Wednesday, December 13, 2017

The Trouble With Travel Sports

KingMan at sports camp in Massachusetts

When I fall asleep early, I wake up early.  Way too early.  So on this morning I decided to watch an episode of Real Sports with Bryant Gumble.  One of the topics was Kids Travel Tourism.  Whoa! After watching the segment, my mouth dropped open.  I wonder if the family featured in the segment will look back at the interview and be mortified that they admitted to spending $150,000 on travel sports for their children.  There goes the college fund.  It is amazing how we parents get caught up in the frenzy without being realistic about the numbers.  In fact, Travis Dorsch, founding director of Families in Sport Lab at Utah State University thinks families are working backwards by spending a couple of hundred thousand dollars pursing a college scholarship through travel sports when they could have put that into a college fund.  Only 2-4% of high school athletes go on to play at the top level of college sports, the NCAA Division I, and even less make the pros! 

My little LionHeart enjoying recreation basketball with his favorite coach.

Here's the other secret, they said in the show that most of the players who are on the rosters of professional teams learned their sport without parental supervision and played multiple sports.  I'm not a big fan of Michael Jordan, but after reading his book Salt In His Shoes a million times to KingMan when he was younger, I learned that Michael honed his skills on the neighborhood courts and he didn't even make the high school basketball team, initially!!!!  

Since I banned football, LionHeart was thrilled to be able to wear pads and a helmet for hockey.

The Changing the Game Project reports that so much is lost in the athletic version of the "Race to Nowhere" and serves mostly the needs of the adults and not the children.   The mission of the Changing the Game Project is to "ensure that we return youth sports to our children, and put the ‘play’ back in ‘play ball.’  We want to provide the most influential adults in our children’s lives – their parents and coaches – with the information and resources they need to make sports a healthy, positive, and rewarding experience for their children, and their whole family."  Here, here! When LionHeart briefly played ice hockey coaches were already eye-balling him for the travel team because he took to the ice so quickly.  No thank you! I felt assaulted.  I just wanted him to enjoy the game and I was taking advantage of an anomaly in an urban community - an ice rink! 

LionHeart following in his brother's footsteps.
What disturbed me most about this segment on "Travel Sports Tourism," (get a load of that made up name will you) was the impact on family life and the athlete.  The family featured in the segment said they travel 30 weekends out of the year and that more than 50% of their family time is devoted to sports.  Even worse, the family has to be split up on the road because one plays baseball and the other runs track.  Way too much and way too soon.  Early specialization of a sport also greatly increases the chances of injury.  The American Journal of Sports Medicine in a 2015 survey found that 60% of all "Tommy John" surgeries were teen patients! The fact that a surgical procedure is named after a baseball player is another topic altogether.  Are we parents that delusional? Forbes magazine reports that one-sport specialization is more likely to lead to "pain than a scholarship."  How's that for a reality check.  A study by Loyola University (Chicago) says that if your child is spending more time playing sports than his age, the likelihood of him suffering a sports-related injury increases by 70% - WOW!

KingMan didn't start baseball until age 11, but he made up for lost time.

Time Magazine wrote in the September 4, 2017 issue, that the $15 billion (yep, B) has all but dried up local and community baseball leagues that used to bond families and communities.  Guess who owns plenty of stock in this industry, top owners of professional sports teams.  In the written vernacular of the youth:  SMH.  The article further says that there are families spending upwards of 10% of their income on travel sports.  A baseball family in New Jersey spends $30,000, a volleyball family in New York spends $20,000 and a mom from Springfield, Missouri travels 7.5 hours round-trip to take her son to travel basketball practice.  Some families skip car payments, house repairs, weddings and birthday parties all in the name of travel games.  What in three worlds?!

KingMan during his travel soccer days.

I will admit that I drank the cool-aid too.  I was an AAU basketball mom for a split second (worst experience ever!)  They really do expect you to give up EVERY SINGLE WEEKEND to one sport and not develop any other aspect of your child's life.  I was also a travel soccer mom for many years.  I did it because KingMan loved it and I dragged LionHeart out of bed at the crack of dawn to sit in the cold bleachers with the equally cold parents.  When KingMan was done with soccer, I felt like we had our life back.  Interestingly enough, neither one of my children play soccer anymore.  Their father encouraged me to enroll them in soccer.  He said he never played and he thought it was good conditioning.  He was old school and believed playing sports was good for physical training of the body and not just a pathway to a scholarship or the pros.  I wonder if they had only played soccer for fun, would they still play.  Both still love basketball.  Their father LOVED basketball.  Both of my sons play basketball every season and I don't get caught up in the rapture of coaches asking me to allow LionHeart to play with their AAU teams.  He has been invited twice and already made a travel team this year.  I'm not interested.   I will allow him to play with 3 teams this season but only because when the season ends, we are done!  They both have drumming.  KingMan is hitting the weight room and music studio.  Last summer LionHeart was on a swim team and he's about to join an all-boys step team.  There would be no time for any of that if I allowed travel sports to dominate our lives again.

