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What is Jonkonnu?

What is Jonkonnu

When we decided to homeschool we determined several goals that were important to us: 1. Reduce their anxiety 2. Hands on learning 3. Teaching to their culture and history.

US history is steeped in oppression and transgressions towards people of color. But, how do I teach this without taking the joy from their lives? I want to give them an honest view of US history.

The East Coast is rich with history, and historical sites to visit, and in many ways a homeschoolers dream. The reenactments include what ‘everyday’ life looked like during this time. There is a noticeable void. A white-washed sterilization that has taken place.  The African-Slave narrative is noticeably absent.   It’s dishonest, and I have a hard time exposing my kids to the dishonesty.

When an opportunity came up to participate in a unique summer program that taught African American Slave history. We jumped at it. For seven weeks we drove 4 hours round trip once a week to participate in Tryon Palaces’ Jonkonnu workshop.

Tryon Palace in New Bern, NC has a dedicated African-American history department that offers many programs on the life, history and contributions of African Americans.

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What Is Jonkonnu? (pronounced John-Canoe)

Johnkonnu is a festive tradition! It  is a Christmastide tradition unique to North Carolina, specifically Wilmington and New Bern (which were both home to slave markets). It first appeared in Jamaica in colonial times, then spread to Caribbean Islands, Bermuda and eventually North Carolina. Jonkonnu mixes west African and English traditions like caroling, dancing, drumming and parades.

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Once a year, the slaves were allowed a celebration, and they chose Jonkonnu. Many would dress in masks and multi-colored costumes.

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The Parade

They would travel from house to house clapping , singing and dancing. Sometimes this was the only time of year that they would see their family that had been sold to other plantations.

They would perform until the home/plantation owners would come out and greet them, and often pay them in coins.

The Ragman

The Ragman dresses in a suit of colorful rags. Each rag in his suit was donated from families and pieced together to create a beautiful suit of color.

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The Fancy Man

Dressed in a top hat and his finest, the Fancy Man leads the parade.

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The Songs

The songs were often coded to make fun of the Masters, or as messages for the Underground railroad.

Come along Moses, don’t get lost, don’t get lost,                                                             Come along Moses, don’t get lost, We are the children of God!

 

What Happened to Jonkonnu?

By the late 1800’s, Jonkonnu celebrations in the US became less frequent due to Jim Crow laws. By 1900 the celebration of Jonkonnu had disappeared due to increasing racial tensions.

Today Tryon Palace (the former capital of North Carolina) in New Bern, NC celebrates Jonkonnu during their Candlelight Festival in December. You can also see a Jonkonnu performance in January during the African American Cultural Festival, at the NC Museum of History. 

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Ahhh…There you are!

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There was a video clip going around a few weeks ago of an interview with Hoda Kotb and Sandra Bullock. The interview touched on so many experiences and feelings that resonated with me.

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I, like Hoda and Sandra was older when I became a mother. Sandra was 45, I was 40. I did’t think I was doing things different at the time, I was just doing things on my own timeline. I spent the first 40 years of my life without kids, we traveled, lived in NYC, LA and went out to dinner when we wanted. Now, it’s all about my kids. When Sandra says “Everything is about my kids” I get it. I have no regrets, because I look back on a very full life before they arrived. With all that fullness, it got better. As our children arrived, by two by three…it got better.

I always felt called to adopt. I just knew that my children were out in the world, and I had to find them.

Early on during the waiting period of our first adoption I had a Mamma tell me:

                        “It may take awhile, but remember it’s not IF, just when”

That bit of advice sustained me. It got me through those months of waiting, months that turned into over a year.

Our first adoption got tied up a few times in paperwork, and forms that were kicked back for us to fix. My best friend,  Annette  held my hand through this time, she was always there. When others left, because they just didn’t know what to say, she stayed.  A few months into ‘the waiting’, a colleague started the process to adopt. Within  just a few months they received their notice to travel, and pick up  there baby-girl.  All the thoughts of why was it so easy for them were swirling in my head.  All Annette had to do was look at me, to know what I was thinking. “Because that is not your baby, your baby is not ready to come home yet, their baby needs them NOW”. I knew this, and she knew the right words to bring comfort.

