One of the tricky parts of homeschooling is adjusting our curriculum to remain student-centered. If the work is too easy, too challenging, or not in the best format for the child, we have to go back to the drawing board. Otherwise, we may be giving assignments that are not engaging or not being retained.
Last semester, we used Time4Learning for our core classes (Math, ELA, Science, etc…), Kamali Academy’s curriculum for Africana History ideas, and a mix-mash of other resources. We belonged to a homeschool collective in Houston where my son was also able to learn Gardening, Sewing, Yoga, and Martial Arts.
In September, we moved to San Ignacio, Belize. For the first 5 weeks or so, we continued to use Time4Learning, also spending a lot of time outdoors, going on low-cost excursions, cooking, playing chess, watching movies, and just bonding. We have also had some fun day trips; for example, we caught a bus to Chetumal, Mexico a few weeks ago for around $25USD. I am also in graduate school online with the University of Houston, assisting with Instructional Design for Kamali Academy, and working on some new books, but it is a lot easier to manage my time here. I always seem to have more time than tasks.
My 12-year-old son, Hotep, loves to create video games in Scratch (scratch.mit.edu), so he has been spending at least 2 hours a day just programming games, alone or with friends. There are two other boys about his age on our street that he hangs out with every day. He is also working on writing his first fiction book, a chapter book about a boy with unique shapeshifting powers.
Since we live in the rainforest, the internet connection is sometimes unreliable. In hindsight, it would have been a good idea to buy textbooks and workbooks for the year and bring them rather than to depend on daily internet service. For the past few weeks, I meditated on how to solve this issue. At least 2 days of each week, Hotep is either unable to access Time4Learning or it runs terribly slow, resulting in him spending twice as long to complete his assignments. Today, I cancelled our Time4Learning subscription and designed a new curriculum for the rest of the school year that involves downloaded books that can be accessed offline, active time outdoors daily, and fun educational activities.
I would like to share our curriculum outline with you to get your feedback and maybe also help you through your process.
- Math – downloaded 7th grade math textbook from ck12.org
- Grammar/Vocabulary/Language Arts – downloaded Middle School Grammar textbook/workbook from vanlueschool.org
- Writing/Publishing – downloaded composition textbook from ck12.org for; also working on fiction book and self-publishing completed book of poetry
- Typing – freetypinggame.net
- Ourstory/US History – Classical Africa by Dr. Molefi Asante (e-book)/A Young Peoples History of the United States by Howard Zinn (e-book)
- Science- learning about Belizean ecology outdoors (helper site: http://www.ourbelizevacation.com/ecology-in-belize.html); also downloaded Life Science textbook from ck12.org
- Technology – Video Game Programming and Animation using Scratch (scratch.mit.edu)
- Physical Education – 30 min together per day outdoor exercise/play
- Spanish 15 – 30 minutes together per day using Berlitz Essential Spanish (print) and Pimsleur Spanish (audio)
- Weekly Field Trips Friday – i.e. nature walks, bus rides to other cities, Cahal Pech, Belize Zoo, Jaguar Reserve, etc…
The structure of our courses will be a combination of guided and independent work. Ourstory and US History will be on alternating days, Monday through Thursday. On Wednesdays, we will work on book publishing rather than Science and Technology. I had gotten away from spelling tests, so I will be resuming giving him spelling words on Monday and spelling tests on Fridays. If we have a short field trip some Fridays, we will also do some fun learning activities and watch a movie or a documentary.
We have about a month and a half left in this semester, so I will work out the kinks of our new program during that time. What are you using for your children’s curriculum this semester? Do you have any ideas of what we might add? Have you ever had to adjust your curriculum mid-semester? Please comment with feedback and questions.
Love and Light,
Outside of homeschooling my own son, I also tutor other students part-time. They are mostly private school students. At a session this week with a 7th grader for Pre-AP Algebra, my son, who is in the 6th grade, wanted to jump in and help him with a difficult problem. I stopped my son because I like to give my older students more time to figure it out on their own, but I was proud of him for understanding the work and for taking the initiative to want to help. It let me know that I was doing something right.
