Sunday, October 21, 2018

Moja Box - A Custom Learning Profile for Your Child

www.mojabox.com


Have you ever had a tailor made suit or custom outfit of any kind? Wasn't the fit perfect, with all of the tucks and cinches in the right places.  Now think about how you felt when you wore the custom made outfit.  That's exactly how a child feels when the teaching methodology fits his learning style.

What is a Learning Style?



According to www.learningstyles.com there are Seven Learning Styles:

    Visual (spatial):You prefer using pictures, images, and spatial understanding.
    Aural (auditory-musical): You prefer using sound and music.
    Verbal (linguistic): You prefer using words, both in speech and writing.
    Physical (kinesthetic): You prefer using your body, hands and sense of touch.
    Logical (mathematical): You prefer using logic, reasoning and systems.
    Social (interpersonal): You prefer to learn in groups or with other people.
    Solitary (intrapersonal): You prefer to work alone and use self-study.

Drum Engineering Camp


Most children have a mix of learning styles, but a strong preference for a particular way.  It's the style that allows them to really get information and for it to stick.  My child is a visual-aural-physical-social learner.  Wow! Now that's a mouthful.  But it is important information to know as I help him navigate his educational career.  In fact, it is helpful in all areas. For example, during the summer LionHeart took a drum engineering class.  No matter how many explanations he got, it wasn't until he had a diagram (spatial) that he was able to understand and complete the task.

Customized Learning Profile


If learning style is important, then parents need to know this information about their children.  As a homeschooler, I am the primary teacher so I become intimately aware of how my son learns.  But sometimes when we are so close, we miss things. Every teacher could use a helping hand.  If your child attends traditional school, how wonderful would it be to provide every new teacher with a blueprint, a profile to help your child live his best life in the classroom.  That is exactly what Moja Box aims to do, provide a customized learning profile unique to your child.


The Founder of Moja Box


In 2017, Dr. Rona Frederick founded Moja Box. The concept was inspired by her daughter, Zahara—whose name means illuminate.  "Parenting has taught me about the power of stepping back, observing, and valuing the innate and unique gifts that every child brings into the world," says Dr. Frederick.  An educator for more than 25 years, Dr. Frederick has written a dozen articles on culturally responsive teaching and best practices for children of African descent. She currently works as a coach for teachers and principals supporting their efforts to foster culturally affirming spaces for their culturally and academically diverse children. She believes every child has their own unique learning profile much like a fingerprint.  "My passion is to shed light on every child’s unique fingerprint and to support parents in developing a holistic program that maximizes their child’s learning potential," says Dr. Frederick.

Our Moja Experience


Because my son knew the evaluator it was a very different experience.  He tried a little harder because he liked her. Remember, I said he is a social learner.  If he doesn't like you, forget about it.  The profile consisted of a traditional achievement test, the Woodcock Johnson, that was conducted at my home over the course of several days.  The evaluation also included interviews with trusted individuals who teach my child and could give insight into him as a student.  The final piece of the puzzle was an interview with both myself and my child, separately.  I really felt like she was digging deep to find out who he was as a learner and a person.  I couldn't wait for the results.

The Academic Portrait


Unlike most evaluations that are heavy with negativity and filled with a bunch of educational mumbo-jumbo that you can't understand, the Moja Box's academic portrait is written in an easy to understand style.  It includes an overall summary, teacher data and the results of a learning style inventory.  What I truly appreciated was a layperson's explanation for the tests so that I had a clear understanding of what was being measured.  

Recommendations


The end of the report was filled with real-world recommendations for things to do at home.  I loved the learning hacks, game recommendations and even referrals for further testing if I was interested.  Also included in the recommendations are clear instructions for parents on how to engage the teacher and also how to learn more about how your child learns. 

Our Moja Gifts

Our Moja Gifts


This warmed my heart.  Yes, the Moja Box is an actual box. As a part of the evaluation, the family receives a Moja Box of gifts.  It is filled with items related to the short, but meaningful journey of getting to know your family and your learner.  Inside the box was something for me (the primary teacher) and something that spoke to the strengths of the learner.  What I treasured most of all was the graphic art personification of my child's learning style.  It will sit on his desk to remind him of all the wonderful qualities he posses.

