I hope your summer is off to a great start. We are visiting family for the summer and then heading back to Belize. This year has been productive so far; I’ve been blessed to co-write and release a new book, 50 Afrikans You Must Know Vol. 2 with Dr. Samori Camara, and to walk with my Master’s in Education from the University of Houston. The focus areas of my master’s program were Curriculum and Instruction and Educational Technology. I’m using the tools that I’ve gained to offer more distance learning opportunities to our children. This year, that involves the independent educational services I offer, instructional design for Kamali Academy, and helping international African-centered schools transition to online platforms.
More updates – Belize has been a good move for us. It has been peaceful and I’ve been able to get a lot of writing done. Many of our friends and family have been down to visit. My son has been having a great time too. He has not made a ton of new friends, but his friends from Houston have been coming to visit for extended periods. He also communicates regularly with his friends on Google Hangouts. He enjoys seeing new animals and swimming in the river most right now about our environment, but spends a lot of time working on writing, programming, and animation too. He just finished writing his first novel, which I will be helping him edit and publish over the course of this year. This is his third full length book and he just turned 13, so I would say that homeschooling and being in a rural environment has been good for him creatively.
We took a trip to Merida, Mexico by bus over Easter for 9 days. It was sooo awesome! Since we live by the river in Belize (not close to the beach), it was great having lots of beach time and also enjoying all of the excitement of the city. Merida is safe and very affordable for family trips, in my opinion. A nice hotel with wifi and AC was around $20US per night and taxi rides were $1 – $2US around the city. Also, many of the attractions (such as the beach, street concerts, museums, and city events) were free.
Some of the highlights of our trip were: the delicious food, the vibrant markets, cotton candy, snow cones, fresh fruit popsicles every day, free museums, the Spanish/English bookstore, horse and carriage ridin’ through the city, Mayan sculptures, LOTS of art everywhere, cheap taxis, dancing in the streets with live bands, watching the crazy amazing Mayan ball game, stunning beaches, fresh fried fish on the beach, the old school traveling carnival with games and bumper cars, visiting the pyramids, swimming in the cenotes, meeting new people, and being amazed at the MAGIC of each day.
If you are looking for a fun trip this summer, look into Merida. A final update – I am offering online math tutoring this summer for grades 6 – 12 one-on-one via Google Hangouts. I can take 4 more students based on my schedule at this time, with monthly flat rate pricing on a structure based on your child/children’s learning goals for the summer. Please fill out this short interest form if you are interested and I will contact you: https://goo.gl/forms/vM0sw7Ru6tPkDIXB2. I have 8 years tutoring experience and have assisted many children in reaching their educational goals. I look forward to hearing from you.
Those are my updates for now! What’s going on with you this summer? Feel free to message me or comment – it comes straight to my email either way. I love you all! Happy schooling!
Love and Light,
One of the tricky parts of homeschooling is adjusting our curriculum to remain student-centered. If the work is too easy, too challenging, or not in the best format for the child, we have to go back to the drawing board. Otherwise, we may be giving assignments that are not engaging or not being retained.
Last semester, we used Time4Learning for our core classes (Math, ELA, Science, etc…), Kamali Academy’s curriculum for Africana History ideas, and a mix-mash of other resources. We belonged to a homeschool collective in Houston where my son was also able to learn Gardening, Sewing, Yoga, and Martial Arts.
In September, we moved to San Ignacio, Belize. For the first 5 weeks or so, we continued to use Time4Learning, also spending a lot of time outdoors, going on low-cost excursions, cooking, playing chess, watching movies, and just bonding. We have also had some fun day trips; for example, we caught a bus to Chetumal, Mexico a few weeks ago for around $25USD. I am also in graduate school online with the University of Houston, assisting with Instructional Design for Kamali Academy, and working on some new books, but it is a lot easier to manage my time here. I always seem to have more time than tasks.
My 12-year-old son, Hotep, loves to create video games in Scratch (scratch.mit.edu), so he has been spending at least 2 hours a day just programming games, alone or with friends. There are two other boys about his age on our street that he hangs out with every day. He is also working on writing his first fiction book, a chapter book about a boy with unique shapeshifting powers.