This exchange prompted me to think about the sacrifices that we make for our children. The parents that I work with often select their neighborhoods and their career paths based on wanting their children to have access to the best possible education. Likewise, I make many decisions based on wanting my son to receive the best education – the one that God has blessed me to provide to him.
At times, I have thought about how I could possibly be making more money if I did not spend the time that I spend with my son. Maybe you’ve had similar thoughts. Yet, my sacrifices in the financial area have allowed my son to be more advanced in many subjects than my private school students, though their parents are much stronger than me financially. Please keep this in mind if you’ve had any financial challenges due to working less hours or not working as a homeschooling mom. We don’t always have to have more money to do more for our children. Sometimes having less allows us to do more – and as a bonus, our children learn not to be materialistic.
For 5 years now, my son has been out of the public school system. At first, I was really just hoping that I was doing the right thing, lol. Thanks to my heightened investment in supporting his academic growth, along with support from friends and strong sister-mentors in my community, we quickly witnessed major improvements in his reading, math, and interest level. Within 2 years, he had strengthened academically more than I imagined that he could have so speedily. I knew then that we had to stick with independent education.
Of equal importance to academics, he has had the space over the past 5 years to pursue computer programming, animation, chess, creative writing, visual art, and drumming to the point where they have become passions for him. He has also had space – physically, mentally, and emotionally – to research extensively on one of his greatest loves in life – animals. At the same time, he has a great sense of his culture and history, thanks to both our studies and our strong community.
If I had a lot of money, maybe I would have enrolled him in a private school and secured private tutoring for him from the beginning. When he was struggling with reading at age 6 and I felt like his teachers were against him instead of for him, maybe I would have said, “Forget this – you’re going to the best school that money can buy.” I’m so glad that I wasn’t rich, because it turned out that learning to be my son’s educator was the best decision that I’ve ever made.
If you are considering homeschooling or just starting out, stay strong in your mission. When you feel you are not doing a great job, ask yourself what you can do differently and make changes. All teachers make mistakes. It’s important to recognize these challenges and fix them instead of beating ourselves up about them. When you are doing a great job, celebrate that too. Set goals for each semester and celebrate the goals that you are able to achieve. Homeschooling is like gardening – it’s hard work and you may not the results clearly from the beginning, but it will result in a beautiful harvest.
Also, when you feel discouraged about financial challenges, look at all that your children are able to gain from your sacrifices. Many resources can be had for free or very little money, so it is not necessary to have a lot of money to homeschool. Stay strong, focused, and positive – you’re giving your children the best education possible! Even more importantly, no amount of money can replace the family bonds that are forged all while providing an excellent education!
Stay tuned for the next post which will have money-saving tips, goal setting tips, and other tools for providing the best education that money can’t buy.
I hope that you and your family are doing well. Exciting news! I’ve recently released my newest book - Tomorrow Will Be Better. Tomorrow Will Be Better is an intimate conversation, a history primer, a discussion of current events, a Spoken Word Collection, and an invitation to engagement in social justice – all in one. It is a non-fiction book with a target audience of African American youth between ages 14 and 25 seeking to better understand themselves and their roles in the world (although it is appropriate and a great learning tool for persons of ANY ethnicity, ages 14 and up).
As a thank you for your continual support, I am giving out free e-copies of Tomorrow Will Be Better to the first 10 readers to comment on this blog! Additionally, those who re-post this blog to their page will be entered to win print copies of Tomorrow Will Be Better (with a US mailing address). Thank you for your support and be sure to check out the full description below!
Tomorrow Will Be Better by Nikala Asante (<—- View Table of Contents and read a sample on Amazon)
Hello, I’m Nikala Asante – a 29 year old mother, creative writer, Spoken Word artist, independent educator, Web Series producer, and international Human Rights advocate. As the mother of a 10 year old son, the future of our youth is extremely important to me. In this vein – for the past 6 years, I have been actively tutoring and mentoring inner-city high school and college students. Through this work, I have been blessed with an understanding of the challenges that my generation and my son’s generation faces, as well as methods to overcome these challenges.
