Today, my son received his first letter (via email) from a boy his age in Senegal. This is the first time that my son has ever had a pen pal, and he is really excited about it. I have been researching international work exchange (volunteering with a family, business, or NGO in exchange for room and board) and found a sweet homeschooling mom in Senegal who needs help with her children for a semester or so. If things go well with our children getting to know each other, maybe we will stay with her family for a little while to gain a different experience of the world. (If you are interested in opportunities like these, visit workaway or HelpX.)
Benefits of a Pen Pal
Having a pen pal can help our children to learn more about their selves and about the world. They can also practice reading, writing, and typing skills in the process. You can tie in lesson plans on English Language Arts, Geography, and Social Studies easily into your children’s pen pal writing assignments. For instance, they can learn about the terrain and weather in their new friend’s country, the history, the culture, and the literary classics. Also, they have fun playing the games and sports that their friend abroad plays. Best of all, you can try the delicious international foods together!
Over the next week, my son and I will learn more about Senegal at the library and on the internet so that we can better understand his new friend’s country.
Finding a Pen Pal
If you would like to get your children started with International Pen Pals, there are several sites that can help.
Students of the World: Etudiants du Monde (Students of the World) is a French non-profit association, whose aim and ambition is to open the doors of the world’s cultures to young people. If you are a student, then the website will propose you pen-friends who are the same age as you, in the countries of your choice. Then, you will be able to discover new cultures, exchange ideas, stamps, postcards, improve your knowledge of a foreign language, and why not decide later to travel there ? The database includes 250,000 pen pals from 220 countries, 4,000 blogs, 7,000 clubs, 2,500 pen pal groups, many forums, educational games, 248 schools from 57 countries, and cultural information about 234 countries & territories (including 234 forums, 532 touristic pictures from 65 countries and 750 “virtual tours” views from several countries).
Global Pen Friends: Global Penfriends Internet Friends Club specialises in Postal and E-mail pen pals from all around the world. Their members are REAL people of all ages, looking for pen friends. Registration and profile submission is free. Their goal is to create a comprehensive listing of people from all over the globe who are interested in communicating with other people, whether it be for friendship, cultural exchange, language, travel or education. The site is family friendly and developed with Safety in mind. People of all ages are welcome here and can search for new contacts in a safe and friendly environment. All profiles on our system are manually approved for language and content.
My Language Exchange: My Language Exchange is the effort of Helene Cormier and Dan Yuen to help people all over the world learn, practice and become fluent in a foreign language. Together, they decided to use the Internet to bring the benefits of language exchange practice to people all over the world. In October 2000, MyLanguageExchange.com was launched. This was an online community that has since helped thousands of people find language exchange partners and improve their second language.
Pen Pal Safety:
There are some basic rules that you can follow to keep your child safe when writing to a pen pal.
1. Choose reputable websites.
2. Use Skype or other video chat software to verify that the person you are writing to is a child.
3. Don’t arrange to meet with anyone without having had extensive conversation and doing some of your own research.
4. Never send money to anyone.
5. Don’t respond to requests for sensitive personal information (i.e. copy of your passport, social security numbers, etc…)
The sixth rule here should be HAVE FUN, but I already know that you will do that.
I hope that your children have a great time with their new pen pals. Let me know how it goes! We will do the same.
I hope that you and your family had a wonderful week. As homeschooling parents, one of our everyday responsibilities is cooking. One of the biggest challenges for the African American community (and Americans in general) is healthy eating.
We have easy access to fast food restaurants and processed foods that seem to make our lives simpler, but wreak havoc on our bodies. Not only does the food lose nutrients during processing, the additives contained in them, such as high fructose corn syrup, MSG, artificial colorings, and trans-fatty acids, cause serious damage such as migraines, diabetes, liver disease, heart disease, and much more.
There are many reasons to eat healthier and institute healthier diets for our children. We may have more energy, be in better moods, attain and maintain our ideal weights, and prevent common diseases (even those that we believed were hereditary).
Our children may be calmer and more well-balanced after we remove stimulants such as caffeine, high fructose syrup, artificial colorings, and refined sugars from their diets. Their focus may improve, so that they can concentrate on learning rather than excess fidgeting or being subject to frequent cravings throughout the day.