 Here's the full clip of the episode that inspired this article.  Thank you insomnia!

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Curriculum Plans for LionHeart 2017-2018

LionHeart and Ronnie Sidney, author of Nelson Beats the Odds
I can't believe its been almost two years since I did a curriculum share.  It's amazing to look back and see what you said you were going to use and compare it with what you actually used.  That's the beauty of homeschooling, the ability to change gears in mid-stream and do what's best.  This year I am trying something different with LionHeart.  The focus will be more on living books and experiences and less on curriculum, per se.  I have paid close attention to what he loves and incorporated it into our learning. I have also been doing lots of teacher development, first in a 3-day seminar through the Center for African Studies at Howard University focusing on Ethiopia, Mali and Ghana, followed by the Warrior Healer Builder workshop through the AYA Educational Institute.  I feel so full as a mother/teacher and excited to share what I have learned with my children.

Songs of the Baobab Tree

I found this gem at the African Art Museum.  Songs of the Baobab Tree will be the sounds we wake up to in the morning.

Young Living Oils

Everything is important with a Right Brain Learner.  They are sensitive and observant.  I plan to set the morning tone by diffusing Young Living OilsGeneYus and Vitiver essential oils top the list. These oils help supports the young mind in attention and focus. I'll also add a tasty essential fatty acid to the mix. Either Omega 3 Creme Delight or Coromega Omega 3.  Then after a healthy breakfast, learning can begin.

Reading Comprehension

I have found that pairing books with audio books helps LionHeart's fluency and comprehension.  He loved Crossover by Kwame Alexander.  The Red Pencil is written in a similar poetry fashion.  My aim is to create my own African-centered version of Sonlight.

Reading Comprehension and Character Development


A Treasure Within is a book of short stories in which young people have encounters with ancient African Ancestors to learn traditional morals, values, and culture.  The goal is to develop academic skills and cultivate character development as well as cultural awareness.

 Character Building for African Centered Scholars will also be used as a part of our character development studies.  This guide teaches character building principles from Ma’at, Iwa Pele, Nguzo Saba, the Adinkra Symbols ... I can't wait.  I get so excited because often I am learning too!

Grammar and Writing

We are still using Language Lessons for Today for grammar. I like the literature-based, Charlotte-Mason feel.  LionHeart's Right-Brain learning style tends to do better when learning about pieces as they relate to the whole.  A string of isolated grammar rules will make zero sense outside of a sentence.  We will do more writing this year utilizing a resource I learned about in one of the best books I ever read: The Dyslexic Advantage.  Educators Publishing Service also produces another one of my favorite homeschool resources - Explode the Code.


In addition to our homeschool cooperative classes, LionHeart will do Astronomy at home.  We will look deeply into the Dogon people as a part of our science studies. We'll use Exploring Creation with Astronomy as our spine and have some hands on fun with MEL science.  I will be doing a full review of MEL science later this fall.


Crosswords are a fun way to learn history and an easy way for LionHeart to get started in the morning while I am making breakfast.  In fact, Seek and Learn: Journeys in Black Legacy will be the morning meal ticket.

 History is one of my favorite subjects, so we'll use lots of resources.  We will start from the African center and fan our way out.  We'll use the Howard Zinn Project to plot our timeline.  History is so vast that you can't possibly cover everything, but what you do cover should be important to YOU and venerate your history.  Kamali Academy is where you can find 50 Afrikans You Must Know and whatever you do, get a copy of Dr. Runoko Rashidi's book Assata-Garvey and Me: A Global African Journey for Children and follow him on Facebook.  It will change your life!

Since LionHeart is not yet ready for the seminal work The Philosophies and Opinions of Marcus Garvey (ok, I'll be honest, I have not read it yet),  we will start exploring  Marcus Garvey using the Marcus Garvey Activity Book.

