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September Homeschool Recap

September Homeschool Recap

With the first month of homeschool pre-k 2017 behind us, I thought it’d be a good time to share what’s been going on in our journey. The universe is doing that thing where, now that I’m focused on something, I see it everywhere. Before I started really thinking about homeschool, I didn’t really see any black representation in this space or even many black families with interest. Now though, it seems like everywhere I turn the black homeschool/unschool conversation is being had. It’s beautiful and inspiring. Helpful and hopeful.

Even though we aren’t sure where this journey will take us this year, I felt compelled to join the conversation. To share our perspective of newbies–for real–what’s been working, what hasn’t, resources we’re using and loving, and things we’re looking forward to in the month ahead.

I’ll start by saying that, this month didn’t go at all as planned. About halfway through September, I wound up taking an on location contract assignment (I’m sharing some real life revelations in this week’s newsletter about that experience. It’s a good one.) unexpectedly that left the hubs in charge of homeschooling the majority of the month. I had barely gotten an idea of how I wanted to structure our days and lessons so things were a little chaotic. That’s definitely the scale of homeschooling. Flexible enough to adjust to the flow of life but, when you’re caught in the ebb, it’s still your job to ensure the learning continues.

Even with the unexpected teacher switch, I think the month went well.

REFLECT | I find myself still struggling with releasing my expectations and ideas about the way a child “should” learn. Some programming is hard to break and I’ll admit it’s been difficult giving Jr. space to learn in his own way instead of enforcing rigid rules and structures–which doesn’t work for him and exactly why we wanted to explore homeschool in the first place. He’s been working on sight words and reading many short sentences. It’s been fascinating to watch him discover words he recognizes in the midst of short stories. Seeing his mind work out that he knows a few words on a page has been nothing short of magical but I had some concerns about letter recognition. Certain letters he isn’t able to recognize–I think because I’ve also heard him randomly identify them at other times–and I was feeling a bit stressed. And then I read something, totally unrelated to homeschooling that put my mind at ease a bit.

Jr. thinks differently and I don’t want to stifle his creativity. He’s reading and I’m excited for that and we’ll continue to do so. I can’t wait to see him work his way through his first book. In the meantime, I’ll do some research on letter recognition and find out how to help him…or not…and take it from there.

LOOK FORWARD | Perhaps the funniest moment this month was while we were out exploring,  Jr. held out his hand (a closed fist) to give me a surprise. I should have known better than to take “surprises” from a sneaky faced four year old boy. It was a worm. I then took notice of his interest in different insects we found along our nature walks. Caterpillars, worms, ants, and even slugs (shudder). This is definitely NOT my forte but one thing I really wanted to focus on during this homeschool journey was paying attention to the things Jr. is naturally interested in and finding new ways to explore them. Since he’s seems to really love being in nature and inspecting insects I researched ways for him to “dig deeper”. I found a really cool organization here in Philly called NaturePHL that offers environmental playdates for free! Excited to spend a few afternoons exploring this month before it gets too cold.

SEPTEMBER HOMESCHOOL RESOURCES

Y’all know how I feel about sharing good things, so I put together this list of all the resources we’ve come across this month that we’ve enjoyed. Pass them along if you know a homeschooling family who’d be interested!


Every Sunday I share a letter from my journey with those on my email list. WELL SPENT is part things I’ve come across that inspire me, things I think might resonate with you, and a lesson from the journey.



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Motherhood

Considering Homeschool

Considering Homeschool
I’ve been thinking about homeschool since we moved to the city. Coming from a suburban district into a financially strapped urban district has been quite the experience. I have gone through every emotion from anger, to sadness, to frustration, to disgust, to resolve, to determined and back around again. It’s mind blowing and heartbreaking and blood boiling, truly, to see the disparities between the two so up close and personal like this. And it’s super discouraging to not see a light at the end of the tunnel or a way to really set things right. From the moment I had my first encounter with the school district, my mind has wandered into the realms of homeschool.

And let me be clear, it’s not just this particular district that has me rethinking everything I’ve learned about school and education. It’s definitely been a combination of things that have pushed me towards this consideration, our current public school experience being the lightbulb that set off all the other thoughts. Coming here, I was forced to become more active in my kids schooling than ever before. Whereas in our other district, along with working full time, less flexibility, and having a different mindset and outlook on life in general, I took a much more relaxed approach. That not being an option anymore…combined with general life and soul awakenings, I’ve been able to see things through a different lens. And that lens has had me considering homeschool more and more.