Implementing a healthy diet may also be an effective assistant to managing ADHD, autism, or other difficult issues. If your child has health issues, please begin a research process on the effects of diet on your child’s issue if you have not done this already. I would be interested to know what you find!
In the African American community, many of us have been raised on fried foods, refined sugars and grains, white rice, and
delicious high fat desserts. Now that we have children of our own, we can create new traditions.
As a step towards healthy living, I would like to share links to vegan/vegetarian soul food sites.
PETA Vegetarian Soul Food Recipes: PETA shares recipes for vegan meatloaf, hoppin’ john, sweet potato pie, and more. The recipes look tasty, but I tend to avoid margarine because of negative health effects. Earth Balance vegan butter is a better product. Smart Balance also manufactures a healthy vegan butter. Too much soy is not good for you, so enjoy these recipes and stay as close as you can to whole fresh foods (fresh fruits, vegetables, legumes, and grains) in your everyday life.
West African Vegan/Vegetarian Recipes: Many of the West African recipes that we base African American soul food on are naturally vegan or vegetarian. Enjoy delicious foods such as red beans, chickpea soup, baked sweet potatoes, and banana fritters with no guilt afterwards!
Vegan/Vegetarian Caribbean Recipes: Another sister to African American soul food is Caribbean food. Islands such as Jamaica and Haiti received the same West African migrants as the American South. Try some savory tempeh patties, steamed callaloo, black bean and potato soup and coconut rice. Who said healthy vegan food had to be tofu and carrot sticks?
Enjoy cooking these scrumptious recipes! If your children are old enough, maybe they can help out in the kitchen.
Be sure to comment back and let me know which worked best for you!
Here’s to a healthy and happy new year!
Every February in grade school, I learned and re-learned the limited histories of a handful of key figures. Rosa Parks, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Garrett Morgan, Harriet Tubman, and Dr. George Washington Carver. It was rare that we heard about anyone else and if we did, we received trivia rather than histories.
“Who was the first Black major league baseball player?” (Jackie Robinson)
“Who was the first Black millionaire?” (Madame CJ Walker)
(For a more extensive famous firsts lists, click here)
The answers to these trivia questions have become embedded into my adult memory. Rosa Parks sat on the front of bus. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. marched for rights. Harriet Tubman freed slaves. Garret Morgan invented the traffic light and so on. However, these men and women did much more than that. Their extended biographies are not discussed until collegiate level African American studies, if at all.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. organized and spoke for both Labor and Civil Rights. The Poor People’s Campaign, planned near the end of Dr. King’s life, was intended to advocate for good jobs, healthcare, and housing for all Americans.
Each of the leaders mentioned have a deeper history than what is touched upon in common education.
For instance, Dr. George Washington Carver was a great scientist and inventor, but many people only associate him with the invention of peanut butter. Though Dr. Carver has done many great things, inventing peanut butter was not one of them.
Peanut butter is recorded as having existed as far back as 3000 years ago.
However, Dr. George Washington Carver did change (read: save) American agriculture by introducing crop rotation.
He did invent over 300 products using the peanut and over 115 products using the sweet potato.
These inventions included printer ink, synthetic rubber, material for paving highways, insulation board, and:
From the Peanut:
- 19 types of leather dyes
- 18 types of insulating boards
- 11 types of wall boards
- 17 types of wood stains
- 11 types of peanut flours
- 30 types of cloth dyes
- 50 types of food products
From the Sweet Potato:
- 73 types of dye
- 17 types of wood fillers
- 14 types of candy
- 5 types of library paste
- 5 types of breakfast foods
- 4 types of starches
- 4 types of flour
- 3 types of molasses
Dr. Carver also created over 500 different shades of paint, using extracts from the earth as well as research in manufacturing “paints and stains from soybeans”.
Dr. Carver is a perfect example of why we as parents and teachers should conduct further research on celebrated African American figures before we select our curriculum. I, too, am guilty of long associating Dr. Carver with peanut butter and could have easily passed down this unfairly abbreviated history to my son. It is our job as educators to dig deeper because we want our students to know full histories.
Also, we want our students to do the same, right? If we are going to continue teaching about the same central figures that were introduced to us in grade school, let us expand the lesson by adding a research dynamic. Let us challenge our students to teach us something that we did not know.
Our goal in this is to raise well-rounded scholars, not trivia champions on traffic lights and peanut butter.