World Religions

Children help you stretch and grow.  LionHeart certainly is doing that for me.  He has a keen interest in African spiritual systems and sadly, very sadly, I know very little.  So we will learn and explore together.  Luckily, we have friends who are Muslim, Buddhist, Akan Priests and more.  This month we will visit a Buddhist Temple and observe Buddhist Monks creating Sand Mandalas.  Our world is a beautiful and diverse place filled with amazing people, cultures and traditions to learn about.

 It was difficult to locate children's resources on the Akan spiritual system.  This series pictured above on Buddhism can be purchased through

Ordinary People Doing Extraordinary Things

Ordinary people doing extraordinary things will be a key feature of our homeschool this year.  I learned about the importance of sharing these kinds of stories with our children during a workshop facilitated by the amazing educator team Wekesa and Afiya Madzimoyo, founders of the AYA Educational Institute.  When we start looking for the heroes in our own families and communities, we are less likely to fall into the super hero trap crippling our minds from thinking that individual people cannot affect change. I picked up these books at festivals.  I purchased directly from the authors.  Nelson Beats the Odds is about overcoming Dyslexia and was written by a school therapist who struggled with learning disabilities. Noah's Walk is about a man who decided to walk 1,800 miles to highlight homelessness.  Truly ordinary people, doing extraordinary things.


Right-Brain learners grasp math very differently.  Sometimes they understand complex concepts, but not the simple math facts.  Their creative side leans toward real life mathematics, like money and cooking.  Personification of math concepts also gives "Velcro" to random math facts for Right-Brain learners.  I have found that if the concept or math fact is wrapped up in a good story, he's got it.  Child First Publications produces an assortment of Right-Brain friendly learning materials.  I love the philosophy of the founder who believes, "in every child’s ability to learn," especially when supported in their own unique gifts. 


Like his father, LionHeart is always thinking of ways to make money.  He definitely has the entrepreneurial spirit.  Last spring he and a friend taught a sports class in our homeschool collective.  I admired his confidence and tenacity.  I have always had a side hustle too, but for some reason didn't think of myself as an entrepreneur.  I'm definitely not a salesperson, but when an opportunity to arose to become a Young Living Essential Oils distributor, I took a leap.  I was told all I had to do was share my story about the oils.  They have changed my life.  My goal is to share what I have learned with LionHeart and one of our projects will be to create a signature cologne, using essential oils, that he can sell at our African Marketplace during our homeschool collective.

Percussion Instruments from Around the World

Last, but certainly not least I plan to use something that he absolutely loves to teach research skills, geography, presentation skills and writing.  There is no curriculum to purchase, so this one I am creating on my own, as I go. We'll attend concerts, seek out musicians, find percussion workshops and just have fun with it.  The resource that I will use to kick off my study is the Glossary of World Percussion Instruments. Studying our way through this list will probably take us all year.  Stay tuned for how it all works out.

I am feeling good about this year and though we may not get through all of it, having a plan is the best way to start.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Liberated Minds Black Homeschool & Education Expo 2017

Yours Truly, Queen Taese, and Dr. Camara
This year I was honored at the Liberated Minds Black Homeschool & Education Expo along with Dr. Samori Camara, founder of Kamali Academy, for my service to the homeschool community. I don't talk about this much in my blog, but I am the Co-Founder of the Sankofa Homeschool Community & Collective, a support system for homeschoolers of the African Diaspora.  It was such a humbling experience to be recognized for serving and sharing what is near and dear to my heart ~ helping parents be the best educators they can be! Being surrounded by people at Liberated Minds who are living their dreams and serving their people at the same time is a true honor.

Queen Taese, Founder of Liberated Minds, being honored by the Sister Circle.
I want to also recognize the warrior sister who founded the Liberated Minds Expo.  A mother of multiples and soon to be a grandmother, Queen Taese could have put her sole focus on her own family and kept busy enough.  Instead, she decided that home educators and the African-centered school community needed a conference.  A place where we would all come together to share resources and grow and develop as African-centered educators.  I am so grateful for her vision and more grateful for her mobilizing efforts to bring Liberated Minds to fruition.  This year I committed myself to helping to assist with this conference and to encouraging more to attend.

Sankofa Homeschool Community Mamas
 My attendance at the conference was made possible by my beloved Sankofa Homeschool Community.  My flight,  accommodations and ground transportation were literally a community effort.  I am so thankful and so very grateful.  When you share lodging and meals you get the opportunity to really get to know one another.  We had so much fun during and after the workshops.  We have already committed to not only returning to Liberated Minds in 2018, but also traveling as sister/mother/home educators on a regular basis. More importantly, we want to support Queen Taese in growing this conference.  Atlanta may seem like a long 10-12 drive from DC, but when I think of the miles my ancestor Araminta (Harriet Tubman) traveled on foot, who am I to complain about traveling in an air conditioned car or airplane.

Photo credit: Kyna Clemons

The Liberated Minds Vendors

Never before have African people of the Diaspora had so many African-centered resources available to teach our children.  It was pure joy visiting each vendor and hearing their stories.  I have featured a few of them below.  Enjoy!

History-Based STEM

Photo credit: Ausar Maat
Kokumo is the brainchild of my Sankofa Homeschool Communty sister.  Bridget O., is an accomplished design engineer whose specialty for the past 16 years has been sustainability in the built environment and urban design.  She is so talented, stylish and beautiful.  Her Afro gives me life!  Kokumo is a history-based STEM curriculum. When I saw the Kokumo lesson on Thomas Sankara, the first President of Burkino Faso, I was reminded of  a class that Baba Obi Egbuna, Jr., taught at our homeschool collective.  He asked the students what they wanted to be when they grew up and listed their answers on the board ~ doctor, lawyer, nurse, writer.  Under those titles he wrote the names of African leaders who worked in those fields, emphasizing to the children how your work must always uplift your people.  I can't think of a better concept to weave into a curriculum, STEM and our history.  Pure Genius! I am looking forward to doing a comprehensive review of Kokumo and supporting my sister friend.

Trading Cards

These trading cards caught my eye when I saw a little boy playing with them.  My oldest was into Pokemon and Yugio many years ago.  Now my youngest can be into Sword of the Spirit, a trading card game whose aim is to elevate to the highest moral level.  Though Bible scriptures and strategy are used to defeat opponents of ill will, the spiritual message is universal to all faith traditions.

This video explains more about the founder and how the game works:

I am putting it out in the universe that next year I'd like to see trading card games featuring Adinkra symbols, the Orishas and Kemetic Gods and principles.  Card games are a brilliant way to deposit spiritual lessons in the hearts of our children.

Living Books

LionHeart is obsessed with the Afro Comb and loves to stick one in his Afro when he rocks it.  Secrets of the Afro Comb jumped into my hand when I was visiting  The Listening Tree table, an African-centered book seller based out of Decatur, Georgia.

At the Listening Tree table I picked up a copy of a book series written by the Nigerian writer, O.T. Begho.  You can learn more about him by clicking here.  LionHeart loves a good series and one of the main characters of the book is named after his Pan-African History teacher.

In addition to selling amazing books, The Listening Tree, also offers a subscription book club for youth.  For $25 a month your reader will receive a new book each month, a newsletter, quarterly fun activities and other club membership benefits package, such as book markers, posters and more.  We plan to give membership a try as a part of LionHeart's reading requirements for homeschooling.

Spirit led me directly to this book after leaving the workshop given by Baba Wekesa on Countering the Injected Racial Scripts in our thinking and how it impacts the way we teach our children.  One of the concepts he discussed was the "Super Hero Trap."  In essence, he encouraged us to find people in your family and community who are ordinary people, doing extraordinary things.  When I stopped by this table and read this story, I thought perfect! Here's an ordinary man who wakes up and decides he is going to walk 1,800 miles to raise awareness about homelessness.  Here's an ordinary man doing something undeniably extraordinary!

There will be many lessons that come from this book.  Learn more about the author and download lesson plans by clicking here.

African Centered Curriculum Publishers

Kujichagulia Press

Kujichagulia Press is a family-owned publisher of African-centered curriculum with a host of titles focusing on everything from telling time with Benjamin Banneker to counting in Kiswahili.

I picked up the title Positive Messages to Uplift and Empower Black Children.  One of the concepts explored in the work book says "I am inspired by the contributions and accomplishments of Black people," followed by space for a short essay to allow the child to share what has inspired him.  Another concept I love in the book asks the child to name some organizations that have helped our people and encourages the child to join one.  These are such important messages to impart when our children are young.

Kamali Academy

There's no earthly reason why our children shouldn't learn about their history.  In fact, I believe not teaching a child his heritage is a form of neglect.  Knowing where you came from shapes where you are going.  Thankfully, Dr. Samori Camara, founder of Kamali Academy,  is making it easy providing a plethora of African-centered and visually appealing curriculum from math to grammar.  We have Volume 1 and couldn't resist picking up Volume 2 of 50 Afrikans You Must Know!  

Black Business

Another highlight was a Skype session with Mikaila Ulmer, the 11-year-old Lemonade millionaire. In addition to be an amazing business person, her spirit is in the right place.  When asked for advice for young people who want to start a business she said, "If you want to start a business, do something you love, something you are passionate about, or find a problem you want to solve. You can be sweet and profitable.  Doing good in the world helps your business."  Words of wisdom!

I had to bring this bottle home for LionHeart's desk.  I hope it will serve as inspiration that you are never to young to start a business and be successful.

I also picked up a copy of the documentary Black Friday, by Ric Mathis.  The film is narrated by 10-year-old entrepreneur Kennedy Stewart, pictured here.  The film was a part of the Black Business Network portion of the conference.  Dynamic co-founders of Tag Team Marketing, Delxino and Deborah Wilson de Briano, gave a powerful and motivational talk on the importance of buying Black and how to start and be successful entrepreneurs during the Buy Black Movement Presentation.

One of the things I love most about attending Liberated Minds is having the opportunity to meet authors like Jhavaun Green.

He wrote Skateboard Quincy & the Half-Pipe Repair Shop, which is  about a brown boy like LionHeart who loves to ride skateboards and start a business.  Like his father, LionHeart has an entrepreneurial spirit and I want to encourage it.

Black Comics

Steve Paul Creations
I had to give a shout out to Black comic illustrator and writer Steven Miner.  In addition to his own work, he is also featured on the website Peepgamecomix, a repository for independent Black Comic writers.  So cool!

Teen Life Skills

The title is misleading.  Getting High is about ascending to your highest self.  While the message in 7 Habits for Highly Effective Teens is universal, this teen handbook is specifically for "melanated teens."  Topics include eating clean, the role of detoxing and my favorite, the teen thinker's Hip Hop playlist.  Appropriate for ages 13 and up, I'm looking forward to my teen digging into this one.  Getting High is available on Amazon and you can learn more about the author here and in her blog Black Homeschool Mom.

Mind Body Connection

The mind-body connection was not ignored at Liberated Minds.  I stopped by the booth of Yennenga Adanya, an educational consultant and author of  Rear Them Well: Practical Tools for Raising a Genius.  We chatted for a while and once I was certain she understood my learner, she identified some healing crystals for my sons.  Black Obsidian and Carnelian (focus and attention) for my Right Brain Learner LionHeart and Blue Calcite for KingMan to open up communication.  For more information about her educational services, including reading and math evaluations, as well as creation of Individual Learning Plans, click here.  For more information about her Spiritual Wellness Products, click here.

Online Learning

Fawohodie Sua

Fawohodie Sua was one of the online Afrikan-centered educational co-operatives in attendance at Liberated Minds.  The online class offerings make me feel like I’m in my favorite bakery – so many goodies! There’s the Afrikan Presence in Science Fiction, Literary Analysis, Intro to Wombmanhood and Elements of Herbal Healing.  I am considering Liberation Music for Kingman and Vibrant Vegan Children for LionHeart.  That would take care of our Fine Arts and Health requirements for homeschooling! Be sure to check out their online open house on Sunday, August 6 @ 1pm.

Aya Educational Institute

Choices, choices, choices.  We have so many.  AYA Educational Institute is another outstanding African-centered Online homeschool educational program.  The learning sessions are not recorded.  This is live and interactive learning.  The classes choices ... well, I'm back in the bakery again with the goodies.  There's Comparative Government, Architecture, Black Biology/Chemistry, and my favorite, the Family Lore Project.  Imagine the deep family pride and family connections established when our children have to use their very own family as their primary resource.  Gives me chills.  AYA Educational Institute will be having an online open house on Sundays. Be sure to check out their blog for lots of amazing resources!  Every Sunday at 8 pm., they host an open house for prospective parents to learn more about what they offer.  Visit their Facebook page for more information.

Clothing and Textiles

 Another member of the Sankofa Homeschool Community, Kyna Clemons, displayed her beautiful work at Liberated Minds.  Founder and owner of Gyname Quilt Studio, this textile quilt artist and educator is the proud mama of 7 children and still finds time to develop African-Centered curricula and homeschool!  For more information about her quilts, visit her page on Facebook.

Show Your Support!

It has taken me so long to write this wrap-up because I had to process so many great resources.  I was not paid to do this review.  I simply want to spread the word.  Our people are really working hard to provide an alternative to much of the self-esteem destroying, inaccurate, culturally one-sided learning materials our children will encounter from mainstream sources.  I give so much thanks and praise to the hard-working Mamas and Babas, most of whom are holding down two and three jobs, for creating and striving for the collective good.