What Homeschool Might Look Like for Our Family

One thing that I’ve been really intentional with is, instead of looking at it through a family lens, we focus on each child individually when it comes to the homeschool conversation. Especially with the two older boys solidly in school routines. I’ve been looking to them to see really what their needs are, their preferences, my abilities, and if homeschool would be a good option for them–my feelings on public school aside. I feel like, for our oldest son (N) who’s going into 7th grade, traditional school is best for him right now. For one, we’ve asked him and he heavily prefers traditional school. And two, his personality is such that works best with a lot of structure, routines, and explicit directions. He does really well in traditional school and we worked really hard to get him into a really good one in our city–even if it is 30 minutes away because our local middle school closed. Le sigh…

Our middle son (S) is going into the 3rd grade and I think he would do well with homeschool. For one, he’s told me he wanted to. His personality is super focused on whatever it is he’s feeling at the time and also he’s really good at just doing really good work and getting it done. He’s super independent, has crazy attention to detail, and is very vocal about his needs. He does exceptionally well in traditional school but, I do feel like with homeschool, he could really flourish. The thing is, I’m not even close to prepared to do so, there are many things I need to research to make sure I’m going about it in the right way (state laws and what not) AND I want to make sure I’m actually able to give him the support he needs for homeschool. I’ve decided to take this school year to prepare and educate myself and revisit the discussion in late winter/early spring. I’m heavily involved in his school, current President of the parent organization, and have done a great job supporting and supplementing so far. We’ll continue on that path…for now.

And Jr. Our wildcard. He’s of pre-K age and only attended a few months of a preschool program last year. He wasn’t a fan. He’s almost 5–in October–and is extremely smart. He’s also really creative, free spirited, and isn’t really a structured, routine kind of kid. This is a probably just a result of his life experience so far. At just months old he was traveling the east coast to see Daddy perform, attending hip hop classes by one year old, and performing on stages and in shows by two. He’s been surrounded by the arts and exploration his whole life so the traditional school classroom is sort of a struggle for him. And I don’t want learning to be a struggle. Especially because he’s so bright. Case in point, last year, I tried the traditional sit here for 15 minutes let’s go over these words approach to reading that they teach in you in school. It was a battle every minute. This year, after seeing how much he loved Pokemon cards (shout out to the big bros) and how he’ll carry them around with him wherever he goes, I bought flash cards to go over his sight words. SUCCESS. He’s reading 10 – 15 sight words on his own and we really just started. And yes, he takes them with him and practices wherever he goes. We’ll be doing homeschool pre-K for Jr this year.

I’m using this time while there are still no real restraints or rules, to really figure out homeschool. To find the co-ops in our area. To get familiar with the resources. To see what works and what doesn’t. To research curriculums and all of that good stuff. By next year when we have to fill out the paperwork that either enrolls him or opts them (Jr. and S) out…I’ll be ready. ~xoxo


Every Sunday I share a letter from my journey with those on my email list. WELL SPENT is part things I’ve come across that inspire me and things I think might resonate with you.



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Life Motherhood

Carefree Summer ’17

Carefree Summer

The summer solstice is upon us, summer break has arrived for my boys, and I have absolutely nothing planned for this entire summer. I’m affectionately dubbing this #ourcarefreesummer and will be documenting the whole adventure, and some days the lack thereof.

I don’t know whether it’s just exhaustion from the constant planning, my annual reflective state multiplied by a million with my 3oth birthday on the horizon, or simply the fact that this summer snuck up on me and ya girl was not ready, like at all. But, I just wasn’t here for the super structured, activity overload, insanely organized summer. No thank you, y’all can have it.

I planned nothing, I have no idea how the days will go. All I got, is that we’ll take it day by day. Go where sun takes us. Play where the breeze feels nice. I’ll let them explore and I’ll take lots of naps. We’ll do random things and hopefully experience an epic adventure or two. Carefree summer ’17. ~xoxo


Every Sunday I share a letter from my journey with those on my email list. WELL SPENT is part things I’ve come across that inspire me and things I think might resonate with you.



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Life Motherhood

Listen to the Babies

Favorite Teacher
This motherhood thing is tough work. Work that I signed up for, but tough all the same. Especially when you’re trying to raise really awesome children, that are confident, happy, loved and love…when you have no real clue how to do that. When you lowkey feel like you’re impersonating an adult. And when you highkey don’t feel like any of those things yourself.

I suppose anyone could feel this way, at any age, at any stage in life. But, for me, as I’m going through a period of self discovery…it feels uniquely tricky. Still though, I do my best. I teach my children what I know and what I’m learning. I apologize often for not being the best at all the things and I pray that they feel my sincerity. I pray that I’m doing this right, even though I know there’s really no such thing. Because, truthfully, even if I try my absolute very best, they’ll still probably be better parents than me because…isn’t that the point? To raise little people who will grow up to be better people? Better than you.

Through it all, I keep going. I keep pushing. I keep striving. I keep leading by example. All in hopes they catch the message. In hopes they learn from my triumphs and my mistakes. In hopes they are hearing me, the best little boys can. That’s all you can really do right? Is teach and lead.

But…you can also learn. From who? From them. And sometimes, it’s them who makes you grow up to better people, better than you were before them.

Listen to the babies. They’re our greatest teachers. 

I received a glimpse of this truth from my youngest son. I had decided to ask him the questions I saw in this video on Facebook. Asking my kids questions is one of my favorite things to do. There’s so much knowledge inside them, knowledge that we as adults tend to forget. As I figured, Jr’s responses were hilarious and eye opening in all the ways you’d expect from a 4 year old…and in ways you wouldn’t too.

