Why Social Media, Mailing Lists and a New Email Address May Help You Homeschool Better

I’m sure you’ve heard that the only constant is change. Well, it’s true. And, change has totally taken over our world in a matter of months since the introduction of COVID-19 into our lives. For those who are embarking on their homeschooling journey now as a response to COVID-19, the world around you requires you to embrace change and your homeschooling practice certainly requires it. As you think of what your homeschooling goals are by possibly creating a mission statement, or scrambling to find ideal curricula or homeschool co-op options, what your child(ren) will really benefit from is a conscious effort to build your well of patience and commit to building your own skills in certain areas while preparing to curate your child’s learning experience. Here are some skill areas that will best benefit you if you work towards building them as you homeschool:


  1. Optimize Your Internet and Social Media Skills

Are you someone who has sworn off Facebook, have no clue what Snapchat is and occasionally may post something on Instagram? Many adults who grew up before the internet became a thing may not have integrated their life so easily with social media use as millenials and younger folks have. Some of us have not had jobs and associations that have required us to maintain an online presence. But, here is the thing, as our world has gone virtual as of late out of health necessity, a lot of the in-person opportunities that abounded pre-COVID have gone online.

The online resources that have grown online have broadened exponentially. Museums have virtual tours and online lesson plans, libraries have daily online programs, YouTube offerings abound and Zoom courses are now normalized fare. Many of these things are not only advertised and shared through platforms like Facebook, but, many of the events themselves are held on Facebook using features like Facebook Groups, Facebook Rooms, and Facebook Live. I recently co-produced an event for homeschooling families using Facebook as the meeting space for the event that had over 200 registered participants. Parents who swear off social media and online platforms lose out on numerous opportunities to find resources and become part of community. If this is your struggle, my advice is become acclimated to online spaces slowly at first by joining a group or two and getting a feel for the space. Try out an online course on a platform you haven’t used before. Search for YouTube videos that can offer a tutorial on how use Zoom or navigate through a Facebook group. I can’t emphasize how important it is to not only get onto sites, but, learn how to use these sites efficiently. My advice is to learn a platform well before you sign up for a class, workshop or conference that uses the platform. The organizers of an event will not have the time to show you how to get up to speed with learning the new interface. It is your responsibility to be able to find materials and navigate the space. Your ease and comfort online can familiarize you with resources you never considered before.


2. Sign Up for Mailing Lists

Now that you have decided to homeschool, you want to expend as little energy as possible with having to search for resources. One way to save energy that could be devoted to engaging with your children is signing up for mailing lists of companies and institutions that offer free services, affordable classes and workshops, discounted learning materials, etc. Some of the recommended places to start are: Libraries, Museums, Homeschool Co-ops that offer virutal classes, Educational Supply Retailers, Online Course Sites like Udemy, Outschool and Teachable, Indie Children’s Book Authors, Organizations that serve homeschoolers, etc. Have you joined a Facebook group and want to ask a question in the group so you can start meeting folks and get a sense of who they are? Post a question like, “Hey everyone, I’m looking to join the mailing lists of museums and places that offer curricula and cool free resources. Any recommendations?” You will immediately see how helpful homeschool moms are and also get recommendations that you probably wouldn’t have considered before. Go ahead and join those mailing lists!


3. Create A New Email Address Devoted to Your Homeschool Life

And, lastly, before you join those mailing list, start a new email address that you will devote entirely to your homeschool life. This is especially helpful for those of you with an already packed email account that you use for work, general communication and the spam you didn’t ask for. An email address devoted to your homeschool resources and correspondence will help you stay organized and help you stay abreast of what’s available to you. For me, this email is also attached to my Facebook account and allows me to get updates if folks are responding to me which I prefer instead of having notifications coming noisily to my phone. They just go to my email or stay within the Facebook app.

In short, the homeschooling journey is as much about you building skills as it is about your curating your child’s learning experience. So much is online now. Don’t stay tethered to outdated modes of information-sharing. Get with the times. Be determined to grow and learn and embody the mindset of the eternal student. Embracing change will only make you more empowered!

Dr. Khadijah Z. Ali-Coleman started So Our Youth Aspire (SOYA) in 2006. She is a cultural critic, educator and homeschooling mom. Join the mailing list of Black Family Homeschool Educators and Scholars at BlackFamilyHomeschooling.org.

Learn more at khadijahali-coleman.com

Parent’s Guide to Watching the Movie ‘Harriet’

I had the privilege of seeing a screening of the movie Harriet, directed by Kasi Lemmons about a month before it was released in theaters. So, be warned that this article has spoilers regarding the plot of the film although we are all familiar with the general Harriet Tubman story. I went to see the screening with my daughter and her dad, curious to see how the iconic woman we know as Harriet Tubman would be portrayed on screen. I had always been fascinated by Harriet Tubman’s life story, the bare bones of it that we were always told. In fact, one of my first books I selected on my own from Scholastic, as a voracious reader in first grade, was a small paperback book on the narrative of Harriet Tubman. Learning at six years-old about slavery and all of the brutality Harriet Tubman endured before escaping with her life was a lot to digest at such a young age. I remember having dreams of a young Harriet Tubman being knocked in the head by an overseer and almost dying and feeling like I literally wanted to cry. This new movie may not be as triggering as the paperback book that I read as a six year-old, but, it may have some questionable content that may lead your children, regardless their age, to ask questions, or worse, accept some things unquestioningly as solid fact. This article seeks to offer some suggestions when having a debrief with your kids after the movie.

scene from the film “Harriet” out in theatres now

Harriet Tubman, disabled survivor of brain trauma or a mystical, magical Negro with super-human abilities?

