Tag Archives: African American history

Approaches to Homeschooling in the 21st Century

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Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today. – Malcolm X

Greetings,

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  This concept of home schooling is outdated, if it ever held any truth.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: 

Old School:

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!

All Best,

Nikala Asante

 © 2014 Nikala Asante

Creating Cross Curricular Lessons

Greetings,

Interdisciplinary/cross-curricular teaching involves a conscious effort to apply knowledge, principles, and/or values to more than one academic discipline simultaneously. The disciplines may be related through a central theme, issue, problem, process, topic, or experience (Jacobs, 1989).

Malcolm X - El Hajj Malik El Shabazz

Malcolm X – El Hajj Malik El Shabazz

What are Cross Curricular Lessons?

Cross curricular lessons integrate knowledge, improve learning, and increase student engagement.  Instead of narrowly focusing on one subject at a time (i.e.: adding single-digit numbers for a Kindergartner), the student interacts with multiple subjects around one central objective (i.e.: learning to make a fruit salad using single-digit calculations – 6 grapes + 4 grapes equal ?, etc…).

Where can I find some to use this week?

KinderArt is a great site for free Cross Curriculum Art lessons, grades K-12.  Objectives from the disciplines of Math, Literature, Geography, Music, P.E., Science, Social Studies, Transportation, and Architecture are introduced through fun art activities.  KinderArt also has great multicultural lessons.

The National Education Association has put together this awesome free collection of lesson plans, printables, and videos with various disciplines such as Math, Art, Architecture, and History learned through lessons from Mayan culture.  The lessons are targeted toward grades 5-12.

Games Children Play introduces children’s games from around the world, through which your students will improve knowledge in math, history, and language arts, while having a great time and being introduced to a new culture.  I can’t wait to play Senet, a board game from ancient Kemet (Egypt).

How do create Cross Curricular Lessons?

First, decide what the objective that you would like to centrally teach.  For example, in the video below, I wanted my son to understand that poems were not composed of just words, but of images.  When he writes his poetry, he can be cognizant of including images as well.  Sometimes poets can get so caught up in their language that we forget to string images together.  I am sure that you can think of a poem that you read in high school that seemed to be a heap of vocabulary with a signature, instead of an accessible piece of art.

In order to reach our objective, I shared an excerpt from my poem, The 16th Strike.  Since the images in the poem are connected to specific historical events, we had to stop multiple times for clarification.  This was great because the lesson became creative writing, art, and history – all-in-one.

Enjoy the video and please, let us know how you create cross curricular lesson plans.

 

 

October is Black Science Month!

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Greetings,

If you have never heard of Black Science Month, it is no fault of yours.  This special time to celebrate Africana scientists was recently established by four young African Americans: Leonce Hall, Kimberly Washington, Sydeaka Poisson, and Asar Imhotep.  They are committed to “promoting the accomplishments and achievements of Blacks in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics”.  Currently, while Black Science Month’s website is under construction, the collective is sharing tons of valuable information on their FaceBook Page (https://www.facebook.com/BlackScienceMonth).  Some of their recent posts concern free medical school for Blacks and Latinos, a link to a Black inventor online museum, and a cartoon with Black characters personifying the scientific method.

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Blacks are “not good” in Math or Science is a long proclaimed myth that through self-fulfilled prophecy, is affecting many of our children each day.  How many of our boys believe that they are supposed to excel in athletics and struggle with academics?  How many of our girls believe that computer programming and electrical engineering is only for Whites and Asians?  Projects like Science Genius B.A.T.T.L.E.S (a hip-hop based science program) and Black Girls Code  (both of which are shared on Black Science Month) are working diligently to change these myths.

Fallacies about Africans in Science are also dismantled by Black Science Month.  Many students believe that Africa is one big charity case or war zone, based on images that they have seen in the media.  Learning about the Nigerian who built a jet car that runs on the road and sea or the South African student who invented a waterless shower will open students’ eyes to a new reality.  A reality in which their history and present is inundated with creative genius.

