Portraits of Excellence – Pier Penic leads a movement


Years ago author Paula Penn-Nabrit, frustrated by her sons educational experiences at both public and private schools, and fed up by years of racial incidents, decided to homeschool her three young sons.

Ultimately, after two of her sons made it to the Ivy League, Penn-Nabrit  decided to write a memoir of the familys years of homeschooling, sharing how she developed age-appropriate curriculums for her sons, how she dealt with the boys differing temperaments and educational needs, how she prepared them to take the SATs, and how they ultimately grew up to be spiritually and intellectually well-balanced sons, two of whom are at Princeton and one at Amherst.

The book  Morning By Morning: How We Home-Schooled Our African-Americans Sons to the Ivy League became an inspiration for Alexandria mother Pier Penic, who followed her lead and chose to educate her two children at home, rather than in a public or private school.

Penic, an Alexandria resident, is founder of Culture at Home, a group she started in 2002 after conducting research and not finding a home schooling group that met the needs of her children. Her 13-year-old son Kai and her 11-year-old daughter Nailah have never attended school. 

I wanted to find a group that catered to the needs of the African-American student and understood that it was important that black children see positive representations of themselves throughout their educational experiences.  I didnt find any groups that did this, so I started my own home schooling group. But the group is open to anyone.

Penic also facilitates the Black Authors Book Discussion Group for older home schoolers, which meets at the Sherwood Regional Library every third Saturday of the month, and the Virginia Hamilton Book Club, which meets at Howard University. 

Reading is a component of every field trip, said Penic, who holds bachelors and masters degrees in literature.  The founding of the Black Authors Group and Virginia Hamilton Book Club are natural extensions of Penics work with home schoolers and her emphasis reading.

She views her work as a way to give back to the community.  Helping someone is like putting money in the bank, she said.  The biggest challenges that I face are getting members to consistently participate in events. 

Penic has seen a shift since 2002 when she organized the group.  While home schooling groups have grown tremendously, co-ops have formed as an alternative.  In a co-op, one family may have an expertise in French, so they offer French lessons one day, while another family may know math, so they teach math on the other day, she explains. She also notes that some home schooling families are enrolling their older children in area community colleges rather than participating in home schooling groups. 

Although Culture at Home is locally based, listing the group on a share net for home schoolers opens it to families nationwide.

National members access reading lists and study guides that I prepare and place on the share net,  she said. Membership is free.

No time for rest for the tireless home-schooler, it appears.