Tag Archives: African centered education

Haiti and Belize, Part 2: Belize

Greetings!

We have returned safely to Houston from Belize, and we have exciting news.  But, I will tell you about that later.  First, I would like to share with you about our time in Belize.

My son and I were invited to Punta Gorda by the Wagiya Foundation Belize.  We were hosted because I served as a fundraiser for a project with Wagiya to assist the Garifuna community of Seine Bight with aesthetic revitalization in order to boost their tourism economy.

We flew in from Haiti to Belize’s international airport, with a layover in Miami, and then caught a local flight to Punta Gorda.  Our local flight was covered due to my service work, but it would have cost us each about $100 – 200US, depending on the season, to fly from Belize International to Punta Gorda.  Another option, which we employed on the way back, is to take the local bus.  Catching a taxi to the bus station is $25US from the airport, and then the bus trip is about $12US per person to Punta Gorda.  The flight was pretty short, but the bus ride takes 6 – 8 hours.

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Local flight to Punta Gorda

View from local flight

View from local flight

My son and I really enjoyed both the airport and the local flight.  The airport lounge featured long wooden benches with a tilt that allowed you to learn back in your seat, rather than upright metal chairs.  It was small and enclosed enough that I could walk around while my son sat, without feeling paranoid.  There were also little stores inside with local food and crafts for sale.  We ordered two large cinnamon buns, cooked from scratch, while waiting on our plane.

Once inside of the small plane, we settled into the very back seat, joking about how we were having this movie star experience on a ‘hood budget.  As the plane rose and dipped with the wind, our stomachs tossed and tumbled, but it was never so bad as to make us sick.  It felt like riding on a very non-intimidating rollercoaster, or more fittingly, in a flying car.  There were only 10 seats on the plane, so we bonded with the other passengers as we appreciated the amazing scenery.

Trees from above

Trees from above

Once we arrived in Punta Gorda, we met our host and took a taxi to her beautiful farm.  My son and I shared a one bed cabin there surrounded by fruit trees of every kind, healing herbs, salad greens, and fragrant flowers.  As far as cons – a creek ran behind our cabin which, while scenic, attracted plenty of mosquitoes.  There were also howling monkeys in the rainforest around us.  They do not harm you, but they make a horrific noise that sounds like the dinosaurs from Jurassic Park growling menacingly.  If I was not warned about them beforehand, I would have been scared out of my mind the first night hearing their growls.

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Our shared bed

Our shared bed

Over the first few days, as we got acclimated to the land, linked up with our expat friends, and met new friends, we also got absolutely torn up by mosquitoes and sand flies.  Although I was using my same homemade mosquito spray (lavender and citronella) that had been very effective in Haiti, these Belizean creatures were swarming their way through it.  Besides that minor inconvenience, everything was sweet as a ripe mango.  We didn’t do anything too high energy on the first few days, as we were still quite tired from sweating and working hard in Haiti.  We toured around the town, ate lots of fresh fish, vegetables, and mango, swam in the ocean, and spent time with friends.  I also took my son to a Garifuna drum class.

Beach within walking distance of where we stayed in PG

Beach within walking distance of where we stayed in PG

Children at Garifuna Drum Class

Children at Garifuna Drum Class

Fish, beans and rice, and veggies provided by Drums not Guns Garifuna Drum Class

Fish, beans and rice, and veggies provided by Drums not Guns Garifuna Drum Class

On the third or fourth day, we headed up to Seine Bight by bus to meet with the townspeople and plan the painting project and market day.  We stayed with friends on the beach in Plascencia and I plotted my revenge on the Punta Gorda biting insects committee.  

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Seine Bight Multipurpose Center

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Beach in Seine Bight, Garifuna community near Plascencia

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We had a lovely time in Plascencia, having deep conversations with friends, eating, swimming, and enjoying the scenery.  I also researched adjustments to my homemade mosquito spray to protect me and my son from future attacks.  The solution was to use an oil based repellent to keep the sand flies away, and keep the citronella in for the mosquitoes.  So, I mixed natural citronella oil with store brand Baby Oil and it worked!  We only got a few more bites over the course of the whole trip.

On the street in Plascencia, vendors sold fresh fruit juice in little baggies for $0.50US, as well as many other little affordable drinks and snacks.

