One of the tricky parts of homeschooling is adjusting our curriculum to remain student-centered. If the work is too easy, too challenging, or not in the best format for the child, we have to go back to the drawing board. Otherwise, we may be giving assignments that are not engaging or not being retained.
Last semester, we used Time4Learning for our core classes (Math, ELA, Science, etc…), Kamali Academy’s curriculum for Africana History ideas, and a mix-mash of other resources. We belonged to a homeschool collective in Houston where my son was also able to learn Gardening, Sewing, Yoga, and Martial Arts.
In September, we moved to San Ignacio, Belize. For the first 5 weeks or so, we continued to use Time4Learning, also spending a lot of time outdoors, going on low-cost excursions, cooking, playing chess, watching movies, and just bonding. We have also had some fun day trips; for example, we caught a bus to Chetumal, Mexico a few weeks ago for around $25USD. I am also in graduate school online with the University of Houston, assisting with Instructional Design for Kamali Academy, and working on some new books, but it is a lot easier to manage my time here. I always seem to have more time than tasks.
My 12-year-old son, Hotep, loves to create video games in Scratch (scratch.mit.edu), so he has been spending at least 2 hours a day just programming games, alone or with friends. There are two other boys about his age on our street that he hangs out with every day. He is also working on writing his first fiction book, a chapter book about a boy with unique shapeshifting powers.
Since we live in the rainforest, the internet connection is sometimes unreliable. In hindsight, it would have been a good idea to buy textbooks and workbooks for the year and bring them rather than to depend on daily internet service. For the past few weeks, I meditated on how to solve this issue. At least 2 days of each week, Hotep is either unable to access Time4Learning or it runs terribly slow, resulting in him spending twice as long to complete his assignments. Today, I cancelled our Time4Learning subscription and designed a new curriculum for the rest of the school year that involves downloaded books that can be accessed offline, active time outdoors daily, and fun educational activities.
I would like to share our curriculum outline with you to get your feedback and maybe also help you through your process.
- Math – downloaded 7th grade math textbook from ck12.org
- Grammar/Vocabulary/Language Arts – downloaded Middle School Grammar textbook/workbook from vanlueschool.org
- Writing/Publishing – downloaded composition textbook from ck12.org for; also working on fiction book and self-publishing completed book of poetry
- Typing – freetypinggame.net
- Ourstory/US History – Classical Africa by Dr. Molefi Asante (e-book)/A Young Peoples History of the United States by Howard Zinn (e-book)
- Science- learning about Belizean ecology outdoors (helper site: http://www.ourbelizevacation.com/ecology-in-belize.html); also downloaded Life Science textbook from ck12.org
- Technology – Video Game Programming and Animation using Scratch (scratch.mit.edu)
- Physical Education – 30 min together per day outdoor exercise/play
- Spanish 15 – 30 minutes together per day using Berlitz Essential Spanish (print) and Pimsleur Spanish (audio)
- Weekly Field Trips Friday – i.e. nature walks, bus rides to other cities, Cahal Pech, Belize Zoo, Jaguar Reserve, etc…
The structure of our courses will be a combination of guided and independent work. Ourstory and US History will be on alternating days, Monday through Thursday. On Wednesdays, we will work on book publishing rather than Science and Technology. I had gotten away from spelling tests, so I will be resuming giving him spelling words on Monday and spelling tests on Fridays. If we have a short field trip some Fridays, we will also do some fun learning activities and watch a movie or a documentary.
We have about a month and a half left in this semester, so I will work out the kinks of our new program during that time. What are you using for your children’s curriculum this semester? Do you have any ideas of what we might add? Have you ever had to adjust your curriculum mid-semester? Please comment with feedback and questions.
Love and Light,
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,