For more information about Moja Box, click here.

Monday, July 9, 2018

MEL Science - Chemistry Experiments Delivered to Your Door




I won't lie, when I opened the box I was a bit intimidated.  All those unfamiliar chemicals looked quite "official" and a little scary.  But I am an adventurer and LionHeart looked too excited for me to let him down.  Besides, sometimes text books can suck the fun out of learning.  These kits definitely  looked like they were about to kick the fun factor up several notches.



Experiment #1 Burning Magnesium




The first experiment we tried was Burning Magnesium.  Thank goodness for the video links to all of the experiments.  LionHeart is a visual learner.  While I poured over the written instructions, he watched the video.  Here's what happened:



Experiment #2 - Fire in A Bottle


After opening the contents and setting everything up, imagine how disappointed we were to discover that the ethanol alcohol was not included - either that or I had misplaced it! We substituted isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol.  A quick Google search taught me that the two are not the same chemically.  I was ready to give up when LionHeart, my little scientist, urged me to try anyway.  Each time LionHeart inserted the lit skewer, it kept going out before he could get it to touch the alcohol.  For the short time that it was lit, we saw a slight fire in the bottle. LionHeart was intrigued by the bubbly cauldron effect created and spent another 30 minutes toying around and discovered that if you insert the skewer sideways the fire stays lit.  That's what I really love about science - it stokes the fire of  a curious mind.

Molecular Balls as viewed in the app

How It Works


MEL Science is a subscription service.  Each month you'll receive a chemistry set with 2-6 experiments.  The kit will include just about everything you need.  There are a total of 38 interactive hands-on chemistry sets.  Each set comes with all of the supplies and a description card that gives a quick overview of the experiment, safety precautions and a link to the video that demonstrates the experiment.  The MEL Sciene app serves as a virtual 3D microscope that enables your child to better visualize what happens in each experiment at the molecular level.  The website also provides more information about the topic if your learner is interested.

When you purchase a subscription, your first shipment includes two chemistry sets and the Starter Kit, The starter kit includes includes a Borosilicate glass beaker and flask (for use with excessive heat), virtual reality glasses (to observe molecules and crystal lattices from the inside - wow!), a macro lens that turns your smartphone into a microphone (so cool!), a tablet stand, large syringes, safety glass (of course), tray and Lion Heart's favorite, the solid fuel stove burner for use with experiments that require an open flame.

The Experiments


Click here to see a list of the experiments available through the MEL Science subscription service.  MEL science takes the intimidation factor out of chemistry and inserts the WOW factor.  This is how  children get really interested in science.  The mind-bending chemistry formulas can come later.  For now, let them fall in love with chemistry.

Virtual Reality Lessons





MEL Science also offers virtual reality lessons that cover all main topics of chemistry.  Difficult chemistry concepts are easily explained in bite-sized 3-7 minute virtual reality videos.  Students can use the VR glasses that come with the starter kit to enjoy these mini-lessons.  What fun!

Monday, June 18, 2018

Why I Love myON ~ Independent Summer Reading


I found a wonderful way to keep LionHeart engaged with reading and to ensure that Fortnite doesn't take over his life this summer.  myON is a digital book library, containing thousands of enhanced and age-appropriate titles for PreK-12.  I like that it suggests books based on his interest.  He chooses what he wants to read and the placement test determines the appropriate Lexile level.  He even has the option of having it read to him and the words are highlighted.  My favorite aspect of myON is the comprehension quiz.  He already knows that he must score 3 out of 5 or higher in order to "earn" his game time.  I still believe in reading to my child, so in addition to his independent reading, I chose books that he would probably cruise smooth past in the library.  Together we'll read about Wangari Maathi, Ida B. Wells, Bob Marley -- important historical figures he should know.  But when he chooses what to read, he can enjoy his Fantasy Basketball and Greatest MMA fighters.  I think having choice in reading material is very important.

