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Motherhood

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.



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.



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.



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.



Words

Motherhood

Motherhood

I watch my youngest son run around in the sun, shirt off, bare foot, locs flowing in the wind. His smile is like a ray of sun and his joy? It immediately pulls you in. For the moment nothing else matters except watching him flourish with innocent black boy joy. I’m here, under the warm rays of the sun, laptop on lap attempting to live up to my dubious title of work at home mom and freelancer. As I become entranced with the breeze, baby boy laughter, and husband’s dancing…I ditch wordpress for an afternoon trip to the park on 70 degree day in February.

My hair is wrapped in a turban. For the life of me I can’t get my locs to lay straight. They’re my alter ego if you didn’t know. Wild where I’m lowkey, stretching towards the sun when I want to lie low, a statement maker while I rather make my way without statement. It’s time for a nature walk. A place where I feel most a peace.

It’s quiet here, save for the sounds of my sun’s footsteps. Jumping off of this rock, trying to climb that tree. The soft sounds of the creek flowing beside us. I realize, quite randomly, that perhaps my hippie mom transformation is complete.

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

Motherhood

Breastfeeding: 5 months Strong w/ Mother’s Milk!

I’m talking about breastfeeding. And yes I am proud.

I’m not exactly what you’d call a breastfeeding extremist. I don’t bash formula (in fact I feed my son it often). I’m not screaming breast milk is the best milk. I won’t look down on queens who don’t breastfeed. But for my personal journey, I am QUITE excited about my accomplishment of being only a month shy of SILVER BOOBIES!! (My boobs aren’t actually silver but that’s code name in breastfeeding culture for 6 months of nursing). What I will tell you, are my thoughts, my personal experiences, and my decision to breastfeed my son.

I like to think I have unbiased view of breastfeeding. I have two sons, one I breastfed, one I didn’t. I can tell you what it’s like from both sides of the fence. Of course that makes me no expert, but that makes me experienced so here goes.

S is my oldest prince. I didn’t breastfeed him. I was young, easily influenced, and I let mainstream society views sway my decision. I didn’t want to breastfeed. People thought it was weird. People thought it was sexual. My boobs would get saggy (Queens listen…they gonna sag…embrace it). I respectfully declined the invitation at the hospital. No thanks I’m fine. But then we got home and the problems started. He didn’t react well to regular formula. So we switched to Soy. And that made him constipated. We switched back and forth to no avail and so there was an actual period in time where my prince was so uncomfortable that I had to literally help him poop each morning while he screamed at the top of his lungs in pain. It lasted a month or so then all was fine. He caught colds, but he was fine. We bonded just great. And once my milk dried up, my boobs sagged a bit. Oh well. Embrace it. If I could do it all over again: I would breastfeed.

My youngest prince Jr was born. I breastfed him. I was older. I didn’t care. I’m breastfeeding this baby. Who cares what anyone thinks about it. My boobs…well…as long as my husband likes them. Where’s my baby, take this breast. But then we got home and the challenges started. For breastfeeding to be so natural it’s HARD. Those first few weeks are torture! All he did was want to eat. All day. All night. I was leaking everywhere. It was a nightmare. And I ALMOST quit. In fact. I did quit. I told my husband I was done. Thanks for his support. Bought some formula (the kind that Shawn did best with) and was done. Except, Joey didn’t quit. And giving him a bottle was even worse than breastfeeding 24/7. He looked at me like I was crazy and just wouldn’t accept it. He kept searching for his “real milk” and when he got frustrated he freaked. Like crying so hard he turned red. I gave up and let him nurse and the INSTANT comfort he had melted my heart. I couldn’t stop. So I kept at it. And next thing I know, it was second nature. And so here we are 5 months in and I’ll keep going until he wants to stop.

It’s not always easy but the best things in life usually aren’t. But it’s worth it. Going back to work, it’s been bittersweet. Pumping S.U.C.K.S. but our bonding time at home makes up for it. If you were to ask me in public I’d say: There’s no need to ask me if I’ll be breastfeeding my next kid because I’m DONE! But if you were to ask me for real, ya know, between queens I’d say: Well…if I were to try once more for that princess, YES MA’AM I’m breastfeeding!