Tag Archives: home education

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

 

 

 

Roadschooling for International Service Work in Haiti: Part 2

Greetings,

Thank you for reading this far!  Please feel free to refill your drink as I share the remainder of our January journey and a bit about our future plans with this work.

At Sadhana, I was inspired by how well organized that allocation of our duties were.  Because we were cooking on an open fire, someone had to be cooking literally all day. We did it collectively, in shifts The first cooking shift began at about 6:00 to have breakfast ready by 8 or 8:30.  The next shift began right after breakfast and the final shift began right after lunch.  Also, we tended to the area.  I dug holes with a pick axe to plant citronella around the kitchen hut and main hut.

We washed dishes daily with sea sponges, ashes, and vinegar.  We stumbled through cacti and tall weeds to collect fallen sticks to light our daily cooking fires.  I embraced the hard work, even in the 90 degree sunlight.  The only job that I avoided was cleaning the restrooms – makeshift 3/4 enclosed palm leaf huts with buckets inside for pee and poo.  I really avoided that job, lol.  My son did hard work too, but I let him take a lot of breaks.  He was so excited to be able to come home and tell his friends that he used a real machete.

There were bonuses to being at Sadhana.  We not only got to participate in all aspects of reforestation, but to distribute food bearing trees to neighboring residents around Anse a Pitre.  It filled me with great joy.  Other bonuses that warmed my heart were:

  • Distributing clean water through the community every time that we “flooded” the canal to irrigate the trees.  The water had to flow by people’s houses and yards before it reached the treed areas.  Women would stand outside with buckets and jugs collecting the water to bathe, wash clothes, and even to drink.
  • Learning the art of water conservation AKA “How to Grow a Forest in the Desert”.
  • Learning to build a rocket stove – an outdoor stove made of red soil, water, and donkey poo.  The donkey poo acts like concrete and is completely hygienic after the drying and the heating.

  • Learning to use solar ovens to prepare simple meals.
  • Participating in the distribution of and a workshop on solar ovens to the local women.
  • Solar oven cake!!!
  • Conducting research and experiments to see how to build a natural refrigerator and how to make ice by using a solar oven at night (only partially successful, lol).
  • Friday Documentary Film watching nights (with Solar Power, projector, and a sheet!)
  • Learning about local culture.
  • Dancing to Haitian drumming.
  • Practicing Capoeira Angola with international volunteers.

  • Drinking rich creamy Haitian hot chocolate on a cold night with my friends. (It gets cold at night in the desert.)
  • Learning to cook new healthy meals.
  • Making new friends.
  • Seeing children’s smiles surround me every time that I took a walk around Anse a Pitre.
  • Holding a Writing Workshop and poetry reading for the Sadhana community.

  • And mostly, my son’s enjoyment of it all, his growth, his writing, his love for Haitian food, love for being outdoors 24/7, inspired love for helping others, and his excitement to return and continue helping at the earliest opportunity.

I have been teaching my son bits of French, Spanish, and Kreyol over the past few years without enough consistency and no formal lessons.  After this trip, he is motivated to learn all three languages without prodding, because he wants to be able to communicate on his own in situations like our recent trip.  I cannot measure the effect that our journey had on him now, because I am confident that it developed him in ways that I will not notice until he is an adult.  I am so happy with how everything went.  So, so happy.

I will return to Haiti March 13 – March 23, 2015 to continue equity creating work in the areas of clean water security, fresh food security, and preventative health. Many people have asked me about how they can support these initiatives. Thus, I am offering this campaign as a means of making our efforts cooperative.  The fundraising goal is $1,200.  If you would like to contribute, I have a page set up at https://www.crowdrise.com/nikalainhaiti.

