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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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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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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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