Walking Away: My Unschooling Journey

Today would be the last day I walked my eight year old daughter to her school and walked away. I live directly across the street from her elementary school, the same school my son, now thirteen, attended when he was just six years old. As I walked away today, it occurred to me that not only have my children been a constant fixture at the school, but so have I. For the past eight years I have volunteered almost every school week in either of their classrooms. In addition I dedicated several weeks each year as chairperson of their MLK Day of Service, Co-facilitator of parenting workshops and for several years held positions on their PTG (Parent Teacher Group) Board. I am a staunch supporter of the public school system and I adore the children that I have had the fortune to cross paths over the years, yet it is time for me to walk away and take my daughter with me. I am walking away from the beautiful, dedicated

++teachers, parents and administrators I’ve met over the years as well as the snobby suburban self-righteous and often underlying racist ones. I am walking away from seven hours of free child care each day of the week as well as the teachers who sometimes send my child home in tears because they just “don’t have time to ” help her understand a concept in the way that she needs to learn it. I’m walking away from the convenience of sending her walking to school as well as the anxiety-driven nausea and headaches she is sent home with like stale lunch in her backpack. No one cares about the quiet trauma that is brewing in the psyche of these young children when they are pressured with more homework and testing than I’ve seen in eight years.

I never thought I could do this. As a single parent with no parents or grandparents to lean on, I didn’t think I had an option. I didn’t see any way I could have her learn at home when I had to work at least part time outside of the home and maybe even more if I was to afford the child care and/or alternative school that she would now need. I felt selfish because I didn’t want to give up my free time during the day when I had no clients and could pamper myself. I couldn’t afford to send her to an alternative school because they were expensive and seemingly out of reach for someone self-employed and a full time mom. And then the day came that my daughter came home and asked me the question “Mom, do you think I’m stupid?”. And I knew that it didn’t matter what I thought I could or couldn’t do, I had to. To be continued….

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New FB page listing FREE programs for families in Philly

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We Love the idea of having a central place to access cultural and educational programs in Philadelphia for children and families that are FREE! Please visit https://m.facebook.com/freeinphilly ,  “like” the page and select notifications to stay updated on new content. You can also follow them on Twitter @Free_In_Philly. The website is coming soon! Thank you Barbara Lanell for creating and updating this wonderful resource for parents!

Check out @AfrAmParenting’s Tweet: https://twitter.com/AfrAmParenting/status/701035052331888641?s=09

900AM WURD MOJO SHOW 2.12.16 – Homeschooling Feature

Listen in to this important roundtable discussion held this past Friday on homeschooling and how different families are meeting their children’s educational needs.

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https://m.soundcloud.com/900amwurd/mojo-21216-homeschooling-feature-pt-2

The Psychology Behind Your Mess: Why Creative Geniuses Often Flourish in Clutter

It’s funny I had just posted yesterday about not wanting someone to film me in my day to day life because of the clutter in my home and  this article by Anna Bashedly pops into my Facebook news feed. I grew up in a home where children were seen and not heard and we each had chores that had to do with keeping the house clean. As the only girl I spent more hours that I’d like to remember doing dishes for a house of six people, dusting as well as keeping my room clean as my assigned chores. Today I despise doing dishes (unless I’m at someone else’s house) to the extent that I would rather go to the store to purchase dish washer detergent before I’d tackle a sink full of dishes by hand. Yes, I am not ashamed to admit that ten years as the household dishwasher has brought me to this point! The ironic thing about being the “duster” of the family is that twenty years ago I found out that dust and mold are my major allergens and being around a large quantity of either can give me a full blown allergic reaction. I have to wear a contractor’s dust mask to clean my house. I say this all to say that I am not a neat freak, I usually hire someone to clean my home and I was afraid I had passed my disdain for cleaning to my children. I felt guilty until I learned about the connection between gifted and talented minds and what others see as clutter.

