I've been doing a great deal of reflection over the past 7 months. Most of my reflection has been on how well I have demonstrated what I want my children to emulate. I've also reflected on my intimate relationships with those close to me in my life- my spouse, children, in-laws, and friends.
Through reflection, one "thing" has been very evident. That "thing" is this- the idea that we as parents have the profound power to inject our children with identity, values, beliefs, ideologies, ways of being, etc. You can rest assured that our parental successes and failings will be made manifest through our children.
I know a young lady- gifted and talented in the arts- extraordinarily skilled at fashion designing and sewing (skilled since age 8). However, because her mother is of the mindset that these natural skills and gifts within her daughter are not "valuable" or "profitable", she not only has discouraged her from building onto these skills but has convinced her that going into "sports" is the best option for her to get accepted into college (she's currently in high school) as well as a college scholarship. I have witnessed almost 10 years go by with this child being misguided and not living up to her full potential because the mother herself has been socialized into thinking that the dominant societal culture's aspirations and projections are far more important and useful than the examples within her own culture which could assist her with helping her daughter master her natural God-given skills and calling. Further, I've witnessed this child suffer academically because the course materials forced upon her do not "draw out" or "lead" her into any greater understanding of her interests, talents and higher life calling.
In a nutshell, unless this child is able to escape the clutches of oppression (yes, I use the word oppression with all of its meaning here) that currently plagues her, she will only grow up to inject this same backwards, oppressive parenting to her own children- another generation lost.
Basically, I would not say that the schooling and training this young lady is receiving is education. I would describe it as societal conditioning. Education, from the Latin word educere, demands that we draw out or lead out the natural skills, abilities and capacities of our children. When we "dead" or discard their natural interests, skills and abilities, we disable their full capacity as creators. So, all of the training she's receiving in school as well as at home is only designed to turn her into a replica of what the dominant culture deems acceptable, profitable and admirable. So, while she is good at math and spacial skills as well as hand and eye coordination, this young lady, instead of using these skills to enhance her culture in the field of arts and design, she is made to entertain crowds as she plays average level basketball and volleyball because "she's tall".
My children have done almost a complete school year in traditional schooling and the conclusion for family at the end of the school year was this- they did not come out better than they went in. The socialization from the other children did not reflect our own family and community values and beliefs and the "academic training" was not conducive to drawing out or enhancing our children's natural interests, skills or ability- it increased their capacity very little in most areas (for the oldest 2 boys). I found myself debunking social studies lessons, fighting to keep my second oldest boy focused and having to explain malignant thought patterns and behaviors regarding their classmates that tried to manifest themselves in my children from time to time (namely disregard for authority, depression, and bullying). Basically, that traditional school year proved to be more about societal conditioning than it was about education.
This societal conditioning is what some parents are confusing with education. With education, we and those in our community helping us, start with a vision of seeing our children realize their fullest potential and purpose within our own defined construct- not one alien to us. I am convinced that when we are not doing what comes natural for us, when we are not mastering our innate gifts and talents, we can not fully realize our potential because our inspiration does not come from our life dreams and purpose. When we are "assigned" aspirations and jobs we merely function and exist to realize someone else's dreams and purpose. The construct of the traditional education system in this country was never designed to ensure the mastery of natural interests, gifts and talents. The first step to helping children truly achieve and succeed in life is to become aware of the difference between societal conditioning and education.
Let us know your thoughts.
Peace & Prosperity
In this never-ending role and gift of homeschooling and parenting, change/growth and evolution is necessary. As you develop as a whole, healthy parent and perfect your unschooling and/or homeschooling methods/models/etc.- these things will challenge your comfort zones and your hard-wired tendencies and proclivities.
Change requires growth.
Expansion requires stability.
Release the need for things to be perfect before you begin to make moves toward something better and greater. (I started out homeschooling with the goal for my youngest to read 4 to 5 word sentences (Stage Preschool to 1 books) and write 4 to 5 word sentences. He ended the year reading at a "2nd grade level" according to a formal test.)
