Sincerely, A Black Mother…

I’ve been trying to write this blog post since I published my last post… Bear with me because I spent more time releasing my emotions rather than correcting my grammatical errors and sentence structures.

My last post (10 Ways to Make Reading Fun for Your Child) was posted on May 25, 2020. At that time, I had no idea that George Floyd had been murdered by four police officers that same day. We’d just learned about Ahmaud Arbery, and then soon after we’d learned about Breonna Taylor. Then came Rayshard Brooks…then came the news of Elijah McClain… all of the protests. Black men and women are being found hanging from trees and it’s being called suicide. For the record, history has proven that my people would never hang themselves from trees. So many of my Black brothers and sisters have been slain at the hands of white men and women. FOR GENERATIONS. My ancestors experienced this excruciating pain. My mother and uncles witnessed marches for freedom as young children. My father’s birth certificate identified him as “Colored.” I’m sure he witnessed a lot as well. There are too many to name who’ve had their lives snatched away from them by the very people who were sworn in to protect and serve our communities. Unfortunately, the pain doesn’t end there. My people are being neglected, mistreated, and killed in hospitals as well. Women are crying out and telling people about the pain they are experiencing only to be ignored and later die. Black men and women are being admitted into hospitals for treatments, but are treated poorly based on their insurance coverage or lack of insurance. Oh! And it doesn’t end there. Black women, men, and children can’t even sit in their homes or enjoy time with loved ones without being at risk of being murdered by people in their very own communities. The list goes on, but I’m exhausted.

I’m exhausted because I am not only a wife to a beautiful, strong, Black king who unfortunately has a target on his back, but I am also the mother of two beautiful Black princesses. I’ve seen so many women speak out about their fears of being mothers to Black boys, but it’s been heavy on my heart to share what it’s like to mother Black daughters. It is said that “Fear is not an attribute of the Lord,” but jeez! I’m telling you it’s very hard to not fear for my daughters these days.

Being the mother of Black daughters means praying that:

-Your daughter does not have to mourn or grieve the loss of her Black father due to violence or jail (wrongfully convicted because we know that has happened for generations).

-She doesn’t have to grow up without you due to medical professionals neglecting you before, during, or after your pregnancy with her or her sibling.

-She will never be mistreated or neglected by those very same medical professionals.

-Her virginity will never be stolen from her by a sick man or woman.

-She will not be subjected to sexual harassment or rape because she “shouldn’t have been alone,” or “should have dressed differently.”

-No one sexualizes your baby PERIOD.

-She won’t be kidnapped and put into human trafficking.

-She will live and have the ability to conceive and bear children.

-She will never be physically, verbally, mentally, or emotionally abused by an insecure, toxic man.

-She will never lose her voice because she doesn’t want to be perceived as angry, aggressive, or less than.

-She won’t be discriminated against because of the hue of her skin, or her natural curls.

-She will always find herself beautiful in a world that celebrates either being the size of a model or having a figure like a video vixen.

-She will love her hair regardless of the texture.

-She will be taken seriously, valued, and seen as an excellent contribution to any team, role, or business where a man normally finds his place easily.

-She will continue to love her name even though it’s not white enough for job application and interview sake.

-She won’t be a single mother because of violence brought upon her Black husband.

-She doesn’t have to deal with the pain of losing her Black child to the very same thing that your prayers kept her safe from.

-She will know her worth in a world that demeans and spits on Black women.

-She won’t encounter a racist child on the playground because of their hateful parents.

-She doesn’t hide her pain because she is supposed to be a strong Black woman.

-She celebrates her Blackness and womanhood ALWAYS.

-She doesn’t get murdered in her own home while sleeping, and the murderers still walk freely.

-She lives…

The list goes on and on…

Mothering Black children is one of the most beautiful and fulfilling things I’ve ever done, but it is also the most difficult thing I’ve ever done. I’ve had so many tough conversations with my child and she is only 8. Why she can’t walk too far ahead of me, and never to walk behind me. I’ve coached her on how to watch my back when I’m strapping her and her sister into the car. How a man should never put his hands on her. How all police officers are not bad, and there are still some good ones out there. I’m constantly comforting her through her fears when her father leaves to go back to work in his truck to drive across a country that hates him. Trying to teach her that kind white people do exist when I’m teaching her History, although she’s witnessing the same murders and protests happening this very day. I’m constantly spewing love and affirmations into my girls to teach them to speak life into and over themselves now and forever.