When I first saw their photos, I thought the same thing that Sandra shares…”Oh there you are”. It was perfect. They were the missing pieces.

Then, after being home a few years…my heart kept pulling at me…”You aren’t done yet, go find your babies” I heard the whisper. Then… “Awe, there you are”.

We began the steps to become foster parents. We set up the rooms for our home visits. A twin bed in the boys room, a toddler bed in the girls room, and a crib. Our home and hearts were wide open and ready. Before we knew it….those beds were filled , a toddler girl, a small boy and a baby. It still amazes me that I asked, just by putting these beds and preparing for them and that’s exactly who showed up. My heart knew.

It really is a gut/God thing. I knew every step of the way, and let my heart lead.

“Oh there you are”.

 

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Our Top 5 Reasons for Homeschooling Our Kids

If you had told me a year ago, or even 6 months aFresh Blog (4)go that we would be homeschooling all five of our kids, I would have told you that you are riding the crazy train.  It always comes back to this simple thought, We do what we gotta do for our kids.

I first began to see homeschooling in action about 6 years ago when I joined a beautiful circle of women who were mostly all homeschooling their children. These mamas I count among the best, loving, patient, fierce and present. I was in awe of their love and dedication, but thought “Oh I could never do that”. To spite having taught  several freshmen courses on World Religion at San Diego State University, and loving it. I imagined homeschooling to to be completely different than teaching a University class.

But alas, here we are. Although we have only begun to dip our toes in, and not all of our children have left their traditional school yet, we are loving it. We are breathing easier and soaking in the love and learning.

So what lead us to this journey? Here are just a few reasons;

  1. BULLYING When I have mentioned that my kids are being bullied, I have had several parents jump in and share:  “Oh I was bullied, everyone gets picked on, it builds resilience” or “I just teach my kids to handle it, or fight back”. I even had the Head of School tell us that her grandsons get bullied and she just tells them to ignore it . These words are not helpful, our kids are still working on recovering from their histories. Our kids were in a collective 15 homes before becoming a forever family. We are working very hard to build their confidence and instill sold self identities. When they experience bulling, it sets them back in their healing process. We understand that they will encounter bullies in life (I even encountered another mom bulling me online when I stated in a forum that my daughter was being bullied). It is not a level playing field, our children didn’t start out with the same advantages as most of their peers.
  2. TRAUMA INFORMED SCHOOLS Most schools are not trauma informed. Ours was no different. If you are lucky you may find a trauma sensitive school, but a school like the one Oprah talked about in a segment on trauma she hosted for 60 Minutes.  is rare. We have had some great teachers that ‘get us’ and then we have encountered others that don’t. There were the teachers that let my children get away with everything because they didn’t want to trigger them, or because they ‘felt sorry’ for them, knowing that they were in fostercare. On the other side of this, we have had teachers blame my children for everything, and labeled them as a problem. When a child acts out, a trauma informed person asks “What is going on behind this behavior? What does this baby need?” This is not letting them off the hook, but examining the root of the problem. With a trauma informed/sensitive school the needs of all children are considered. Fire, tornado, and lock down drills can be triggers for kids that have experienced trauma. Safety is always at the front of their minds, many exist in a fight, flight or freeze state. When their perceived safety is at risk, they will be triggered and go into FFF. To completely overlook and dismiss the needs of these children is a huge oversight.
  3. LET THEM BE KIDS With the emphasis on Common Core it has taken much of the creativity and flexibility away from teachers, and causes them to teach to the test. Here in NC we have House Bill 950 (Read to Achieve). This is the test of all tests for our third graders. They are told “Pass it you don’t move on to 4th grade”.  I had 3 children not pass this test (luckily it was resolved in a week with two of our kids, and overlooked with one because he has an IEP). This test is stressful for kids, especially for those with anxiety. What are we doing to these littles? One of my children sited for a reason to wanting to be home schooled as not feeling so much pressure anymore. Being pulled out for IEP work puts unnecessary attention on them. When they return to class they feel rushed to catch up with the lesson plan that their classmates have already been working on. Most kids feel the struggle to keep up from time to time, but our kids with IEP’s the struggle can create severe anxiety.
  4. SCHOOL ATMOSPHERE I am pretty sure that everyone is in agreement that the atmosphere in schools has changed. The Everytown website reports that since 2013 (Sandy Hook) there have been 308 school shootings. If you examine the data, many of these did not include injury, but that’s really not my point. It’s the atmosphere that’s being created in our schools. Our school had 3 threats in one week. This created an atmosphere of elevated stress, caution and frustration on the part of the parents to know the details of what was going on with these investigations. The kids felt it. They felt it from their parents, from their teachers and from their peers. There was no escaping these conversations when a police car is parked out in front of the school. Many parents agreed that it made them/their children more comfortable knowing that the police were on campus. Here’s that trauma reminder: Not all children associate police with safety. Their histories have proved to them that police equal problems.
  5. WE ARE IN CONTROL OF CURRICULUM I have to give praise to our school for offering a very diverse and inclusive curriculum. My children never once came home with the white-washed history of Columbus Day. The curriculum emphasized POC in history, and their music and art class was full of multicultural activities and songs. But, schools have limited resources, and there are still times when reading lists or histories miss the mark on being inclusive. So for our 5 year old we get to pick Zooey and Sassafras for our read-aloud and science. She sees herself in Zooey, and representation is so powerful. For our older children, we will not brush over the tough parts of history, we will not make heroes out the men that caused pain and devastation in our dark history. Will will celebrate the great achievements and contributions of the men and women that have made this country great.