We literally have to continue to grow into our best selves (continuous rebirth- come through Kemetic Ancestors!) as we shape and cultivate the minds and talents of our children.
I've learned so many skills sets and gained so much new knowledge/information all due to my commitment to providing needed opportunities to exposure and training for myself, my children and my community. I am an introvert by nature and I have a diagnosed mental health disorder which causes most people with this label to sporadically work and have to live on disability. I understand that some of my children's goals require monetary contributions that exceeded my husband's ability to pay. I stepped out of my comfort zone, started contacting old employers and now work part-time outside of my home in order to provide Taekwondo and STEM trainings (about $400/month). I had to give up the idea that "I'll never be able to work a regular job again." Yes, I might not be able to do this for years but I can do it for some months if I need to do so.
My immediate goal right now is to create a stable home and community environment for my family. I can not expect expansion, without creating a firm foundation (stability) ushered in by growth in my ideologies and daily habits.
What old ideologies, thoughts, or habits are you willing to lay down in order to create space for change/growth/evolution, stability and expansion?
I am married. My husband exists. But I am the primary educator and nurturer for our children. Let me explain...
In the last 2 1/2 years of this homeschooling journey, he's been rarely seen by most people. Until 2 weeks ago, he was an over-the-road driver which basically means he was a truck driver who travels long distances and has a work base away from their home. He was on the road for 26-27 days per month and home only 4 days per month. The children and I both got used to him not being physically available to and for us. It sucked at first but we managed.
Now that he's home, it still doesn't feel like the situation has shifted much. He works 10-14 hour days driving locally, is only off 2 days per week and he still isn't much available when he is home (he's usually sleeping or spending time with his son and daughter from a previous marriage). Now, I work part-time in order to earn extra income for our children to participate in extracurricular activities as well as some other important ventures. So, I come home from work Monday-Thursday from 8 am to 1 p.m. (I'm off on Fridays). I leave independent work assignments for the kids to complete while I'm at work once they wake up in the morning. I immediately come home and let them give me oral reports on their work and I check over it for accuracy, etc. I then go into the day's lessons. We head out to practices- Taekwondo, Track, Swimming, or Gymnastics. We also have days where we might have a library program. We come home, we eat, bathe, read bedtime stories, say our creed, and it's off to bed for the young ones. As for me- I try to give myself a few minutes of "no-thinking time" which loosely translates into me watching an episode of "30 Rock", "Great News", or "The Boondocks"- shows that make me laugh and don't require a lot of thinking and isn't action-packed. I then pray and fall asleep. My husband gets home around 2 a.m. AND REPEAT...
I say all this to say, I know that I am not the only parent who has "the Mother Load" of homeschooling and nurturing their children while their spouse/partner works outside of the house for the family. It's tough for me and there are days where I am just dog tired and frustrated with the present situation. I do understand that it might not always be this way- especially if we make plans for things to be different. This doesn't take away from the difficulty of the situation. It's emotionally and physically draining at times to handle an entire household of energy and young ones with differing personalities all by yourself most times. I'm thankful for coaches and instructors who work with me to help keep my children balanced and focused on their individual goals. I'm grateful for community library programs that allows us to spend time as a family having fun and learning together. I'm grateful for my eldest son's father who steps in and does the Baba role when my husband is working and ensuring that we can live comfortably.
I started this journey out determined (and I'm still determined) to be the foremost educator of my children. I am committed to ensuring that they are nurtured and given proper exposure to opportunities and challenges that will elevate them spiritually, intellectually, emotionally, and physically. IT IS A LOT TO DO FOR 1 PERSON but I'm staying the course. I have no prescription for anyone else's personal situation. I only share so that so many others understand that this homeschooling is a family-determined, culture-driven "process". It is ever-changing therefore new opportunities for what better serves your family is always possible if you set clear goals and work
I send encouragement out to fellow mamas and babas in this "single homeschooling while married" dilemma.
Peace & Prosperity
The Afrikan community in the United States of America and other worldwide suffered a tremendous lost in the recent slaying of community activist and entrepreneur Ermias Asghedom also known as Nipsey Hussle. After days of honoring his life and ushering his transition to the spirit world, I could think of no better way to continue his legacy of educating our community than to create a small educational project that I could share with my Homeschooling While Black family.