His best friends are “all of us” and his favorite place is “in here” meaning home. He’s scared of spiders and isn’t sure if I’m 17 or 800. His favorite color is red, green, and blue–it’s too big of a task to just choose one. His favorite food is spaghetti, but just the noodles and he also loves pigs (how random). Playing makes him happy and not playing makes him sad. And his favorite movie is Home…seriously, we have watched Home at least 101 times. I’m not even kidding.

From the mouth of babes. But during our questioning, there were two answers that stuck out to me the most. Answers that had me looking at my baby boy like he was wise beyond his years. Because he is. Listen to the babies. They be knowing.

Who do you want to be when you grow up?

Jr: Myself.

Full. Circle. Moment. How beautiful that was to me, his mama who is embarking on this journey of self discovery. Who has been peeling back the layers to figure out who I really am…disappointed that I suppressed that girl so long ago and adamant on empowering my children to be unapologetically themselves in all ways. I was affirmed by my baby boy. At the tender age of 4, he understood that all you need to be when you grow up is yourself. That may seem like such a minor thing to y’all but I’m telling you. This world tries to make you be something you’re not every single day. And for black boys, the noise is LOUD. Hearing that confidence and knowing my boy is miles ahead of me gives me inexplicable joy.

What does love mean?

Jr: You.

Excuse me while I wipe away the tears. If you didn’t gather from the beginning of my post…I never feel like I’m doing enough. But if we’re being real, all of this–and I do mean ALL, yes being a little woo woo here–comes down to love. That’s what this whole life thing is about. Love. Showing love, practicing love, giving love, growing in love. It’s all love. The moment my son answered what does love mean with a simple word “You” I realized, that I had been missing the big picture. He reminded me that I’m doing the most important thing. Love. And he can see that love in me. Whaattt. My heart. ~xoxo


Every Sunday I share a letter from my journey with those on my email list. WELL SPENT is part things I’ve come across that inspire me and things I think might resonate with you.



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Kids Motherhood

Our Back-to-School Checklist

Back-to-School | Styled Her Life

The Back-to-School countdown is real. One of these days I’ll become the person who “stays ready” but until that day I’ll just work on not being the person who waits until the last minute to do…everything. Baby steps. To keep myself on track, I broke down what I need to do for the kiddies to get ready for Back-to-School. Two checklists for two kids in two different schools…and maybe a half day preschool program, though we’ll see. Make sure you grab the download at the end of the post and find your happy place checking off things as you go!

  • Make any outstanding doctor’s appointments. Especially for those kids entering a new school or heading to school for the first time. Don’t find yourself rushing around at the last minute trying to schedule that annual physical or dentist appointment.
  • Organize any medical and school records from previous year. Again, especially for those heading to new schools. Last year my son’s transcripts mysteriously went missing and we couldn’t get him completely registered without them. Not fun.
  • Buy all school supplies for school AND home. One thing that happens to me every year is that we buy all the supplies, send the kids off for the first day, they come home from school with nothing to do their homework or assignments I give them. Make sure to grab a few supplies while shopping to keep at home.
  • Buy school clothes. Thankfully we have uniforms in our district. With these growing boys I couldn’t imagine having to buy full out school wardrobes! Yikes.
    • Uniforms or regular clothes
    • Undergarments
    • Sneakers/Shoes
  • Purchase any other necessities your child may need. Backpacks, lunch boxes, umbrellas…a phone case for your tween O_O–can you tell I’m not ready? But seriously, I always forget umbrellas until a day when it rains. Don’t judge me.
  • Establish a bedtime routine. With the oldest heading off to a new school, a new schedule different than his siblings is on the agenda for the new year. Not to mention the kids have been living their lives this summer. No routine to be found so we’ll be phasing this in slowly within the next couple of weeks.
  • Introduce or change kids chore schedule. This summer was the first time we implemented real chores with allowance. I’ll share more about our chore schedule in another post but to give you an idea, everyone is involved. Even the almost 4 year old so regardless of your kids ages, starting chores or updating current chores is perfect for back to school season.
  • Discuss (and decide if you can) on what extracurriculars the kids will be involved in. My middle son is already screaming basketball and soccer. Swimming lessons are on the agenda because I said so. And the oldest is on the clock to offer up some suggestions before we choose for him ;).
  • Prepare a supplementary program for each child. I’m a firm believer that education starts at home. The past few years I have always had some kind of curriculum or program on hand to supplement what the kids were doing at school. This is especially important for our black children as our history isn’t always told right or at all in school. If you’re not into finding and creating your own program there are many options you can grab from your local bookstore or even Target which is were I got a yearly curriculum for last year for each child by grade.
  • Identify where you plan to help at school. You already know I am an advocate for parental involvement. It’s essential. Go into the school year with an idea of how or where you want to help before the year starts. Have a couple ideas on hand and make this a priority!
  • Buy a planner and schedule out the school year beforehand. Most districts should already have the updated academic calendars posted and be sure to check your individual school sites as well. Just get all the dates locked in early.
  • Finish all summer reading projects. While my 2nd grader didn’t have one to do, I created one for him so we’ll still be making sure he finishes well before the summer is over. The middle schooler has a full report due and we will not be starting off the year racing against the clock!
  • Create an organization area in your home where you’ll keep all the kids information, handouts, etc throughout the year. Once that first day comes you’ll be getting stuff non-stop so plan ahead so you don’t find yourself with papers, supplies, and who knows what else all over your house!