These are OUR reasons for turning to home education. This is where our hearts are leading us. Every parent needs to make the decisions that are right for their families, and at the right time. When my kids were first entering school, my circle of friend included more HS families than not, but we had very specific reasons for choosing our school.  I also know that it is a huge privilege for us to have the ability for me to stay home with our kids. We do sacrifice a lot, but the fact that not everyone is in the position to make this choice is not lost on me, and I am absolutely grateful for this.

Next week…Dancing in Joy, and other things we have learned about homeschooling.

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How to Talk With Your Children About Adoption: LOVE Makes a Real Family

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We have spent a lot of time guiding our children through their adoption stories. This includes unwanted questions from their peers, and even adults. We empower them to use their words, and remember they have the strength of their entire family behind them when they are confronted with these uncomfortable and intrusive questions. We recently learned the W.I.S.E method, and I frequently remind them of this tool.

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How many of you that have biological children have sat down and talked to your children about adoption? If your not educating them, just know that they are having these conversations on the playground, or just leaving the details up to their imaginations. Here are a few comments and questions my kids have been confronted with:

  • Why didn’t your REAL mom want you?
  • My mom told me your parents were bad, and that’s why you had to get new parents.
  • How much did it cost?
  • Why are you brown and your mom is white?
  • Is THAT your brother/sister?
  • Do you know your REAL mom?

You can imagine how painful and uncomfortable these questions can be. I encourage you to please take the time to have this conversation with your children. There are many great children’s books on the subject of adoption (I caution you, every adoption story is as unique as the child, so the books are not a one size fits all).  Here are some basic points to help start the conversation:

All families are different, but the one thing they have in common is that the parents LOVE their children very much! Some families look alike, and some look very different from each other, but inside their hearts are the same.

Sometimes families with adopted children look different, because the children grew in another person’s belly, and may look more like that person.

Many children grow in their mommies bellies, but adopted children grow in someone else’s belly, while they grow in their Mommy and Daddy’s hearts.

The other person who’s Belly they grew in is called a Birth Mother, or Belly Mom.

Their REAL Mom and Dad are the ones that they call Mom and Dad and who love them. Their brothers and sisters are the ones they love, and call brother and sister.  This makes a REAL forever family.

There are lots of reasons birth moms aren’t able to care for their children and decide to give them up for adoption. This is a very difficult decision for birth moms because they love their children. Ultimately, they decide adoption is the best, most loving choice for their children.

Adopted children have another set of parents called birth parents, but this is private information, and adopted children don’t always know their birth parents or want to talk about them. Please know it is rude and potentially hurtful to adopted children to ask them about their birth parents.