Belizean snacks and coconut water

Belizean snacks and coconut water

From Plascencia, we caught the public bus back to Punta Gorda, bringing a couple of friends who flew in from the U.S. to tour and volunteer with us.  In Punta Gorda, we learned about local herbs, helped with development of the future rental spaces and kitchen at my host’s farm, observed local wildlife, learned about Belizean culture and history, ate a lot more delicious food, swam in the ocean more, and met many new friends.

At one location in town, A Piece of Ground Hostel, we met a lovely homeschooling family from New York.  My son enjoyed playing with this couple’s children so much that I began coming here daily for pancakes and tamarind juice, just to let them play.

A Piece of Ground Hostel in PG, owned by a homeschooling family

A Piece of Ground Hostel in PG, owned by a homeschooling family

The food there was amazing, and they had many vegetarian options.  For example, they boasted 2 distinct veggie burgers, the Afro-Burger, made of black eyed peas and chopped vegetables, and the Black Bean Burger, served with or without cheese.  As far as meat, we only eat fish, but they also had chicken, prepared in several different entrees.  The best part is, the owner, Jama, will gladly inform you on how to take a “Guerilla Tour” of the surrounding areas, saving you thousands of dollars.

You can see this cave on a "guerilla" tour suggested by Jama

You can see this cave on a “guerilla” tour suggested by Jama

We took our own “guerilla” style tour one day to Rio Blanco waterfall.  The tour brochures offered this excursion for $85 per person.  My son and I and one friend rode the public bus there from Punta Gorda for about $3US per person (an hour or so trip).  Once we got there, I was prepared to pass for Belizean (don’t judge, lol – I was encouraged to do so by the locals), but no one was there to collect our payment.  We walked down the trail to the waterfall, enthused by the bright red flowers, magically blue butterflies, and verdant green tree branches encompassing us.

I didn't take this picture, but these are the butterflies that we saw

I didn’t take this picture, but these are the butterflies that we saw

Rio Blanco waterfall

Rio Blanco waterfall

No picture can do the Rio Blanco waterfall justice.  The water was perfectly clear.  I could see miniature yellow and orange fish swimming around me, exploring the floral designs on my bathing suit.  Tiny white flowers floated into the water from nearby trees, guided by the breeze.  It was just perfect.  I took a mental snapshot to use for future meditation.  We swam for a couple of hours, giddy from the overload of nature and beauty.  Our friend jumped from the high cliff into the water, but we both chickened out.  Maybe next time.

While in Punta Gorda, we also made bus trips back to Seine Bight to plan the revitalization project and hold business development workshops.  We helped the residents to define which products and services that they wanted to offer to tourists and set prices that were fair to them and the future visitors.  Seine Bight is not a tourist town currently, so they are really excited about transitioning to offering their goods and services to incomers.  It will really help the struggling economy.

I am working with educators here to define which services that they can offer to bring in extra money

I am working with educators here to define which services that they can offer to bring in extra money

A Garifuna woman talking about the food that she will cook and sell to tourists

b A Garifuna woman talking about the food that she will cook and sell to tourists

Once everything was planned and beginning to be set in motion, we left southern Belize and the Wagiya Foundation to bus up to San Ignacio.  The project is still continuing as a partnership between Wagiya and the people of Seine Bight.

In San Ignacio, we rented a cabin on Smith Family Farm, a Black owned compound where several of our friends are living long term.  While there, we ate the delicious local food, drank fresh fruit juice, and spent time with our friends.  My son got a lot of play time in and I got a lot of rest and relaxation.

Through talking to my friends there, I found that they were able to maintain a very low cost of living while enjoying a peaceful life.  My son woke up each morning picking mangoes and playing with other children outdoors.  It was beautiful.  Since all of my work is currently online and I do not have any pressing obligations in Houston, I made the decision to pack up our belongings and move to Belize!

I will still be homeschooling and blogging while there, but will be able to offer experience as an African Centered homeschooler living in Belize, rather than the U.S.  I have so much more to say about this move and I’m sure that you have many more questions, but I will save it for another post.  This one is already quite long.  Please keep us in your prayers as we prepare for this major move.  I will write you again soon.  Thank you for reading.

Love and Light,

Nikala Asante

The Best Education Money Can’t Buy

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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. ;-)

With Love,

Nikala Asante

 

 

 

Book Release + A Contest: Character Building for African Centered Scholars

Greetings,

The time has arrived!  Character Building for African Centered Scholars is available both as a trade paperback and as an e-book!  As you requested, I am running a CONTEST to give away some copies!  The first 7 people to comment on this post will each receive a free e-copy of Character Building for African Centered Scholars.  (If you are one of the lucky winners, please leave a review on Amazon!)

