The International Gifted Academy – A Virtual School With Heart

Tensions are high across the nation. School shootings are on the rise, inter-race relations at times feel tumultuous and unsettling, and bullying abounds in the hallways of schools that are too over-burdened to meet the needs of every  single student. Families across the country are searching out the best options to shield their children from pain and danger, while raising them to be brilliant and loving human beings. 

These were the worries of one family, who knew they had to do something differently. Zee Eil’Yudah and her husband Mannie always knew that their daughters were gifted and unique. As a toddler their first daughter showed signs of being a gifted learner, teaching herself addition and even how to tie her own shoes. Mimi was a very sensitive child who thrived on the approval of her parents.

Young Mimi was excited to attend school as a kindergartner. There were times she came home in tears, from feeling rejected or being teased by the caucasian children in her class because she was different. But she still loved school. From Kindergarten to first grade she shined as her younger sister Ellie made her way into Kindergarten. 

Inaction Fuels The Fire

However, as Mimi made her way through first grade, Zee and Mannie noticed a stark difference in her behavior and response to her family, teacher, classmates and school as a whole. She became moody and seemed frustrated and unmotivated by experiences during the day. Repeatedly the parents asked their daughter what was upsetting her, and finally the truth came out, there was one little girl giving her a very hard time, and she felt as though her teacher hadn’t been very understanding. 

Of course Zee and Mannie could not stand for this. They immediately scheduled an appointment to meet with the school administrators to bring these issues to light and hopefully to an end. The couple had already approached the teacher, with no results.  They received a solemn promise that the teacher would be instructed to keep the child away from MiMi. Though they knew it would be a challenge, her parents had hope that this would provide some sort of resolution. 

Alas, there was no change, and the situation deteriorated through the rest of the school year. When the year came to a close with Mimi arriving home in tears over the unkind actions of her teacher on the last day of school, Zee and Mannie knew they had to make a change. Their experience with the school system, coupled with all of the other worries that parents have to face in today’s day and age, left the Ei’Yudahs feeling they had no other choice. 

It was then they decided that their children would not be returning to the traditional American school setting. They would be taking their children’s educational well-being into their own hands.

Do Brown Folks Homeschool?

For the good of Mimi, Ellie and their two youngest daughters, Anna and Manueila, Zee and Mannie had to traverse into uncharted territory.  The Eil’Yudahs would now be homeschoolers! 

This was  both an exciting and scary proposition, as they didn’t know anyone else who homeschooled. 

Zee remembers, “Do brown folks homeschool?! That’s what I asked myself at one point.  It seemed as though there was little to no information for families who looked like us. Homeschooling, especially for African Americans was not a trendy idea, and definitively not a mainstream concept at the time. Yet and still, it is not highly popular to this day.

“We get puzzling looks, and odd questions all of the time. Questions you know people wouldn’t even think to ask families whose children attend traditional school. Yet, I know it can be hard to process new concepts for many people, especially if it contradicts what they feel is normal. There can be so much fear surrounding new ideas. Whenever you go against the status quo, you have to be prepared for some kind of fight — whether people know they are fighting you or not. Often times, I believe, subconsciously people want to fight what they don’t understand. Many homeschoolers have experienced this.  ”

The stressed but hopeful parents combed the web for all the information they could find. At times they felt defeated because everyone seemed to be against them in their desire to educate their children the way they saw fit. 

“The hardest part was that it seemed like no-one understood us. It seemed as though somehow, we were made to feel wrong, for understanding that our children are special and have different learning needs,” Zee shares. 

She goes on to explain, “My feelings were often hurt, because no matter how intelligent our family knew we were, they somehow felt as though we weren’t competent to teach our own children. The fact is, no-one can know a child’s needs better than their parents. No amount of training or education can replace a parent’s love and passion to help their child succeed.”

Major Life Challenges

In spite of outside resistance and personal fears, the young family persevered. However their resolve was tested when Mannie faced some major health issues that threatened the family’s way of life. Swallowing their pride, the Eil’Yudahs enrolled the two older sisters were in a new school, only 60 days before the school year ended. 