Families being different is what makes us special! Let’s celebrate our differences! Can you think of other ways families are different? (This could lead to a discussion of single-parent families, grandparents as parents, same-sex parents, step-parents, etc.)

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If you would like me to talk to your family, church group or classroom, and you live in the Raleigh-Durham area,  I welcome the opportunity to help educate about adoption!

Please share this with your friends, school, and moms groups! Please do your part to educate others Thank you!

**Special thanks to my fellow adoptive Mom, Kathryn for letting me borrow some of this text!

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Why Black History Month is Important

I have heard criticism regarding Black History month, and why it exists. I have also heard the argument that how come there isn’t a White History month. Well, there is a White History month, and it lasts all year, it’s called History. We learn about famous inventors like Thomas Edison, politicians like Benjamin Frankiln, and even Ely Whitney that created the cotton gin. Not once speaking of those that fought for the rights of those that were forced to toil in the fields picking that cotton beaten, raped and often killed, but always treated like property. Black history is US history, and until everyone can describe the important achievements of these great African Americans  it is necessary to dedicate a month highlighting their achievements. How many do you know?

Langston Hughes

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Charles Hamilton Houston

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Nat Turner

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Mary McLeod Bethune

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Booker T. Washington

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Ida B. Wells

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Frederick Douglass

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Black History is important, because it is dangerous to omit facts and people from history. It is important for our society to know that African Americans have made equally great contributions to this country, and deserve a place in our history books. Lastly, it is important to me as a mother of three African American children that they know about these great achievements, that the history of African American greatness isn’t just sports figures, actors and musicians. They deserve to learn about these achievements in the classroom along side their White counterparts, and experience what it’s like to be proud, and be able to relate to the heroes and role models that look like them. Omissions in histor make a profound effect on our children and how they measure their self worth. When every person they read about in history is white, it can be easy for them to come to the conclusion that African Americans are not capable of greatness. This is crap! So I urge you to learn about these great leaders and their accomplishments, if you have children I urge you to share this history with them, so they too know the greatness that ALL human beings are capable of, regardless of skinskin color.color.

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Mittens & Mittens all Hung in a Row.

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I posted a few years ago about our Mitten tradition. When Lola & Diego were about 3 or 4 I felt so bad, becuase the house was all decorated for Christmas, and every morning they would wake up and ask “Is it Christmas yet?” So I came up with the idea to hang Christmas stockings with a fun surprise inside, and take one down everyday. This way they could see for themselves how many mittens were left, and how many day before Christmas!

Since this will be our 4th or 5th year now doing this, t really is  a tradition! I have learned that since I actually put memory makers in the mittens that it takes a little planning. I thought I would share this years Memory Mitten ideas. You can follow us on Instagram @CincoDeMami

Dec 1: Make Bird Feeders  for the Kindness Elves

Dec 2: Write Letters to Santa

Dec 3rd: Start a new holiday chapter book, and continue to read it all month

Dec 4th: Watch “The Year Without a Santa Claus”  (1974 version) and have popcorn and a cocoa bar

Dec 5th: Make gingerbread houses

Dec 6th: Winterfest

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Dec 7th: Messiah @ Cary Westwood Baptist

Dec 8th: Watch “Elf” and have pancakes for dinner! (special occasion meal 🙂

Dec 9th: Make a reindeer craft and watch Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer

Dec 10th: Skype Santa with Portable North Pole

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Dec 11th: Make candy cane reindeer for the Kindness Elves

Dec 12th: We will be out of town, but I found this great Virginia Beach light show 

Dec 13th: We will still be in Virginia Beach, so tonight we plan to go to the Parade!

Dec 14th: Oakwood Candle Light Tour. We went on this home tour before we had kids. We have continued the tradition every year since. No, don’t worry, we don’t drag our small tribe into peoples meticulously decorated homes. the great thing is that the homes are decorated just as much on the outside, so we stop and get Krispy Kremes and walk the neighborhood enjoying all the outside decorations and the music playing!

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Dec 15: Decorate Placemats for the Kindness Elves

Dec 16th: Get our tree at the Jordan Tree farm, where we get to pick out and chop down our own tree!

