The Taylor Schlitz family sought alternative forms of education for their children after an incident their eldest daughter, Haley, experienced at the public elementary school in Southlake.
A family’s educational path changed dramatically after the eldest daughter, Haley, was forced to take on the role of a mulatto slave girl during her fifth-grade, in-class activity on the Civil War.
“I was the only girl of color in the entire class,” Haley recalled. “I’ve been told before, ‘If we were back in those times, I would own you.’ That’s what a white kid said to me,” she added.
The teacher moved her to the role of an abolitionist after her dad complained to the school, but “the damage was done,” Haley, now 18, said.
“I lost my mind,” William Schlitz, Haley’s father, said. “I went down there, and threw a fit. I wasn’t going to let my children’s mental health and well-being be destroyed by an education system that saw them as problems instead of future problem-solvers.”
“I ended up stopping public school after that year,” Haley said.
District officials said they were not aware of the incident but added they do not tolerate “behavior that would make anyone feel like they do not belong in Keller ISD because of their race or ethnicity,” Keller ISD said in an emailed statement.
The incident pushed the Taylor Schlitz family down a path toward accelerated academic success for all three of their children. They remain supporters of public education, but they encourage more families to consider the homeschool hybrid system they used.
The report cards for the three Taylor Schlitz children is head-turning by any measure:
- Haley, 18, is a third-year law student. She graduated from Texas Woman’s University at 16, with a degree in interdisciplinary studies.
- Ian, 15, is set to graduate from the University of North Texas with a degree in integrative studies. He applied to Tarrant County College at 12.
- Hana, 13, is a second-year college student and will transfer to Texas Woman’s University in the fall, where she will study sociology.
‘A foundation for doing the next thing’
Myiesha Taylor, the children’s mother, went to her husband and talked to him about the possibility of homeschooling their children. The curriculum in public school was moving too slow for her children, Myiesha said.
Their goal was to give them a curriculum that worked at their children’s pace and taught them about their history, their greatness, their own gifts and talents, their family, their personal history, where they came from and why they are important.
At first, anxiety overwhelmed Schlitz. He thought homeschooling was exclusively for families who wanted to teach their children a narrow view of the world or used by families as a form of white flight, he said.
After the incident with Haley, though, her father was open to homeschooling.
“You really start to condition yourself to rethink that education is not a set time and set place. For children, education is 24/7,” Schlitz said. “If you can capture and do it in a way that’s engaging, it is very powerful. School is not confined to a certain building on the map nine months of the year with a certain person for X amount of hours a day.”
Taylor had to “sit in the captain’s chair” and do everything she could to help her children excel in their lives.
Taylor is an emergency medicine physician specialist and author, and Schlitz is a self-employed communications consultant. Taylor and Schlitz are from the San Francisco bay area.
“I was an over-achiever with the homeschooling thing because I felt like I had a lot to prove and I didn’t want my kids to be taken by CPS (Child Protection Services), and I didn’t want them to fail,” Taylor said. “I wanted them to have a foundation for doing the next thing.”
Homeschooling may not seem like a viable option for a lot of families who do not have the time to be home to teach their children or the resources to create lesson plans.
Money shouldn’t be a factor in a decision to home-school your children, although she understands nothing is free, Taylor said.
“In this day and age, without a computer, you can’t take online classes,” she said. “The most valuable thing you can give your child is not what you can buy, but there is some money that is necessary.”
A myriad of cheap online resources can help parents teach their children through a hybrid system, she said.
“Not every family is able to homeschool,” Taylor said. “In fact, the large majority can’t. But, it is really a discussion between the family about how they value education and how do they present that in their household?”
In 2019, Schlitz and Taylor co-wrote a book named “The Homeschool Alternative” that “captures their experience as a homeschooling family and provides resources to Black families on how they can incorporate a “homeschool mindset” into their education journey,” according to Haley’s about page.
The multitude of online resources can be beneficial, but parents still need to be involved, they said. Even if parents use public school as a “daycare” while they are at work, they can teach their children on the weekends, on school breaks and on vacations.
“We hired tutors to come on those off days to help with those assignments that were assigned by the teachers, usually math and science because reading and language arts is a little bit easier to do as a parent,” Taylor added.
The family used DuoLingo, a language-learning tool, to help their kids learn different languages. In addition to online resources, the family took trips and participated in immersion activities.
“Let’s say there is a biology class that Ian took and instead of him learning about whales in the classroom, I decided to take him to the aquarium or we went on a whale-watching trip in Florida that summer. I would give him an assignment at that point, and I would give him credit for that,” Taylor said.
According to a study by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 18.3% of employees worked remotely in April 2021. The majority of remote workers, 61.5%, were in the top 75th percentile in earnings.
The study found that workers with advanced education were more likely to be able to work from home. Black Americans and Hispanics were less likely to be able to work remotely.
However, the U.S. Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey showed that for the first 16 weeks of 2020, the percentage of homeschooling rates among Black-identifying families increased from 3.3% to 16.1%.
“You’re there to learn”
At first, people would ask Ian if he was lost at Tarrant County College’s Northeast campus. He would explain that he was the one taking the classes, not his parents.
“At the time, I didn’t really reconcile with how being in college actually was. It didn’t feel like that big of a deal to me. It felt like the next phase of my education,” Ian said. “The process of applying was really smooth.”
Ian graduated in the spring from UNT with a degree in integrative studies. He never lived on campus, so his dad would drive him to and from school.
