Wednesday, March 30, 2011


Me gusto ensalada de taco!!! Besides Peanut Butter & Jelly, our family's favorite collective dish is Taco Salad. I've often thought that if I wasn't proud to be African then I'd gladly assimilate as a Black Mexican since I never tire of the ethnic dishes.

As a non-meat-eater, preparing food can be such an adventure, as we're always trying new things in order to keep our diet interesting. Sometimes though, we want what everyone else is having, so we find ways to modify the ingredients to fit our diet. We maintain a primarily holistic diet, which wouldn't traditionally include processed foods like soy crumbles, but we slip into the vegan, and even sometimes vegetarian range on occasion. So for all you soy replacement nay sayers, this recipe might be a turnoff, but to keep it similar you can use lentils or TVP (texturized vegetable protein) instead of meatless. We find it tastes just as good when we do so.


organic vegetarian refried beans
vegan meatless crumbles (Boca)
(1 1/2) onion - diced
(8 oz. or 4 large) mushrooms - sliced
(1/3) red pepper - sliced
(1/3) orange pepper - sliced
(1/3) yellow pepper - sliced
(1/3) green pepper - sliced
(1) tomato -diced
baby greens lettuce mix w/ spinach
organic salsa
pepper sauce (optional)
(1 tsp.) olive oil
organic tortilla chips

1. Prep vegetables.
2. Heat skillet w/ olive oil on medium high.
3. Saute onion, mushrooms, and all peppers until vegetables are limp.
4. Add meatless crumbles to the vegetables and turn down to medium until heated throughout.
5. Preheat oven to 300 degrees
6. Heat refried beans in a separate skillet.
7. Place chips on baking sheet & warm in over for 5 minutes.
8. Build your taco salad the way you like it.

For today's lunch, we served it with fresh pineapple on the side & it was a wrap...not that kind of a wrap, it was still a taco salad, but what I'm saying is the pineapple made the dish complete.

Try might like it!

Thursday, March 17, 2011


Being a very unique person, it was only natural that eye would also be an extremely unique parent. It wasn't anything eye planned, just came about that way. If we think about it, we can all find things are are unique to us as both parents and individuals. For me, this uniqueness has spilled over into the family & I'm noticing that we have created some pretty original family rituals/habits. These are things that the children greatly appreciate as staples in their lives that eye imagine might be carried over into their own families one day. Here are a few of the things we have established:

*Happy Plate Song
Once a child has completelyeaten everything on their plate during a meal, we all sing to them. We clap our hands, and with every clap we chant:

[Name] has a happy plate
[Name] has a happy plate
Plate, plate, a happy plate
Good eater!

Works best for children under 6, but I sometimes pull it out on my older kids just for fun. My best friend made this up for her preschool children at the YMCA & we have been using it since my oldest was a baby.

*$1 per behavior compliments
Until my children turn 14, they will be be beneficiaries of a dollar reward each time they receive a behavior compliment from someone in public. If the whole group gets a compliment, everyone gets paid; if it's just one, that's who gets the cash. This incentive does wonders when we have long waits or we're at a place that's not so child friendly. Sometimes they get 2 or 3 compliments on one outing, and occasionally, the kind patron will give them the dollar out of their own pocket once I explain to them what they have helped the children accomplish.

*Time to Shine
Whenever we randomly look at a clock & notice that the time reflects the month/date of one of our birthdays, we all break out in beat & rap. One person will beatbox, another bangs on the wall, while all the rest point at the person being acknowledged & kicks our rap while they dance & get wild for their minute. You can make up your own rap, but here's ours:

It's [Name's] time to shine
It's [Name's] time to shine
Go [Name], Go [Name], Go [Name], Go [Name]

It's [Name's] time to shine
It's [Name's] time to shine
Go [Name], Go [Name], Go [Name], Go [Name]

Get ya, get ya, get ya, get ya shine on
Get ya, get ya, get ya, get ya shine on
Get ya, get ya, get ya, get ya shine on
Get ya shine on

Get ya, get ya, get ya, get ya shine on
Get ya, get ya, get ya, get ya shine on
Get ya, get ya, get ya, get ya shine on
Get ya shine over

*Meal Grace
We do a lot of praying over our food, so the same ole' kiddie prayers got old to me really fast. For the past few years, I have encouraged each of the children to contribute new words for race, so here are a couple of my favorites that are very simple & straight to the point:

Creator of all things good
We thank you for our food
Today we pray we are in a great mood

Adonai, El Shaddai & Elohim, too
Once again we would like to thank you
For this food we're about to receive
So let us enjoy this food & eat

Strive to create lasting memories with your children each day. As much as they appreciate new toys & fun outing, they will also enjoy doing things with you that are exclusive only to your family. Try might like it!

