Tag Archives: home school

What We Are Doing This Semester

Greetings,

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.

hotep

Having fun down by the Mopan River.

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.

nika

Taking a walk by the river.  The river was high this day because there was recent flooding.

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,

Nikala Asante

 

Haiti and Belize, Part 2: Belize

Greetings!

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.

tropic

Local flight to Punta Gorda

View from local flight

View from local flight

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.

Trees from above

Trees from above

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.

a

 

Our shared bed

Our shared bed

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.

Beach within walking distance of where we stayed in PG

Beach within walking distance of where we stayed in PG

Children at Garifuna Drum Class

Children at Garifuna Drum Class

Fish, beans and rice, and veggies provided by Drums not Guns Garifuna Drum Class

Fish, beans and rice, and veggies provided by Drums not Guns 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.  

13

Seine Bight Multipurpose Center

a5

Beach in Seine Bight, Garifuna community near Plascencia

plas

plas2

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.

Belizean snacks and coconut water

Belizean snacks and coconut water

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.

A Piece of Ground Hostel in PG, owned by a homeschooling family

A Piece of Ground Hostel in PG, owned by a homeschooling family

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.

You can see this cave on a "guerilla" tour suggested by Jama

You can see this cave on a “guerilla” tour suggested by Jama

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.

I didn't take this picture, but these are the butterflies that we saw

I didn’t take this picture, but these are the butterflies that we saw

Rio Blanco waterfall

Rio Blanco waterfall

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.

I am working with educators here to define which services that they can offer to bring in extra money

I am working with educators here to define which services that they can offer to bring in extra money

A Garifuna woman talking about the food that she will cook and sell to tourists

b A Garifuna woman talking about the food that she will cook and sell to tourists

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,

Nikala Asante

New Book Series: Character Building for African Centered Scholars

Greetings,

Grades 1 - 4

Grades 1 – 4

Grades 4 and Up

Grades 4 and Up

Do you struggle with your children’s behavior at times?  Are you looking for a way to include Character Building in your curriculum, but can only find overly simplistic or strictly religious workbooks on the topic?  Would you like to have a simple, fun, and interactive way to teach your children African centered spiritual and moral principles in a way where they can easily understand and apply them?

I am excited beyond words to announce that I am releasing a book series this August (just a few weeks away!) titled Character Building for African Centered Scholars.  The first two books are for Grades 1 -4 (77 pages) and Grades 4 and Up (107 pages).  The following books in this series will expand more in detail on the ideas covered in the main books or add to them.

In Character Building for African Centered Scholars, your students will learn character building principles from Ma’at, Iwa Pele, Nguzo Saba, the Adrinka Symbols , and more!  The many sacrifices that we make to educate our children are for one reason and one reason only: to shape them into successful, critically thinking, and independent adults with good characters.   Each book is fun, interactive, and written in a way where it serves as both a textbook and a workbook!  I’m so thrilled and you will be too!

Pre-Order Now for a 20% discount!!!  Your book will be shipped by August 31, 2015.

Each chapter is easy to read for self-guided work, with images and lots of activities.  Also, there are additional activities in the back of the book to keep your student engaged and developing an excellent character:

Read an excerpt from the chapter discussing Ma’at (From Character Building for African Centered Scholars: Grades 4 and Up):

MA’AT

“I have satisfied God with that which He loves.  I have given bread to the hungry, water to the thirsty, clothes to the naked, and a boat to those without one.” – The Book of Coming Forth by Day

Ma’at is a concept of morality that originated in Kemet (ancient Egypt).  The figure of Ma’at as expressed in hieroglyphic carvings is that of a woman with extended wings or a woman with a feather on her crown.  According to this spiritual philosophy, when a human being transitions out of the physical realm (death), he or she meets Ma’at, and then his or her heart is weighed against a feather.