Since we live in the rainforest, the internet connection is sometimes unreliable. In hindsight, it would have been a good idea to buy textbooks and workbooks for the year and bring them rather than to depend on daily internet service. For the past few weeks, I meditated on how to solve this issue. At least 2 days of each week, Hotep is either unable to access Time4Learning or it runs terribly slow, resulting in him spending twice as long to complete his assignments. Today, I cancelled our Time4Learning subscription and designed a new curriculum for the rest of the school year that involves downloaded books that can be accessed offline, active time outdoors daily, and fun educational activities.
I would like to share our curriculum outline with you to get your feedback and maybe also help you through your process.
- Math – downloaded 7th grade math textbook from ck12.org
- Grammar/Vocabulary/Language Arts – downloaded Middle School Grammar textbook/workbook from vanlueschool.org
- Writing/Publishing – downloaded composition textbook from ck12.org for; also working on fiction book and self-publishing completed book of poetry
- Typing – freetypinggame.net
- Ourstory/US History – Classical Africa by Dr. Molefi Asante (e-book)/A Young Peoples History of the United States by Howard Zinn (e-book)
- Science- learning about Belizean ecology outdoors (helper site: http://www.ourbelizevacation.com/ecology-in-belize.html); also downloaded Life Science textbook from ck12.org
- Technology – Video Game Programming and Animation using Scratch (scratch.mit.edu)
- Physical Education – 30 min together per day outdoor exercise/play
- Spanish 15 – 30 minutes together per day using Berlitz Essential Spanish (print) and Pimsleur Spanish (audio)
- Weekly Field Trips Friday – i.e. nature walks, bus rides to other cities, Cahal Pech, Belize Zoo, Jaguar Reserve, etc…
The structure of our courses will be a combination of guided and independent work. Ourstory and US History will be on alternating days, Monday through Thursday. On Wednesdays, we will work on book publishing rather than Science and Technology. I had gotten away from spelling tests, so I will be resuming giving him spelling words on Monday and spelling tests on Fridays. If we have a short field trip some Fridays, we will also do some fun learning activities and watch a movie or a documentary.
We have about a month and a half left in this semester, so I will work out the kinks of our new program during that time. What are you using for your children’s curriculum this semester? Do you have any ideas of what we might add? Have you ever had to adjust your curriculum mid-semester? Please comment with feedback and questions.
Love and Light,
Outside of homeschooling my own son, I also tutor other students part-time. They are mostly private school students. At a session this week with a 7th grader for Pre-AP Algebra, my son, who is in the 6th grade, wanted to jump in and help him with a difficult problem. I stopped my son because I like to give my older students more time to figure it out on their own, but I was proud of him for understanding the work and for taking the initiative to want to help. It let me know that I was doing something right.
This exchange prompted me to think about the sacrifices that we make for our children. The parents that I work with often select their neighborhoods and their career paths based on wanting their children to have access to the best possible education. Likewise, I make many decisions based on wanting my son to receive the best education – the one that God has blessed me to provide to him.
At times, I have thought about how I could possibly be making more money if I did not spend the time that I spend with my son. Maybe you’ve had similar thoughts. Yet, my sacrifices in the financial area have allowed my son to be more advanced in many subjects than my private school students, though their parents are much stronger than me financially. Please keep this in mind if you’ve had any financial challenges due to working less hours or not working as a homeschooling mom. We don’t always have to have more money to do more for our children. Sometimes having less allows us to do more – and as a bonus, our children learn not to be materialistic.
For 5 years now, my son has been out of the public school system. At first, I was really just hoping that I was doing the right thing, lol. Thanks to my heightened investment in supporting his academic growth, along with support from friends and strong sister-mentors in my community, we quickly witnessed major improvements in his reading, math, and interest level. Within 2 years, he had strengthened academically more than I imagined that he could have so speedily. I knew then that we had to stick with independent education.
