How to Celebrate Black History Month with Your Children
Travel blogger, mama of two, and homeschooling hero, Ashley Corinne, shares how parents can celebrate Black History Month (all year round) with little learners through engaging activities & age-appropriate conversations.
As a child, Black History Month was something I looked forward to in school every year. I was a bit of a nerd (okay, I was a major nerd) and loved history, so learning about my own was very exciting for me. The assemblies, poetry recitals, songs, crafts, biographies…I loved them all. Thanks to those early years, I still have poems I can recite, songs I still randomly hum and the stories of Black heroes I can turn to for strength and inspiration.
As the mother of a seven-year-old girl and three-year-old boy, Black History Month plays strongly into my family’s homeschool life, especially since we’ve moved from Chicago to Mexico. As we learn about and embrace the new culture we live in, I want my children to know and take pride in their own. We weave in the importance of Black history and culture throughout our school year, but there’s something special to be said about setting aside dedicated time in February to celebrate.
For some parents, it may seem like a daunting task – the start of Black history in the United States is full of tragedy, the effects of which we still see in real-time.
People often ask me, what parts do you focus on and how do you celebrate it with children, especially young ones?
When the opportunity comes up to share hard truths, I don’t sugarcoat it. Due to my children’s ages, I keep my explanations short and simple and let their questions guide me into how much to share. When my daughter was five, I first shared about American slavery with my daughter, and this was after years of telling her about the beauty of our history and our ancestors. This past Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, I told her more about what he and others were fighting for and how his life was taken away. When hard truths such as these come up, I always share about resilience and resistance. These stories shouldn’t discourage us, but rather inspire us to continue fighting for justice. These conversations are how seeds of justice are sown.
Primarily though, we focus on rooting their experience in Black joy. We learn of the accomplishments of our African ancestors, the beauty of Black culture, and figures in our history that are relevant to whatever we’re learning about at the time (George Washington Carver during our plants unit, Mae Jemison during our solar system unit, etc.). I want them to know that to be Black is a joyful, amazing and beautiful reality – a reason to celebrate and be proud!
So as you celebrate Black History Month this year with your little learners, make it special, make it a celebration, make things fun!
Below you’ll find fun, engaging ideas that we use to make Black celebration a part of your homeschool life this month.
How to celebrate Black History Month with your children
Introduce Ella Jenkins to your circle time
Chicago native and national treasure, Ella Jenkins, has been called “The First Lady of Children’s Music” and no wonder – her music is delightful! Many of her songs feature call and response, chants, and are very interactive. Start your morning with “You’ll Sing a Song and I’ll Sing a Song,” and set a sweet tone for your day.
Highlight Black voices during storytime
While it’s important for all children to see Black faces in the literature they’re introduced to, it’s especially important for Black children to see themselves (and not just as sidekicks or “best friends”), so their own personhood is reaffirmed. It builds positive self-esteem, and it just feels good to be able to see yourself mirrored in the stories you read. When non-Black children see Black people as main characters in stories, it helps show that our lives are normalized and not seen as ‘other.’
Some of our household favorites include:
- Mae Among the Stars by Roda Ahmed
- I Know I Can by Veronica Chapman
- Full, Full, Full of Love by Trish Cooke
- Max and the Tag Along Moon by Floyd Cooper
- Thunder Rose by Jerdine Nolen
- Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters by John Steptoe
Make a soul food dessert
If eating soul food is like being wrapped up in a warm, delicious hug, then the desserts are like a sweet kiss on the cheek. Play some Stevie Wonder, break out your aprons, and try making a delicious traditional Black dessert with your children. Sweet potato pie, banana pudding and peach cobbler are some of our family’s favorites.
Black poetry tea time
Equal parts tea party and poetry reading, children read and enjoy poems, while sipping on tea. For this month, invite the voices of Black poets to your tea time. Maya Angelou’s inspirational verses, Gwendolyn Brooks’ poetry about childhood in Chicago, Effie Lee Newsome’s nature poems, or selections from Harlem Renaissance great Langston Hughes would make great options to choose from as you sip some tea.
Take an online dance class
Dancing together always makes a great change of pace, and there are so many wonderful Black dance forms to choose from. Hip hop, West African, Modern (Dunham technique), Caribbean… Practice throughout the month and put on a recital for your family.
Black liberation flag crafts
Back in the States, I remember watching a sitcom about a biracial girl who was sad that she didn’t have a flag to represent the Black side of her heritage, and I was absolutely baffled (and completely turned off from the show after that). We absolutely do have a flag – the Black Liberation flag designed by Pan Africanist Marcus Garvey. It’s a tricolor flag with horizontal stripes in red, black and green. Teach your kiddos about the Black Liberation flag as you work on a fun craft to display in your home.
Be inspired by Black art
Make an art study of a favorite Black artist and create a work of art emulating their style. One fun artist whose work to study is Alma Woodsey Thomas, who created playful and colorful works. Spend some time admiring her work and then have your littles create their own.
Find your child’s inspiration
It can be fun doing things like studying a new Black figure in history every day. But sometimes, it can be a nice change of pace to go deep instead of wide. This year, why not focus on one or two Black heroes based on subjects that your child likes, or on their natural strengths?
Because of our journey abroad, we are picking Josephine Baker to highlight this month.
If your kid loves the stars, focus on Benjamin Banakeer.
A little writer on your hands? Zora Neale Hurston.
A tiny dancer? Misty Copeland is a great choice.
Enjoy a mini-concert
Indulge in the joys of Black music, and host a mini-concert. Jazz, blues, gospel, rock & roll, disco, funk, R&B and hip hop (to name a few) were all born from the Black experience. Choose a genre to focus on, or make it a time-traveling endeavor by pulling from great Black artists throughout the decades, from Cab Calloway to your favorite artists of today.
Donate to a worthy cause
Decorate a tin can, jar or small box with the littles. Each day, set aside some loose change or however much you want. At the end of the month, count out how much you saved and use that money to donate to an organization that supports Black people (bonus points again if this organization is in your own city or state).
Now you may have noticed these are all ideas you can incorporate into your homeschool life all year round. That’s the beauty of it! Normalizing, recognizing and enjoying Black history and culture is something we can do all year long, and benefits us all in the end.
Have fun celebrating, today and always.