Even those who win copies may still want trade paperbacks too, so here is all of the info for where to snag your copies. (Also, you can check out the awesome Amazon previews!!!):

Character Building for African Centered Scholars, Grades 1 – 4

Character Building for African Centered Scholars, Grades 4 and Up

Again, thank you for your support, and I will be posting lots of great free resources for the semester soon, so be on the lookout!

Grades 1 - 4

Grades 1 – 4

Grades 4 and Up

Grades 4 and Up

Would you like to have a simple, fun, and interactive way to teach your children African centered moral and spiritual principles in a way where they can easily understand and apply them?

I am excited beyond words to announce that I have released a book series titled Character Building for African Centered Scholars.  The first two books are for Grades 1 – 4 and Grades 4 and Up.  The following books in this series will expand more in detail on the ideas covered in the main books or add to them.

In Character Building for African Centered Scholars, your students will learn character building principles from Ma’at, Iwa Pele, Nguzo Saba, the Adrinka Symbols , and more!  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.   Each book is fun, interactive, and written in a way where it serves as both a textbook and a workbook!  I’m so thrilled and you will be too!

With Love,

Nikala Asante

New Book Series: Character Building for African Centered Scholars

Greetings,

Grades 1 - 4

Grades 1 – 4

Grades 4 and Up

Grades 4 and Up

Do you struggle with your children’s behavior at times?  Are you looking for a way to include Character Building in your curriculum, but can only find overly simplistic or strictly religious workbooks on the topic?  Would you like to have a simple, fun, and interactive way to teach your children African centered spiritual and moral principles in a way where they can easily understand and apply them?

I am excited beyond words to announce that I am releasing a book series this August (just a few weeks away!) titled Character Building for African Centered Scholars.  The first two books are for Grades 1 -4 (77 pages) and Grades 4 and Up (107 pages).  The following books in this series will expand more in detail on the ideas covered in the main books or add to them.

In Character Building for African Centered Scholars, your students will learn character building principles from Ma’at, Iwa Pele, Nguzo Saba, the Adrinka Symbols , and more!  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.   Each book is fun, interactive, and written in a way where it serves as both a textbook and a workbook!  I’m so thrilled and you will be too!

Pre-Order Now for a 20% discount!!!  Your book will be shipped by August 31, 2015.

Each chapter is easy to read for self-guided work, with images and lots of activities.  Also, there are additional activities in the back of the book to keep your student engaged and developing an excellent character:

Read an excerpt from the chapter discussing Ma’at (From Character Building for African Centered Scholars: Grades 4 and Up):

MA’AT

“I have satisfied God with that which He loves.  I have given bread to the hungry, water to the thirsty, clothes to the naked, and a boat to those without one.” – The Book of Coming Forth by Day

Ma’at is a concept of morality that originated in Kemet (ancient Egypt).  The figure of Ma’at as expressed in hieroglyphic carvings is that of a woman with extended wings or a woman with a feather on her crown.  According to this spiritual philosophy, when a human being transitions out of the physical realm (death), he or she meets Ma’at, and then his or her heart is weighed against a feather.

If one’s heart is weighted heavily with wrongdoing and poor character, it will be eaten by Ammit, a monstrous being who is part lion, part crocodile, and part hippopotamus.   Once this happens, one will not be able to achieve eternal life, but will instead become a restless spirit – a ghost.

How do we interpret this in modern day terms?  First, let’s look at the meaning of eternal life, or immortality.  Can one truly become immortal?  If so, we have not witnessed this phenomenon on earth.  Science has not generated immortality on earth, nor has religion.  However, we do see that humans have achieved immortality through their legacies.

For example, let’s examine the story of Imhotep, who is best known for being the architect of the oldest known pyramid.  He was born around 2,667 BCE – nearly 5,000 years ago.  Imhotep was born neither rich nor privileged, but he worked hard to develop his intelligence and to be of service to those greater than him.  He did not just sit around and think, “I wish that I was smarter,” – he studied regularly to build his knowledge.  He did not just read to make good grades or to impress others.  He put his knowledge into action.  In turn, he developed himself into the first known physician, a legendary architect, a brilliant poet, a scribe, an astronomer, and the advisor to King Djoser.  He went from being a regular kid with no special head start in life to being a multi-talented genius who gave advice to the king.  Wow, isn’t that incredible?