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Dec 17th: Decorate the Christmas tree, and have hot coco and listen to Christmas music

Dec 18th: Make no-sew fleece caps for the Kindness Elves!

Dec 19th: Watch “Home Alone” and make Santa Pizzas

Dec 20th: Visit the Tanglewood Festival of Lights!

Dec 21st Bake and decorate cookies!

Dec 22nd: Benson Meadow Lights!

Dec 23rd: Wendell Wonderland!

Dec 24th Christmas Eve! We have Fondue for dinner and everyone gets to open new PJ’s, we then play a new family board game.

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If you noticed, most of the this list is free activities, but the great thing is the memories that they will create will last a lifetime and are priceless!

 

 

 

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Move Over Elf on the Shelf! The Kindness Elves are Here!

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I have not gotten on board with the whole Elf on the Shelf thing. I don’t have anything against him, it just seems like a lot of work, for little return. What I mean by that is that there is no real lesson in Elf on the Shelf…as a matter of fact, he’s quite a naughty little elf.  When I came across the idea for Kindness Elves, I thought ‘now this is a tradition I can get behind! Yea, it’s probably even more work, but I will get behind anything that helps instill kindness and compassion in my children.  With this said, tomorrow our little elves will appear. We happened to have these sweet little elves tucked away already. I think they will make perfect Kindness Elves.  You can use any elves…you can even use the real Elf on the Shelf, and just rehabilitate his ornery habits.

Beginning tomorrow morning…these sweet little elves will appear with an act of kindness for my children to complete. Every night they will return to the North Pole to share with Santa these compassionate deeds.

I have compiled a tentative itinerary forall 24 days leading up to Christmas..here it is!

Day 1: The Elves will return the Santa sacks from last year. The kids will fill these sacks with underused and unwanted toys to be donated back to Santa (local shelter). Santa will return these bags Christmas morning full of Christmas goodness.

Day 2: Write letters and drawings to send to the military

Day3: Draw pictures for Color A Smile. Color A Smile is a nonprofit organization that collects cheerful drawings from volunteers of all ages.  Every month they distribute thousands of these colorful drawings to Senior Citizens, Our Troops Overseas, and anyone in need of a smile.

Day 4: The kids will make birdfeeders for our feathered friends.

Day 5: Donate to KIVA , a non-profit microlending organization with a mission to alleviate poverty

Day 6: Tape quarters to parking meters.

Day 7:Make salt-dough Christmas ornaments to deliver to friends, family, and our neighborhood.

Day 8: Decorate oven mitts that will be used by Meals on Wheels delivery drivers.

Day 9: Log onto Rice.org and log some rice points. For every answer the kids get right, The United Nations World Program donates 10 grains of rice to help end hunger.

Day 10: Sweep the leaves off our neighbor’s porches.

Day 11: Build fuzzy-sock care packages for the homeless (make a dollar store run for these)

Day 12: Nominate a family to be their secret Santa, or give them a 12 days of Christmas. You can follow this on Instagram @CincodeMami

Day 13: Make reindeer out of candy canes to pass out.

Day 14: Pass out the reindeer candy canes to kids at a Christmas Parade we will be going to!

Day 15: Pass out ornaments to homes that are part of a Christmas home tour we are going to

Day 16: Make placemats and  lunch bags for Meals on Wheels recipients.

Day 17: Write letters to VA. Recovering American Soldier C/o Walter Reed Army American Center, 6900 Georgia Avenue, NW Washington DC, 20307

Day 18: Make no-sew fleece caps for children going through chemotherapy

Day 19: Volunteer to clean our schools classrooms before the winter break

Day 20: Bake Cookies and deliver to police officers, fire departments and nurses

Day 21: Decorate holiday cards for soldiers overseas. Red Cross-sponsored Holiday Mail for Heroes

Day 22: Collect used towels to donate to the local animal shelter or make pet toys for them.

Day 23: Make no-sewew fleece scarves for the homeless

Day 24: Adopt a “grandfriend” and make regularly scheduled visits just to offer company….

Follow our Kindness Elves on instagram @CincodeMami

While looking for service projects I came across this great site.

http://www.bigheartedfamilies.org/