I once attended a conference sponsored by S.E.N.G. Supporting the Emotional Needs of the Gifted to get insight into my son who at the age of four figured out how to count to 400 in Mandarin. One of the speakers spoke to us parents about not shaming our children because their rooms appeared to be “messy” all of the time. He told us that creative minds cannot start with a blank canvas and that what seems like clutter to us is inspiration and organization to them. I specifically remember him saying “unless there’s an old moldy slice of pizza under the bed, shut the door and leave his room alone!”. It’s a struggle but I do exactly that. Every few weeks I survey his room when he’s not there for moldy food and so far so good. I don’t invade his room, I ask him to collect his dirty clothes and bring them down to be washed, and I ask that he leave a path to the closet so I can use it for storage. I remember trying to “tidy up” his room and he would get so frustrated because although it looked like piles to me, he had his own method of organization and if I asked him to get something out of his room, he knew exactly where to go to put his fingers on it. I used to worry that I was creating a nightmare for his future wife but now I realize that allowing creative space for him to discover the cure for cancer is a better use of my concerns for his future.

Source: The Psychology Behind Your Mess: Why Creative Geniuses Often Flourish in Clutter

Food Issues:Supporting My Pescatarian Child

wp-1452777408745.jpgSo, my eight year old daughter decided she didn’t want to eat meat. She came into my bedroom one morning and announced it unexpectedly, and I listened and placed it into that small area in my brain to review later. It was by the way, the day before Thanksgiving and I just knew that she would reserve her stance for after the day of gluttony. Or so I thought.

My daughter is such a sensitive and loving child and has a very nurturing and innate connection to all of life’s creatures. She once brought what she thought was a caterpillar into the house to help it’s transformation, and we soon found out that it was a silkworm, not a caterpillar! Nevertheless she wanted to care for it I and found myself going to the local Arboretum to purchase a bug house for the tiny thing. I remember as a toddler the look on my daughter’s face when she realized I was cooking a small chicken in the oven that was once alive. “Mommy, are you cooking a baby chicken?” she asked me. I knew from then we would one day have this conversation. I had to laugh at first at the irony because I had nausea every single day she was in my womb and the only food that I could keep down was red meat, which I had stopped eating years prior to my pregnancy for other reasons.

Nevertheless the day progressed and we traveled to my Aunt Daisy’s home for Thanksgiving dinner. My aunt is a fabulous cook and laid a spread of food that spanned two rooms with every meat and side dish that you could imagine. I watched partly surprised yet proud that with all of the choices in front of her, my daughter packed her plate with salad, macaroni and cheese and sweet potatoes. When I saw her plate, forgetting about her proclamation a few days ago, I asked her if she wanted turkey. She was not tempted, and with a smile said “no Mommy” and walked to the table to sit down. I was speechless. I was surprised. I was proud. I was honestly a bit worried about how she could support her growing body without meat. It was then that she told me that she would eat seafood, but no other meat and I told her that I would completely support her. She gave me a big hug, said “you are the best Mommy ever” which she says often unless she’s not getting her way, and went to play with the other children.

I had no clue what to do from there. My son loves any kind of meat, and he’s a growing thirteen year old playing sports so I respect his choices. I eat fish and chicken but both baked and she eats only fish. All I could think about was how challenging it will be to stock the refrigerator and cook meals when both kids eat different things. It has been a learning experience for me and other than one bite of a turkey meatball, she has kept to her pledge since November 25th and I applaud her. I pack salads topped with strawberries, whole grain or protein bars, yogurt, hummus and chips, macaroni and cheese, tuna sandwiches and spinach quiche for lunch. She loves vegetables, hummus, fruit and yogurt so my only concern is getting enough protein in her diet. She loves cheese and scrambled eggs so she’s not willing to omit that at this time but it’s her journey and her choices to make today and change in the future as she would like. I’m thankful for friends who are vegetarians for sending me great ideas and recipes and I love that there are options for Tofurkey and other “meatless” chicken fingers and meatballs with great flavoring that even fool my son! I am learning about more healthy options for dinner and lunch and even snacks for her and she is feeling supported and learning about making good choices as well.

Isn’t it something how we think we are supporting and teaching and one day we realize that our children are truly the teachers?

What are some of your kid’s favorite meatless dishes?

Memories of a War Veteran..I have not forgotten

Re-posting in memory of my Uncle Bay and all of the soldiers who lost their lives as a result of war. Hoping you all make love and not war your priority this Memorial Day. #loveistheanswer

Memories of a War Veteran..I have not forgotten.

via Memories of a War Veteran..I have not forgotten.