“I value the time I got to spend with them. Time is the one commodity that equalizes everything — rich and poor. Time is that one commodity, so you never know how much of you have,” Schlitz said. “I got a lot of time whether it was driving Ian to UNT or Haley to Texas Woman’s University, and now Hana will get that experience when she’s taking classes on campus.”
“It’s so precious. I honestly think I have very good relationships with the kids because of it that I wouldn’t trade for anything,” Schlitz said.
Hana is majoring in sociology and is transferring to Texas Woman’s University in the fall to pursue her bachelor’s degree.
“I actually started college classes during COVID, so it wasn’t that hard for me. It was good for me to take my classes at my own pace,” Hana said.
Hana Taylor Schlitz
Educational accomplishments: Started college at 11 years old. Will transfer to Texas Woman’s University as a sophomore in the fall at 13 where she will major in sociology.
What’s next: Attending Texas Woman’s University in the fall.
Career goals: Major in sociology and get another degree in environmental science after.
Interests: Hana likes to read novel books and watch television shows.
Ian Taylor Schlitz
Educational accomplishments: Receiving a bachelor’s in integrative studies from the University of North Texas at 15 years old. Went to Tarrant County College at 12.
What’s next: He plans to go to business school to receive his master’s degree.
Career goals: After he receives his master’s degree, he wants to go to medical school to become a physician like his mother.
Interests: He plays video games in his free time and he owns a gaming business called Kidlamity.
Haley Taylor Schlitz
Educational accomplishments: Graduated from Texas Woman’s University with a degree in interdisciplinary studies, and she is now a third-year law student at Southern Methodist University Dedman School of Law.
Interesting tidbit: Haley is the youngest TWU graduate to date, and she was featured by Beyonce in her This is Black History 2020 Honorees.
Migrating to online classes was fun for Ian because he was used to virtual classes and being home for school.
“When I heard we were moving to online classes, it was perfect,” he said. “I already had everything under control. It is unfortunate that it was due to COVID.”
The journey to college for their children was not easy for William and Myiesha. Many universities accepted their children but turned them away when they found out their age, Schlitz said.
“For Ian, UNT was a great school and great institution, and they are very embracing of children on different paths,” Schlitz said.
Despite Ian and Hana saying the application and admission process was smooth, their father said he is glad they experienced it that way because it was a horrible experience for him.
Ian is currently looking at business schools so he can get his master’s degree. He owns a gaming business, Kidlamity Gaming.
“I am the CEO of a business, so it only makes sense to get a degree in business,” said Ian, who plays video games in his free time.
After business school, Ian plans on going to medical school to become a physician like his mother.
After graduating from Texas Woman’s University, Hana plans to study environmental science.
Ian and Hana say they’ve never been concerned about missing out on their childhood or socialization.
“We did get socialization. We were (in) Jack and Jill with other people who looked like us,” Hana said, referring to a growth and development program for children. “I get to interact with my friends. I don’t see a problem with the education system that I went through.”
“My sister raised a good point about socialization: That is, oftentimes what people will ask us. They’ll say, ‘I mean, yeah, you get all this but you skip your childhood. Is it really worth skipping your childhood?’” Ian said. “I never saw school as a good way of socialization, to begin with. You’re there to learn, not necessarily talk to other people.”
Ian would rather meet his friends at the entertainment venue Main Event or an arcade than talk to them in class, he said.
“My parents did a great job at what they were intended to do,” Ian said. He feels that more people should use the education system that his parents used.
According to a study by the National Home Education Research Institute, roughly 250,000 students were homeschooled in 2019, and that number doubled to 500,000 in 2021. About 41% of homeschooling families are non-white, the study found.
Two major reasons why families homeschool is to “provide a safer environment for children and youth, because of physical violence, drugs and alcohol, psychological abuse, racism, and improper and unhealthy sexuality associated with institutional schools” and to “teach and impart a particular set of values, beliefs, and worldview to children and youth,” the institute found in its study.
Families often choose homeschooling for their children to provide a safer environment and to teach a particular set of values and worldviews, the institute found in its study.
After the incident with their eldest daughter Haley, the Taylor Schlitz family used online resources, tutors and a hybrid homeschool model to teach their children. Two days of the week, their children would go to Trinity Preparatory Academy, an in-person school.
Susan Graber Vanderlaan, a former teacher at Trinity Preparatory Academy, taught all three Taylor Schlitz children.
“I taught second grade, and I had both Ian and Hana in second grade,” Vanderlaan said.
The kindergarten through 12th-grade academy used a multitude of resources, and the teacher had more freedom with how they put together their curriculum, Vanderlaan said.
Vanderlaan taught at the Trinity Preparatory Academy for eight years and saw the program grow from 22 students to nearly 300.
She thinks that hybrid schooling will take off because it is the best of both worlds. With a hybrid model, the families, teachers and students had much more freedom, but it all depends on the individual student, she said.
For example, students with special needs may be better off in public schools because of the resources they offer, Vanderlaan said.
“If you think of curriculum as a complete raising of your child, not just reading, writing, and arithmetic, then you can integrate a whole lot of things so that everything becomes educational,” Taylor said. In this world, you need to “get those stripes” because “nobody cares about your opinion if you don’t have the credentials,” she added.
Taylor and Schlitz have taken a big role in their children’s education.
“People need to stop glorifying stage-and-stadium dreams. Parents need to stop trying to relive their glory years through their children,” Schlitz said. “It is easier to create a physician than it is to create LeBron James.”