One of the heavy tropes used in the film was the “magical Negro” trope which presents a Black character as superhuman or blissfully non-human with capacities that make their existence atypical and peculiar. While applying mystical properties to said Black character, this trope often creates a Black character that is often exoticized and left to display mystical traits while lacking dimension and development that alludes to a human core. Movies like The Green Mile, The Legend of Bagger Vance and even, one of my favorite films, Ghost, use this trope which often leaves the leading Black character with little essence as a person and more of a mystical unknown. In Lemmons’ film, Harriet Tubman almost becomes an entire trope as her fainting spells due to traumatic brain injury are presented as spells of intense direction from a higher power. She just “knows” and this knowing of when to hide from approaching enslavers or exactly where to go with a band of runaways in her care is presented as an uncanny gift that is otherworldly. While a brief interaction with a Black pastor who becomes her first stop on the underground railroad gives some clue that maybe she has been instructed on how to navigate her route due to extensive memorization and study of star patterns and woodland routes, this interaction is trumped by at least six instances where she is depicted having a fainting spell that gives her psychic ability.

Discuss this trope with your children and how it appears in films that feature Black characters. Talk about the possibility that Harriet Tubman very may well have been psychic. But, also discuss what intuition is and how it is possible that a heightened sense of intuition is possible for anyone to develop if they practice being observant, empathetic and generally more aware of internal cues of how they feel about a certain situation. Also inform them of how rigorous it was to travel at night while being pursued. Discuss how Harriet had specific methods that she would employ, so specific and secret that she refused to share  many of them while she was alive and even after slavery ended. In short, rather than allow the magical Negro trope take precedence over the very real skill set Harriet Tubman had to have had to endure her rigorous journey multiple times, share factual information about what types of preparation was necessary to make such journeys by foot and at night.

Cynthia Erivo as Harriet Tubman

Some Black people were free in the South and some were slaves? How was this possible?

It was quite surprising to find myself laughing at some of the purposefully humorous parts of the movie where Harriet was in dialogue with her father once she set off to escape. I didn’t think I would find anything in a movie about slavery comical. The director did a good job making those moments funny and heart-wrenching at the same time. What was not thoroughly discussed, however, was how Harriet Tubman’s father was free, her husband was free, yet, Harriet and siblings were enslaved. While an early scene alluded to why Harriet’s mother was still enslaved, very little explanation was given about how Harriet met her born-free husband, John and the dynamics surrounding that relationship. The presence of Black bounty hunters in this film also gave a very distorted role of the slave bounty hunter and failed to explain if the prominent Black bounty hunter characters depicted were actually working as freed Black men or as those enslaved by white slavemasters.

This interesting dynamic is a point of discussion with your child regarding the ways that some enslaved people were able to purchase their own freedom and the precarious status of freedom for Black people living during this time. The scene where Harriet Tubman, using someone else’s freedom papers, is still questioned and treated as an enslaved person is a good conversation to have to discuss the ways that free wasn’t necessary free back then. You can even bring the conversation forward to today to discuss ways that Black people still are treated as second class citizens and enslaved within the prison industrial complex even though the Emancipation Proclamation was supposed to end chattel slavery.

The real abolitionists Harriet Tubman and William Still who were depicted in the film

What or who was real? Who wasn’t?

The main thing that you should be clear with your children is that the movie Harriet is a work of fiction based on a real person’s life. Many elements of the film are made up. Harriet Tubman was very private and very little of her private life was known. Even less was known about her husband who was a free man. Most significant that we knew about him is that he did not run with Harriet. The entire love story created about them was fictionalized. The Janelle Monae character was made up. The evil antagonist of the movie chasing Harriet throughout the film was made up. Fragments of truth included William Still being a large help to her. He was a real person and a phenomenal archivist who has given us a lot of what we do know about our heroic Harriet Tubman. But, most of the characters were creations of the screenwriter, Gregory Allen and the white historian who consulted on the film, Kate Clifford Larsen. A great assignment (if you’re a homeschooling family, especially) is to have your children be fact-check detectives and do a comparative find of what exactly was true and what were some creatively added elements. I was disappointed to learn that Janelle Monae’s character was not only fictional, but, had no specific person who inspired the role. The fact that she was fictional and her demise in the film at the hands of a Black character made me wonder what was the reason for this creative choice if it was not based in a real experience.

In closing, talk with your kids after watching this movie. It is entertainment based on history and needs to be discussed. A film depicting a story about the extraordinary ancestor Harriet Tubman is long overdue and a thoughtful conversation about her life and impact is worthy of continued and substantive inclusion in our parenting practice.

Khadijah Z. Ali-Coleman is a writer, cultural critic and homeschooling parent. She is founder of So Our Youth Aspire (SOYA).