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Approaches to Homeschooling in the 21st Century

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Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today. – Malcolm X

Greetings,

Home education can take various forms, according to your needs and resources.  One common perception of home schooling is that you will spend all day at home with your children, painstakingly drilling through academic subjects, while isolating them from the rest of the world.  The most frequent that you will be asked as a home schooling parent is, “What do your children do for socialization?”  This concept of home schooling is outdated, if it ever held any truth.

Personally, I am a single mother who works part time during the year and full time during the summers, attends school, and home schools my son.  Thus, I have had to be very innovative in my approach to home schooling.  I use a combination of the three methods that I have listed below.  If you struggle with making money while home schooling, visit How to Work and Homeschool.

What I can tell you is that home schooling your children does not require 8 hours a day and you do not have to do it alone.  Honestly, there are too many resources and like-minded parents available to make doing it alone necessary.  

As you plan your upcoming school year, reflect on these methods for home-educating: 

Old School:

Decide which subjects that you want your children to study and secure books and worksheets in these subjects.  Combine instruction, self-guided exercises, and independent projects.  Include online components, outdoor play, and regular exercise.  Plan daily time for reading, whether that be student independent reading or you reading aloud.  Allow your child to fellowship with other children through after school programs, academic clubs, community/district sports teams, and/or religious meetings.

Home School Collective/Cooperative:

You will still decide which subject that you want your children to learn, but you may not be teaching/guiding in all of these subjects.  You will work with 1 or more other parents to provide a collective education for your children.  Sit down before the semester begins and plan which times and subjects that each of you will teach or guide the students.  For instance, you may teach English and Writing, another parent may teach Math and Science, and another parent may teach French and Art.  

If you need to work part-time, you may leave your child with the other parents for a certain amount of hours each day and they may do the same with you.  Or, you may work full-time and pay or barter with the other parents to teach/guide most of all of your children’s subjects.  The reason that I said, “teach or guide” is because not all subjects require teaching.  

A new math lesson, for example, may require 15 minutes of presentation and demonstration and the exercises can be completed alone by your student in an additional 45 minutes, with a small amount of guidance.  Similarly, a reading comprehension selection with questions can be completed independently many students, third grade and above.  Also, junior high and high school students should be taught how to learn rather than just memorizing what is taught in lecture format.  At the JH/HS level, well-taught students can follow in-text directions, watch online videos, complete independent research for a majority of their work.

Mixing it Up:

Another approach to home education is to take advantage of local classes and opportunities being offered.  Your city’s major museum may offer a fine arts class for home schooled children, while the Black bookstore may have a Saturday history class.  Many nature centers/arboretums and libraries also have home school offerings.  

Research free and paid home school classes and activities in your city at the beginning of the semester, and you can combine your selections into the daily schedule.  Also check your local YMCA, community center, or parks for swim, martial arts, boxing, soccer, softball, basketball, football, or other athletic training that may interest your child.  

Another important resource to research is musical training in your area.  You can enroll your child in private lessons for any instrument that you choose, and join or form a home schooled children’s band.  Free or low cost language courses are offered through many public libraries or religious facilities as well.  For instance, in Houston, children can learn Spanish or Mandarin Chinese for free through Houston Public Library, French for  a low cost through Houston French Alliance, and or Arabic through local mosques.  In any area with online access, your child can use free resources like Duolingo to learn a foreign language.

Are you already using one or more of these approaches?  Are you planning to incorporate part of all of an approach listed here for the coming school year?  If so, please get back to me and let me know how it works out for you.  Blessings to you and your family!

All Best,

Nikala Asante

 © 2014 Nikala Asante

International Pen Pals

Greetings,

Today, my son received his first letter (via email) from a boy his age in Senegal.  This is the first time that my son has ever had a pen pal, and he is really excited about it.  I have been researching international work exchange (volunteering with a family, business, or NGO in exchange for room and board) and found a sweet homeschooling mom in Senegal who needs help with her children for a semester or so.  If things go well with our children getting to know each other, maybe we will stay with her family for a little while to gain a different experience of the world.  (If you are interested in opportunities like these, visit workaway or  HelpX.)

Benefits of a Pen Pal

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Having a pen pal can help our children to learn more about their selves and about the world.  They can also practice reading, writing, and typing skills in the process.  You can tie in lesson plans on English Language Arts, Geography, and Social Studies easily into your children’s pen pal writing assignments.  For instance, they can learn about the terrain and weather in their new friend’s country, the history, the culture, and the literary classics.  Also, they have fun playing the games and sports that their friend abroad plays.  Best of all, you can try the delicious international foods together!

