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.
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.
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!
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’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.
Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today. – Malcolm X
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:
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!
© 2014 Nikala Asante
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.
- Professional quality stories from a mother, educator, and published author.
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- 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!
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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
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.
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.
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.
Interdisciplinary/cross-curricular teaching involves a conscious effort to apply knowledge, principles, and/or values to more than one academic discipline simultaneously. The disciplines may be related through a central theme, issue, problem, process, topic, or experience (Jacobs, 1989).
What are Cross Curricular Lessons?
Cross curricular lessons integrate knowledge, improve learning, and increase student engagement. Instead of narrowly focusing on one subject at a time (i.e.: adding single-digit numbers for a Kindergartner), the student interacts with multiple subjects around one central objective (i.e.: learning to make a fruit salad using single-digit calculations – 6 grapes + 4 grapes equal ?, etc…).
Where can I find some to use this week?
KinderArt is a great site for free Cross Curriculum Art lessons, grades K-12. Objectives from the disciplines of Math, Literature, Geography, Music, P.E., Science, Social Studies, Transportation, and Architecture are introduced through fun art activities. KinderArt also has great multicultural lessons.
The National Education Association has put together this awesome free collection of lesson plans, printables, and videos with various disciplines such as Math, Art, Architecture, and History learned through lessons from Mayan culture. The lessons are targeted toward grades 5-12.
Games Children Play introduces children’s games from around the world, through which your students will improve knowledge in math, history, and language arts, while having a great time and being introduced to a new culture. I can’t wait to play Senet, a board game from ancient Kemet (Egypt).
How do create Cross Curricular Lessons?
First, decide what the objective that you would like to centrally teach. For example, in the video below, I wanted my son to understand that poems were not composed of just words, but of images. When he writes his poetry, he can be cognizant of including images as well. Sometimes poets can get so caught up in their language that we forget to string images together. I am sure that you can think of a poem that you read in high school that seemed to be a heap of vocabulary with a signature, instead of an accessible piece of art.
In order to reach our objective, I shared an excerpt from my poem, The 16th Strike. Since the images in the poem are connected to specific historical events, we had to stop multiple times for clarification. This was great because the lesson became creative writing, art, and history – all-in-one.
Enjoy the video and please, let us know how you create cross curricular lesson plans.
Today, my son received his first letter (via email) from a boy his age in Senegal. This is the first time that my son has ever had a pen pal, and he is really excited about it. I have been researching international work exchange (volunteering with a family, business, or NGO in exchange for room and board) and found a sweet homeschooling mom in Senegal who needs help with her children for a semester or so. If things go well with our children getting to know each other, maybe we will stay with her family for a little while to gain a different experience of the world. (If you are interested in opportunities like these, visit workaway or HelpX.)
Benefits of a Pen Pal
Having a pen pal can help our children to learn more about their selves and about the world. They can also practice reading, writing, and typing skills in the process. You can tie in lesson plans on English Language Arts, Geography, and Social Studies easily into your children’s pen pal writing assignments. For instance, they can learn about the terrain and weather in their new friend’s country, the history, the culture, and the literary classics. Also, they have fun playing the games and sports that their friend abroad plays. Best of all, you can try the delicious international foods together!
Over the next week, my son and I will learn more about Senegal at the library and on the internet so that we can better understand his new friend’s country.
Finding a Pen Pal
If you would like to get your children started with International Pen Pals, there are several sites that can help.
Students of the World: Etudiants du Monde (Students of the World) is a French non-profit association, whose aim and ambition is to open the doors of the world’s cultures to young people. If you are a student, then the website will propose you pen-friends who are the same age as you, in the countries of your choice. Then, you will be able to discover new cultures, exchange ideas, stamps, postcards, improve your knowledge of a foreign language, and why not decide later to travel there ? The database includes 250,000 pen pals from 220 countries, 4,000 blogs, 7,000 clubs, 2,500 pen pal groups, many forums, educational games, 248 schools from 57 countries, and cultural information about 234 countries & territories (including 234 forums, 532 touristic pictures from 65 countries and 750 “virtual tours” views from several countries).
Global Pen Friends: Global Penfriends Internet Friends Club specialises in Postal and E-mail pen pals from all around the world. Their members are REAL people of all ages, looking for pen friends. Registration and profile submission is free. Their goal is to create a comprehensive listing of people from all over the globe who are interested in communicating with other people, whether it be for friendship, cultural exchange, language, travel or education. The site is family friendly and developed with Safety in mind. People of all ages are welcome here and can search for new contacts in a safe and friendly environment. All profiles on our system are manually approved for language and content.
My Language Exchange: My Language Exchange is the effort of Helene Cormier and Dan Yuen to help people all over the world learn, practice and become fluent in a foreign language. Together, they decided to use the Internet to bring the benefits of language exchange practice to people all over the world. In October 2000, MyLanguageExchange.com was launched. This was an online community that has since helped thousands of people find language exchange partners and improve their second language.
Pen Pal Safety:
There are some basic rules that you can follow to keep your child safe when writing to a pen pal.
