Celebrating Kwanzaa

Kwanzaa is an African American celebration that focuses on African American culture and traditions. The seven-day event begins on December 26 and ends on January 2. The name of this celebration comes from the sentence “matunda ya kwanza,” which means “first fruits of the harvest”  in Swahili. Kwanzaa is a social holiday, not a religious one. All African Americans, regardless of their religious beliefs, are encouraged to come together and focus on their family, culture, community, and roots. The message of Kwanzaa is family, unity, and togetherness.

Kwanzaa was created in 1966 by Dr. Maulana “Ron” Karenga, a Professor of Black Studies at California State University, Long Beach. His goal was to create a nonpolitical and nonreligious celebration of African values.



On each night of the seven nights of Kwanzaa, people gather around the seven symbols (pictured) to discuss one of the seven values of Kwanzaa: unity, self-determination, collective responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity and faith.

Let’s take a day-by-day look:  Image result for umoja means unity clip art



December 26, 2016 Umoja (unity): To strive for and to maintain unity in the family, community, nation, and race. 

At TAMS and ED Homeschool, we teach our children that unity begins within. It begins with identifying with and loving ourselves first. We do this with lessons, such as writing their own African Praise Poems, that encourage them to look at themselves and write positive expressions about what they see. Umoja is then reinforced with questions about our parents, grandparents, and ancestors.

kujichagulia-self-determinationDecember 27: Kujichagulia (self determination): To define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves, and speak for ourselves. 

Encourage your children to ask themselves questions. Remind them that to define themselves is to understand how they see themselves and challenge if they are all that they ought to and can be.  Ask questions such as the following:

  1. Who am I?
  2. Am I living up to all of the positive things that I say about myself?
  3. Am I all that I ought to be? 

Image result for ujima images clip art December 28: Ujima (collective work and responsibility): To build and maintain our community and make our brother’s and sister’s problems our problems and to solve them together. 

Image result for umoja means unity clip artDecember 29: Ujamaa (Cooperative economics) To build and maintain our own stores, shops and other businesses and to profit from them together.

Image result for nia means purpose clip artDecember 30: Nia (purpose)  To make our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness.  



December 31: Kuumba (creativity) To do always as much as we can, in the way we can, in order to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it.

January 1: Imani (faith) To believe in God, parents, teachers or leaders.Related image



Please enjoy our gift for you.

Free Kwanzaa Lessons and Worksheets from

TAMS and ED Homeschool

Kwanzaa Study Guide (elementary-middle)

​      Our FREE 22-page Kwanzaa Study Guide comes with a song, activities, reading passages, writing assignments, and coloring pages designed to teach students all about this African America celebration. With friendly cartoons to facilitate comprehension, the Guide includes a daily lesson designed to stimulate creativity, thinking, and cultural pride.

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Sankofa: Reclaiming our Past

At TAMS and ED Homeschool, we stress to our students the importance of our family connections. We encourage them to spend time with their grandparents, aunts, uncles, and others who can share family stories and details about their ancestors. And, once those details have been shared, we stress to our students the awesome responsibility of preserving those stories and writing about them. 

We teach them the story of “Sankofa,” which is based on a West African proverb that says, “se wo were fi na wo san kofa a yenki,” or “It is not taboo  to fetch what is at risk of being left behind.”

sankofa (1) Kansas
Marla Jackson
born 1952, Detroit, Michigan 
cotton, batik fabric, applique, cowry shells, peacock feathers, Austrian crystal, metallic thread


Sankofa comes from the Akan tribe in Ghana.  The literal translation of the word and the symbol is: 

SAN  (return),

KO  (go),

FA (look, seek and take).

The Sankofa bird symbolizes the Akan people’s quest for knowledge beginning with an examination of our past. Visually and symbolically Sankofa is expressed as a mythical bird that flies forward while looking backward with an egg (symbolizing the future) in its mouth. It teaches us that we must dig deep into our roots, study and know our past, in order to move forward. In order to fully appreciate our African American culture and traditions, we must reach back and reclaim what we have been stripped of, lost, forgotten, or forgone.


The Sankofa bird is one of the “Andinkra” symbols. Named after the legendary King Adinkra, these symbols express various themes that relate to the history, beliefs and philosophy of the Asante people. The heart is another symbol of Sankofa.

Sankofa heartIn order to gain greater control over their slaves, slave owners robbed them of their cultures and identities. Many slaves were separated from their families and denied their given names. Families were separated due to sale, escape, early death from poor health, suicide, and murder by a slaveholder or bushwhacker. Separation also occurred within the plantation itself, e.g., by segregating “field slaves” from “house servants,” removing children from parents to live together with a slave caretaker, or bringing children fathered by the slaveholder to live in the “Big House.” 

