A Series on the Local Homeschool Community
Liz Luevano and Beto Martinez, married and living in Oxnard, were both public school teachers in Ventura County. But when it came time to choose a path for their daughters’ education, they decided to homeschool.
“I was totally in when I saw the benefits homeschooling had on families who had kids who actually went through the whole homeschool experience and were working in different fields and were successful and happy,” says Liz, whose parents are from Jalisco, Mexico. “I felt encouraged and knew it was something I wanted for my daughters. The more I researched, bought books and dived into them, I said, ‘This is what we’re going to do. This is us.’”
At the time, Liz was teaching at a public charter school, but it bothered her that their oldest daughter kept coming home from Kindergarten feeling unwell.
“We had been noticing for years that she was constantly getting sick, but we weren’t really putting it together,” says Liz. “I was so busy working and felt I wasn’t home and wasn’t really paying attention.”
Liz and Beto, whose family immigrated from Michoacan, eventually concluded that their daughter’s health problems were related to the dozens of vaccines required to attend public schools. At the time, the couple “didn’t even know homeschooling was an option,” Liz says, until she began following homeschooling moms on social media — and liked what she saw.
“I was looking for anything I could find. I spent hours and days researching,” she says.
When her teaching job ended in 2017, she was ready to embrace change and give homeschooling a try — but the family faced huge potential obstacles.
“In the beginning, it was very scary for the both of us, especially because my husband was finishing up his credentialing program to become a teacher, so my income was the main income in our home,” Liz says. “We survived on loans and credit cards for a moment there and felt like we were spinning out. I could have easily said, ‘I’m going to look for another job,’ and that was on my mind, but at the same time, I had this new focus where I had to find out what was going on with my daughter.”
She finally told Beto, “I’m not going to go back to work. I don’t know what we’re doing, but this is more important than anything right now.”
Many Hispanic people ‘feel they have no options, no voice’ in regard to schooling.
“I was a little scared,” Beto confesses with a laugh. “I was going through, ‘Wow, what are we going to do? One income, here in California — it’s so expensive, and it’s really hard to get by with one income.’ But I took it day by day and said, ‘You know what? This is the best for our family and our daughters — for their mom to be home with them.’ But I was very afraid of not knowing what would happen in the future.”
Homeschoolers made up nearly 7 percent of all school-age K-12 children in the U.S in 2020-2021, according to the National Home Education Research Institute (NHERI), and a nationwide study cited by the U.S. Department of Education in 2019 shows that 41 percent of homeschool students are black, Asian, Hispanic or from other non-white ethnicities. Best estimates say homeschooling is growing rapidly at 10 percent per year. That means approximately 5.5 million children are being homeschooled in the U.S. this year — and the spectrum of families is incredibly diverse.
Beto and Liz made their decision — and moved into a studio apartment to help make the lifestyle shift more feasible.
“That helped us financially,” Liz says. “We knew it was a sacrifice we were going to have to make, and it was fine with us.”
Liz began teaching the girls at the dining table and experimented initially with “unschooling.”
‘Getting to know my daughters at a deeper level and being there for them — it’s just priceless.’Liz Luevano
“In the first year, I almost took some time off to get in touch with them again because I feel we were disconnected,” she says. “I wasn’t getting home until 7 p.m. when I was working in the public school system, so I felt I needed to reconnect with my daughters and get to know who they were. That really helped me to understand them and to know them. From there, we started integrating more subject matter.”
She believes homeschooling “can take so many different shapes” and is less about using her teaching skills and more about imparting “who I am and what I want my daughters to learn from me.”
“That’s the motherly aspect that comes out of me — in my patience and wanting to inform them as much as I can,” she says. “I’m not writing lesson plans like I did when I was a teacher and saying, ‘We’re going to execute this, then we’re going to test you, and we’re going to do all these assessments.’ That’s not what I’m doing.”
The girls, now 11 and 7, enjoy doing schoolwork at the dining room table — and wherever they go.
“We are happy being at home,” Liz says. “We love crafting and doing art, anything of that sort. We go out with friends; we hang out with family members. … We buy curricula and do open discussions and just start talking about things with them. We answer all their questions. It’s about creating opportunities and moments. If we see that there’s interest, we go as far as they want us to go. That’s our type of homeschooling. We’ll pick up a book and start reading and start researching.”
Beto continues to work in the public school system and is in his fourth year of teaching.
“Teachers who find out we’re homeschooling tell me, ‘You’re a big contradiction,’” he says. “[But] I think what I’m doing is best for my girls and for our family. As a teacher, I try to teach the best I can and bring the same values I have at home into my classroom.”
Numerous homeschool parents interviewed by The Conejo Guardian express great relief at avoiding the damaging sexual ideologies and racially charged material that is presented in today’s K-12 public school classrooms.
“We definitely dodged a whole bunch of bullets,” Liz says, laughing. “It’s been a shock to see [these agendas] happen so quickly and be accepted so quickly in the school system and in society in general. I’ve started seeing there are all these things I’m against being taught in public schools, so I knew I had done the right thing in pulling my daughter out.”
Indeed, the top reason parents choose to homeschool is concern about school environments, according to the NHERI. But many Hispanic people “feel they have no options, that they have no voice,” Beto says.
“They go with all these things and say, ‘I have to send my son or my daughter to school, so whatever the state decides to teach them, we’re going to have to go with it because we both have to work,’” he says. “They’re too busy with two jobs trying to make ends meet. In a lot of Latino communities, parents feel the teacher and the state are making the right choices for them. … A lot of these parents are afraid to even say something.”
Within their own friend and family community, Liz and Beto are the exceptions when it comes to homeschooling.
“You get different reactions from people,” says Liz. “Some actually get insulted in a way because you’re almost challenging their lifestyle just by living your own life. It’s funny the reactions you get.”
As trained teachers, both believe that all parents are capable of teaching their kids at home.
“You don’t need to be credentialed to do homeschooling,” says Liz.
A study by the University of St. Thomas showed that homeschoolers have a 10 percent higher graduation rate than public school students. NHERI researcher Brian Ray writes that homeschooled students score 15 to 30 percent higher than public school students on standardized academic achievement exams.
But for Beto, Liz and their daughters, the benefits go beyond superior academic preparation.
“There are sacrifices we’ve had to go through because of this decision, but being home and getting to know my daughters at a deeper level, and being there for them in ways I wouldn’t have otherwise — it’s just priceless,” Liz says.