Digital Texts


myON has unlimited access to digital texts available on and offline for reading.  The placement test ensures that book titles match reading and Lexile level. The more a child reads in his current level, the more confident he becomes and the more his reading improves.

Literacy Tools


I really love the literacy tools! There is an embedded dictionary and a zoom feature.  Also, because each digital book is a personal copy, your child will be able to use all sorts of literacy tools to really interact with the text.


Drawing Tool (Brush)


Students can identify important concepts in photos and illustrations throughout the book.

Sticky Notes


Students can annotate and add symbols while reading to mark passages, document theories, ask questions, remember connections or respond to the text. Sticky notes can be attached to highlighted text.

Shapes


Students can create on-page shapes and reposition, resize, change the color or remove them.

Journal / Notebook 


Students can create long text notes within the book reader that can be accessed within their account journal, and used to complete parent assigned writing projects.

Citation Creator


Students can learn the importance of citing sources and proper formatting, helping avoid plagiarism.

 Students can use a highlighter, brush tool, shapes and sticky notes to identify, markup and connect story concepts.

To Purchase


I purchased myON through the Home Buyers Co-op for $39.95 for the year! So glad this resource is now available to homeschoolers and families.  Initially, it was only available through school districts.  To purchase, click here for myON.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

I Don't Want A Woman Teacher

Pan African History teacher, Obi Egbuna, Jr., and LionHeart at the first Sankofa Homeschool Graduation.

"I don't want a woman for my teacher," LionHeart said to me.  It stopped me in my tracks.  I'm a homeschool parent, his first teacher, but you don't want a woman for a teacher! When I turned around he could see the emotions in my eyes.  So he started trying to explain himself a little more.  "Well, mom, I don't mean it like that," he corrected.  "I just want Baba Balvin to stay.  Mom, he let us use a blow torch!"  It seemed the blow torch was symbolic of all the things that a man understands about what boys need to do and experience.  So, instead of getting all in my feelings, I started to think about what he was really saying.  I knew he loved me to the moon.  But on Fridays, that was his day to be taught by what he would one day become, a man, a husband, a father, and perhaps, a business owner.  On Fridays, the Sankofa Homeschool Collective, meets for 20 weeks out of the school year.  We find people in our community who are passionate about what they do and we seek them out to instruct our children.  Along the way, something very unique happened.  More than half of our instructors are men! This is very unusual in an educational setting, even in homeschool cooperatives.  Then I thought a little further and realized that on Fridays every single one of  LionHeart's teachers is a man.  Wow!

Metals Works & Jewelry Making Class


Baba Balvin introducing the blow torch.

Baba Balvin, founder and owner of Balando Designs, taught the art of metal works and jewelry making using techniques such as beading, wire work and copper etching.  On the very first day of class each child created a beautiful necklace.  His class was so popular, we had to offer it twice.  He quickly became a favorite teacher of the students.

Pan African History Class


Baba Obi making a point about the Bombing of the Move Organization.
Baba Obi has been teaching Lionheart since he was 5 years old.  From performing in plays with Mass Emphasis History and Theatre Company, to memorizing all 55 African countries, Pan African History has been weaved into his being.  This is not just a history class to check off the homeschool requirement box.  LionHeart is learning that he has an obligation to carry on the work of the great men and women leaders who came before him.

Junior Mastermind Class



This class was all about expanding the mind through brain games and critical thinking.  Baba MenaqAmurr is a professor of Psychology, founder of Mind on the Matter, and will be soon publishing his 5th book, Practical Psychology 101: A psychological manual for Black Loved Matters and all other movements.

Baba Menaq brain training with critical thinking tools.

Frederick Douglas Writing Club


Baba Got Bars, Baba Bomai,


This class was taught by Baba Bomani, founder of Baba Got Bars. He is an accomplished writer, poet, teacher and Hip Hop artist who understands boys.  He is the father of three, including twin boys and he gets them.  The boys learn to write through the study of the Autobiography of Frederick Douglas, boy-friendly literature, mind-mapping and other multi-sensory approaches.