We teach our students that they cannot know where they are going unless they know where they came from. We begin our Sankofa journey by having each child stand with their feet facing forward. Then we ask each one to look back and begin to consider who he/she might see first: Mom, Dad, aunts, uncles, Grandma, Grandpa, Great-grandma, Great-grandpa, and so on. We stress the importance of the family unit. 

Peter SankofaOver the holiday season, when families tend to gather more often, we task our students with story gathering. They are to talk to their grandparents, aunts, and uncles, and learn about their immediate family. They will create a family tree with photos and quotes from their family members, especially their elder family members, such as grandparents and great grand parents. 

We hope you will encourage your children to tell their Sankofa stories and preserve their rich cultural history.

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Geography: Paper Mache’ Globe

Our students love art. So, as often as possible, I try to take a break from textbooks and worksheets and allow them to get their hands dirty. We made paper mache’ globes to reinforce our lessons on continents and oceans with a little bit of latitude and longitude sprinkled in. 


  • 10″ – 12″ balloon
  • Recycled newspaper
  • Liquid glue
  •  Water + flour paste (1 part paste to 2 parts water)
  • Paint brushes
  • Blue tempera paint
  • Continents cutouts  (from Lakeshore Learning)
  • Black yarn or ribbon.

 Step 1: Make a paste of flour and water. I use about 1 c. flour to 1/3 c. water. You can adjust to make your paste as thick or as thin as you want. Use a fork to smooth out the lumps.

Step 2: Blow up the balloon.

Step 3: Tear strips of newspaper and dip in flour paste.

Step 4: lay the newspaper strips on the balloon. I suggest three to four layers.

Step 5: Let it dry. I suggest 2-3 to dry thoroughly. Let it harden through and through. Otherwise, the damp spots could collasp when you begin to paint.

Paint the globe blue, since earth is the blue planet. Let dry 12 – 24 hours.

Color and cut each continent. If you are including the continent of Zealandia, here is a great pattern you can use.

Glue in place. Let dry.

Use the black yarn or ribbon to glue the Equator and the Prime Meridian.

Label the 5 Oceans (Arctic, Atlantic, Indian, Pacific and Southern), Equator, and Prime Meridian to mark the appropriate locations. 

A few days later, give your students this Continents and Oceans Quiz to test their knowledge.


Who Was George Washington Carver?

George Washington Carver was a world-famous chemist who made important agricultural discoveries and inventions. His research on peanuts, sweet potatoes, and other products helped poor southern farmers vary their crops and improve their diets. A monument showing Carver as a boy was the first national memorial erected in honor of an African American.

George W Carver laboratory

Here is a free resource! based on the book Who Was George Washington Carver, by Jim Gigliotti. You can use this as a Study Guide designed to help students gain deeper knowledge or as a Quiz to test their knowledge after they read this book.

Vocabulary: Write the definition for each of the following words.

orphan: _____________________________________________________

immigrant: ______________________________________________________________________________

bushwhacker: ____________________________________________________________________________

Amendment: _____________________________________________________________________________

nursery: __________________________________________________________________________________

horticulture: _____________________________________________________________________________

chemist: _________________________________________________________________________________

botany: ___________________________________________________________________________________

nutrients: _________________________________________________________________________________

legacy: ____________________________________________________________________________________

Questions: Please answer the following questions in this format:

statue of Carver as a boy
The boy Carver statue is a nine-foot high bronze statue by Robert Amendola. It depicts George Washington Carver as a boy and is mounted on a large limestone rock. The boy Carver statue was dedicated at the George Washington Carver National Monument of July 17, 1960. 
The George Washington Carver National Monument near Diamond, Missouri, was approved by Congress in 1943. It was the first national memorial to an African American. The chief sponsor of the legislation to create the monument was Missouri native Harry S. Truman. He was a senator from Missouri at the time. A dedication ceremony of the monument was held on July 13, 1953. 
[SHS 007935; Massie-Missouri Resources Commission photo]
  • Write complete sentences in your own words. Do not copy straight from the book. 
  • Restate the question. For example, to answer Question #1, you might write, George got the nickname “the Plant Doctor” after he… . 
  • Begin each sentence with a capital letter.
  • End each sentence with punctuation. 