Black mothers have to teach our children that they may hear terrible things or be mistreated simply because they are Black. Black mothers are steadily raising their children to hold their heads high and to always stand up for themselves. We still teach our children to love and respect others. I’m a God-fearing and loving woman, but let me tell you that is very hard to do. It’s so hard to keep a soft heart in such a cold world. Teaching your children to still love others requires you to steer clear of the hardness that is trying to make its way to your heart to make sure you raise a good human being. Whew!

I’m exhausted…

I’m praying over my daughters about things that I’m still praying about for myself, my sister, cousins, friends, and Black women across the world. I’m having conversations with my daughter about things that I’m still trying to digest and understand myself.

Sincerely, a Black mother.

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10 Ways to Make Reading Fun for Your Child

Wow! What a year 2020 has been thus far, right? Those who are parents and/or guardians of grade school children were propelled into the homeschooling journey. Schools across the nation are closed until the end of the school year, and some states are considering keeping them closed for the fall, are considering keeping distance learning in effect, or are creating new ways for schools to operate. That also puts summer programs at risk of taking place. What does that mean? You’ll still be responsible for your child’s learning experience.

I personally advocate for parents to continue teaching and encouraging their children to learn throughout summer break regardless of what’s happening in the world. Why? It helps bridge the learning gap that exists at the beginning of the next school year. When your child’s teacher introduces new material you want to make sure your child isn’t left behind or struggling to keep up. There are ways to make sure that your child is having endless fun throughout the summer, but still learning. I remember when I was younger (all the way through high school), my mother would create summer work packets for my sister and I. They were always ELA/reading based so I’m sure that’s why I love it til’ this day. When our schools sent home Summer Reading lists, my mother was right on it! Our work and chores were to be complete before playing, watching TV, or going outside. If I was attending a summer camp or had a summer job, my packet needed to be worked on when I came home.

Since reading and writing are my favorite subjects to learn and teach, I thought I would start with a few tips on that subject alone first. I’m no expert, but these are some methods that work for my children and I. Every learning experience differs per household and that is just fine! Find what works best for you and yours. I’ll include other subjects in the future.

So how do you make reading a little fun? There are several ways to incorporate some fun into reading time, but here are my top 10 go-to’s.

Read aloud together-Children participate in reading aloud all the time in school. When they are preschool-aged it looks more like the teacher reading at circle time. As they grow older, children take turns reading aloud. This still takes place in middle and high school as well. The teacher will call on students to read instructions, syllabi, and paragraphs in reading materials or books. Keep that same energy at home! Reading aloud allows you to hear how your child reads. Is there a flow? How many words per page are they struggling with? Are they pausing at commas and stopping at periods? These reading sessions are great for the parent and child alone, siblings and parents, or the whole family. It can even turn into a family book club. Older children may enjoy knowing that they aren’t the only ones in the house tasked with reading. They will feel supported.

Use an accent or favorite character voice-  This goes along with reading aloud. As the adult, I would start it off in order to set the tone. I loveeee using an accent when reading with my daughters. I always tell my 8-year-old to become the characters in the book she’s reading. How do they sound? Where are they from? Are they short or tall? Are the filled with excitement, or sadness? Are they mean or timid? I want to hear that when she’s reading. Of course you don’t want to make fun of another culture, however; if the story is based in a place like Texas or Louisianna there are distinct accents associated with those states! Using an accent, a favorite character voice, or even mimicking a loved one’s voice will have your child saying, “Ok! My turn!” I introduced my daughter to Harry Potter books a few months ago. When she would read aloud I reminded her to become the characters. Lo and behold, I had a mini wizard from Hogwartz sitting beside me. LOL

Act it out- Bring entertainment into the home! After your child reads a chapter or two, put on a play. You can choose to stick with the chapters that were just read or start from the beginning of the book until the last chapter read. This is basically putting a book report into motion! Have them go around the house and grab some things to create the setting of the book, make a mini stage, and make a costume (bonus: arts and crafts). If you have them, grab some wigs, makeup, and more. You can leave it as a one-man/woman show, or you can get the whole family involved. This is a fun way to get your kid moving. It gives them something to look forward to at the end of their reading. It forces them to actually pay attention to, and comprehend what they are reading rather than just reading words on a page. Afterward, you can give your critiques. If you feel like they missed a major part of the main idea, you can mention “I loved what you did here! Wow. What an amazing job! I remember there being a part of the story where ______ learned _____ no longer wanted to be friends. I didn’t see that in your show. Is there a reason why you didn’t include it in the play?” If your child doesn’t favor putting on a show, try making them a broadcast news journalist. They can “report” the news from the book and provide weekly or daily updates. If they are interested in music, they can make a song (rap or sing) about it.