Concurrently, I have been blessed to traverse 9 countries in Europe, Africa, and the Caribbean over the past 4 years, engaging in service and research projects that granted me a greater understanding of the world at large. All of this from the basis of a rough upbringing, earning my GED at age 22, surviving an abusive relationship, and many other immense struggles on the path to self-actualization.
Now, I am sharing my own life story, documentation of my travels, historical and cultural context for each place that I visited, how these histories and cultures connect to current events in the United States, and creative responses to what I have witnessed a concise collection of chapters, Spoken Word and interactive workshop modules. I earnestly believe that this book can and will change lives. I appreciate your support!
Who This Book Is Written For
This book is targeted to African American youth, ages 14 -25, but can be enjoyed by any mature reader.
About The Author
Nikala Asante is a creative writer, Spoken Word artist, web series producer, independent educator, and international Human Rights advocate from Houston, TX. Asante fell in love with organizing around Human Rights after traveling to the Dominican Republic to learn about garment worker rights organizing with Solidarity Ignite in 2013. Since then, she has returned to Dominican Republic and Haiti independently and with the University of Houston to help set up medical clinics, to distribute food and water, to plant food bearing trees in deforested areas, to deliver needed supplies, children’s vitamins, and toys to orphanages, and to create archives of personal narratives about Haiti’s 2010 earthquake.
In her community, Asante organizes homeschooling parents around educational events and field trips to advance their children’s learning experiences, as well as tutoring and mentoring inner-city youth. Asante has received numerous awards from the community and university, including the prestigious Gilman International Study Scholarship. She was featured in Defender Networks’ Black History special on young leaders following in the footsteps of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr in 2013, on PBS NewsHour in 2015, and has spoken on Human Rights in two documentaries (“16th Strike: the Documentary” and “Nice: A Place to Start”).
Asante has published two collections of poetry, Graffiti Nommo and Re-Divining Self. Additionally, Asante recently published her first web series in 5 episodes, Pharaoh the Web Series — available for viewing on YouTube. She is currently in the process of developing her own non-profit to connect students with international service learning opportunities – Asante Global Works.
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.
Today, my son received his first letter (via email) from a boy his age in Senegal. This is the first time that my son has ever had a pen pal, and he is really excited about it. I have been researching international work exchange (volunteering with a family, business, or NGO in exchange for room and board) and found a sweet homeschooling mom in Senegal who needs help with her children for a semester or so. If things go well with our children getting to know each other, maybe we will stay with her family for a little while to gain a different experience of the world. (If you are interested in opportunities like these, visit workaway or HelpX.)
Benefits of a Pen Pal
Having a pen pal can help our children to learn more about their selves and about the world. They can also practice reading, writing, and typing skills in the process. You can tie in lesson plans on English Language Arts, Geography, and Social Studies easily into your children’s pen pal writing assignments. For instance, they can learn about the terrain and weather in their new friend’s country, the history, the culture, and the literary classics. Also, they have fun playing the games and sports that their friend abroad plays. Best of all, you can try the delicious international foods together!
Over the next week, my son and I will learn more about Senegal at the library and on the internet so that we can better understand his new friend’s country.
Finding a Pen Pal
If you would like to get your children started with International Pen Pals, there are several sites that can help.
Students of the World: Etudiants du Monde (Students of the World) is a French non-profit association, whose aim and ambition is to open the doors of the world’s cultures to young people. If you are a student, then the website will propose you pen-friends who are the same age as you, in the countries of your choice. Then, you will be able to discover new cultures, exchange ideas, stamps, postcards, improve your knowledge of a foreign language, and why not decide later to travel there ? The database includes 250,000 pen pals from 220 countries, 4,000 blogs, 7,000 clubs, 2,500 pen pal groups, many forums, educational games, 248 schools from 57 countries, and cultural information about 234 countries & territories (including 234 forums, 532 touristic pictures from 65 countries and 750 “virtual tours” views from several countries).
Global Pen Friends: Global Penfriends Internet Friends Club specialises in Postal and E-mail pen pals from all around the world. Their members are REAL people of all ages, looking for pen friends. Registration and profile submission is free. Their goal is to create a comprehensive listing of people from all over the globe who are interested in communicating with other people, whether it be for friendship, cultural exchange, language, travel or education. The site is family friendly and developed with Safety in mind. People of all ages are welcome here and can search for new contacts in a safe and friendly environment. All profiles on our system are manually approved for language and content.