Hope this helps you get organized for busy Back-to-School season before the month gets away and remember click below for the printable! ~xoxo

Back-to-School Checklist

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Back-to-School Pin
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In Philly Motherhood

20 Free Things to Do With Kids in Philly This Month

20 Free Things to Do With Kids in Philly This Month

Back at it again! This post is a couple days late because life but with a full month and some change before the kiddies head back to school, I’m still spending my days doing budget friendly activities the whole family can enjoy. I put together this list, not quite as intense as last month’s, but more specific in terms of what kinds of events and a little about each to make sure you’re choosing things your kids will love :). Have fun!

Educational

Because when you can blend learning with play, everybody wins! 

Friday, August 5: Check out the Science at Play Story Fair at the Chemical Heritage Museum from 5pm – 8pm.

Saturday, August 6: Hike through the trails with Nature Exploration @ the Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education at 10:30 – 11:30am.

Monday – Thursday, August 8 – 11: Civil Rights Stories with Mighty Writers from 4pm- 6pm *for Philly students ages 14 – 18.

Saturday, August 13: The whole family can learn all about water with the Water Explore: Outdoor Tour @ Smith Memorial Playground from 11am – 12pm.

Saturday, August 20: Play and learn at the Tall Trees Nature Playdate @ Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education from 10am – 12pm.

Sunday, August 21: Learn about screen printing and create some political art with the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts Family Program from 2pm – 4pm.

Storytime

Every Wednesday at 4pm enjoy storytime at Barnes & Noble Rittenhouse!

Wednesday, August 3: Your little one will love Noisy Storytime.

Wednesday, August 10: Take a trip with a fish with Fishies Storytime.

Wednesday, August 17: A story about clouds. Look Up There Storytime.

Wednesday, August 27: Learn what happens at a barn with Barnyard Storytime.

Wednesday, August 31: Ready or not, Fall is Coming Storytime.

Festivals

Even though summer is almost over you can still catch a few festivals.

Sunday, August 7: Come see performances, listen to music, check out the crafts and marketplace at the PECO Multicultural Series: ACANA African Festival @ Penn’s Landing from 2 – 8pm.

Sunday, August 21: Celebrate Caribbean music, culture, and food at the PECO Multicultural Series: Caribbean Festival @ Penn’s Landing from 12pm – 8pm.

Outdoor Movies

We don’t step foot in a movie theater all summer when Philly gives us all the best screenings around. 

Thursday, August 4: It’s still summer but catch Captain America: The Winter Soldier down Penn’s Landing at 8:30pm

Saturday, August 6: Let the Force Be with You! Catch Star Wars: The Force Awakens at Franklin Square from 7p – 11pm.

Thursday, August 11: Say it three times! Catch Beetlejuice at Penn’s Landing at 8:30pm.

Thursday, August 18: Gather all the feelings and catch Inside Out at Penn’s Landing at 8:30pm.

Saturday, August 20: Bring your magic carpet (aka blanket) and catch Aladdin at Franklin Square from 7p – 11pm.

Thursday, August 25: It’s the movie everyone was talking about this year! Catch Zootopia at Penn’s Landing at 8:30pm.

Back to School

Please pass this event along to someone in need of school supplies for the upcoming school year!

Monday, August 15: Have one last summer party at the Back to School Bash @ Bridesburg Boys & Girls Club from 2pm – 4pm. The first 1,000 students to attend will receive donated backpacks full of school supplies.

Parks & PopUps

By far the easiest and cheapest thing you can do this summer is check out all the free playgrounds and pop up parks the city has to offer. These ones have been frequently visits for us. 

Spruce Street Harbor Park

Eakins Oval

Full list of Philly Playgrounds

List of Philly Spraygrounds

Not Quite Free But Super Cheap

Remember these events happen every month on the first Wednesday and first Sunday so if you can’t catch them this month, be sure to try in September!

Wednesday, August 3: First Wednesday’s at Please Touch Museum! Only $2 admission from 4pm – 7pm.

Sunday, August 7: Pay what you want at the Philadelphia Museum of Art first Sunday of the month.

With my favorite season just around the corner I’m getting a head start on September’s events. Hey, just because the kids will be back in school doesn’t mean we have to stop the fun. Get your Free Things to Do with Kids in Philly calendar for September before everyone else when you sign up!

Sign up for my weekly life letter!