Boys Construction Class



While this class technically took place on a Tuesday and was not a part of the Sankofa line-up, it was still an instance where he was being taught by a man with more than 30 years experienced as a tradesman.


African Drumming Master Teacher


Circa 2013 at the DC Watermelon Festival.  LionHeart is pictured with his teacher and mentor Baba M and his best friend.

Drum class has become a part of his soul.  It is the highlight of his Friday, the highlight of his week and the weekend when there is rehearsal for the performing companies.  I had to beg and plead with LionHeart to attend summer camp two years ago.  He didn't want to miss rehearsal.  Mountain biking, swimming, zip lining, it didn't matter. He didn't want to miss rehearsal. I couldn't believe it.  He has a special connection with his favorite teacher who gets him.  Baba Mahiri (or Baba M) knows how to pull the genius out of children.  As he recently said, after teaching them and getting to know them for years, he understands how their minds work.  Drum class is not just a class, but it is a place where young boys grow into men.

Prepping a drum

Here he sits, long after rehearsal has ended, hanging out with the older brothers and prepping a drum.


Birthright 2017 ~ One of the Lead Djembe players for Farafina Denu
For a young boy who lost his father at age 7, Fridays (and Tuesday) must represent something truly amazing to his spirit and I had no idea until that day.  Now, instead of being upset, I wanted to cry because I could really feel where he was coming from. He is truly blessed to have so many men as consistent teachers in his life. I know this is crucial for males.  I am even more grateful for the Sankofa and Farafina Kan community and the men who are a part of it.

A mural in Cambridge, Md., my hometown.

Monday, May 7, 2018

Normal Isn't Real



"The best part of school for me was being done with it."  That quote from the film Normal Isn't Real really stuck with me.  Imagine if you are a child and five days a week for seven hours a day you have to go to a place that makes you feel like crap and no one gets you.  Imagine what that does to a child's self-esteem and mental health.  According to Normal Isn't Real, 1-5 children have a learning difference and don't receive the support they need in school.  Instead, they are made to feel dumb, ostracized and full of shame.  Every educator, parent or anyone who touches the lives of children, should see this film.


LeDerick Horne, myself and a fellow homeschool mom at the DC premiere.

LeDerick Horne


Imagine intentionally putting yourself in situations that could result in the loss of your life.  That was what LeDerick Horne did to escape his feelings of torment about being different in school.  Today, Horne, who is featured in this film, is a successful author, poet, public speaker and disability advocate.  He earned a BA in mathematics with a Fine Arts minor from New Jersey City University and also studied mathematics at Middlesex County College.  He has also written a book Empowering Students with Hidden Disabilities:  A Path to Pride and Success.  Horne said that something that would have made a huge difference in his life -- having a successful mentor who also had a learning difference.  One of his biggest issues was struggling with low self-esteem.  But, his life changed when he had a shift in perspective and began to embrace his differences.  He learned the importance of self-advocacy and positioning himself in places that played to his strengths.

The Director


Krys Kornmeier, the Director of Normal Isn't Real, discovered her own son had learning differences and ADHD 20 years ago.  What she discovered along the way to finding the resources that her son needed is that many children with the same issues as her son are often highly creative and some of our most successful leaders in every field. "But these same issues can result in early school failures that spiral into a loss of self -esteem and derail a bright future. A disproportional number of youths in correctional facilities have been diagnosed with LD and ADHD issues."

Vision for the Film


The vision for the film was not about scientific brain research, but to allow a window into the everyday life experiences of four people who struggled with learning differences and ADHD, yet grew up to be successful. The four unique individuals in the film talk about their lives, their talents, their frustrations and the strategies they used to become successful. Through their unique stories the film aims to promote understanding and most importantly acceptance through real life examples of successful people with learning differences and ADHD.