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Over the next week, my son and I will learn more about Senegal at the library and on the internet so that we can better understand his new friend’s country.

Finding a Pen Pal

If you would like to get your children started with International Pen Pals, there are several sites that can help.

Students of the World: Etudiants du Monde (Students of the World) is a French non-profit association, whose aim and ambition is to open the doors of the world’s cultures to young people. If you are a student, then the website will  propose you pen-friends who are the same age as you, in the countries of your choice. Then, you will be able to discover new cultures, exchange ideas, stamps, postcards, improve your knowledge of a foreign language, and why not decide later to travel there ? The database includes 250,000 pen pals from 220 countries, 4,000 blogs, 7,000 clubs, 2,500 pen pal groups, many forums, educational games, 248 schools from 57 countries, and cultural information about 234 countries & territories (including 234 forums, 532 touristic pictures from 65 countries and 750 “virtual tours” views from several countries).

Global Pen Friends: Global Penfriends Internet Friends Club specialises in Postal and E-mail pen pals from all around the world. Their members are REAL people of all ages, looking for pen friends. Registration and profile submission is free. Their goal is to create a comprehensive listing of people from all over the globe who are interested in communicating with other people, whether it be for friendship, cultural exchange, language, travel or education.  The site is family friendly and developed with Safety in mind. People of all ages are welcome here and can search for new contacts in a safe and friendly environment. All profiles on our system are manually approved for language and content.

My Language Exchange: My Language Exchange is the effort of Helene Cormier and Dan Yuen to help people all over the world learn, practice and become fluent in a foreign language.  Together, they decided to use the Internet to bring the benefits of language exchange practice to people all over the world. In October 2000, MyLanguageExchange.com was launched. This was an online community that has since helped thousands of people find language exchange partners and improve their second language.

Pen Pal Safety:

There are some basic rules that you can follow to keep your child safe when writing to a pen pal.

1. Choose reputable websites.

2. Use Skype or other video chat software to verify that the person you are writing to is a child.

3. Don’t arrange to meet with anyone without having had extensive conversation and doing some of your own research.

4. Never send money to anyone.

5. Don’t respond to requests for sensitive personal information (i.e. copy of your passport, social security numbers, etc…)

The sixth rule here should be HAVE FUN, but I already know that you will do that. :D

I hope that your children have a great time with their new pen pals.  Let me know how it goes!  We will do the same.

All Best,

Nikala Asante

 

October is Black Science Month!

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Greetings,

If you have never heard of Black Science Month, it is no fault of yours.  This special time to celebrate Africana scientists was recently established by four young African Americans: Leonce Hall, Kimberly Washington, Sydeaka Poisson, and Asar Imhotep.  They are committed to “promoting the accomplishments and achievements of Blacks in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics”.  Currently, while Black Science Month’s website is under construction, the collective is sharing tons of valuable information on their FaceBook Page (https://www.facebook.com/BlackScienceMonth).  Some of their recent posts concern free medical school for Blacks and Latinos, a link to a Black inventor online museum, and a cartoon with Black characters personifying the scientific method.

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Blacks are “not good” in Math or Science is a long proclaimed myth that through self-fulfilled prophecy, is affecting many of our children each day.  How many of our boys believe that they are supposed to excel in athletics and struggle with academics?  How many of our girls believe that computer programming and electrical engineering is only for Whites and Asians?  Projects like Science Genius B.A.T.T.L.E.S (a hip-hop based science program) and Black Girls Code  (both of which are shared on Black Science Month) are working diligently to change these myths.

Fallacies about Africans in Science are also dismantled by Black Science Month.  Many students believe that Africa is one big charity case or war zone, based on images that they have seen in the media.  Learning about the Nigerian who built a jet car that runs on the road and sea or the South African student who invented a waterless shower will open students’ eyes to a new reality.  A reality in which their history and present is inundated with creative genius.

Asar Imhotep, a University of Houston Linguistics alum, states that he got involved with creating the page, “to encourage Black people to participate more in the various sciences, whether it be Chemistry, Physics, Astronomy, Mathematics, Agriculture…”.  Imhotep gave us the inside scoop on what’s next for Black Science Month – exciting science experiments that children can conduct at home!  Like the page on FaceBook and stay tuned throughout the year for news, history, opportunities, and much more!

All Best,

Nikala Asante

Yoruba Names Lesson Plan

Yoruba Names Lesson Plan

Greetings!

I hope that your week is going well.  Today, after a discussion about the meaning of names, I felt inspired to search for a lesson plan about the reverence given to the naming process in Africa.  Sometimes, people ridicule African names because they may be difficult to pronounce.  It is important that we teach our children respect for names, no matter how different that they may sound.