 
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Kids Motherhood

100 Days of Summer: Free Fun

100 Days of Summer: Playgrounds + Other Free Fun

I’m in one of those spaces where it’s both hard to believe that August is just around the corner and feeling like this just might be the longest summer ever. I read an article on Scary Mommy about a woman who felt SAHM’s tricked her by not telling her how hard it really is and I am feeling every bit of that as WAHM this summer. Like…what is this life?! There’s always so much to do and nobody told me it would be this hard. Let’s just say, I’m looking into part time preschool programs for the toddler in September because mama needs a break so I can actually work. Yup. A break so I can work.

Still, I wouldn’t trade this summer for the world. Spending time with the boys is priceless and having the flexibility to do all the things has allowed for some really awesome experiences–and a few sleepless nights racing against deadlines but I suppose that’s part of the package ;).

100 Days of Summer: Playgrounds + Other Free Fun

Budget friendly has been the name of the game around here and we’ve been taking advantage of all the free stuff Philly has to offer as well as creating some memories of our own at home. Discovering new parks, checking out local events, visiting our season favorites, is how we spent the month of July. And when nothing was on the schedule, the water hose is always an option.

100 Days of Summer: Free Fun

How’s your summer going? ~xoxo

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Motherhood Travel

A Few Days in Seven Springs: SPAC Conference Recap

Happy Monday! It’s been an exciting, educational, and exhausting couple of weeks over here and I’m beyond ready for a few days of relaxation. Who am I kidding? Work, kids, and life is the on the agenda for me but a girl can dream ;). Last week the fam and I got to spend a few days in the beautiful Pennsylvania mountain town, Seven Springs. I was invited to the PA State Parent Advisory Council Conference and luckily the whole family was able to come with me! I live for work/play trips and anytime they are able to travel with me is a good time.

The conference took place at Seven Springs Mountain Resort in Seven Springs, PA. About a 4 hour ride from Philadelphia. Before we get into the conference deets, let’s get into these views. Simply gorgeous!

SPAC Conference

The SPAC Conference is a two day statewide conference geared toward helping parents who are invested in their kids education both in and outside of school and parents who are–or interested in becoming–parent leaders in their communities. At my boys school, a Philadelphia public school, I’m super involved. I serve as the VP of our schools advisory council, publish a monthly newsletter, and volunteer wherever and whenever I can. When I found out the family was invited to attend the annual conference, I was beyond excited.

WHY I WANTED TO ATTEND

Over the past year since we’ve been part of our northeast Philly community and with the boys in public school, I have definitely taken on a new outlook when it comes to my children’s education. At first, I was overwhelmed and uninformed. Moving from the ‘burbs to the city, all I heard were the horror stories about public school system and wanted nothing to do with it. I had never had to do so much research, to ask so many questions, to advocate so much for my kids education before. And to be honest, I looked at the whole thing as something to get through the year and find either a charter or private school for next year. But, getting up close and personal with the inequalities in our education system ignited something inside me. It wasn’t enough to just make sure my kids were getting the education and opportunities they deserved, but I wanted to help all children, especially black and brown kids get them too. It started with volunteering at my son’s elementary school and once I learned about this conference I knew this would be the perfect opportunity to figure out what more I can do, network with other parents doing this work, and learn strategies for educating my kids at home.

WHAT I LEARNED

Sooo much. With over 40 workshops available over the course of two days I learned a ton. I have a notebook full of takeaways but for sake of the blog I’ll go over big ones.

  • Literacy is essential. This was a main focus of the conference. Some of the data we got to review was both mind blowing and heartbreaking. To see in plain view the gap between the reading levels of Blacks and Latinos vs. White people and how that affects every area of achievement over the course of a lifetime emphasized how critical literacy is to both academic and life success. The takeaway: Literacy matters! What are we doing about reading in our schools and at home?

  • Family involvement is crucial to academic success. Family engagement is one of the main things I wanted to learn more about. If there is one thing that I have learned this year it’s that when families are involved at the school, things get done. At the conference I learned just how deep that goes. Higher graduation rates, students are less likely to be involved in criminal behavior, suspended or expelled, more likely to be involved in extracurriculars and to go to college. The takeaway: Grow family engagement! How? By meeting family needs. 

  • Parent leadership starts at home. The last day of the conference I attended a workshop on Parent Leadership and it was basically designed for the goal setting, planner geek in me. We learned about creating vision statements and goals for the family like you would for your personal life or business. Now, as a girl who is serious about her goal setting I never thought to do something this on a family level before.  We also learned about the characteristics of a great leader and a not so great leader…let’s just say I think we all have some room for improvement ;). The takeaway: If you’re a parent, you’re a leader. Be intentional and specific in leading your children. 

THE SWAGGG

I love how from the moment we stepped into the resort it was all about literacy and education. The boys got to choose three free books each, while the parents got to choose from an assortment of parenting guides. I chose Achieving Success in Middle School (still dealing with the reality that we will have a middle schooler in a month), School Community Involvement, and Social Media and Internet Safety. We also got two board games, perfect for our newly implemented Family Game Nights and two swag bags packed with school supplies. Yessss. On the second night of our stay we attended a program where we got even two educational kits from innovative educational solutions company Really Good Stuff. We’ve literally replaced hours of previous screen time with the games in these kits. Cutting back even more and adding more time spent reading, learning, and family activities is what we’re focused on in the coming months so this was right on time!