I offer you this Unit Study on our ancestor, Ermias "Nipsey Hussle" Asghedom.
Peace and Ase'
Like many parents, when I first started out on our family's homeschool journey, I read article after article on how others were homeschooling. I wanted to see what methods- from the old to the new- that people were using to provide a home-based education for their children. I looked through a plethora of resources businesses had to offer that could assist with teaching language arts, mathematics, sciences, the whole nine. Along this journey I also saw many "testing" assessments for children's learning as well. There were multiple choice tests, fill-in-the-blank tests, and open-ended assessments. In a nutshell, it all looked like what I was trying to get away from (traditional schooling).
Though I believe these kinds of "tests" may have their place in assessing where a child may be, it doesn't truly capture if a child has mastered or fully understands the concepts we deliver to them on a regular basis. For example, you teach your child addition, 3 + 3 = 6. Pretty simple. She may be able to add these 2 numbers up by drawing lines on a paper, counting on her fingers, or even using mental math.
Now, let's take this lesson to the grocery store. You put 3 apples in the cart. Then you ask, "How many more apples do we need to get 6 apples?" Some children may be able to figure this out. Others may be stumped. In my mind, this is an example of a child who can perform math computation on a worksheet or sheet of paper, but does not actually know "how to apply" the concept of the mathematics she's been learning. This is an example of testing versus application. After all, what's the use of knowledge that you can't in real life situations.
In our homeschool, we educate the children on entrepreneurship and business ownership. As an Afrikan-centered family with a mission of ensuring our children become influencers and sellers within the world community. We have Entrepreneurship Day every Friday where we discuss the basics of entrepreneurship such as how to start a business, overhead, profit, loss, etc. I have not bothered to give my children a paper test to assess whether or not they are obtaining the information. That's simple regurgitation.
Instead, two years ago when we first started homeschooling, we asked the boys what kind of business would they like to start up. They chose a lemonade stand. We worked with them on writing out a small business plan, creating flyers, marketing, branding, and customer service. To truly put them to the test, we hosted a "Grand Opening"at the garage of our home.
They sold $.50 cups of lemonade along with homemade cookies and lollipops for $.25 each. When neighborhood children or adults would walk up to the stand, our husband and I stood back to observe them. They were a little nervous at first but still excited! They gave their "assuming the sale" pitch ("Good afternoon. Which item would you like to try today?"), sold their products, counted the money (assessing their money counting knowledge, addition, and subtraction), and delivered their "ending pitch" ("We look forward to seeing you back next weekend!). After the day was done, we helped them count their revenue and calculate their profit. We then asked them what they liked most out of the experience and what they believe they could improve upon next lemonade day. These experiences have helped them to improve upon their marketing as well as expand their product line. They have even expanded their target audience by moving their lemonade stand to 2 local farmer's markets on some Saturdays and Wednesdays during Summer and Fall season.
Because we had made the decision early on to ensure our homeschooling was allowing our children to master concepts they could use in real life, any assessments that do not include placing our children in real life situations just would not suffice. Applied knowledge is true power. I encourage you as a homeschooling parent to incorporate real life application of concepts for your young and mature learners. Experience breeds competence and confidence. Let's ensure our Black children are going out into the world with great competence and confidence!
I know there is a special demographic among homeschoolers that include special needs children. As a parent of a special needs child, I know how important it is to access resources for a child who might need far more support than their typically developing peers. But what if you are a parent with special needs? Do you still have the ability to homeschool your children? Should you even try?
In 2016, I was formally diagnosed with "Bipolar Disorder" by my Western medicine healthcare provider. Because mental health is so stigmatized these days and people throw around words so loosely, I will explain what bipolar disorder is for those who wish to be more informed. The National Institute of Mental Health's website (www.nimh.nih.gov) describes bipolar disorder as "a brain disorder that causes shifts in mood, energy, activity levels, and the ability to carry out day-to-day tasks". With me, although I work extremely hard to stay "in the middle" (an informal way of saying "stable" with my moods), I do experience manic episodes where I can stay up for 48-72 hours at a time, creating curriculum, books, cleaning, and organizing; I can also have depressive days where I go without showering, getting out of the bed, and absolutely no cleaning or cooking (for myself or the children).
