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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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,
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!!!):
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!
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!
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
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).
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
As I begin to collect items for our indoor container garden, I am finding some very helpful printables and lesson plans.
Herbs in the Classroom: Begin a small herb garden with an egg carton or Dixie cups.
Herb Identification Worksheet: Identify summer herbs with this neat free printable. Some included are dill, rosemary, and basil.
Start a Pizza Herb Garden: plant herbs that your children will use to make a pizza!
Herbs for Kids: What’s Safe, What’s Not: From WebMD. St. John’s Wort, for instance, is not okay for kids. Many herbs are. Lemon balm for instance, calms anxiety. (Use herbs for medicinal purposes at your own risk/benefit.)
Sensory Herb Garden Handout: Which herbs have the strongest smells and tastes that children can enjoy? Use this handout to better understand the sensory aspect of your herb garden.
I hope you find these helpful. Also, here are some generally helpful kids’ gardening printables:
Plant Parts: Parts of a plant.
Plant Growth: How a seed grows.
Plant Measurement: Track plant growth with this free printable.