Mastering Yourself


One of the keys to success as pointed out in this film is the mastery of self.  You have to know yourself and your strengths.  When children are younger, they need parents, educators and the community to advocate for them.  This gets easier as you get older.  Embracing your weaknesses is just as important as knowing your strengths.  Horne said it took him 5 years to finish community college.  But he did it! Confronting challenges, managing them, seeking help and utilizing disability resources is key.  Finding support from others who learn differently is important as well.  A recurring theme in the film was that finding something that you are really good at positively impacts everything else you do.




Support the film and host a screening.  For more information, click here.







Wednesday, April 11, 2018

No You Can't Have a Tattoo!

His father's name in Adinkra symbols that personify his essence.


He knew I was opposed to tattoos and so was his father.  Where was this coming from? I know, those darn rappers, basketball players and football players.  Peer pressure too, that's it.  Why in the world do you need a tattoo, I asked over and over again? I want something to represent my father, he replied repeatedly.  I'm thinking that a picture should be enough.  Besides his father and I had many conversations about our disdain for tattoos and pierced ears on men.  But he wanted it for his 17th birthday.  I had no intention of giving him permission, but I went along for the ride.

The Research

In 2015, KingMan completed a rigorous 6-month rites of passage that included the study of African proverbs and Adinkra symbols.  Adinkra symbols originated in Gyaman, a former kingdom in today’s Cote D’Ivoire.  In the 19th century the Asante people began painting symbols of Gyamans (former king) on a cloth.  Adinkra means goodbye or farewell in the Twi language of the Akan people.  These cloths are worn during special occasions.  These Adinkra symbols express themes that relate to history, beliefs and philosophy of the Akan people.  Adinkra symbols have a rich proverbial meaning.  In doing his research he pulled out his Rites book and began researching the symbols and selecting specific symbols that personified the essence of his father.  Okay, so now KingMan was not  playing fair.  He was appealing to my intellectual, love of history, African cultural and meaning weakness.

The Artist


Unbeknownst to me, he had already asked his childhood friend, who was like a sister to him, to start creating the art for his tattoo.  These two grew up together.  The only time he played with his art supplies that I kept stocked in our home was when Yetunde came to visit.  Today, Yetunde is an amazing artist who was accepted into one of the nation's top art schools.  Now there was layered meaning to his request.  I felt my knees wobbling.


The artist all grown up.


Yes, this is one of Yetunde's creations.  She is amazing, creative, smart, athletic and humble.  All of this is important when choosing an artist who will create something so meaningful.  You can find her work on Instagram at Yesap. I digress.




The Finished Art

KingMan had really been working on me and I was teetering, but still not there.  Tattoos are so permanent.  He wanted it on his forearm and I'm thinking about the company picnic.  What will your boss think? He replied, "Mom I'm going to be an engineer and have my own firm."  Ouch.  He really knows what to say.  He could be a politician too because he's such the negotiator!  I'm not going to lie, when he revealed the art work, I paused in mid-sentence and could not keep my mouth from dropping open. How could I say no? It was absolutely divine.  It was unique.  It was meaningful.  Yetunde had spelled out his father's name in Adinkra symbols that personified the essence of his father.  I was done. I was a complete knock out.  He had won me over.  Until we reached the tattoo shop.

The Big Reveal


Of course there was one more debate to be had.  This time it was over the size of the tattoo.  KingMan wanted 10 inches and I wanted 4 inches (smaller of course).  This debate raged on for about an hour in the tattoo shop while he waited his turn.  So we decided to allow Baba Mahiri to decide what size.  Baba M (as he is affectionately known) a master West African percussionist, is his drum professor and mentor.  He's known him since he was 7 years old.  We trusted his wisdom.  Baba M replied to our text with 6 inches - a compromise, right in the middle.  Then I played myself.  I sent Baba M a text of the art work.  He thought it was breathtaking and asked what it meant.  When I told him, he replied, well make it 12 inches!! The battle was officially lost.  I lovingly gave in because in truth, I could not really be upset about something that meant so much to KingMan.  More importantly, it would be a daily reminder of his father whom he lost at the tender age of 13.