Read in silence together– So maybe your child doesn’t like all the extra stuff, and they’d rather just read independently. That’s just fine. You can still take the experience up a notch by you each reading your individual books in the same room, and then discuss them. It’s very simple. You’d simply take turns telling each other what is happening in your book so far and do a little reading comprehension aloud. For example, sharing how you relate or don’t relate to the main character and story. What do you think will happen in the following chapters? What would your alternate ending to the book be?

Scavenger Hunt- Time for a mini scavenger hunt! These are great for younger children and older children. The great thing about scavenger hunts is that you don’t have to have a lot of space in order to have one. It can be done indoors or outdoors, in an apartment or a house.  Find specific objects from the book in your house and scatter them wherever the scavenger hunt will take place. If it’s a hunt with older kids you don’t even have to gather the items. Leave them where they are and have your child find them and bring them back to you. Set a timer to bring the drama and excitement. We all know kids love games and small competitions. There’s nothing wrong including a prize or incentive at the end.

Arts and craft– The things you can do with arts and crafts are endless. Craft or create what the book was about in any way that your child finds fun. Color worksheets that feature items from the story, draw, sew, build, and more. If you’ve taken care of the writing for the day, doing an arts and craft book report is a fun and creative alternative. If your child needs more writing work, have them to write out their book report first, and then use that as their blueprint for their artwork.

Easy. Just Right. Hard– Oftentimes, reading isn’t fun to children because they aren’t reading the right books. Maybe they’re bored because the book is too easy (older children), or maybe the books they find fun are too easy for them (younger children). You may even find that your child dislikes reading and quits easily. With your young child, let them read an easy book first. It gets them excited for reading time and builds their confidence. They’ll most likely know the book by heart and make little to no mistakes. For all ages, find books of their interests that are just right for their reading level. For example, my daughter is 8 and still loves picture books, however, her reading level is that of an 8th grader. So I let her choose some graphic novels or picture books as her easy book to read, and then choose just-right books that still meet her needs. She loves unicorns and mystical/magical worlds and characters, so Harry Potter and books like them are right up her alley.  I also choose some books that I’d like her to read as well that aren’t in the same genre as those. Lastly, you want to challenge your reader as well.  Choosing a book that is a little more difficult isn’t a bad thing. It allows you to gauge their reading progress and gives you words to work on with them. To make it a little easier on them, let them help you choose some of the difficult books. If it peaks their interest, it may make them more interested in reading it regardless of the difficulty. Remember, it’s important not to focus on the harder books because it can discourage them. We often make the mistake of giving our children nothing but difficult work. That is the easiest way to make your child lose confidence in themselves. You have to balance the reading material out by giving them a challenge, but not taking it overboard.

Create a reading nook–  Create a space that is specifically for your child that encourages reading and comfort. Also, let them choose the books they’d like in their nook in order to encourage independent learning. When reading together, you can let them select their favorite choice from a list of books you have chosen that is “just right” for their reading level.

Combine reading with another subject– When homeschooling, I often combine my daughter’s reading lessons with other subjects. She absolutely loves science so we’ll read articles, stories, and more on whatever we’re learning then. I use this method for all subjects! Including, but not limited to music, health, history, and geography.

Switch up the reading format/platform– It’s easy for human beings, not just children, to become bored with routine. Try audiobooks, kindle, or other downloadable books, online stories, and reading games through learning sites. This gives you a little break also. Young children can watch/listen to stories on many websites, but you’ll never go wrong with YouTube. Just be sure to check the quality of the video and videos to follow to make sure that you’re protecting your child’s innocence from anything inappropriate that could pop up.

These methods are perfect for new homeschooling parents, experienced homeschooling parents, and distance learning parents. We tend to believe that our children’s learning only takes place inside of school walls and that is far from the truth. Even when schools open back up and you return to work, do your best to incorporate at least one of these methods into your weekly schedule. Reading together or having your child read independently should take place daily and be no less than 20 mins, but can be as long as you and your child desire. You can split the time up into increments if 20 minutes is too long for a sitting. When you’ve chosen one day of the week to add on the fun activities listed above, the entire session should last no longer than an hour. However, if the fun is too good to end, keep going until you’ve passed out!

Happy parenting and teaching!

 

Homeschool 101: Issa Global Pandemic!

