Homeschooling Black History Month

In general, we follow our Sonlight curriculum pretty closely for homeschooling. In fact, Sonlight’s curriculum being pretty much “open and go,” requiring very little preparation from me before our school day begins, is one of the reasons we’ve chosen it for much of our curriculum.

But one thing I took away from my reading of Teaching From Rest was that curriculum is so much more than the package I order. The books and plans I order from Sonlight are a great starting point, but I need to make sure I’m giving my kids what I think they need to know.

In the context of the current events of the past year, we’ve been having a number of conversations about race and racism, and I thought it was important to honor Black History Month somehow, taking some time specifically to learn about and grow in respect for Black Americans.

Last month, on the designated day, we took some time to learn about and honor Martin Luther King, Jr., but I wanted us to go beyond that, to know more amazing Black Americans.

One of my kiddos asked me at the beginning of the month why we were specifically studying Black Americans. She wanted to know – was that because Black people were more important than white people?

No, I replied. Absolutely not. But when we read history books, who do we hear about? White people – mostly white men. When we look at the people who have been in power in Europe and America for hundreds of years, who have they been? White men. And can we truly understand history if we really only know what the most famous people from one particular demographic were doing? No. If we want to understand the history of our world, and in particular our country, we need to understand what was and is happening with men and women, with Black people and white people, Native Americans, Chinese Americans, Irish Americans, and other people groups throughout history. Because many books focus most on the same demographic (white men in power), we need to make a concerted effort to learn about what other people have done and are doing.

And so we’ve been diving in this month, learning more about Black people and their current reality and their history. Two books we’ve been using are Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History and Can I Touch Your Hair?: Poems of Race, Mistakes, and Friendship.

Our big girls have been so enjoying both books – they often choose to start our school time with them, and I’ve found them both reading them on their own, as well.

Both books have been great starting points for conversation and learning more. Matt and I have had great talks with the kiddos – Miranda in particular – about why Black people have been economically disadvantaged in America, why the Civil Rights movement was needed, what the KKK was and is, and how God calls us to live, even in the face of fear and real danger.

Our kids are still so young, but even young kids perceive race and have begun to develop ideas and attitudes about race. Our kids are going to develop their racial understandings somehow, and we can either be a voice for equality, progress, and justice, or we can be silent. Matt and I believe strongly that we want to work toward progress. We don’t know everything. We don’t have it all figured out. I’m sure there’s more we could be doing. But we can either let our inability to be perfect prevent us from doing anything, or we can start somewhere, however small. I’m thankful for this opportunity to teach (and learn with!) my kiddos this month, and my hope is that we can build on this for future months and years, as well, as we seek to raise kiddos who are good citizens of the world.

If you are a home-schooling family – or even if you’re not! – I’d love to hear how you honor Black History Month and seek to incorporate learning about Black Americans into your family’s life during this month!

Heat Sheets and Sharpies and Crash Rooms, Oh My: Miranda’s First Real Swim Meet!

This past weekend Miranda had her first official swim meet! She started swim team this past fall, and she participated in an intrasquad meet several months ago, but this was her first time participating in a true swim meet. We were all excited but also a little bit nervous 🙂

After talking with her coach, I told her she had the option to swim 1, 2, or 3 races, and she said she wanted to do all 3, so for this first meet she swam 25m freestyle, 25m backstroke, and 25m butterfly races. One thing I love about her head coach is that any time I talk with her, she always has something encouraging to say about Miranda and how much they all enjoy working with her (she does this for all the kids and all the parents). She told me, when I asked her thoughts about which events Miranda should swim, that Miranda had one of the most natural dolphin kicks she’d ever seen, which thrilled Miranda to no end. She hasn’t quite put all the pieces of the butterfly stroke together smoothly yet, but she still loves swimming it so that she can put her dolphin kick to good use!

We had to get there early on Saturday morning – not ideal. Warm-ups started at 6:45, so I got up at 5:10. I am never, ever up at that time. I’ve been battling a cold, too, so it was not fun. But I powered through, and I woke both big girls up at 5:30 so they could get ready. Madeleine CaiQun insisted that she wanted to come early, too, so the three of us left the house in the pitch black darkness of the pre-sunrise hours.

I think Miranda was a bit overwhelmed by the big-ness of everything at the Mizzou pool. She’s used to me being 20 feet away from her for her entire practice, and this was not that. She swam in the pool farther away from the crash room, so she couldn’t even see her coaches or her pool from the crash room door. Parents are technically not allowed to be out on the pool deck…but I may or may not know anyone who, when confronted with the tears of her child, ignored the prohibition and walked out with her anyway.

Miranda is quite enamored with this sharpie-on-arm writing

I love the way everything is structured for these 25m 8-and-under events. They have a “bullpen” – essentially a staging area, where some coaches and volunteers get all of the kiddos lined up in exactly the order in which they need to be so that they can walk out to their lanes and swim. Then there are coaches and officials double-checking that each swimmer is where they need to be before their races begin.

The head coach of Miranda’s team is great about making sure that kids see meets as fun opportunities to improve their own times. No one focuses on rankings or where kids are placing relative to others; it’s all about personal growth.

Miranda swimming her freestyle event

I did look at the rankings, and Miranda finishes toward the bottom in every event, but that’s totally fine 🙂 It was huge to get this first ever big meet under her belt and to swim 3 whole events. Even at the intrasquad she’d only done 1 (backstroke). She improved her backstroke time by almost 4 whole seconds (!!), and she now has established times for freestyle and butterfly.

Miranda swimming backstroke

Matt and I were joking that she could actually shave multiple seconds off of her times if she would take off when the starting sound goes instead of looking around to make sure other swimmers have started first.

Miranda is the “splash” in lane 6, as other swimmers are already well underway 🙂

Honestly, I find it all quite endearing. I love seeing her start out at the beginning and make progress. When she first started swim team, she could make it across one length of the pool doing freestyle and one length doing backstroke, but barely. And now? She routinely swims the length of the pool dozens of times in each day’s practice, and she’s getting faster and better at the mechanics of everything. It’s so neat to see that growth.

And she’s growing in other ways, beyond just her swimming skills, too. She has a little friend she loves to see at swim practice, and she told me she made another friend at this swim meet, because they were in the same heat for their first race, so they had time to chat in the bullpen while waiting for their turn to go out on deck. Giving her a chance to interact with other kids her age and with other adults is a big reason we pursue extracurricular activities, so I’m thrilled to see that she’s starting to feel more comfortable in those areas, as well.

Overall, it was a very good experience. I’m so proud of her for being brave and taking on the challenge of swimming 3 races in a bit meet like this. It was such a fun morning for me, as her mom, to watch and help her through. I hope we’ll have many more fun swim meet experiences coming up in our future!