Of equal importance to academics, he has had the space over the past 5 years to pursue computer programming, animation, chess, creative writing, visual art, and drumming to the point where they have become passions for him. He has also had space – physically, mentally, and emotionally – to research extensively on one of his greatest loves in life – animals. At the same time, he has a great sense of his culture and history, thanks to both our studies and our strong community.
If I had a lot of money, maybe I would have enrolled him in a private school and secured private tutoring for him from the beginning. When he was struggling with reading at age 6 and I felt like his teachers were against him instead of for him, maybe I would have said, “Forget this – you’re going to the best school that money can buy.” I’m so glad that I wasn’t rich, because it turned out that learning to be my son’s educator was the best decision that I’ve ever made.
If you are considering homeschooling or just starting out, stay strong in your mission. When you feel you are not doing a great job, ask yourself what you can do differently and make changes. All teachers make mistakes. It’s important to recognize these challenges and fix them instead of beating ourselves up about them. When you are doing a great job, celebrate that too. Set goals for each semester and celebrate the goals that you are able to achieve. Homeschooling is like gardening – it’s hard work and you may not the results clearly from the beginning, but it will result in a beautiful harvest.
Also, when you feel discouraged about financial challenges, look at all that your children are able to gain from your sacrifices. Many resources can be had for free or very little money, so it is not necessary to have a lot of money to homeschool. Stay strong, focused, and positive – you’re giving your children the best education possible! Even more importantly, no amount of money can replace the family bonds that are forged all while providing an excellent education!
Stay tuned for the next post which will have money-saving tips, goal setting tips, and other tools for providing the best education that money can’t buy.
There is a significant under-representation of African American authors in Children’s Fiction. Prolific talents such as Patricia and Fredrick McKissack have made vast contributions to creating balance, with over 100 children’s books written together over the course of their marriage. Despite phenoms like the McKissacks dedicating their lives to this important work, in 2013, only 68 of the 5000 children’s books published were written by African American authors and only 93 by authors of any ethnic background were written about African Americans. For this reason, it is so essential that we celebrate and support African American authors. Our support will assist them in continuing to show our image and tell our stories.
Community advocate Noah Rattler, author Nekisha Pickney and illustrator Thaddeus Lavalais have teamed up to create Noah’s Walk, an inspiring children’s book that tells the story of Rattler’s journey while walking 1,800 miles from Houston, Texas to Los Angeles, California, to raise awareness for homelessness.
Noah’s Walk tells the story of real life heroism and of a young man who makes a decision to impact the life of others. Ms. Pickney is able to capture Noah’s odyssey as he encounters the elements, animals, and friends who support along the way. The book also serves as a fun learning tool that highlights vocabulary, geography, and cultural cognizance.
Noah’s Walk is available on Amazon.com and all other online book sellers in English and Spanish (ISBN: 978-1494968076). It is also available in the Kindle store and borrowing library. If you want an autographed copy, you can purchase one from co-author Nickesha Pickney’s website: freeheartoftruth.com.
Enjoy, and let me what you think when you’ve read it. My son loves it. The book also includes educational appendices that can be developed into lesson plans for homeschooling. Thank you for visiting, once again.
Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today. – Malcolm X
Home education can take various forms, according to your needs and resources. One common perception of home schooling is that you will spend all day at home with your children, painstakingly drilling through academic subjects, while isolating them from the rest of the world. The most frequent that you will be asked as a home schooling parent is, “What do your children do for socialization?” This concept of home schooling is outdated, if it ever held any truth.
Personally, I am a single mother who works part time during the year and full time during the summers, attends school, and home schools my son. Thus, I have had to be very innovative in my approach to home schooling. I use a combination of the three methods that I have listed below. If you struggle with making money while home schooling, visit How to Work and Homeschool.
What I can tell you is that home schooling your children does not require 8 hours a day and you do not have to do it alone. Honestly, there are too many resources and like-minded parents available to make doing it alone necessary.