Thursday, March 10, 2011


One of the most common concerns that parents of both public/private educated & home educated children present to me is a desire to see their children reading more. On a weekly basis, a parent explains to me the scenario of how they absolutely love to read, but cannot get their youth to read at all. In many instances, the parent interprets a child's unwillingness to read freely & passionately as a recipe for disaster later in life, which to a degree, is accurate. While reading regularly does promote better reading & understanding, the actual problem to be concerned about is the quality of their reading, otherwise known as reading skills.

Here are some startling statistics from the most recent U.S. Department of Education adult literacy survey:

-Nearly half of America's adults are poor readers, or "functionally illiterate." They can't carry out simply tasks like balancing check books, reading drug labels or writing essays for a job.

-50 percent of American adults are unable to read an eighth grade level book.

-44 million adults in the U.S. can't read well enough to read a simple story to a child.

-More than 20 percent of adults read at or below a fifth-grade level - far below the level needed to earn a living wage.

Even these outdated numbers show enough for concern, as we know that our educational system has only worsened over the almost 20 years, since this recording. Encouraging our children to read more will ultimately be reflected in their testing scores & eventually their success, so to go back to the beginning in which I stated that this is our greatest concern, as parents. I have a degree in English, certified to teach reading & have helped dozens of children learn to read over the years - but more than that, I have been an avid reader since as early as I can remember & know the life-changing benefits of reading first-hand.

Allow me to suggest a few simple steps that just might help your child discover or embrace a hidden love for reading:

*Read to your child at bedtime.
There's no age too young for a child to listen to a book. Kids of all ages love to cuddle with their parents, so make reading an excuse to share love & quality time. Frankly, I started reading to my babies in the womb (not sure if they were actually listening or not). This is as simple as you reading aloud, whatever you are reading. The key here is to get the child used to your voice, but it's a great reason to introduce reading to your growing fetus.

*Take children to the library frequently.

The Public Library is the single greatest free resource in the United States. Absolutely invaluable! Most are open 6-7 days of the week, operate on extended hours, accompany all ages, and have free activities weekly. This is a great place to introduce a child to both books & storytime, as well as to other people who love to read. Also, don't be so stringent at first on what they read. If it's comic books or magazines they prefer, encourage it. If it's a certain type of book (like for a while my son would only read books on animals), then that's okay. So long as the material is age appropriate, I say focus more on the fact THAT they are reading rather than WHAT they are reading. Once you get them hooked, then you can tailor their content & even throw in some of the classics.

*Suggest the child take a book to the bathroom when they're going to be there for a while.
Believe it or not, one of my children thanked me a few days ago for encouraging reading during bathroom "sit-downs". At some point or another, all of the kids have laughed at me for recommending that, but she told me that she believes that it fostered her love for reading. Who knew? It's backfired on me though because now when someone wants to get out of a chore they grab a book & excuse themselves to "go to the bathroom."

*Buy books as treats & gifts.
Instead of buying them candy or a cheap toy that's going to break before you evenget it home, get them a book instead. At any Dollar Store you can grab one for little or nothing; even at a full priced store, you can find a children's book for under $5. We have more books in our house than any other single item because that's all I have ever bought them. With 5 children, we have only one toy box, yet more than a dozen book shelves, baskets, bins, & such. There's not a room the kids can enter & not find an age-appropriate book.

*Schedule a quiet time for the whole family to read together.
You, the parent, are the biggest influence on your child. Children under the age of 12 tend to imitate their parents behavior - good & bad - more than any other person in their life. That said, what better way to get them to read then to make it an activity that everyone does together. Try it maybe one night a week at first...turn off the television & everyone cuddle up together on your bed or in the den, or wherever space permits. Set a time limit, maybe 30 minutes, & do nothing but read. No talking or playing, just reading. In my house, we have Power Hour every day for an hour. During that time, we all read (the younger kids take a nap after 30 minutes). Even if the child is not reading independently yet, he/she can look through a stack of books solely entertaining themselves by looking at pictures, with you reading to them for perhaps 10 minutes of the time.

If you enforce one, two, or all of these techniques, I assure you will see a difference in your child's attitude toward reading, over time. And then there's this one little monkeywrench in the whole system, some people just do not like to read. Period, point blank. But I assure you that this is the exception to the rule, & that you will find that most children say they don't like to read simply because they haven't learned the value of doing it.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011


On Facebook, I posted about a devotion in God's Calling titled "Surprises". One of the passages from it reads, "As you love to plan surprises for those who understand, and joy in them, so with me. Eye love to plan them for those who see my Love and tender joy in them." Last night at church I received one of those surprises.

Someone blessing me with an anonymous gift, led me to think about how you never know know who's watching and understands your situation. It also exemplifies how GOD will use those you least expect to bless you. If the value of your life is determined by the quality of your living, then the value of your service is measured by your giving. Eye pray that my children learn this early & amass tremendous spiritual wealth from GOD pouring out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it. The same eye pray for you...