Asar Imhotep, a University of Houston Linguistics alum, states that he got involved with creating the page, “to encourage Black people to participate more in the various sciences, whether it be Chemistry, Physics, Astronomy, Mathematics, Agriculture…”.  Imhotep gave us the inside scoop on what’s next for Black Science Month – exciting science experiments that children can conduct at home!  Like the page on FaceBook and stay tuned throughout the year for news, history, opportunities, and much more!

All Best,

Nikala Asante

African Centered Curriculum

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Greetings!

Many Black parents want to create a culturally astute homeschool for their children, but do not know where to begin.  Unfortunately, there is not a ton of packaged curricula available that begins in ancient Africa and follows the Diaspora to modern times.  The great news is, there are committed young people working to make this happen.

One such brother is Dr. Samori Camara of New Orleans, Louisiana.

samori

He founded and continues to maintain an African-centered homeschool collective, Kamali Academy.  Kamali has received national press for its effectiveness, in publications such as Source Magazine.  Dr. Camara has also published a book and many videos to assist parents with home education.  In addition, he provides online classes in subjects such as Mental Math, The Civil Rights and Black Power Movements, and Afrikan Literature (the “k” in Afrikan representing African people all over the world, rather than only on the continent).

Presently, Dr. Camara has continued his path of creating a strong body of resources for home educators by building a detailed K-12 Curriculum.  The entire collection can be purchased for immediate download at a cost comparable to purchasing one subject textbook for one child.  Preview or purchase the curriculum here (http://www.kamaliacademy.com/curriculum/).

While it is important to have guidance, it is just as crucial that we continue to compile pedagogical ideas and curriculum that we feel are relevant to the canon of African-centered education.  As we share that content, we can expand the amount of information available for future educators.

All Best,

Nikala Asante

 

Chimamanda Adichie: The Danger of a Single Story

Chimamanda Adichie: The Danger of a Single Story

Greetings,

I have sometimes heard people say, “Isn’t education just education?  There is no Black or White education… it’s all about what works.”

By the same token, I have heard people say, “Literature is just literature.  It’s not Black or White.”

Some even go as far as to say labeling education or literature by race or culture is “racist”.  (Sidenote: Culture is what is important here.  ”Race” is a social concept based on phenotype.)

So, let’s talk about culture.  Which cultural group is predominantly central to modern education and literature?  The answer is obvious: Anglo-Saxon culture.

This is not accusatory, it’s just a fact.  If you take an English, History, or Math class, you will learn about Shakespeare, the Greeks and Romans, and Pythagoras.  You will be less likely to learn about August Wilson (a great African American playwright), the ancient empire of Mali, and Imhotep (the first known physician – an African).  If you are a Black student, you see Europeans being great throughout history.  Yet, your “history” is limited to a handful of heroes and heroines spanning from Harriet Tubman to President Barack Obama.

Let’s talk about literature.  One can attain a PhD in literature without reading more than a few Black authors.  How many literature students are required to read from the African Writers’ Series or the Norton Anthology of African American Literature outside of those specializing in Africana Studies?

If you are a Black student, should you not read more literature reflective of history and cultures of the African Diaspora?  Would that not grant you a greater understanding of your modern plight?

Would a well-balanced education with account of Africana contributions to all disciplines not grant you greater knowledge to solve modern Africana problems?

With these questions in mind, please enjoy this wonderful video by Nigerian author Chimamanda Adichie on the danger of a single story.

Livin’ Healthy with Vegan Soul Food (Plus Recipes!)

Get your Veggies!

Greetings!

I hope that you and your family had a wonderful week.  As homeschooling parents, one of our everyday responsibilities is cooking.  One of the biggest challenges for the African American community (and Americans in general) is healthy eating.

We have easy access to fast food restaurants and processed foods that seem to make our lives simpler, but wreak havoc on our bodies.  Not only does the food lose nutrients during processing, the additives contained in them, such as high fructose corn syrup, MSG, artificial colorings, and trans-fatty acids,  cause serious damage such as migraines, diabetes, liver disease, heart disease, and much more. :(

(View Chart of Effects of Processing on Food Here)

There are many reasons to eat healthier and institute healthier diets for our children.  We may have more energy, be in better moods, attain and maintain our ideal weights, and prevent common diseases (even those that we believed were hereditary).