My Language Exchange: My Language Exchange is the effort of Helene Cormier and Dan Yuen to help people all over the world learn, practice and become fluent in a foreign language. Together, they decided to use the Internet to bring the benefits of language exchange practice to people all over the world. In October 2000, MyLanguageExchange.com was launched. This was an online community that has since helped thousands of people find language exchange partners and improve their second language.
Pen Pal Safety:
There are some basic rules that you can follow to keep your child safe when writing to a pen pal.
1. Choose reputable websites.
2. Use Skype or other video chat software to verify that the person you are writing to is a child.
3. Don’t arrange to meet with anyone without having had extensive conversation and doing some of your own research.
4. Never send money to anyone.
5. Don’t respond to requests for sensitive personal information (i.e. copy of your passport, social security numbers, etc…)
The sixth rule here should be HAVE FUN, but I already know that you will do that.
I hope that your children have a great time with their new pen pals. Let me know how it goes! We will do the same.
I hope that you are enjoying the holiday season. We have definitely been enjoying spending time with family, cooking, and eating. Especially the eating.
Being vegan for only 4 years, cooking food for the holidays has been a learning process. There is always the simple route – grabbing some Tofurky and a box a stuffing, but that’s not my style. For the past few years, I have been making a vegan gumbo with ample sides for Thanksgiving. This year, I included my son in the cooking process from start to finish. He washed, chopped, stirred, and baked to his heart’s content.
Which brings me to the reason for this post, do you include cooking classes in your child’s curriculum? If so, for which reasons? If not, for which reasons? Personally, I believe that Home Economics are a natural part of the homeschooling environment. Children being involved in these processes is fun and teaches them to be responsible adults. I still remember recipes from cooking with my grandmother at age 9 or 10.
So, you may be wondering, where do I start? I would recommend starting with these awesome no-bake chocolate peanut butter cookies, great for any age, Kindergarten and up, with adult supervision. We adapted this to vegan by using almond milk and Earth Balance butter. We also sprinkled in a few vegan chocolate chips and threw some coconut flakes on top.
You can also check out this neat list of vegan no-bake desserts if you want to keep it simple and healthy.
Here is a cool Pinterest collection of vegan recipes for children.
Understanding that everyone is not vegan, here is an awesome collection of omnivore recipes from Kid’s Health.
Enjoy making some of these delicious recipes with your little shining stars and we will chat again soon!
Free E-Book This Week Only: Education for Liberation: The Top 20 Questions and Answers for Black Homeschoolers
I hope that you can benefit from this valuable information provided by Dr. Samori Camara. Download the full book free on your Kindle this week only.
While we all have our unique approaches to homeschooling, it is important to understand major methods as relates to what is best for our children. African Centered Education, as encouraged by Dr. Camara, puts African antiquity and modernity in the center of what can be a highly multicultural curriculum. Consider that there are thousands of cultures within the African Diaspora for our children to learn about, as well as European and Asiatic cultures.
Have your children learned about the Ashanti or the Mau-Mau? What about the Ba-Aka or Maasai? Does your child smile when he or she hears that you are about to recount an Anansi tale? Does he or she get excited at the thought of plantains or fufu? If you have not already researched African Centered Education, you will learn more about it in this free e-book, as well as gaining insights into homeschooling that will help any parent.
The book description on Amazon is as follows:
Are you ready to take the education of your child into your own hands? Are you disgusted with over testing and miseducation? Are you unsure about how to go about getting started on the journey of providing education for liberation?
Then, this book is for you. Within it, I use my years of practice and research to answer the most pressing questions new homeschooling parents have. No need to scour the internet getting half-truths and whole lies. The answers are here.
Will your child be able to go to college? Without question!
Can you do it? Absolutely!
“As parents you are the first teachers, so why not continue that natural process. You can teach your child using a culturally relevant curriculum, cultivate their minds and grow their spirits, and help bring out the natural genius already within them. You can find the time, resources, and faith to give your child the greatest gift: the gift of self-love, self-awareness, and self-determination.”