Tuesday, March 8, 2011


For the first time in our 11-year homeschool history, the children & I attended a convention - Midsouth Homeschool Convention- centered around the way that we educate. More than anything, being around others who share our same learning ideals felt comforting & natural, in a way that we don't feel on the everyday. Generally, homeschoolers are regarded as weird or cultish, so being surrounded by thousands of homeschooling families was a chance for us to be "normal" for a change.

One thing I learned that would be of value to any parent with a high school student is that the PSAT (Preliminary Standard Academic Test) opens the doors to scholarships, unlike the ACT and SAT, which colleges use primarily for admission purposes. According to Jean Burke of College Prep Genius, if taken during the 11th grade year & well-scored, a student will have so many scholarship offers that they will be turning them down (she said she threw away 7 bags worth of offers for her son). I hope that someone reading will take this information and run with it, that a young person in your life might benefit.

Actually, I took quite a few great classes, such as:

*Challenging Children Through the Study of Real World Algebra
*Building a Homeschool Transcript
*Secrets of the PSAT and Getting Free College
*Parental Rights Amendment: Is It Necessary? Is It Dangerous? (Understanding the Constitution)
*Microbusiness for Teens
*Writing from Home

Younger children were unfortunately left out of the planning for the scheduled activities, but the young adults were able to take advantage of the WorldView Teen trac where my teen took classes, such as:

*Young Lady
*Preparing Young Ladies for their Teen-Age Years
*Dreams, Desires, Decisions
*Biological Organisms and Structures That Evolutionists Won't Show You (Dr. Jay Wile)
*Come and Listen, If You Dare! Etiquette for Teens
*What to Do With the Rest of Your Life: Clear Thinking on Calling and God's Will

The convention rounded out the knowledge with a little entertainment, as well, where popular comedian & homeschool parent, Tim Hawkins had the attendees rolling in the aisles. Here's one of his homeschool skits:

During my interview with the journalist from the Commercial Appeal, I explained that homeschoolers have as many social outlets through our various associations, as children in the public school system. From athletics, to honor socieites, to dances, proms and graduations - our children lack very little in outlets in comparison to the traditional student.

As journalists have been known to do, she took liberties with some of my comments & especially in reference to my disappointment about the lack of diversity. She quoted me as saying I was displeased with the lack of diversity in regards to African-America history, when in actuality I stated that I was most disappointed about the lack of American-African representation all together - from vendors to lecturers to curriculum. While impressed by the breadth of resources and information, I was terribly disturbed at the lack of cultural & ethnic diversity. There was an array of alternative-Christian lifestyle options (i.e. vegetarianism, Amish, holistic health, etc.) represented, but nothing specific to the minority.

However, there was a single class offered, by Ken Ham, based on his book One Race One Blood that touted what we Pan-Afrikanists have known for decades, which is that all humanity comes from Africa & African people. I hate I missed his lecture, but I guess if there was going to be any African-related content, then it's great that it was very fundamental information that needs to be understood by all people before we can truly begin to turn things around in this country educationally, historically, and racially.

Sunday, March 6, 2011


Parents, kids attend Christian-focused MidSouth Home-school Convention
More than 3,000 at 3-day event

By Linda A. Moore

Sunday, March 6, 2011

More than 3,000 parents and children came for knowledge, supplies and support at the three-day MidSouth Homeschool Convention, which ended Saturday at the Memphis Cook Convention Center.

The Christian-focused event included a broad range of workshops on academic subjects, etiquette for teens, sibling dynamics and college preparation. Speakers included family psychologist, author and newspaper columnist John Rosemond, whose column appears in The Commercial Appeal.

In the convention's exhibit hall more than 250 vendors offered religious materials, books, and curriculums in mathematics, social studies, music, art, languages, history and science.

"What is out there and available for home-schoolers, it's so overwhelming," said Mary Jo Dean, who with her husband, Brennan Dean, head Great Homeschool Conventions Inc. "You have to pick and choose what you want to do."

Academically, home-schoolers tend to excel, she said.

"Colleges now are seeking home-schooled children because of how they test," Dean said. "We are preparing our children for college."

The biggest misconception about home-schooling is that the children aren't well socialized, Dean said. There are sports, debate teams and in some cases special co-op classes with other home-schoolers, she said.

And for Kana Farrell, 13, being home-schooled has not resulted in mom overload.

"I think it's more of a bonding relationship. Most families don't have that. The kids are gone all day and when they come home they're alone and they don't have that time to spend with their families," said Kana of East Memphis.

Her mother, Oriana Lee, is on the board of Ebony Homeschoolers and the Memphis Homeschool Education Association and has been home-schooling her five children for 11 years.

"I home-school mainly because I felt the school system is not really serving our children well," Lee said.

Her only complaint with the convention was what she felt was a lack of diversity among the vendors, particularly with regards to African-American history.

"Fifteen percent of the more than 2 million home-schoolers are African-American. You would think there'd be a little bit more representation, especially in Memphis," Lee said.

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