As you plan your upcoming school year, reflect on these methods for home-educating:
Decide which subjects that you want your children to study and secure books and worksheets in these subjects. Combine instruction, self-guided exercises, and independent projects. Include online components, outdoor play, and regular exercise. Plan daily time for reading, whether that be student independent reading or you reading aloud. Allow your child to fellowship with other children through after school programs, academic clubs, community/district sports teams, and/or religious meetings.
Home School Collective/Cooperative:
You will still decide which subject that you want your children to learn, but you may not be teaching/guiding in all of these subjects. You will work with 1 or more other parents to provide a collective education for your children. Sit down before the semester begins and plan which times and subjects that each of you will teach or guide the students. For instance, you may teach English and Writing, another parent may teach Math and Science, and another parent may teach French and Art.
If you need to work part-time, you may leave your child with the other parents for a certain amount of hours each day and they may do the same with you. Or, you may work full-time and pay or barter with the other parents to teach/guide most of all of your children’s subjects. The reason that I said, “teach or guide” is because not all subjects require teaching.
A new math lesson, for example, may require 15 minutes of presentation and demonstration and the exercises can be completed alone by your student in an additional 45 minutes, with a small amount of guidance. Similarly, a reading comprehension selection with questions can be completed independently many students, third grade and above. Also, junior high and high school students should be taught how to learn rather than just memorizing what is taught in lecture format. At the JH/HS level, well-taught students can follow in-text directions, watch online videos, complete independent research for a majority of their work.
Mixing it Up:
Another approach to home education is to take advantage of local classes and opportunities being offered. Your city’s major museum may offer a fine arts class for home schooled children, while the Black bookstore may have a Saturday history class. Many nature centers/arboretums and libraries also have home school offerings.
Research free and paid home school classes and activities in your city at the beginning of the semester, and you can combine your selections into the daily schedule. Also check your local YMCA, community center, or parks for swim, martial arts, boxing, soccer, softball, basketball, football, or other athletic training that may interest your child.
Another important resource to research is musical training in your area. You can enroll your child in private lessons for any instrument that you choose, and join or form a home schooled children’s band. Free or low cost language courses are offered through many public libraries or religious facilities as well. For instance, in Houston, children can learn Spanish or Mandarin Chinese for free through Houston Public Library, French for a low cost through Houston French Alliance, and or Arabic through local mosques. In any area with online access, your child can use free resources like Duolingo to learn a foreign language.
Are you already using one or more of these approaches? Are you planning to incorporate part of all of an approach listed here for the coming school year? If so, please get back to me and let me know how it works out for you. Blessings to you and your family!
© 2014 Nikala Asante
Today, my son received his first letter (via email) from a boy his age in Senegal. This is the first time that my son has ever had a pen pal, and he is really excited about it. I have been researching international work exchange (volunteering with a family, business, or NGO in exchange for room and board) and found a sweet homeschooling mom in Senegal who needs help with her children for a semester or so. If things go well with our children getting to know each other, maybe we will stay with her family for a little while to gain a different experience of the world. (If you are interested in opportunities like these, visit workaway or HelpX.)
Benefits of a Pen Pal
Having a pen pal can help our children to learn more about their selves and about the world. They can also practice reading, writing, and typing skills in the process. You can tie in lesson plans on English Language Arts, Geography, and Social Studies easily into your children’s pen pal writing assignments. For instance, they can learn about the terrain and weather in their new friend’s country, the history, the culture, and the literary classics. Also, they have fun playing the games and sports that their friend abroad plays. Best of all, you can try the delicious international foods together!
Over the next week, my son and I will learn more about Senegal at the library and on the internet so that we can better understand his new friend’s country.
Finding a Pen Pal
If you would like to get your children started with International Pen Pals, there are several sites that can help.
Students of the World: Etudiants du Monde (Students of the World) is a French non-profit association, whose aim and ambition is to open the doors of the world’s cultures to young people. If you are a student, then the website will propose you pen-friends who are the same age as you, in the countries of your choice. Then, you will be able to discover new cultures, exchange ideas, stamps, postcards, improve your knowledge of a foreign language, and why not decide later to travel there ? The database includes 250,000 pen pals from 220 countries, 4,000 blogs, 7,000 clubs, 2,500 pen pal groups, many forums, educational games, 248 schools from 57 countries, and cultural information about 234 countries & territories (including 234 forums, 532 touristic pictures from 65 countries and 750 “virtual tours” views from several countries).