About the author:
Samori Camara, Ph.D., is the Founder and Director of Kamali Academy, an African-centered school in New Orleans, and is quickly becoming one of the nation’s leading authorities on Black education and building independent Black educational institutions.
Kamali Academy in New Orleans:
All the Best to You and Your Family,
Homeschooling: Why I chose this alternative, crazy path?
My sister, Nikala, asked me to write a guest post for her blog, Black HomeSchool Mom. I thought my sister was nuts for homeschooling her son. Who wants to design curriculum? Who wants to deal with kids at home all day long? As you can tell, I was not a fan of having my kids at home all day. I love to ship them off on the bus, then head back to bed, maybe clean up in peace.
I never thought I would homeschool anyone, but myself.
In 2011, my oldest son moved from Georgia to Texas to live with me. His father had him solo since 2005 and it was now my turn. My maternal gene finally kicked in after having Kalen and I thought it was a good idea. School started down here within 2 weeks. Mama kicked into overdrive to get Brad enrolled in public school. He had his issues (meltdowns) but he did good until the end of the school year. Note: Brad is Autistic, ADHD, and has sensory issues.
His behavior issues got worse on the bus and in school. I was getting messages home from the bus drivers daily to the point where I was starting to dread him coming home from school. There was little written notes, but a lot of verbal notes. They wanted him off the bus and out of school. I even put him back on medication to control the behavior (Risperidone and Clonindine) but then it didn’t kick in fast enough for the bus drivers (since they was the ones giving me the messages).
Brad bit a student, but I did not find out until two weeks later. Brad also hugged a student, who was also special needs, but more verbal. She complained. The school had to separate the two students in the line, waiting for the bus. Even made Brad a bus line helper to aid the situation. He also had an increase in meltdowns, but no one knew why. His routine did not change at home, but I have no idea if something changed at school.
My son could not get kicked off the special needs bus and the special needs class. I had no way to get him to and from school. My mother did not get home until after school started. I started looking into alternatives for Brad. Private school. Online school. My church’s new charter school. Private school did not take medicaid. Church school did not accept Brad. He did not make the initial lottery pick. Then, the administration called a few weeks before school started because the enrollment was still low. I brought all my paperwork but got declined because I did not have a mortgage or rent agreement in my name.
I had heard about Brad’s home school on television before, but did nothing. I finally filled out an interest form on the website. He was enrolled. I still don’t like my child being at home all the freaking time, but I also don’t have to worry about those messages being sent home. I understand now that legally no one can put a special needs child off the bus or out of school without an IEP meeting and trying to make accommodations first. This will come in handy whenever I send Brad back to public school. I hate to send him back and run into the same problems, then have to pull him again.
The school creates their own curriculum, since it is a public school alternative. They send the books, the computer, and other materials. I have to log-in daily to attend live classes and log attendance. His work is scanned in weekly and uploaded to the drop box. If he needs to go to the doctor, I do have to get a dr’s note.
I also loveeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee Jose, Brad’s in-person speech therapist. Jose comes to the house once a week and teaches Brad. Brad has made tremendous improvement since Jose started working with Brad in May, 2012. Brad was also receiving online speech therapy. I can live without that, as long as I have in-person. With public school, Brad received 8 sessions of speech total. I asked for more, but he never got it. I am thinking about re-enrolling Brad in public school next semester or next year. I wish there was cheaper special needs schools in the area. I am dreading sending him back. But anyway. Have a nice day.
Stacie Wyatt is a 33 year old, African-American, living in Houston. Stacie is also a published poet and author (Love.Lust.Life; Chocolate Kisses; Conversations 1; Conversations 2; Conversing with Normality; Conversing with Sexuality; Conversing with Salvation, and Miscarried). Her books are on Amazon (CreateSpace and Kindle), Lulu, Barnes and Noble, Audible, and Smashwords. She is also a blogger (Perfect Chaos and Celibacy Diaries). Next, Stacie is the mother of two special needs boys. Stacie loves to read, write, listen to music, and find free stuff online.