For instance, in Nigeria, Abayomiolorunkoje is one name for a boy from the Yoruba ethnic group.  In America, a boy may be teased for having a name so complex.  However, in Yoruba, the name means, “People wanted to humiliate me, but God does not allow [it]“.

Follow the link for an awesome lesson plan on Yoruba names, appropriate for students 2nd grade and above.  One note: the link to the Smithsonian website within the lesson plan did not work, so you can visit this site (http://www.onlinenigeria.com/nigeriannames/Yoruba.asp) for a list of Yoruba names and their meanings.

This lesson plan can also be adjusted for discussion on Akan day names (http://www.twi.bb/akan-names.php).  The Akan people in Ghana oftentimes name their children based on the days that the children were born.  It would be very simple to have an Akan naming ceremony as part of a unit about Ghana.

Enjoy, and all feedback is welcomed.

All Best,

Nikala Asante

Homeschool Math and Science Resources

Homeschool Math and Science Resources

Greetings,

Today, I would like to share with you a new website created by a dear friend of mine, Deirdre Mimes-Danner.  She is a homeschooling mom with a special passion for math and science.

Deirdre has created a wonderful site for homeschool math and science resources, videos, and books.  While the site is still under construction, there are already many helpful links posted that you can immediately use.

Enjoy!

All Best,

Nikala Asante

Free Africa Unit Studies Lapbooks

Free Africa Unit Studies Lapbooks

Free Ghana Unit Study and Lapbook

Greetings,

I hope that you are having a pleasant Sunday.  Please enjoy these free Africa Unit Studies Lapbooks in creating a culturally relevant and diverse curriculum for your students.

All Best, 

Nikala Asante

Green Belt Movement Curriculum

Greetings,

I hope that your week is going well.  Today, I want to talk about a super heroine of mine.

Dr. Wangari Maathai she was born in a small town in the East African country of Kenya.  Even though it was hard for a girl to get an education in this area, she completed grade school, flew to the USA and earned a Bachelor’s of Science in Biology, a Master’s Degree in Biological Sciences, and a PhD in Anatomy.

She used her love for science and nature to start the Green Belt Movement  in 1977.  Women involved in the GBM have planted more than 10 million trees since 1977 which has helped to restore the soil in Kenya after immense deforestation.

Dr. Maathai was the first African woman to earn the Nobel Peace Prize.  She earned this honor for her contribution to “sustainable development, democracy, and peace”.

She received honorary doctorate degrees from 13 universities, in Kenya, the USA, Norway, and  Japan.  She also received over 55 awards in her lifetime, such as the Nelson Mandela Award for Health and Human Rights from South Africa and the Indira Gandhi International Award for Peace from India.  Dr. Maathai was voted one of the 100 most influential people in the world by Time Magazine and one of the 100 most powerful women in the world by Forbes Magazine. 

Sadly, Dr. Maathai passed away in September 2011.  Fortunately, her legacy continues.  The Green Belt Movement has published a Community Classroom curriculum through PBS including lesson plans, handouts, and videos for grades 9-12 (or ambitious&talented younger students). 

Please make use of this curriculum to expand your students’ social, environmental, and cultural awareness. 

All Best,

Nikala Asante

Indoor Container Gardening

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Greetings,

We recently purchased a little pot of lavender with the goal of starting a small indoor container garden of herbs and vegetables.  For those of us who are yard space-challenged, indoor gardening may be an optimal option to get in touch with our green thumbs.  Our lavender has already grown to about 150% of its original size within 3 weeks.  With this in mind, we will be expanding our indoor garden to include more herbs and a few vegetables.

Gardening is a valuable component of a well-rounded homeschol curriculum.  If you would like to join us in our indoor gardening venture, please visit the following links:

Easiest Vegetables to Grow Indoors: Lettuce is at the top. Spinach, radishes, and tomatoes (using an aero garden) are also viable.

Herbs to Grow Indoors: Any herbs can be grown indoors, under the right conditions.

How to Grow an Herbal Tea Indoor Garden: Chamomile and Mint Tea is great for the kids and for you too!

Gardening Lesson Plans for kids: Awesome lesson plans from Growing Minds.

More Gardening Lesson Plans: Lesson plans for kids from Utah State University

Enjoy your indoor garden and let us know know it goes!

All Best,

Nikala Asante

George Washington Carver Did Not Invent Peanut Butter?

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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.

Rosa Parks was an organizer against interracial violence and a Civil Rights activist long before the planned bus boycott.  She did not just happen to be tired that day.

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

(Read extended list of inventions here or here.)

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.

All Best,

Nikala Asante