As a result of Imhotep’s practice of good character, he left a legacy that is still widely honored and studied nearly 5,000 years later.  That is a form of immortality.  Imagine – what if people are still learning from your life 5,000 years from now?  That was the goal of many ancient Egyptians – to live their lives so well, with such upright actions, with such beneficial works, that people would still study their lives as examples for how to live, thousands of years later.  Let’s now examine the principles of Ma’at to understand how the Kemetic people went about striving towards immortality.

SEVEN PRINCIPLES OF MA’AT

  1. Truth
  2. Justice
  3. Harmony
  4. Balance
  5. Order
  6. Reciprocity
  7. Propriety

What do these principles mean and how can we practice them daily?

TRUTH – Truth is to tell what really happened, i.e. not telling lies.  But, truth is also to understand what is real and what is false.  When we commit to learning history, we can separate fact from fiction and take action based on full knowledge.  For example, we know that Christopher Columbus did not discover America, so we do not honor him, celebrate him, or idolize him in any way.  We instead honor and celebrate real leaders who made sincere contributions to the advancement of African people all over the world, and to all humanity.  Truth also applies to being able to critically analyze the information that we receive for flaws or biases.  If we read a news article that refers to one young male who got into some trouble as a criminal, and another young male of a different ethnic group or culture who made a similar mistake as a troubled teen – that is a bias.  They may have both been troubled teens who needed help.  You can then write in to the news outlet asking them to make a correction, or you can write your own newspaper or blog to report from a more unbiased perspective.  Actions like these would demonstrate your commitment to truth, and also help shape your legacy.

(Pre-order now!)

Check out the Table of Contents for Character Building for African Centered Scholars: Grades 4 and Up.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Introduction                                               7

How to Use this Book                                 11

Character Building Principles:

Ma’at                                               16

Iwa Pele                                            47

Nguzo Saba                                     61

Adrinka Symbols                              74

Character Building Examples:

Queen Nzinga                                  81

Shaka Zulu                                        82

Marcus Garvey                                83

Fannie Lou Hamer                            85

Alice Walker                                     86

Putting Principles into Practice:

Creative Writing                               89

Music                                                          90

Visual Art                                          91

Technology                             92

Critical Thinking                                93

Community Service Extensions                 94

My Glossary                                               97

My Notes                                                    101

Thank you for reading this far!  I may run a contest to offer free copies to select followers.  Comment if you would be interested in a contest of this nature. :-)

All the best to you and your family!

Love and Light,

Nikala Asante

 

Roadschooling for International Service Work in Haiti: Part 1

Greetings,

I would like to share a rather long post with you about my and my son’s recent service work in Haiti.  Please grab a cup of coffee and settle into a comfortable chair.  This will be broken into three posts, of which this is the first.

Sadhana Forest Haiti

Sadhana Forest Haiti

With cooperative support, my nearly eleven year old son and I were able to travel through Santo Domingo to the border Haitian town of Anse a Pitre last month.  This was my first time taking my son on an international service trip with me.  My friend Sarah, a University of Houston Psychology alum and child educator, traveled with us.  Once there, we engaged in reforestation with a permanent community, Sadhana Forest.

It was quite the adventure getting there.  The Spanish that I learned waiting tables for 5 years as a teen paid off in navigating through Dominican Republic.  The first little road bump was when our taxi did not show up at the airport.  I was able to secure a taxi and negotiate the price.  We made it safely to our hostel in Zona Colonial where we slept the first night.  You see, the Haitian border is only open during certain hours of the day, so if you do not arrive in Santo Domingo before 6:00 am or so, you have to wait until the following day to make the journey to la frontera (the border).

We rose around 4:30 am, which was too early to get the complimentary breakfast, but I was prepared.  I had so many Cliff bars in my bag, lol.  Our taxi arrived around 5:00 am to take us to the bus station.  As we drove along, he pointed out Chinatown, beautiful governmental buildings, and the Presidential Palace.  The Palace is constructed much like the United States capitol building, but with what appeared to be Christmas lights illuminating it through the morning darkness.

We arrived at the bus station, which was well lit and bustling with people, nothing like what was described in our communication with Sadhana.  Sarah was the first to realize that we were at the wrong bus station.  There was no way to be sure, but she had a feeling.  I communicated with the taxi driver again that we wanted to go to the border town of Pedernales.  He insisted that we didn’t  - that to get to Haiti, we should take the air conditioned tour bus to Port au Prince.  He thought that we were confused about our destination.  We insisted, no, we want to go to Pedernales.  Finally, he resigned with a frown to take us to the bus station to Pedernales.