Teachable Moments: Why I took my seven year old daughter to see Selma

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As a child born right in the middle of the Civil Rights movement, exactly six months after the assassination of Malcolm X, I have only my parent’s memories of those horrific and powerful moments in American history. When I started seeing the trailers for the Selma Movie I immediately felt the energy of the movement pour into me from the visual presence of powerful African-Americans moving forward in spite of the immense opposition. The pictures are always so powerful, and tell the stories that are starting to fade with the passing of each legendary activist and committed ancestor. As a woman I was both surprised and proud to see that this major motion picture was directed by Ava DuVernay who was also of African descent and extremely accomplished. I was excited and couldn’t wait to take the kids to see this film! I assumed that it, like the few MLK movies made for TV, would be rated PG and I set off immediately to secure tickets for us to see it after we volunteered on Martin Luther King Day. I was proud of myself for being so proactive until I saw that it was rated PG13. My heart dropped. My son was twelve and soon to be thirteen in a few months, but my daughter was seven and a half at most. Did I really have to deny her the opportunity to experience this African-American female director’s opportunity to tell the story of the March to Selma? Did she have to sit and listen to stories like I did as a young child never seeing the beauty and ugliness of those who both fought for and stood ignorantly in the way of universal love and freedom? I was torn between my own strong emotions about the project and being a responsible parent. My daughter, a very sensitive and loving soul was also practically begging me (no, literally) to take her to see the movie. I decided to poll my friends in social media who are teachers, parents, directors, storytellers and activists for their opinions in order for me make the best decision. Surprisingly I didn’t receive a resounding “YES, you should definitely take her” from the majority of those polled, but I took all of the suggestions and comments to heart and eventually decided to take her to see Selma. These are the reasons why I chose to ignore the film rating and take her anyway:

  1. She is the granddaughter and daughter of storytellers: My father wrote great short essays about his experiences growing up a young black boy in the fifties as well as experiences in the Air Force and the emotions and struggles that followed him into his adult life. Unfortunately he never published any of them. I started writing poetry in third grade and am just starting to tell stories that have been waiting to come out. My daughter is watching and may one day be a great writer too and I think it’s important for her to see stories unfold in front of her eyes. It’s her legacy, her reality and too important of a story to exclude from her growing library.
  2. She begged me: It was a different plea than the one I get a the toy store. My daughter has learned about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X and other great men and women in American history and she wanted to know more. I thought about one friend’s comment about how she is “my child” and how she has been listening to and enchanted by storytellers since she was an infant. Some things you just do by instinct, but she was right. I even had a storyteller at my son’s 5th birthday while my daughter watched from her baby carrier. After enduring too many “please Mommy”, how could I argue?
  3. I prepared her ahead of time: A few of my friends warned me that there were a few graphic moments in the film, especially in the beginning that could be too harsh for someone her age but felt that with the right preparation and conversation beforehand she could handle it. My daughter promised me that she wouldn’t be scared and she wasn’t going to have nightmares and that she wanted to see anything that involved “her people and their struggle and Martin Luther King”. So I Googled “Bloody Selma” and sat next to her while she viewed the actual footage from the march across the Edmund Pettus bridge and she didn’t flinch. As I watched I realized that children such as my father and mother birthed in the midst of segregation didn’t have the option of being sheltered from the brutality of their oppressors.
  4. She would walk out more proud of her ancestors’ strength and perseverance: I did get a few strange looks when I walked into the theater with her in tow and I just knew every parent secretly shamed me. I even started to doubt my decision after the opening scene (which was both powerful, shocking and necessary) but when the movie ended and she turned to me with a big smile on her face and said “that was awesome!” I knew that I had made the best decision for her. Not only did she get to see images of courageous women of color in both strong and supporting roles, she saw them fight for their men, children and communities in a way that is not depicted in history books and definitely not on the Disney channel. The Civil Rights struggle was told from a different angle and with a different voice all guided by the vision of a female director and producer of African descent. Definitely a teachable moment!

Of course you have to take all of these factors into consideration before choosing to take your younger child to see this  PG13 movie. I have to admit even with her excitement over seeing Selma I was worried that she would have nightmares, but none came. There was also one moment where my Mom instinct kicked in and I covered her eyes, but she abruptly moved my hand! The sad truth is, our kids are so exposed to brutality, injustice and violence today, that ‘Bloody Selma’ is not as jarring as we would expect. We cannot expect our children to reflect the qualities that we do not mirror back to them. Sometimes we are the mirror, sometimes it appears in the form of a book, a writer or motion picture but I believe it has to be done by any means necessary.