Global Pen Friends: Global Penfriends Internet Friends Club specialises in Postal and E-mail pen pals from all around the world. Their members are REAL people of all ages, looking for pen friends. Registration and profile submission is free. Their goal is to create a comprehensive listing of people from all over the globe who are interested in communicating with other people, whether it be for friendship, cultural exchange, language, travel or education. The site is family friendly and developed with Safety in mind. People of all ages are welcome here and can search for new contacts in a safe and friendly environment. All profiles on our system are manually approved for language and content.
My Language Exchange: My Language Exchange is the effort of Helene Cormier and Dan Yuen to help people all over the world learn, practice and become fluent in a foreign language. Together, they decided to use the Internet to bring the benefits of language exchange practice to people all over the world. In October 2000, MyLanguageExchange.com was launched. This was an online community that has since helped thousands of people find language exchange partners and improve their second language.
Pen Pal Safety:
There are some basic rules that you can follow to keep your child safe when writing to a pen pal.
1. Choose reputable websites.
2. Use Skype or other video chat software to verify that the person you are writing to is a child.
3. Don’t arrange to meet with anyone without having had extensive conversation and doing some of your own research.
4. Never send money to anyone.
5. Don’t respond to requests for sensitive personal information (i.e. copy of your passport, social security numbers, etc…)
The sixth rule here should be HAVE FUN, but I already know that you will do that.
I hope that your children have a great time with their new pen pals. Let me know how it goes! We will do the same.
I hope that you are enjoying the holiday season. We have definitely been enjoying spending time with family, cooking, and eating. Especially the eating.
Being vegan for only 4 years, cooking food for the holidays has been a learning process. There is always the simple route – grabbing some Tofurky and a box a stuffing, but that’s not my style. For the past few years, I have been making a vegan gumbo with ample sides for Thanksgiving. This year, I included my son in the cooking process from start to finish. He washed, chopped, stirred, and baked to his heart’s content.
Which brings me to the reason for this post, do you include cooking classes in your child’s curriculum? If so, for which reasons? If not, for which reasons? Personally, I believe that Home Economics are a natural part of the homeschooling environment. Children being involved in these processes is fun and teaches them to be responsible adults. I still remember recipes from cooking with my grandmother at age 9 or 10.
So, you may be wondering, where do I start? I would recommend starting with these awesome no-bake chocolate peanut butter cookies, great for any age, Kindergarten and up, with adult supervision. We adapted this to vegan by using almond milk and Earth Balance butter. We also sprinkled in a few vegan chocolate chips and threw some coconut flakes on top.
You can also check out this neat list of vegan no-bake desserts if you want to keep it simple and healthy.
Here is a cool Pinterest collection of vegan recipes for children.
Understanding that everyone is not vegan, here is an awesome collection of omnivore recipes from Kid’s Health.
Enjoy making some of these delicious recipes with your little shining stars and we will chat again soon!
Free E-Book This Week Only: Education for Liberation: The Top 20 Questions and Answers for Black Homeschoolers
I hope that you can benefit from this valuable information provided by Dr. Samori Camara. Download the full book free on your Kindle this week only.
While we all have our unique approaches to homeschooling, it is important to understand major methods as relates to what is best for our children. African Centered Education, as encouraged by Dr. Camara, puts African antiquity and modernity in the center of what can be a highly multicultural curriculum. Consider that there are thousands of cultures within the African Diaspora for our children to learn about, as well as European and Asiatic cultures.
Have your children learned about the Ashanti or the Mau-Mau? What about the Ba-Aka or Maasai? Does your child smile when he or she hears that you are about to recount an Anansi tale? Does he or she get excited at the thought of plantains or fufu? If you have not already researched African Centered Education, you will learn more about it in this free e-book, as well as gaining insights into homeschooling that will help any parent.