Overall, the SPAC Conference was a really awesome experience and I’m ready to head into the school year with a ton of ideas and support to really make a difference. ~ xoxo

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Kids Motherhood

100 Days of Summer: Parks with Sprinklers

100 Days of Summer | Styled Her Life

I was having one of those kind of days. A ton of client work, restless kids, and a messy office which was wreaking havoc on my ability to focus on getting anything done. It was also an irritably hot and humid afternoon right after a long holiday weekend. Though, if I’m being honest, weekends and weekdays all mesh together these days. In my mind though, I was having a tough time getting in the flow of things.

An hour or two before the hubs came home from teaching class–hip hop with an energetic group of kids–to bless me with maybe 5 glorious minutes of silence and solitude before dinner prep began, the toddler and the middle one had a shouting match. This probably was the third one of the day.

We’re going to the park!

I love how the park has this magical effect on my boys at this age. My wallet loves it too. City living has given us a handful of choices within walking distance and the dreamy ‘burbs just outside walking distance provide us with a few more along with hiking trails, creeks, and abundant greenery (hello nature walks and lunch in the park). We settled on the one 2 minutes away because, tired, hot, humid.

I was ready for the energizing bliss of the park with boys. The older ones would shoot some hoops, the little would run around, I’d catch up on a podcast while pushing a swing. Little did I know, the levels of magic were about to increase by a million. Why?

They. Had. Sprinklers.

100 Days of Summer | Styled Her Life

What I thought would be a quick 20 – 30 minute park trip turned into over an hour. The little things they enjoy, watching them play together, having the flexibility to witness it all. These are the moments that make it all worth it <3.

~xoxo

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Life Motherhood

Raising Black Boys in America

Raising Black Boys

Interrupting the regularly scheduled programming to get real. It seems weird that just yesterday I was posting about things like salad and today I’m struggling to find the words to express how it feels to be a black person, a black mother, with black sons, in America. I almost didn’t write this. Seemed out of place in a space where I’m dedicated to inspiring but, this place is also one to share my story. And this is part of it. This is part of my reality and others who look like me. So here we are. What a difference a day can make.

Just a couple days ago we were “celebrating” Independence Day. A day that I’ve been celebrating my whole life without much thought but in recent years, in recent “wokeness”, the day has lost what little significance it had on me. Today, the truth that we weren’t free on July 4, 1776 and we aren’t free now, isn’t just a thought provoking tweet, it’s the cold, hard truth.

As children, and especially black children that are now black millenial adults, we grew up in a time where, for lack of better words, black people were sleep. We were the children of post civil rights era kids. Black people on a whole were gaining more access to spaces and places and the word “progress” was like a real thing that people believed. As toddlers we had no knowledge of tragic attacks on our communities like the MOVE bombing in Philly. As  school-age kids we experienced from afar with little/no understanding, through the same lens I suppose my boys have today, uprisings like the Rodney King riots. By time we were preteens and teens unless you were raised in a conscious black household, “equality” was this imaginary idea that seemed pretty legit. By our young adult years, we even had a black president.

All of this led to a period of time in the black community, speaking from my own experience, where we were comfortably sleeping, resting in our “progress”. I can’t say when it happened for sure, but for me, in 2012 my place, my reality got real clear. That year my husband and I marched with our black babies wearing hoodies, eating skittles, reluctantly waking from our slumber #trayvonmartin. In 2014, I scrolled my Twitter timeline in horror as I saw the lifeless body of a black teenager on the ground for hours #mikebrown. And shortly thereafter, watching in terror the murder of a black boy, just a year older than my son is now, by police #tamirrice. In 2015, it became clear that not only were my black husband, black father, and black sons targets in this country, but myself, a black woman as well #sandrabland. And in 2016, I saw the horrific video of a black father’s execution play in a neverending loop on social media #altonsterling.

With each of these hashtags (and the countless others between them #ericgarner #freddiegray #rekiaboyd #oscargrant the list goes on) I grow more and more terrified. Not for myself, although, #natashamckenna. But, for my black sons. For my black husband. For my black sons who need their black father. I look at my boys and to me, I see nothing but greatness. My oldest with the kindest spirit I have ever encountered. My middle son who has plans to change this world. My youngest full of vibrance and shine. I look at my husband and see a role model. A stark contrast to the images the media loves to portray regarding black fathers. I see promise, I see potential…I see black skin, which I know means they see a target, and that shakes me to my core.

When I dreamt of having children, and even as I embarked on this journey of motherhood, I knew challenges would await me. However, nothing could have prepared me for this. Raising black boys in a country where the very people who are tasked to protect them, see them as nothing. People who have no regard for black lives, black children, black men, or black women but have the authority and power to take those very same lives. Usually without any regard or consequence.

