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.
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!
If you and your children have not seen this wonderful movie, do not deprive yourself a minute longer!
Kirikou is a young African boy (a baby, really) who is determined to save his village from an evil sorceress.
Kirikou teaches children lessons about bravery, perseverance, problem solving and more.
I encourage you to purchase the DVD from Amazon to add to your collection. Meanwhile, you can watch the full film with your kiddos on YouTube.
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.
We recently purchased a little pot of lavender with the goal of starting a small indoor container garden of herbs and vegetables. For those of us who are yard space-challenged, indoor gardening may be an optimal option to get in touch with our green thumbs. Our lavender has already grown to about 150% of its original size within 3 weeks. With this in mind, we will be expanding our indoor garden to include more herbs and a few vegetables.
Gardening is a valuable component of a well-rounded homeschol curriculum. If you would like to join us in our indoor gardening venture, please visit the following links:
Easiest Vegetables to Grow Indoors: Lettuce is at the top. Spinach, radishes, and tomatoes (using an aero garden) are also viable.
Herbs to Grow Indoors: Any herbs can be grown indoors, under the right conditions.
How to Grow an Herbal Tea Indoor Garden: Chamomile and Mint Tea is great for the kids and for you too!
Gardening Lesson Plans for kids: Awesome lesson plans from Growing Minds.
More Gardening Lesson Plans: Lesson plans for kids from Utah State University
Enjoy your indoor garden and let us know know it goes!
I hope that you and your family had a wonderful week. As homeschooling parents, one of our everyday responsibilities is cooking. One of the biggest challenges for the African American community (and Americans in general) is healthy eating.
We have easy access to fast food restaurants and processed foods that seem to make our lives simpler, but wreak havoc on our bodies. Not only does the food lose nutrients during processing, the additives contained in them, such as high fructose corn syrup, MSG, artificial colorings, and trans-fatty acids, cause serious damage such as migraines, diabetes, liver disease, heart disease, and much more.
There are many reasons to eat healthier and institute healthier diets for our children. We may have more energy, be in better moods, attain and maintain our ideal weights, and prevent common diseases (even those that we believed were hereditary).
Our children may be calmer and more well-balanced after we remove stimulants such as caffeine, high fructose syrup, artificial colorings, and refined sugars from their diets. Their focus may improve, so that they can concentrate on learning rather than excess fidgeting or being subject to frequent cravings throughout the day.
Implementing a healthy diet may also be an effective assistant to managing ADHD, autism, or other difficult issues. If your child has health issues, please begin a research process on the effects of diet on your child’s issue if you have not done this already. I would be interested to know what you find!
In the African American community, many of us have been raised on fried foods, refined sugars and grains, white rice, and
delicious high fat desserts. Now that we have children of our own, we can create new traditions.
As a step towards healthy living, I would like to share links to vegan/vegetarian soul food sites.
PETA Vegetarian Soul Food Recipes: PETA shares recipes for vegan meatloaf, hoppin’ john, sweet potato pie, and more. The recipes look tasty, but I tend to avoid margarine because of negative health effects. Earth Balance vegan butter is a better product. Smart Balance also manufactures a healthy vegan butter. Too much soy is not good for you, so enjoy these recipes and stay as close as you can to whole fresh foods (fresh fruits, vegetables, legumes, and grains) in your everyday life.
West African Vegan/Vegetarian Recipes: Many of the West African recipes that we base African American soul food on are naturally vegan or vegetarian. Enjoy delicious foods such as red beans, chickpea soup, baked sweet potatoes, and banana fritters with no guilt afterwards!
Vegan/Vegetarian Caribbean Recipes: Another sister to African American soul food is Caribbean food. Islands such as Jamaica and Haiti received the same West African migrants as the American South. Try some savory tempeh patties, steamed callaloo, black bean and potato soup and coconut rice. Who said healthy vegan food had to be tofu and carrot sticks?
Enjoy cooking these scrumptious recipes! If your children are old enough, maybe they can help out in the kitchen.
Be sure to comment back and let me know which worked best for you!
Here’s to a healthy and happy new year!