Our children may be calmer and more well-balanced after we remove stimulants such as caffeine, high fructose syrup, artificial colorings, and refined sugars from their diets.  Their focus may improve, so that they can concentrate on learning rather than excess fidgeting or being subject to frequent cravings throughout the day.

Implementing a healthy diet may also be an effective assistant to managing ADHD, autism, or other difficult issues.  If your child has health issues, please begin a research process on the effects of diet on your child’s issue if you have not done this already.  I would be interested to know what you find!

In the African American community, many of us have been raised on fried foods, refined sugars and grains, white rice, and delicious  high fat desserts.  Now that we have children of our own, we can create new traditions.

As a step towards healthy living, I would like to share links to vegan/vegetarian soul food sites.

PETA Vegetarian Soul Food Recipes: PETA shares recipes for vegan meatloaf, hoppin’ john, sweet potato pie, and more.  The recipes look tasty, but I tend to avoid margarine because of negative health effects.  Earth Balance vegan butter is a better product.  Smart Balance also manufactures a healthy vegan butter.  Too much soy is not good for you, so enjoy these recipes and stay as close as you can to whole fresh foods (fresh fruits, vegetables, legumes, and grains) in your everyday life.

West African Vegan/Vegetarian Recipes: Many of the West African recipes that we base African American soul food on are naturally vegan or vegetarian.  Enjoy delicious foods such as red beans, chickpea soup, baked sweet potatoes, and banana fritters with no guilt afterwards!

Vegan/Vegetarian Caribbean Recipes: Another sister to African American soul food is Caribbean food.  Islands such as Jamaica and Haiti received the same West African migrants as the American South.  Try some savory tempeh patties, steamed callaloo, black bean and potato soup and coconut rice.  Who said healthy vegan food had to be tofu and carrot sticks?

Enjoy cooking these scrumptious recipes!  If your children are old enough, maybe they can help out in the kitchen.

Be sure to comment back and let me know which worked best for you!

Here’s to a healthy and happy new year!

All Best,

Nikala Asante

George Washington Carver Did Not Invent Peanut Butter?

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Every February in grade school, I learned and re-learned the limited histories of a handful of key figures.  Rosa Parks, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Garrett Morgan, Harriet Tubman, and Dr. George Washington Carver.  It was rare that we heard about anyone else and if we did, we received trivia rather than histories.

“Who was the first Black major league baseball player?” (Jackie Robinson)

“Who was the first Black millionaire?” (Madame CJ Walker)

(For a more extensive famous firsts lists, click here)

The answers to these trivia questions have become embedded into my adult memory.  Rosa Parks sat on the front of bus.  Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. marched for rights.  Harriet Tubman freed slaves.  Garret Morgan invented the traffic light and so on.  However, these men and women did much more than that.  Their extended biographies are not discussed until collegiate level African American studies, if at all.

Rosa Parks was an organizer against interracial violence and a Civil Rights activist long before the planned bus boycott.  She did not just happen to be tired that day.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. organized and spoke for both Labor and Civil Rights.  The Poor People’s Campaign, planned near the end of Dr. King’s life, was intended to advocate for good jobs, healthcare, and housing for all Americans.

Each of the leaders mentioned have a deeper history than what is touched upon in common education.

For instance, Dr. George Washington Carver was a great scientist and inventor, but many people only associate him with the invention of peanut butter.  Though Dr. Carver has done many great things, inventing peanut butter was not one of them.

Peanut butter is recorded as having existed as far back as 3000 years ago.

However, Dr. George Washington Carver did change (read: save) American agriculture by introducing crop rotation.

He did invent over 300 products using the peanut and over 115 products using the sweet potato.