To put it in simpler terms the message you’re sending here America is that it’s okay, black lives don’t matter, to you…

You can’t prepare for that. You can’t handle that on a daily basis. But yet, that’s my reality. I wish I had the answers. Some comforting words. Some plan of action. I don’t. I just have my prayers. From my lips to His ears. For my black sons and yours. Their black fathers and our black husbands. #BLACKLIVESMATTER.

With blessings and love. ~ xoxo

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In Philly Motherhood

30 Free (or Super Cheap) Things to Do with Kids this Month in Philly

The boys have been home less than two full weeks and we’ve already went through the “I’m bored” phases as well as the “You will not be playing on your ipad all summer” discussions. I’m still getting the hang of this WAHM during summer vacation thing so for July I wanted to be prepared. My biggest challenge had been finding inexpensive things to do because 1. Three boys and 2. we’re on a budget. I had already compiled a list of resources and sites to find free things to do in the city but sifting through that list everyday made me anxious (what else is new). So in an effort to streamline the anxiety and be the super planner I am, I put together a guide by day of free (or super cheap) kid things to do for the month of July in Philly. And since sharing is caring, here you go! All events are FREE unless a price is listed. Happy July!

Free Things to Do in Philly with Kids

1. Saturday, July 2: Free admission to the National Constitution Center and the Powell House.

2. Sunday, July 3: Historic Philadelphia Block Party from 1 – 8 pm on 5th and 6th Streets between Market and Chestnut.

3. Monday July 4: Party on the Parkway of course from 12 – 10pm on the Ben Franklin Parkway.

4. Tuesday, July 5: LEGO Club at Free Library of Philadelphia 2pm for ages 5 – 15 (Tacony Branch) *check your local branch to see what activities are available throughout the summer.

5. Wednesday, July 6: Please Touch Museum admission only $2 from 4pm – 7pm on the first Wednesday of the month.

6. Thursday, July 7: Spend an afternoon at Franklin Square.

7. Friday, July 8: Group Sculpt at Spruce Street Harbor Park from 5:30 – 7:30 pm. Giant mountains of clay for all? A good time.

8. Saturday, July 9: Summer Festival at Fair Hill from 2 – 7pm. Games, crafts, animal petting, free books and music.

9. Sunday, July 10: PECO Family Jams: Mosaic Medallions at Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens from 12 – 4pm. Create your own mini-mosaics and get a tour. Make sure you mention PECO Family Jams!

10. Monday, July 11: Mighty Yoga for Kids ages 8 – 13 at Mighty Writers from 3:30 – 5 pm.

11. Tuesday, July 12: Make Your Own Graphic Novel at Free Library of Philadelphia 1pm for ages 6 -12 (Walnut St. West Branch) *remember to check your local branch to see what’s going on over the summer.

12. Wednesday, July 13: Pay what you want at the Art Museum on Wednesdays after 5pm! Tip: Catch the Creative Africa exhibit.

13. Thursday, July 14: Catch a Screening Under the Stars at Penns Landing – Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

14. Friday, July 15: Kidchella at Smith Playground with $10 admission or grab $5 tickets from Philly Fun Guide.

15. Saturday, July 16: Catch the Colonial Quest Puppet Show at 11:30am or 1pm at Carpenter’s Hall

16. Sunday, July 17: Take a family art class at the Pennsylvania Academy for Fine Arts from 2pm – 4pm.

17. Monday, July 18: Spend an afternoon at the Oval, a pop-up park on the Parkway.

18. Tuesday, July 19: Cool off at one of Philly’s Spraygrounds! Find them around the city using this list.

19. Wednesday, July 20: Catch Zootopia at Mifflin Square Park. Starts at dusk.

20. Thursday, July 21: Spend an afternoon at Spruce Street Harbor Park! Food, fun, hammocks, and giant connect four games.

21. Friday, July 22: Tall Trees Playdate at the Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education from 2 – 3 pm ages 3 and up! Learn about nature, explore, dig, and build. Pre-registeration advised.

22. Saturday, July 23: PECO Multicultural Series: Islamic Heritage Festival and Parade at Penn’s Landing from 2 – 8 pm. Enjoy a market bazaar, free games, giveaways, and entertainment.

23. Sunday, July 24: Learn about the life cycle of Monarch butterflies at Milkweed and Monarch’s at Norristown Farm Park.

24. Monday, July 25: Make something with MakerJawn at various locations around the city from 1 – 4 pm.

25. Tuesday, July 26: Break a world record with Mighty Writers for the most people writing at the same time! Join  over 3,000 Philly kids ages 7 -17 at the Art Museum from 10am – 12 pm. Make sure you sign up!

26. Wednesday, July 27: Visit a playground you’ve never been to. Did you know Philly has over 150 playgrounds?! Here’s an official list of every one.