If one’s heart is weighted heavily with wrongdoing and poor character, it will be eaten by Ammit, a monstrous being who is part lion, part crocodile, and part hippopotamus.   Once this happens, one will not be able to achieve eternal life, but will instead become a restless spirit – a ghost.

How do we interpret this in modern day terms?  First, let’s look at the meaning of eternal life, or immortality.  Can one truly become immortal?  If so, we have not witnessed this phenomenon on earth.  Science has not generated immortality on earth, nor has religion.  However, we do see that humans have achieved immortality through their legacies.

For example, let’s examine the story of Imhotep, who is best known for being the architect of the oldest known pyramid.  He was born around 2,667 BCE – nearly 5,000 years ago.  Imhotep was born neither rich nor privileged, but he worked hard to develop his intelligence and to be of service to those greater than him.  He did not just sit around and think, “I wish that I was smarter,” – he studied regularly to build his knowledge.  He did not just read to make good grades or to impress others.  He put his knowledge into action.  In turn, he developed himself into the first known physician, a legendary architect, a brilliant poet, a scribe, an astronomer, and the advisor to King Djoser.  He went from being a regular kid with no special head start in life to being a multi-talented genius who gave advice to the king.  Wow, isn’t that incredible?

As a result of Imhotep’s practice of good character, he left a legacy that is still widely honored and studied nearly 5,000 years later.  That is a form of immortality.  Imagine – what if people are still learning from your life 5,000 years from now?  That was the goal of many ancient Egyptians – to live their lives so well, with such upright actions, with such beneficial works, that people would still study their lives as examples for how to live, thousands of years later.  Let’s now examine the principles of Ma’at to understand how the Kemetic people went about striving towards immortality.

SEVEN PRINCIPLES OF MA’AT

  1. Truth
  2. Justice
  3. Harmony
  4. Balance
  5. Order
  6. Reciprocity
  7. Propriety

What do these principles mean and how can we practice them daily?

TRUTH – Truth is to tell what really happened, i.e. not telling lies.  But, truth is also to understand what is real and what is false.  When we commit to learning history, we can separate fact from fiction and take action based on full knowledge.  For example, we know that Christopher Columbus did not discover America, so we do not honor him, celebrate him, or idolize him in any way.  We instead honor and celebrate real leaders who made sincere contributions to the advancement of African people all over the world, and to all humanity.  Truth also applies to being able to critically analyze the information that we receive for flaws or biases.  If we read a news article that refers to one young male who got into some trouble as a criminal, and another young male of a different ethnic group or culture who made a similar mistake as a troubled teen – that is a bias.  They may have both been troubled teens who needed help.  You can then write in to the news outlet asking them to make a correction, or you can write your own newspaper or blog to report from a more unbiased perspective.  Actions like these would demonstrate your commitment to truth, and also help shape your legacy.

(Pre-order now!)

Check out the Table of Contents for Character Building for African Centered Scholars: Grades 4 and Up.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Introduction                                               7

How to Use this Book                                 11

Character Building Principles:

Ma’at                                               16

Iwa Pele                                            47

Nguzo Saba                                     61

Adrinka Symbols                              74

Character Building Examples:

Queen Nzinga                                  81

Shaka Zulu                                        82

Marcus Garvey                                83

Fannie Lou Hamer                            85

Alice Walker                                     86

Putting Principles into Practice:

Creative Writing                               89

Music                                                          90

Visual Art                                          91

Technology                             92

Critical Thinking                                93

Community Service Extensions                 94

My Glossary                                               97

My Notes                                                    101

Thank you for reading this far!  I may run a contest to offer free copies to select followers.  Comment if you would be interested in a contest of this nature. :-)

All the best to you and your family!

Love and Light,

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.

noah

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

noah2

Approaches to Homeschooling in the 21st Century

IMG_20140630_105232 (2)

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

200819_189617084416862_2119685_n

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.

988486_779144432130788_442353307345271042_n

 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

senegal1

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!

macarons, peanut soup 048

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