Monica Olivera is an author, a freelance education writer/materials creator, and founder of the educational resources site MommyMaestra.com where she focuses on resources for Hispanic homeschoolers, bilingual educators, and parents who simply want to be more involved in their children’s education.
She has been writing about education for the last decade with a special emphasis on education for Hispanic families and bilingual education. Her articles have appeared on sites such as NBC.com, PBS Parents, and Woo! Jr.
Hispanic heritage, homeschooling, and building a business
Homeschooling has been a popular topic in the past year since the Covid-19 pandemic swept the globe and schools shut down long-term. Virtual learning became a divisive topic, with many parents expressing frustration with homeschooling while other parents readily embraced the change.
According to a recent article from the Washington Post, the percentage of children in homeschooling has nearly tripled since mid-2019. The U.S. Census Bureau found that as of May 2021, more than 1 out of every 12 students is being homeschooled.
For Monica, her journey in the world of homeschooling began long before the pandemic, nearly a decade ago. Her choice to homeschool her young children was spurred by her desire to share her Hispanic heritage with her children and give them a culturally diverse curriculum that public schools were lacking.
After moving to a small farming community away from family, Monica wished to nurture her children’s knowledge of Hispanic heritage and culture but struggled to find resources. She never planned to homeschool her children, but living in a failed school district where the state had closed one school and taken over the other, homeschooling seemed like the only option available.
“I was terrified,” Monica said. “But I quickly grew to love it and realized that it provided the perfect opportunity to teach my kids about their heritage.”
When searching for resources for Hispanic homeschoolers online proved to be difficult, Monica decided to start her own blog as a way to share what she was finding with other Hispanic homeschooling families. Soon, she began creating her own downloadable materials and her unexpected business took off.
“The cultural experiences of my childhood completely shaped my business. I wanted to pass on my heritage to my own children, and that passion grew until I one day realized that I didn’t want a great education with an emphasis on heritage just for my kids, but for all Hispanic children,” said Monica.
Over the years, Monica has expanded her knowledge and appreciation beyond her own Spanish Mexican American heritage to encompass all Hispanic cultures and share the beauty of Hispanic heritage with a greater audience.
“I love learning about and creating materials about other Spanish-speaking countries and cultures,” she said. “Helping children learn about and embrace their family’s heritage benefits everyone. Teaching non-Hispanic children about the culture also nurtures appreciation and breaks down stereotypes.”
Why homeschooling increased during the pandemic
For parents who have recently embraced homeschooling due to the Covid-19 pandemic, there are a variety of factors that led to their choice, the pandemic of course being the most prominent one.
However, while homeschooling has been most commonly found among White, religious families in the past, the recent increase in homeschooling has been seen among Black, Latino, and Asian families. For Black and Latino students, the homeschooling rate of increase has been dramatic. Between 2019 and May 2021 the homeschooling rate went from 1 percent to 8 percent for Black students and from 2 percent to 9 percent for Hispanic students, the Washington Post reported.
This jump was influenced by more than just the pandemic. Other factors such as racism, discrimination, and a lack of cultural diversity in school curriculums influenced parents in their decision to homeschool their children full-time.
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Many parents, like Monica, were inspired to use homeschooling as an opportunity to teach their children about their culture and heritage and provide them with a less biased curriculum. For many, the pandemic was simply the catalyst they needed to take the plunge into homeschooling.
“I wrote my first book – The Latino Family’s Guide to Homeschooling – completely unaware that a pandemic was coming,” Monica shared. “When Covid hit, Hispanic families began flocking to homeschooling, especially when they realized that it was an opportunity to nurture their children’s bilingualism.”
Monica’s book and printable downloads of reading passages, games, and activities that feature Hispanic figures, holidays, and traditions have been sought after by families across the country.
Creating a community for Hispanic homeschooling families
As more and more families embark on their homeschooling journeys, Monica’s resources continue to provide Hispanic families with the necessary tools to navigate homeschooling with ease.
For Monica, each of her own successes in her business means children across the country are learning to appreciate the beauty of Hispanic cultures and to be proud of their heritage.
“I know that by helping parents help their kids, I’m helping individuals and families succeed and be happy,” she said.
“I think what I love most about my business is reading the testimonials/reviews made by people who use my education materials. I also love hearing from parents and educators who write to me asking for help or guidance to find materials or asking where to start with homeschooling. I’m especially proud of the active Hispanic & Bilingual Homeschoolers group that I started on Facebook. There are so many great parents helping each other in that group.”
When Monica started out, she was alone searching for resources to help teach her children. Now, a decade later, Monica has built a community for Hispanic homeschooling families to share and grow.
For those who are at the beginning of their own journeys as homeschooling parents or entrepreneurs, Monica encourages that you continue to persist.
“It’s okay to get discouraged from time to time. And you will most likely have days that you consider giving up. But if you believe in yourself and what you can do – especially if others try to convince you otherwise – you can achieve greatness. Always be honest and always help others. It will come back to you in abundance.”