Last week, I challenged the way we observe African American History Month by explaining the dangers of isolating African American History-focused lessons into just one month of the year, and highlighted the importance of embracing it all year round.
As a follow-up to that discussion, I want to equip you with ideas to weave African American history into your homeschooling classroom everyday. Here’s how to teach Black History Month to homeschoolers in a way that will leave a lasting mark!
A great way to make African American History month have lasting effects is to focus on character studies within your homeschool curriculum. Some of your best homeschool lessons of the year are most likely centered around studying famous people and the marks they left on the world. Focusing in on famous black men and women of great character can be a natural and rich way of adding to your homeschool curriculum during this month.
Taking time this month to focus on the resiliency of African American poets, artists, activists, etc. will not only enable us to appreciate and explore the contributions of these great historical figures, but also to admire and emulate the qualities that helped them achieve greatness.
- Resilience. Study amazing overcomers like Rosa Parks, Ruby Bridges, Nelson Mandela, or Olaudah Equiano to discover how be resilient and overcome struggles.
- Courage. Study those individuals who showed great courage in the face of oppression, struggle, and danger. Bring courage to life by studying The Freedom Riders, The Tuskegee Airmen or the brave black fighters in the Civil War. Journey along the Underground Railroad with Harriet Tubman to discover the amazing courage of those who sought freedom during slavery.
- Faith. Many black men and women of history showed deep and abiding faith in the face of trial or hardship. Learn about the depth of faith of Henry Grant the first black Presbyterian minister, John Grant, a missionary to Africa who helped develop the nation, or Eliza Davis George, a former slave who was brought the gospel to Liberia.
- Creativity. A unit study on the artists, authors and musicians who persevered and brought joy to the black community through their amazing creative talents. Consider listening to and studying the history of jazz, read several of the Coretta Scott King winner literary works in the children’s category, or study Ray Billingsly’s life and the Curtis comic strips.
And don’t just read! Create projects, recreate music or artwork, write biographies — make learning active so that your students are fully engaged.
Homeschool Curriculum Companion Studies
Use African American History Month as an opportunity to expand upon your current study of black accomplishments in your homeschool curriculum. Hook your students with relevant and interesting topics that are natural extensions of what you are already studying. Your students will be much more apt to get excited about learning when the projects fit into what they’re already doing.
- Science. Study famous scientists, inventors, engineers, etc. that had great achievements in the fields you’re currently studying. For example, add a study of Charles Drew, physician and father of the modern blood bank, to your unit on the body; or Mae Jemison, a NASA astronaut, to your study of space.
- Literature. Choose black authors within the genres you are currently studying, or try something new by studying a literary technique (like theme or setting) as it was used by a specific black author. Introduce narrative, poetry, or a play by a black author. Always be sure to research the context in which they were written and the biography of each writer! Then have students write their own pieces using the themes within the works you studied.
- Math. You might think it’s difficult to integrate history into homeschool math, but it doesn’t have to be! Focus on the type of math you’re learning and find famous black mathematicians who were influential in that same field. Then, research the Field’s Medal, an award for mathematical accomplishment that has never been given to a black mathematician. Have students choose one black mathematician that they’ve learned about to receive the award. You even let you students’ voices be heard by having them create a poster, letter to the editor, or persuasive essay explaining their choice.
- History. Integrating the successes of famous black men and women into your social studies lessons should be pretty self-explanatory. But if you’re looking to hone in on one specific unit study, consider topics that your children might have never studied before. For example, how the Jazz Age led to the birth of rock and roll, famous black fashion designers, or the Negro Baseball League. If you’re at a loss for unit study ideas, the National Education Association has many great topics to choose from, all broken down by grade level to get you started.
Whether you use traditional homeschool curriculum, online homeschool, or chart your own homeschooling course, teaching Black History Month to your homeschoolers is essential. These are just a few examples of the countless contributions that African American history has given our great nation. So, I challenge you to find even more, and teach your kids that diversity always has a place in the classroom, and in life.