“That was such a challenging time, and we were under such pressure, that sending them back to school seemed our only solution. But it proved to be a major victory and solidified my confidence in our homeschooling abilities. Mimi and Ellie both excelled and earned accolades including making the Honor Roll. It seemed our uncanny and at times uncouth methods of education were actually working!”

When that school year came to a close, Zee and Mannie knew that the road ahead would not be easy, but they were committed to doing everything in their power to keep educating their children at home. The elder Eil’Yudahs had spent the majority of their marriage as entrepreneurs, running their own arts and graphic design firm, so working from home afforded them the opportunity the be with their children everyday. 

The Importance of Art

The couple were both graduates of  Hampton University , an HBCU in Virgivia. Mannie’s studies were in Comprehensive Art while Zee graduated with Honors in Theatre Performance. Lifelong artists, both Zee and Mannie cherish the value of arts both in education, and in everyday life. Artistic expression has always lied at the center of their homeschool instruction.

“Art is everywhere. It lies at the heart of our very creation. From the beauty of flowers to the perfect palette of a beautiful sunset, we live and breathe art. To deny this, is to deny the very essence of who we are,” Mannie expresses.

It is this passion for the arts and creative expression that have helped lead their efforts in educating their own children and now, children across the world. 

The Eil’Yudah’s passions have led them on many adventures. With a life, far from the picture of perfection, they know thrill of triumph and the sting of defeat, with their fair share of challenges.  But one thing is for certain, they have never given up, or lost sight of the task set before them — to raise beautiful and brilliant children who can be a blessing to this world. They want nothing more that to shine their lights and spread the love of learning to the children who need it most. 

The International Gifted Academy

These are the ideals that led to the founding of The International Gifted Academy — a virtual private academy offering a range of services to help parents better educate their children. 

“We know the challenges of homeschooling and traditional schooling. We also understand the need to find the best solution for your children, no matter how much money you do or do not have. This is why we’ve created this amazing academy to help families across the world educate their children in a brand new way, while holding on some of our ‘old school’ ideals,” shares Zee, Director of The International Gifted Academy. 

“We have partnered with brilliantly gifted black and brown teachers from Minneapolis to Manila, Phillipines, and students from Texas to Thailand connecting to create educational experiences that will last a lifetime. It is our goal to provide families with the resources they need to give their children the best education possible. Neither Mannie nor myself grew up wealthy, as matter of fact, we are far from wealthy now! The cost of private school education is so high, it was never something we could have considered in the past. But now we’re able to create an affordable solution that all families can access.”

“The building of IGA has been a complete and total labor of love. We’ve worked had in hand with our teachers to build our curriculum. We’ve worked together to create an environment where all children can feel loved and encouraged to grow and succeed. Though are services are virtual, the connections are real, and the relationships that can be made are priceless.”

Scholarships & Excellence

With a personal understanding of financial struggles, IGA has launched the HOPE Scholarship program to ensure that as many children as possible can access their world-class teachers and services. The academy has pledged to give away 100 scholarships to talented and deserving students for the 2019-2020 and 202-2021 school years. And in keeping with their artistic passions, Art courses will always be free to registered families.

“We have a highly qualified faculty prepared to help educate learners of all ability levels! Whether students have been diagnosed with ADHD, are on the Autism Spectrum, require accelerated learning paths, or face chronic illness or disability, our teachers and counselors can help… all without you leaving the comfort of your home. Unless of course you’re a traveling family, then you can access our offerings from anywhere with an internet signal. That’s the power of virtual education.”

In an effort to better support families of the African Diaspora who homeschool, or are considering homeschooling, The International Gifted Academy is hosting the first ever “International Brown Education Week” October 21-25, 2019— a six-day celebration of all things brown education, including a virtual conference filled with lectures, workshops, student performances and competitions, and local meetups across the US and in select foreign cities for our world-traveling families. This will be an amazing opportunity to access invaluable information, education and resources for brown home educators across the world.

“We hope to make the world a better place,” Zee shares in closing. “We want to spread the joy, peace and the love of learning to the children who need it the most!”

For more information about The International Gifted Academy, The HOPE Scholarship Program, or International Brown Education Week, please visit INTLGIFTEDACADEMY.ORG or email info@intlgiftedacademy.org.

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