The sky was still dark as he drove us down a narrow alley filled with discarded clothes and cans.  My heart was almost jumping out of my chest.  No, let’s go back to the tourist bus, I wanted to say.  As we pulled into an even narrower, darker alley, he pointed to a guagua, or minibus, and said, “There.”  The sun started to rise, bolstering my confidence as we moved our luggage to the guagua.  Shortly, women began to set up cooking stations along the street to sell sausages and bread to workers.

The bus began to fill with mainly Haitians, trying to return to the border.  Then, with chickens and small farm animals.  The bus driver moved us to the front because we were, “Las Americanas”.  I was a twinge guilty, but also thankful, for the privilege of a US passport.  The ride would be 7 hours long and I did not have to worry about the noise and smell of chickens bombarding me for the entire trip.

Once we arrived in Pedernales, our group that was scheduled to meet us was not there at the bus station.  I was so nervous just standing there with luggage and a young Caucasian woman, both of which identified me as not from there.  Pedernales is actually a very safe town, but at the time, I didn’t know that yet.  Moto conchos (motorcyle taxis) crowded around us to offer rides to la frontera.  Sarah was nervous about riding a moto concho, but our bags were too heavy and conspicuous to drag for a long walk.  I realized that we should we packed only backpacks.  I turned to Sarah and said, “we’re going to have to ride the motos.”.  She reluctantly agreed.

I had seen 4 or 5 people at a time riding moto conchos during my 2013 Human Rights trip to Dominican Republic, so I wasn’t nervous about riding.  I knew that the drivers were very skilled.  I placed my son in the middle so that he was sandwiched between me and the driver.  Another moto took our big “checked” bags, while we carried our backpacks.  We held on tight for a bumpy and gorgeously green ride to the border.  Once we arrived, I realized that Sarah had placed her leg on the hot part of the moto and burned it.  She knew not to do this, but in her nervousness, accidentally did it anyway.  The locals began prescribing remedies.  ”Toothpaste,” they said.  Sarah pulled out her toothpaste and swathed it across her leg and foot shaking off the pain like a soldier accustomed to adversity.

The border was so calm that we should have realized that something was not right.  A verbal stir went about of “pasaportes” and “las Americanas”, before we were swept into the Dominican immigration office.  Our passports were stamped and we were allowed across the bridge.  It was not until we crossed into Haiti that we were informed that both offices were closed for the day due to an earlier protest.  They let us through because of our nationality.

In Anse a Pitre, a young Haitian man from Sadhana was waiting for us – Roosevelt.  He informed us that someone was at the bus station now looking for us, but had been a little mixed up on the time.  There is an hour difference between the DR and Haiti.  I was so happy to have confirmation that my journey would soon reach a destination, I wanted to go right away.  We hopped on moto conchos again to reach the forest community.  The area was clearly a desert as far as climate – there was so much dust and many rocks and cacti.   Yet, as we neared Sadhana, mango and avocado trees replaced cacti, with mountains swooping overhead in a breathtaking horizon.

Since we arrived on a Friday afternoon, our volunteer requirement would begin on Monday.  We were able to take a tour of the facilities and visit the local beach.

After becoming acquainted with the rules and expectations of the community, eating a delicious meal of black beans, rice, fresh eggplant, and green salad, and enjoying a documentary with our new friends (The Coconut Revolution), we were guided to our beds.

 

The “tetras” were room slots about 15 feet in the air to prevent scorpions, tarantulas, centipedes, and such from crawling over us while we slept.  I felt like the main character in the movie Avatar when he found out that he had to sleep in a hammock tied between trees far above the ground.  I feared that we would fall, so I brought our luggage up to my son and I’s room to surround us like a fortress.

Our first work day was Monday.  We rose at 5:30 am for stretching and activity assignments, and began daily by 6:00 am.  Our volunteer work was titled sevas, which I believe is Sanskrit for service or a love offering.  It’s funny how when I thought of reforestation, I just thought of planting trees.  I did not get to plant a tree until maybe the third day there.

I carried heavy buckets of water around the grounds to water trees, cut weeds with a machete to mulch trees, reached nervously (for fear of spiders or scorpions) into piles of fallen bamboo leaves to mulch trees, cleared the canal of clothes and trash to allow water to flow through to irrigate trees, carried saplings in buckets for 2 mile stretches to reach yards in need – not to mention what needed to be done to maintain the facilities and volunteers.