1. Choose reputable websites.
2. Use Skype or other video chat software to verify that the person you are writing to is a child.
3. Don’t arrange to meet with anyone without having had extensive conversation and doing some of your own research.
4. Never send money to anyone.
5. Don’t respond to requests for sensitive personal information (i.e. copy of your passport, social security numbers, etc…)
The sixth rule here should be HAVE FUN, but I already know that you will do that.
I hope that your children have a great time with their new pen pals. Let me know how it goes! We will do the same.
If you have never heard of Black Science Month, it is no fault of yours. This special time to celebrate Africana scientists was recently established by four young African Americans: Leonce Hall, Kimberly Washington, Sydeaka Poisson, and Asar Imhotep. They are committed to “promoting the accomplishments and achievements of Blacks in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics”. Currently, while Black Science Month’s website is under construction, the collective is sharing tons of valuable information on their FaceBook Page (https://www.facebook.com/BlackScienceMonth). Some of their recent posts concern free medical school for Blacks and Latinos, a link to a Black inventor online museum, and a cartoon with Black characters personifying the scientific method.
Blacks are “not good” in Math or Science is a long proclaimed myth that through self-fulfilled prophecy, is affecting many of our children each day. How many of our boys believe that they are supposed to excel in athletics and struggle with academics? How many of our girls believe that computer programming and electrical engineering is only for Whites and Asians? Projects like Science Genius B.A.T.T.L.E.S (a hip-hop based science program) and Black Girls Code (both of which are shared on Black Science Month) are working diligently to change these myths.
Fallacies about Africans in Science are also dismantled by Black Science Month. Many students believe that Africa is one big charity case or war zone, based on images that they have seen in the media. Learning about the Nigerian who built a jet car that runs on the road and sea or the South African student who invented a waterless shower will open students’ eyes to a new reality. A reality in which their history and present is inundated with creative genius.
Asar Imhotep, a University of Houston Linguistics alum, states that he got involved with creating the page, “to encourage Black people to participate more in the various sciences, whether it be Chemistry, Physics, Astronomy, Mathematics, Agriculture…”. Imhotep gave us the inside scoop on what’s next for Black Science Month – exciting science experiments that children can conduct at home! Like the page on FaceBook and stay tuned throughout the year for news, history, opportunities, and much more!
Please check out this great article by Dr. Jawanza Kunjufu, PhD, about why many African American parents are choosing to homeschool (http://theatlantavoice.com/news/2013/sep/27/more-100000-african-american-parents-are-now-homes/).
Dr. Kunjufu lectures, trains teachers, and has written many books about improving academic achievement for African American children and the importance of African Centered Education. One book by him that we personally use in our homeschool is Lessons From History, Elementary Edition. Each chapter presents a stage of Black history, beginning with ancient African civilization. Also, there is a vocabulary list, questions, and exercises for each topic.
I respect Dr. Kunjufu’s work and would recommend it to any parent to use for a Black history component of their homeschool. There are only two criticism that I have of Lessons From History. One: Sometimes Kunjufu makes broad statements without fully explaining them, and you will have to do the research yourself to justify his statements to your child. This is less of an issue in the Middle School and Advanced editions because the length of the text allows the author space to detail each idea introduced. The Elementary Edition is simplified. Depending on the comprehension level of your elementary student, you may just want to skip straight to one of the more advanced editions and make adjustments as necessary.
Enjoy the article via the link, and tell me, why did you choose to homeschool?
Free E-Book This Week Only: Education for Liberation: The Top 20 Questions and Answers for Black Homeschoolers
I hope that you can benefit from this valuable information provided by Dr. Samori Camara. Download the full book free on your Kindle this week only.
While we all have our unique approaches to homeschooling, it is important to understand major methods as relates to what is best for our children. African Centered Education, as encouraged by Dr. Camara, puts African antiquity and modernity in the center of what can be a highly multicultural curriculum. Consider that there are thousands of cultures within the African Diaspora for our children to learn about, as well as European and Asiatic cultures.
Have your children learned about the Ashanti or the Mau-Mau? What about the Ba-Aka or Maasai? Does your child smile when he or she hears that you are about to recount an Anansi tale? Does he or she get excited at the thought of plantains or fufu? If you have not already researched African Centered Education, you will learn more about it in this free e-book, as well as gaining insights into homeschooling that will help any parent.
The book description on Amazon is as follows:
Are you ready to take the education of your child into your own hands? Are you disgusted with over testing and miseducation? Are you unsure about how to go about getting started on the journey of providing education for liberation?
Then, this book is for you. Within it, I use my years of practice and research to answer the most pressing questions new homeschooling parents have. No need to scour the internet getting half-truths and whole lies. The answers are here.
Will your child be able to go to college? Without question!
Can you do it? Absolutely!
“As parents you are the first teachers, so why not continue that natural process. You can teach your child using a culturally relevant curriculum, cultivate their minds and grow their spirits, and help bring out the natural genius already within them. You can find the time, resources, and faith to give your child the greatest gift: the gift of self-love, self-awareness, and self-determination.”
About the author:
Samori Camara, Ph.D., is the Founder and Director of Kamali Academy, an African-centered school in New Orleans, and is quickly becoming one of the nation’s leading authorities on Black education and building independent Black educational institutions.
Kamali Academy in New Orleans:
All the Best to You and Your Family,