The book description on Amazon is as follows:
Are you ready to take the education of your child into your own hands? Are you disgusted with over testing and miseducation? Are you unsure about how to go about getting started on the journey of providing education for liberation?
Then, this book is for you. Within it, I use my years of practice and research to answer the most pressing questions new homeschooling parents have. No need to scour the internet getting half-truths and whole lies. The answers are here.
Will your child be able to go to college? Without question!
Can you do it? Absolutely!
“As parents you are the first teachers, so why not continue that natural process. You can teach your child using a culturally relevant curriculum, cultivate their minds and grow their spirits, and help bring out the natural genius already within them. You can find the time, resources, and faith to give your child the greatest gift: the gift of self-love, self-awareness, and self-determination.”
About the author:
Samori Camara, Ph.D., is the Founder and Director of Kamali Academy, an African-centered school in New Orleans, and is quickly becoming one of the nation’s leading authorities on Black education and building independent Black educational institutions.
Kamali Academy in New Orleans:
All the Best to You and Your Family,
If you and your children have not seen this wonderful movie, do not deprive yourself a minute longer!
Kirikou is a young African boy (a baby, really) who is determined to save his village from an evil sorceress.
Kirikou teaches children lessons about bravery, perseverance, problem solving and more.
I encourage you to purchase the DVD from Amazon to add to your collection. Meanwhile, you can watch the full film with your kiddos on YouTube.
The goal of the many sacrifices that we make to educate our children are for one reason and one reason only: to shape them into successful, critically thinking, and independent adults with good characters.
Which traits are representative of these ideal adults that we are molding?
Dr. Amos Wilson, author of many books on African American child psychology, such as The Developmental Psychology of the Black Child and Awakening the Natural Genius of Black Children, offers a list of attributes to cultivate in Black children based on traditional African values.
- respect for adults
- universal sense of justice
- respect for order
- social interest
- good manners
- sensitivity to persons and environment
- self-esteem/family and community pride
- commitment to promises made or contracts
- love of learning
- ethnic/cultural identity
- general care for humans of all races
- reverence for life
How do we nurture these traits within our children?
The first and best way to teach our children any good habit is to model it. Outside of that, whichever spiritual system that we practice will serve as much of the moral foundation for our children. Even if you do not consider yourself religious, be sure to discuss morals on a regular basis.
We can also look to the moral guidelines from traditional Africa and teach our children not just to memorize them, but to practice them in daily life.
The Nguzo Saba
The Nguzo Saba is a character-guiding system based on East African tenets. It was adapted in the 20th century by Maulana Karenga, an African American scholar into seven simple principles.
(The Seven Principles)
| Umoja (Unity)
To strive for and maintain unity in the family, community, nation and race.
| Kujichagulia (Self-Determination)
To define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves and speak for ourselves.
| Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility)
To build and maintain our community together and make our brother’s and sister’s problems our problems and to solve them together.
| Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics)
To build and maintain our own stores, shops and other businesses and to profit from them together.
| Nia (Purpose)
To make our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness.
| Kuumba (Creativity)
To do always as much as we can, in the way we can, in order to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it.
To believe with all our heart in our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders and the righteousness and victory of our struggle.
How can we practice the Nguzo Saba?
We can think of creative ways to incorporate the Seven Principles into our daily lives.
For instance, unity can be demonstrated by working as a team to cook a healthy dinner or clean the house. Unity can also be practiced by working together to accomplish a larger goal, such as cleaning up a block in our neighborhood.
My son and I sometimes go downtown to help feed the homeless. We meet up with a wonderful group here in Houston that serves dinner to over 100 people 4 times a week. When we go there and interact with homeless of all races and genders that we might normally pass by on the street, it has a profound impact on both me and my son.
This week, let us all practice the first principle, Unity, in creative ways. Please leave feedback in the comments about how Unity was applied in your home this week.
Over the coming blogs on this topic, I will suggest methods for implementing the other 6 principles as well as introduce other traditional African moral systems.
(Artwork by BrothaJ2 from deviantart.com)