These inventions included printer ink, synthetic rubber, material for paving highways, insulation board, and:

From the Peanut:

  • 19 types of leather dyes
  • 18 types of insulating boards
  • 11 types of wall boards
  • 17 types of wood stains
  • 11 types of peanut flours
  • 30 types of cloth dyes
  • 50 types of food products

From the Sweet Potato:

  • 73 types of dye
  • 17 types of wood fillers
  • 14 types of candy
  • 5 types of library paste
  • 5 types of breakfast foods
  • 4 types of starches
  • 4 types of flour
  • 3 types of molasses

(Read extended list of inventions here or here.)

Dr. Carver also created over 500 different shades of paint, using extracts from the earth as well as research in manufacturing “paints and stains from soybeans”.

Dr. Carver is a perfect example of why we as parents and teachers should conduct further research on celebrated African American figures before we select our curriculum.  I, too, am guilty of long associating Dr. Carver with peanut butter and could have easily passed down this unfairly abbreviated history to my son.  It is our job as educators to dig deeper because we want our students to know full histories.

Also, we want our students to do the same, right?  If we are going to continue teaching about the same central figures that were introduced to us in grade school, let us expand the lesson by adding a research dynamic.  Let us challenge our students to teach us something that we did not know.

Our goal in this is to raise well-rounded scholars, not trivia champions on traffic lights and peanut butter.

All Best,

Nikala Asante

What Kind of Adults Will Our Children Be? Part 1

Greetings,

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
  • independence
  • persistence
  • curiosity
  • experimentation
  • discovery
  • 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.

NGUZO SABA
(The Seven Principles)

Kwanzaa Symbol - Umoja (unity)   Umoja (Unity)
To strive for and maintain unity in the family, community, nation and race.
Kwanzaa symbol- Kujichagulia (self-determination   Kujichagulia (Self-Determination)
To define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves and speak for                   ourselves.
Kwanzaa Symbol - Ujima (collective work and responsibility)    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.
Kwanzaa symbols - Nia (purpose)   Nia (Purpose)
To make our collective vocation the building and developing of our community   in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness.
Kwanzaa symbol - Kuumba (Creativity)   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.
Kwanzaa symbol - Imani (faith) Imani (Faith)
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.

Stay tuned!

(Artwork by BrothaJ2 from deviantart.com)

Black History Month Resources

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It’s that time of year again – Black History Month.  While African American History needs to be celebrated year round, February is a great opportunity to stock up on diverse lesson plans and printables.

Below is a starter list of links that I found useful.  We can continue to build this list together as the weeks go by.

Please check back every week or so for updates on this post.

Free Black History Month Resources:

http://edhelper.com/BlackHistory.htm: Free printable plays, easy readers, photographs, lesson units, and more on African American history.  This is a GREAT site from what I see.

http://www.teach-nology.com/worksheets/soc_studies/blackhistory/:

Teachnology offers many free Black History printables.  Please be sure to check out the “Revolutionaries of African American History” printables at the top.

http://homeschooling.about.com/od/holidays/ss/blackhistprint_all.htm: “Famous Firsts” Black History Month Printables including word searches, crossword puzzles, and draw & writes.  I challenge you to research the history of 5 people of African descent that made notable contributions to history before the Transatlantic Slave Trade to include in your Black History month curriculum this year!

http://www.nea.org/tools/lessons/black-history-month.htm: National Education Association presents lesson plans, quizzes, printables, video, audio on Black History.  Poetry, literature, jazz, and much more…

http://teacher.scholastic.com/activities/bhistory/inventors/: Scholastic presents “Top Ten African American Inventors”.  Click the “Find out More” button after the short synopsis on each inventor to see more detailed biographies.

http://www.abcteach.com/directory/holidays-months-and-seasons-months-february-black-history-month-3635-2-1: ABC Teach Free Printables including Black History KWL Charts, Report Forms, and Acrostic Poem Forms.

http://www.nickjr.com/printables/all-shows/seasonal_black-history-month/all-ages/index.jhtml: African American history activities and printables.

http://www.teachervision.fen.com/black-history-month/teacher-resources/6602.html: Includes many free crafts, lessons, quizzes, and activities on Black History.