We are so excited about the itinerary! My friend Happy, an experienced RN, and Nailah, a 19 year old certified permaculturist, will be traveling with me. We will volunteer at Sadhana Forest in the mornings through Thursday, March 19. In the afternoons, we will travel to assess methodology for planting trees in the neighboring town of Recif. A representative of Sadhana has volunteered trees and extra hands so that we can plant right away, while we assess how to plant more!Also, we will document how the town of Thiotte builds their natural rainwater collecting barrels, and if their method is replicable in other areas of Haiti for gathering clean water.

On Thursday, we will make our way to Port au Prince to the Family Nursing School at 28 Delmas. I built a relationship with them on my May 2014 trip to Haiti, where I set up medical clinics in tent cities with the University of Houston Honors College Medicine and Society Program and assisted Dr. Carl Lindahl in training Haitian earthquake survivors to conduct interviews of other survivors to preserve authentic narratives and serve as a tool for mental healing (survivortosurvivorstories.com). The interviewers were paid for a full year’s Haitian wages for less than a month’s work – finally, fair wages!

In Delmas, we will meet with Haitian survivors who are interested in being future interviewers for Survivor to Survivor to offer them that economic and service opportunity. Also, I will facilitate setting up a space for Happy will teach a workshop to a large group of nursing students on maternal health. Lastly, I will travel with the director of 28 Delmas to take pictures of an area where he is building a school and a community to assess and document it so that I can help with their water supply.

A few people in Houston have pledged possible assistance through either well digging or water filtration, so I need to see which system would work best for the area. Also, this new community in Delmas is a desert area similar to Anse a Pitre, so there is also the potential for food growth based on what I’ve learned.

Thank you again for reading and please feel free to comment or email me with any questions that you have.  The next post will present options and advice for parents to travel with their homeschooled children for international service work.

All Love,

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

African American Children’s Books

Greetings,

There is a significant under-representation of African American authors in Children’s Fiction.  Prolific talents such as Patricia and Fredrick McKissack have made vast contributions to creating balance, with over 100 children’s books written together over the course of their marriage.  Despite phenoms like the McKissacks dedicating their lives to this important work, in 2013, only 68 of the 5000 children’s books published were written by African American authors and only 93 by authors of any ethnic background were written about African Americans.  For this reason, it is so essential that we celebrate and support African American authors.  Our support will assist them in continuing to show our image and tell our stories.

Community advocate Noah Rattler, author Nekisha Pickney and illustrator Thaddeus Lavalais have teamed up to create Noah’s Walk, an inspiring children’s book that tells the story of Rattler’s journey while walking 1,800 miles from Houston, Texas to Los Angeles, California, to raise awareness for homelessness.

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Noah’s Walk tells the story of real life heroism and of a young man who makes a decision to impact the life of others.  Ms. Pickney is able to capture Noah’s odyssey as he encounters the elements, animals, and friends who support along the way. The book also serves as a fun learning tool that highlights vocabulary, geography, and cultural cognizance.

Noah’s Walk is available on Amazon.com and all other online book sellers in English and Spanish (ISBN: 978-1494968076).  It is also available in the Kindle store and borrowing library.  If you want an autographed copy, you can purchase one from co-author Nickesha Pickney’s website: freeheartoftruth.com.

Enjoy, and let me what you think when you’ve read it.  My son loves it.  The book also includes educational appendices that can be developed into lesson plans for homeschooling.  Thank you for visiting, once again.

All Best,

Nikala Asante

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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

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

 

Cooking as Curriculum

Greetings,

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.

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Having fun making potato salad.

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.

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Vegan gumbo, potato salad, coleslaw, and hot water cornbread.

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.

Vegan gluten free no bake oatmeal chocolate peanut butter cookies.

Vegan gluten free no bake oatmeal chocolate peanut butter cookies.

 

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.

And a whole host of kid-friendly recipes from All Recipes.

Enjoy making some of these delicious recipes with your little shining stars and we will chat again soon!

All Best,

Nikala Asante

 

 

 

 

 

 

October is Black Science Month!

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Greetings,

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.

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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!

All Best,

Nikala Asante