It’s no mystery that the world is facing a global pandemic. People all over are being heavily impacted by these conditions. People are losing their jobs, being sent home with no pay, teleworking, schools and programs are closed, and the list goes on. Originally, schools that were closed in the United States were closed for two weeks. Those closings have now been extended for most of or the remainder of the school year. Working moms and dads are now experiencing what it’s like to be work-from-home and stay-at-home parents, in addition to being homeschool parents. So many lives were changed overnight.  Many families are scared because they have elderly, sickly, or essential loved ones, suffering a financial loss, and most of all nostalgic about how things used to be. How do I homeschool?  This was never my plan? Heres my take.

Now that you have a few more weeks added to your new (kind of forced) homeschool journey, RELAX! It’s not as bad as it seems. There are a few steps you should take in order to make the most out of this time with your beautiful child(ren). First of all, yes you are homeschooling/distance schooling, but please understand this is not the same as normal homeschooling. This is pandemic-schooling. Those of us who were homeschooling before COVID-19 aren’t even schooling the same! No co-ops, no playgrounds, no library visits, and more. So take a step back, breathe deeply, and take this new journey on day-by-day.

Unschooling/deschooling is one of the most important steps you can take during this time. It is the process in which both you and your child(ren) release your ideas and/or learned ways of schooling. It encourages exploration, student-led, and life learning. I stress that unschooling is not just for your child, but it is also for you. Teaching in a home environment is completely different than in a school building. While you may keep some of the public school methods that work for your child, it’s important that you do not force those things that to take place at home. Your child views you differently than he/she does their school teachers.

One of the biggest lessons I had to learn with homeschooling is to become flexible and to remain flexible. I’ve tried to stick to a schedule hundreds of times. It never works! Some days I’m up at 7am with a solid plan for my daughters, others I’m up at the same time, but not moving until 9:45-10am. I used to stress over having a strict schedule, but the flexibility works for my family. The days that I find myself moving slower, I actually notice my oldest daughter needed the extra time as well. However, I realize that many reading this blog will be running to the car or bus stop to get their children back in school once it’s open. So keeping a schedule similar to what it’ll be like once school begins again may work best. I also know that you may have to work! If your child has a zoom class meeting, set them up and work. If they can work independently, set them up and work! But if you are required or needed to help finish schoolwork, give your baby some simple tasks like journaling, cleaning, watering the plants, and more to hold them over until you have a break or you’re logged off for the day. Working, cooking, cleaning, and teaching is not easy, so don’t put that much pressure on yourself.

In addition to those two steps, be sure to incorporate a lot of fun and playing in your day. Like I mentioned at the beginning of this post, pandemic-schooling is not the same as homeschooling. Your child loves you and enjoys being home, but they are missing their friends, teachers, recess, extracurricular activities, festivals, dances, graduations, and more. Most importantly, those old enough to understand are under a lot of pressure and possibly scared. Try incorporating some of their interests into their learning experience. For example, if they are into music have them write a rap or song about one of their lessons or a topic. Let them put on a show and perform it. It combines music and creative writing all in one. You can discuss, proofread, and edit it together. You also never know what your child finds interesting. Bring them into the kitchen to cook with you. If it’s ok, let them see how you do your job, give them some assignments based on your work. They need real-life experiences still! I intentionally let my daughter watch me work on our family budget sheet, pay bills, and put money into our savings. I also let her work with me when I completed our taxes. You can really do anything and make it a learning experience!

Lastly, remain confident. Be confident that you are an excellent parent, employee, and person. You are doing your best with something that was just thrown into your lap. If your child only worked with workbooks, printouts, YouTube, and online lessons for the day, that was a productive day. If you were able to interact and actively teach for the day, that was a productive day. Every day doesn’t look the same, and that is OKAY! You have been raising and teaching your child since the day they were born. You are more than capable of teaching your child during this crisis. I understand that some of us are parents to younger children as well. I have a very active 2-year-old daughter. Some days we’re working together, others she’s learning through play. I am a parent who uses YouTube all the time for learning. We use puzzles, she plays with her dolls, blocks, and more. I recently purchased an Elevated Learning binder from Momi Swap. If you have a preschooler thru 1st-grade child, it is one of the best investments. The owner is Majidah Muhammad, a beautiful mother of two, who is an educator, but also homeschools and owns a homeschooling co-op. You can learn more about her and what she does through her website Momi Swap.

Be sure to subscribe and turn on your notifications. I will be posting a follow-up video where I speak a little more on what’s mentioned here and show a little bit of the changes that have taken place in our household.

Happy teaching!