Any parent who has children under the age of 7 knows how much energy and focus it takes just to keep up with 1 child. So, for me, keeping up with 4 children that are ages 7 and under is PURE MANIA! Regardless of my diagnosis, I was determined in my decision to homeschool my children. Even so, I know that this will be a continuous journey of constant evaluation of my symptoms and how they affect my children.
How do I manage my disorder & homeschool my children?
When I was first diagnosed with bipolar disorder, I immediately took the prescription drugs given to me by my psychiatrist. My moods had such a negative impact on my family & friends that I had to do something quick before I caused any more damage than I already had. With our family's homeschooling, I take on many roles currently- primary educator, healer/nurse, chef, maid, janitor, chauffeur, sports manager, etc. For those with bipolar disorder, we tend to get overwhelmed quite easy. These moments of being overwhelmed can lead to lashing out or complete shut down- neither of which is healthy for raising children, nurturing their brilliance, or providing the loving discipline necessary to bring up a well-rounded human being. So, sometimes, we have to just take our "pill" and swallow it for the benefit of those around us.
I went through 3 medication changes before I ultimately decided to trust in more Eastern and natural ways to heal myself and control my moods. Below is my regimen for managing my bipolar disorder while successfully homeschooling my crew:
I. Emotional & Physical Support
I have a wonderful support system! This immediately helps in reducing the feeling of being overwhelmed by the demands of homeschooling. My husband, although he travels frequently, is always available at the drop of a dime to talk to me when I need to hear an encouraging word. He listens to me when I state what I need and even times when I'm not sure what I need, he's attentive enough to do the things he knows will help my current mood or situation. My mother is retired and has come to stay with our family for lengths of time when I need help with demands of keeping up a home. She has come for 1 month before and did all of the cleaning, washing, and cooking- which left time for me to simply focus on the academic/scholastic side of our homeschool days.
I also have great friends who (1) purchase education supplies for our children, (2) assist with meal preparation to give me a break, and (3) pick up/drop off my children to their various activities to lighten my load.
My husband is my greatest supporter. He's an over-the-road truck driver and he's gone 11 days and home for 3 days. He checks on me daily. We do video chat on a regular basis and it helps me just knowing he's thinking of us. If he senses signs of me becoming overwhelmed he orders food to be delivered to the house through Uber Eats or Speedwaiter. Every time he comes home, we have date night! He hires a sitter and we stay out all night...giving me that one on one time to vent, talk, relax, laugh out loud, feel loved and have his undivided attention. A lot of LOVE goes a LONG WAY!
2. Community Support
Some people have the idea that unschooling or homeschooling only takes place within the bubble of the 4 walls inside your home. FALSE! I utilize the resources within my community to assist in our journey because let's face it- HELP IS GOOD & we can't do it all by ourselves. Any free workshops or activities that the children are interested in, might give them exposure to opportunities, or coincides with our homeschool agenda- I schedule it! When I need assistance with math instruction, I hire a trusted tutor who comes in 2 hours per week for only $80/month. I also place the children in teams and learning centers that are STEM-centered to keep them on point and which I just don't have the interest or time to put into learning and then teaching myself.
3. Demonstrate Patience for Myself & My Children
Learning is a life-long journey. I am only giving my children a foundation for character building, self mastery, and education that will be a life-long endeavor and make living a life of purpose, on purpose more manageable and successful. I give myself a break. I give my children a break and realize that Afrika wasn't built in a day. Things take time. They will grasp concepts in time. I will become a more skilled and effective educator in time. That's a learning journey all in itself.
4. DO YOUR OWN WORK!
I am accountable for how I respond to events and circumstances in my life. So, although I do acknowledge having a chemical imbalance in my brain, I still am responsible and accountable for my actions (outbursts and mania- ALL OF IT). My current routine I'm working: