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.




Friday, April 21, 2017

The Power of Black Super Heroes



When KingMan was younger we always had the same debate in the toy aisle.  He wanted the white super hero, but I wanted him to have the Black super hero.  I understood why he wanted Goku - it was what he saw on television.  I also understood why he wanted John Cena, instead of Kofi Kingston.  But for me it was the principle.  So the compromise was I bought both.  It was important to me to that he had super heroes who looked like him too.  After I watched a film called The White Man's Burden, I knew I was right.


Nkosi ~ The Noble Fire

While visiting the vendors at a Rites of Passage graduation I noticed someone holding a super hero coloring and activity book featuring images of Black people. I had to have one.  I searched until I found the creator of Umoja Force, Akinseye Brown.  He was packing up and couldn't take my payment, but gifted me with the book anyway.  I am so grateful he did.  Umoja Force Heroes for Unity is a coloring and activity book that introduces four Black Super Heroes.  I love it!


Nisir ~ The Quantum Eagle

Unlike many comic books, which feature the tired old story of the villain, the good guys and the bad guys with the predictable ending, Umoja Force  has a message of unity.  Throughout the activity guide you find references to ancient wisdom and how to recognize forces that exist to create confusion and disunity.  I sat down and read the entire story to LionHeart.  He loved it.  Because it is a coloring and activity guide, he'll get a chance to re-read it and meditate on the message as he colors and completes the activities.  Coloring is a form of meditation; why not focus on something positive!




“The most important thing that Black Superheroes do is help African people to see themselves as powerful and beautiful,” says comic book creator Akinseye Brown. I could not agree more.  Brown is the creator and owner of Sokoya Productions, which publishes Umoja Force.  Founded in 2006, his work includes Vejo Capoeira, Umoja Force,  Sannkofamaan, and Dara Brown: 1996.  His most popular work, How To Draw Afrakan Superheroes  won a Pioneer Lifetime Achievement Award in 2016.


Brown calls his work African science fiction.  “It is simply good storytelling whose narrative uses elements of technology, science, spirituality, fantasy and mystery, to connect and reconnect the reader/audience with their African culture through past, present and future.”  But more than that, Brown aims for his work to have a larger goal.  “If people see themselves as s/heroes, they then begin to act as someone who is responsible for bringing good to the world.” God knows we need more people who think like that!




Brown has a large body of amazing work, including a series that teaches young people who to draw Black comics. You can see more of Brown’s comics and his incredible art work at his website:  www.sokoyaprod.com






Sunday, April 16, 2017

Clever Dragons ~ Online Learning for Boys



As a working, single-parent homeschool mom I am busy.  Busy, beyond busy! There are times when our day moves like a bullet train.  If we don't get as much done as I would like, my homeschool guilt surfaces.  We homeschoolers bear a heavy responsibility and we want to make sure we get it right.  When I had the opportunity to review Clever Dragons, an online curriculum that could potentially lend a helping hand, I jumped at the chance.


Clever Dragons 

My Right-Brain learner is computer savvy and uses YouTube to teach himself anything he wants to learn.  I had my fingers crossed that he would like Clever Dragons.  I loved all of the things I read about it so I really wanted him to like it.  It's an online, game-based learning environment created specifically for boys ages 7-12.  When he logged on and was immediately excited about creating his Mini Me (avatar) that was a definite plus.  He was pretty impressed that Nike was included in the gear he could purchase for his Mini Me, but disappointed that more African-American hairstyles, like Afros and Locs weren't included.



Learning Paths


The Learning Paths are the core educational areas.  The math section was the first area LionHeart visited.  The philosophy behind Clever Dragons is that drills and practice don't have to be boring.  Practice and repetition are always more fun in game format.  The more you play, the more you master.  There are no feelings of feeling of failure, just fun.  I watched LionHeart answer a question incorrectly and say to himself, "I'm going to keep trying so I can earn some coins." Core subject areas of Clever Dragons include Language Arts, Science, Geography & History, Music & Arts, and World Language studies. I especially love that keyboarding is included in the curriculum - a necessary skill. Parents can create unique learning paths based on the child's interests and strengths.  LionHeart loves dogs, so I will be sure to add the learning path on Dog breeds. Click here to read more about learning paths.

 Videos

LionHeart is a visual learner and the use of videos as a teaching tool are perfect for him. He has been skipping the videos and heading straight for the lessons. He likes to work this way.  It's almost as if he has to see the need for the learning video first.  He loves that the videos are short and the explanations are straight forward, but would like to see more animated graphics.  His favorite videos are the ones uploaded by users, probably because he creates NBA2K17 videos.  I'm sure he'll be uploading his own.



Games

This is what I love most of all about Clever Dragons ~ the learning through games.  My son is a Right-Brain, kinesthetic, visual learner.  Exploring, discovering and watching is how he learns best.  He is also an avid video game player so learning games are especially appealing to him.  Best of all he can earn coins by answering questions correctly.  Virtual currency is a powerful motivator.  Virtual currency can be used to build castles on Castle World, feed virtual pets and more.  In the process, users learn budgeting skills. Re-taking a quiz is not drudgery when you can earn more coins. Through games, LionHeart can learn the states, how to type, classical music and more.  I noticed that he was much more willing to explore core subjects and new concepts through games.  A homonym worksheet would be a struggle, but learning homonyms through a game is a way to earn coins.  It's all about the coins! He loves earning gold coins and gives me constant updates about how many coins and badges he has earned.  The pride is real!

The Clever Dragon Weekly

The writer in me really loves the newspaper feature of Clever Dragons.  Another core subject area ~ writing ~ is interwoven into the program in a fun way.  The newspaper is written by Clever Dragon users and moderated by staff.  Users will have the opportunity to practice different writing formats, including poetry, prose, recipes and more.  I plan to encourage LionHeart to write about his “cheat codes” for NBA2K17.  As an incentive for submitting writing, users get a free issue of the paper as well as special items for their Mini Me.  Deadlines are each Thursday.  I just love it.  Real world experience!





My World

LionHeart is a very creative child and he loves to use his creativity in the My World section.  He can create clothes, have a pet, decorate a home and connect with online friends.  What kid doesn't want to have his own house! In My World he can also practice pet care-taking skills because he actually has to feed the pet.  He can even design his own clothes and sell them to his online friends.  Wow! LionHeart is a budding entrepreneur and this feature will allow him to hone those skills. There is also a feature that allows you to indicate when your online friends are also your real life friends (pictured above with his twin homeschool buddies who also use Clever Dragons).  When you can't learn with friends in person, the next best thing is online.  The chat rooms are heavily moderated for safety concerns.  According to the website, Clever Dragons provides a "Facebook-like experience for kids, all in a safe, controlled setting."






For the Parents


If you need documentation for your homeschool portfolio area, the Parent Portal is your friend.  Opt for the premium subscription, which allows you to customize the learning experience by assigning specific lessons, requiring a specific lesson be complete before exploring other areas, and see a list of incorrect answers, which can be used for further learning.  The premium subscription also allows you to set goals with your child, track how much time is spent on specific tasks, and document the learning through custom reports.  You can also designate the grade level as you see fit or stretch across several grade levels, as I did.  Parents also receive weekly email reports.  I personally love this feature because it reminds me to utilize all the parent features.  Having the option of choosing specific assignments, educational videos, practice work, and learning assessments makes Clever Dragons much more than an educational game fill-in.  


The Founders

Dr. Johannes and Swenja Ziegler, parents of five, are the creators of Clever Dragons.  They, along with a team of team of educational experts including teachers, academics, and homeschooling parents, developed this program with boys in mind.