See more about our journey in the next post!  Meet you there!

Best,

Nikala Asante

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

Fundraiser – A Custom Story for Your Child: $5

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As a part of fundraising efforts for current projects, I am running the special of a lifetime.  Right now, I will write a customized story about your child or children for only $5.  Check out the info below.  :)

Does your daughter want to be a real storybook princess?  Does your son want to be a real superhero?  I can make that happen.

I will write your child into a personalized one page digitally illustrated story in the setting of your choice in 7 days or less.

A Little About Me:

I am a homeschooling mother with a BA in Creative Writing from University of Houston.  Additionally, I have published two collections of poetry and short stories, contributed to major anthologies, and currently manage a blog site for African American home education resources, blackhomeschoolmom.com.  Also, I have 9 years of experience in Graphic Design.

Added Value:

  • Professional quality stories from a mother, educator, and published author.
  • Affordable for all parents.
  • Requests to write in friends or grandparents will be granted as well.
  • With a photo of your child, his or her actual picture can be featured in the story!
  • Print the story at home and frame for a lifetime memento of love.
  • Makes a great birthday or holiday gift!
  • Cheers sick children up instantly too.

Order your child the greatest gift of all today - a customized story!

Example without background setting or photo (both can be added at no extra cost).  I wrote this story today!  Thank you for your support.  Visit Fiverr to order your customized story: http://www.fiverr.com/nikalaasante/write-your-child-into-a-personalized-story

story

Fulfilling Responsibility: My Drop in the Bucket

Coaxing a small girl to take deworming medication.

Coaxing a small girl to take deworming medication

Greetings,

As I recently shared, I spent two weeks of service in Haiti in the latter half of May.  Here in the States, I often feel that I am living in false reality.  In the age of social media, talk is confused with action and acknowledgment is mistaken for participation.  When I am not actively contributing to solutions – my intelligence is only self-placating and my degree useless.  It is not enough to know.  I must do.  It is my human obligation to direct my life in a way that adds to alleviation rather than exacerbation of the ills of the world.

 It is my human obligation to direct my life in a way that adds to alleviation rather than exacerbation of the ills of the world.

Due to the United States unique and often exploitative relationship with Haiti, anytime that I buy a shirt, I may be supporting a sweatshop.  The CEOS get rich while the workers have to choose between eating and sending their children to school.  Anytime that I use my phone, I may be supporting a call center that does not allow pregnant women to breastfeed or take restroom breaks.  These are all things that I have heard personal testimonies of well-known American companies doing in Haiti.

I cannot completely eliminate my role in Haitian exploitation because imbalanced trade with developing countries is so circumferential to our economic system.  However, I can proffer alms to equity.  As a good friend recently told me, it may be only a drop in the bucket, but if no one puts any drops in the bucket, the bucket will be empty.

My “drop” is a choice to support a young girl’s education.  Elandia is in second grade. Her favorite class is reading.  Elandia, her mother, and 2 sisters live in a small tent in CAPVA since the earthquake of 2010. Someday, she wants to live in a big house and have her own bed.  She aspires to be a doctor because there are many sick people living in CAPVA that aren’t able to receive medical care.

Elandia Pierre-Louis

Elandia Pierre-Louis

I met Elandia while running a deworming station near her school.  Contrary to the norm in Haiti, Elandia’s mother does not have to pay for school.  It is funded by donor contributions.  Elandia and her classmates’ educations depend on people continuing to care enough to donate.

Whether Elandia has a uniform each semester (usually children in Capva’s only real outfit) depends on if those who begin to donate remember that children are always growing.  Some of Elandia’s friends came to school nearly naked because no one donated for uniforms for them this year.  Some boys wore only women’s blouses that hung to their knees, because that was all they had.

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 How you decide to put your drop in the global bucket is your choice.  Today, I made my first $30 monthly contribution to Elandia.  My $30 will pay for her books, uniforms, and help to keep the school running for her peers.  If you would like to do the same or find out more, please visit holdthechildren.org.

Many friends have told me that they want to contribute to an international aid group, but are afraid that the money is not really going to the children.  I visited Elandia’s school myself and can vouch for the credibility of the organization.  Thank you for taking the time to read this post.  God bless you.

All Best,

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.

 

 

International Pen Pals

Greetings,

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

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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!

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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. :D

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.

All Best,

Nikala Asante