or a girl. I say, at that age, to children, how can you ask them that? If one who is already grown isn’t mature enough to make that decision, imagine asking a child that.”
He continued, “I think that, for me, what motivates me most is seeing that they are learning without the traumas that you know of, what’s going on in schools. And, I see it too in the streets, as I do now at this time … Because we are in a country where life goes really quick, and you realize what the schools are creating and what they’re teaching them. Parents are working all the time, and they don’t realize these things because they arrive home so tired, not even wanting to chat. But I see in the streets kids today that need a lot of help, and the public schools are not giving them what they need.”
After a few years with their kids in a private school, the couple wanted to try homeschooling in 2018 — but wondered if they would find themselves isolated and alone.
“When we started, we thought that there wasn’t anybody doing this, that it would be weird, like a weird ‘homeschooling’ family,” says Zamar. “But there are so many people homeschooling. We have realized that everybody is doing the same thing.”
Jessica, too, was surprised.
“We’ve discovered a whole new world and met so many like-minded people,” she says. “It’s reassuring and makes us feel even more firm and at peace with our choices. We’re not alone, and there are so many out there who want something different for their kids.”
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, “Homeschooling rates are increasing across race groups and ethnicities.” Two years of shutdowns and mask mandates have “sparked new interest in homeschooling, and the appeal of alternative school arrangements has suddenly exploded,” the Bureau wrote in 2021.
This includes in the Hispanic community, where more families are opting to homeschool rather than put their children at the mercy of public schools, whose values are becoming less aligned with those of most Hispanic families. In Florida next month, a gathering called “Educa por Diseno” (“Educate by Design”) will bring together Spanish-speaking families and educators from around the world for what it calls “the first Hispanic conference for Homeschooling in Spanish within the United States and with international reach. The purpose is to “bring tools to Hispanic families that look to transform their homes into the epicenter of education, and to promote meaning to the purpose of the student’s life under its original design.”
The Bojorquez family got a boost when a Hispanic mom from Thousand Oaks, who was just starting to homeschool her four young children, called and suggested they team up.
“That was a blessing because, in the beginning, it was just us two,” Jessica says. “We tried to do a lot of things with the kids and field trips together.”
They went to the L.A. County Fair, where they learned how to milk cows and grow a garden, participated in a beach clean-up and visited the Discovery Cube in Sylmar — in addition to weekly gatherings at local parks.
Like many families, the Bojorquezes say finances were initially a concern, but “We crunched some numbers and saw we could make it work,” Jessica says, noting that extended daycare was already costing them when she worked full-time.
A larger question for her was what the teacher-mother relationship would look like and if the kids would respond to her in both roles. She did “a good bit of research,” attended a regional homeschool convention, watched plenty of YouTube videos by homeschool moms and went to local homeschool meetings to get a taste of what it would be like.
“All of that helped,” she says. In the end, her fears did not materialize, and “It wasn’t as hard as we probably thought it would be,” she says.
These days, Zamar is hands-on with the kids’ education. He and his son are partnering on a science project, and the relational and intellectual fruit has been obvious — and welcome.
“The kids’ identities and values are more instilled,” says Jessica. “I feel like sometimes when kids go to public school, those things get lost.”
“The kids’ identities and values are more instilled. I feel like sometimes when kids go to public school, those things get lost.”
The couple also feels more in tune with each child’s strengths and weaknesses and feels empowered to set a proper pace of learning.
“We’re not going to fly through things just because it has to be done but without understanding it,” Jessica says. “I feel like sometimes in public school, that happens to a lot of kids. There’s so many kids that the teachers don’t realize they’re struggling. Sometimes the kids go along with it and make it seem like they’re learning, but they’re really not.”
She believes many “first-generation Latinos feel they have no other option” than public school. For example, one friend wanted to homeschool but didn’t feel capable of teaching her child English. “I have an accent and can’t even pronounce the vowels the right way,” she told Jessica.
The friend overcame that fear, took her son out of public school and joined the local homeschool community. Like some other moms, she kept her full-time job, leaving the children with their grandmother during the day — and some projects to do — and doing schoolwork at night.
“We’re all capable” of doing it, says Jessica. “They’re our children. Who better to teach your kids than yourself?”
“We’re all capable. They’re our children. Who better to teach your kids than yourself?”
The Bojorquezes and other Hispanic families now rely on the informal co-op they created for mutual support and friendship.
“It helps because we implement things culture-wise and are thinking in the same way,” Jessica says. “Our kids don’t speak much Spanish with each other, but they all come from that same background. They all understand our cultural background at home.”
Broadly, Jessica sees many local families leaving public schools because of vaccine mandates, mask mandates and the promotion of dangerous sexual lifestyles and divisive racial ideologies.
“The more I hear all of that, I’m like, ‘Thank you, Lord, that I don’t even have to deal with any of that,’” she says. “It makes us feel more thankful that God allowed us to homeschool.”
Zamar says that he has seen “a lack of control, especially in the way that they talk—a lot of bad words” among kids and adolescents today. He is very happy that his kids have not adopted these bad habits. Jessica says it’s “hard work,” but she and Zamar are “sowing into good ground.” As one seasoned mom told her early on, “You don’t need much to homeschool as long as you have a library card, goodwill, a willing attitude, and pencils and paper.”
The Bojorquezes encourage curious moms and dads to connect with other families who have homeschooled and to visit the websites of the Home School Legal Defense Association and the Christian Home Educators Association of California for resources on local homeschool groups.
“I think the more research you do, and the more you dig, there’s so much out there for homeschoolers and a lot of helps,” Jessica says.
“The more research you do, there’s so much out there for homeschoolers and a lot of helps.”
Zamar wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I feel very proud of doing this,” says the father in English and Spanish. “I am so happy that Jessica is doing this for our children. I am so thankful that she is making that effort. Because, as a man, I want to provide any way I can, but she is the one who is putting in all her work, her time, her energy. Every day. And the kids are in activities, sports. They are interacting with other kids. Everything is normal.”