27. Thursday, July 28: Screening Under the Stars at Penn’s Landing – Star Wars The Force

28. Friday, July 29: Spend an afternoon at Smith Playground. Bring lunch and a donation if you can!

29. Saturday, July 30: Nature Exploration at the Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education at 10:30 am

30. Sunday, July 31: Franklin Square 10th Birthday celebration starting at 11am. Fun, cake, and activities.

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Kids Motherhood

Leading By Example

Last week the hubs shared this super cute video of him and two of our boys. I must have watched it a thousand times. I mean, seriously, it gets no cuter and I’m not just saying that because they’re mine ;). We’ve both shared it a few times on social media–because yes it deserved more than just one share–but it was his most recent tweet that inspired this post. He captioned the video: Lead by example.

Something that has always been important to us, especially raising black boys in America, is teaching them that despite what the world may say or think about you, you can be whatever you want to be. What better way to teach that than setting the example. On the surface, this really is just a cute video of a Dad dancing with his kids. But below that, there’s a message. The babies are watching 😉 ~xoxo

“The hubs” is actually a professional hip hop dancer, teacher, choreographer. You can see more of his work and these cute kids on liquidelphia.com*

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Deets from beyond the blog on living, creating, and designing a life you love.

 
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Mompreneur Motherhood

How a Shorter To Do List Has Increased My Productivity

Shorter to Do List for Productivity

Happy Monday! I hope your weekend was great. I know they’re never long enough and and if you’re living that Boss Mom life, what are weekends anyway?  I also hope you’re ready for a fantastic and productive week and hopefully this post can help a little with that. This week, I wanted to pick back up on my Getting Things Done series (if you haven’t read part 1, make sure you go back and read that). In the first post I talked about themed days and how busy women juggling multiple projects, jobs, and kids can use this technique to stay focused and get things done. Today, I want to discuss how doing something that actually seems less productive is the number one way I’ve been able increase my productivity. I make a shorter to do list. Mind. Blown.

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Kids Motherhood

Bonding with the Boys

Bonding with the Boys | styled her life

A few weeks back I was listening to one of my favorite podcasts while I was cooking dinner. It was a live Being Boss episode and one of the topics was something about connecting the dots between what your values are and what you’re doing in your day to day life. One of the hosts asked listeners to do this simple exercise to list 4 or 5 hardcore values that you have and then list 4 or 5 things that you do each day. Although it sounds really basic, this super simple task was a real eye opener because I found that my lists were complete opposites. Mind blown. I had things like my kids, my relationship with God, my community on my values list but yet on my daily list I had client work, checking email, and scrolling social media. Disconnection for real. Now that’s not to say that those daily tasks aren’t necessary, I mean mama’s gotta pay the bills, but to not spend time doing the things that I say truly important to me on a daily basis, is a real problem. I immediately started to think about what changes I could implement daily to make my lists more cohesive when my son ran in the kitchen asking me about “Pizza Friday”. Light bulb!

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Life Motherhood

Random Thoughts on Motherhood

my motherhood | styled her life

Oh the beautiful complexities of this thing called motherhood. You would think by now, a mother of three, and successfully(?) raising children for the past seven years that I would kinda have a solid grasp on this thing. Maybe? Nope. Well…at least I don’t feel like I do all the time. I wonder if my mother had these feelings? I should ask her. She always seemed so sure of herself, what she was doing, what she wasn’t. Are there things I would do differently than she? Sure, I think that’s something all parents can relate to. But even with that, my mother was so…grounded in who she was and what she wanted to show and teach us as her children. It’s hard to imagine, when I think about that strong, independent woman, that she could possibly have felt the inadequacies that sometimes feel when stumbling through the trials and triumphs of motherhood. But I should ask her because who knows…maybe she did.

As my kids are growing, and as I grow with them, I’m starting to realize that feeling is kinda just a part of being a mom. To your kids, you look like you know what you’re doing. You’re mom! You know everything! But inside you have no clue. Or maybe that’s just me (insert side eye emoji because I know it’s not just me). You’re just doing what you think is right the best you can for your kids. And that means your version of motherhood will look  different from the next mama…and as I’m learning raising 3 very different sons, with 3 very different personalities, sometimes it looks different in your very own house. The point is, motherhood is a roller coaster, one with ups, downs, and upside downs, but even through that, I’ve come to to know that my version of motherhood is good.

With all the uncertainty surrounding life and subsequently motherhood, I have to admit there’s a small comfort. Even behind the questions, the reading blogs to see if someone, anyone out there is going through whatever I may be at the time, the late conversations with hubs discussing one thing or another, there’s a peace. While I may not “know what I’m doing”, below the surface of uncertainty, I really am just as confident as I think my mother was. I know what it is I want to teach my sons, I know the things I want them to experience, I know the options I want to provide them with, and the love and care I have for them. There are things that are important to me that I share with them, and there are things that really aren’t necessary for me to raise awesome kids. And while that doesn’t translate to parenting expert extraordinaire, it’s enough. More than enough in fact.

So as I celebrate my 8th mother’s day I do so in confidence and I hope you do the same Mama! This motherhood thing isn’t easy but we’re doing a great job. Happy Mother’s Day <3!

Tyshia (1)

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