  1. How did George get the nickname, “the Plant Doctor?”
  2. Who are Moses and Susan?
  3. Who are Mary and Jim?
  4. Describe Missouri’s role in the Civil War.
  5. What is the importance of the 13th Amendment? 
  6. Re-read pages 14-15. Write a paragraph and summarize (briefly re-tell) what those two pages are talking about.
  7. What significant (important) event happened to George when he was 8 years old?
  8. Why did George refer to God as “Creator”?
  9. Describe Mariah Watkins.
  10. Why didn’t Mariah Watkins like it when George said, “I’m Carver’s George”?
  11. Why did George move to Neosho?
  12. Compare Neosho to Diamond Grove.
  13. What was the name of George’s school in Neosho?
  14. Re-read page 41. Write a paragraph that describes Jim Crow Laws. **Remember: a paragraph is not one long sentence strung together with the word “and.” Write 3-4 complete sentences. 
  15. Read pages 46-47. Describe the house that George built.
  16. What was the Homestead Act of 1862? Who signed it into law?
  17. Describe George’s experience at Simpson College. Why did he leave? 
  18. What was the “Atlanta Compromise”? Who wrote it? How did black people feel about it?
  19. Read page 61. Write a short paragraph about Booker T. Washington.
  20. Why did Booker T. Washington want George to attend Tuskegee?
  21. Describe the booklets that George wrote for slaves.
  22. What was the Jesup Wagon?
  23. What did George say after Booker T. Washington died?
  24. Why did George want farmers to rotate their crops?
  25. Describe George’s famous peanut booklet. Why did the Royal Society of Arts in London honor him for this booklet?
  26. What was George’s goal when he started the George Washington Carver Foundation at Tuskegee? 

Internet activity: use the Internet to learn more about whooping cough. Describe what it is. 

On your own: 

  1. Write a 2-page essay titled The Legacy of Dr. George Washington Carver. Describe his legacy in 3-5 paragraphs. Support your essay with plenty of details and description of his great work. 
  2. Create a “How to” brochure

George Washington Carver created a booklet called How to Grow the Peanut, and 105 Ways of Preparing it for Human Consumption.

Create a tri-fold “how to” brochure about something that you love. 

  1. The cover should be a photo of you involved with the topic. For example, if you are writing a “How to” about playing the piano, you will be in a photo playing the piano. If you are writing about how to bake a cake, your photo might include you in the kitchen baking a cake. 
  2. The inside pages should include the following: 1) an introduction and something interesting about the topic; 2) “How to” details about the topic; 3) other suggestions on how to use the product.
  3. The back page should include Acknowledgements that thank people, such as Mom and Dad, who helped you complete the brochure. This page should also and References, such as books or Internet sources that you used. Books and Internet sources should be in MLA format. 

Thank you for visiting our blog, TAMS and ED Home schoolers. Feel free to copy and paste this lesson and use it as a supplement to your Reading, Writing, or Social Studies lessons.

For more lessons that emphasize African Americans and their great contributions to education, follow my blog. Also, like us on Facebook, TAMS and ED Homeschool. Visit our website at http://www.tamsanded.com 

Poetry analysis: “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing”

At TAMS and Ed Homeschool, we believe that every child should learn about the song, Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing.”  After all, poet James Weldon Johnson wrote Lift Every Voice and Sing in honor of Abraham Lincoln’s birthday. It was performed for the first time  by 500 children in Jacksonville, Florida on February 12, 1900. 
In this blog, I have written two lessons, one for younger elementary students and one that can expand to include middle and high school as well. Students identify the parts of speech that Weldon uses to determine his intent and meaning of the poem. I also include simple terms such as free verse, hymn, and tone. 
Life voice
Weldon’s brother, John, set it to music and, shortly thereafter, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), adopted it as its official song. Today it is known as the Black National Anthem and is heralded as one of  the most cherished songs of the African American Civil Rights Movement.
Here are a few definitions that will help you better understand this poem:
  • free verse:  poetry that is free from specific patterns in meter or rhyme. The beauty of free verse is that although it does not follow specific patterns, it still allows the poet freedom to use whatever poetic devices are necessary to create the feeling that the poet wants to convey.  Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing is considered free verse because it does not follow a regular meter pattern.
  • hymn: a song or ode in praise or honor of God, a deity, a nation.
  • iamb a type of poetic “foot” made up of an unstressed and stressed syllable. Think of the way that you tap your feet to the beat of your favorite song.
  • iambic pentameter describes the particular rhythm that the words establish in a line. That rhythm is measured in small groups of syllables; these small groups of syllables are called “feet.” The word “iambic” describes the type of foot that is used (in English, an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed syllable). The word “pentameter” indicates that a line has five of these “feet”.
  • imagery a poetic device used for language and description that appeals to our five senses including smell, sight, tough, taste, and sound.
  • meter is a stressed and unstressed syllabic pattern in a verse, or within the lines of a poem. 
  • stanza: a set amount of lines grouped by rhythmical pattern and meter. It usually has four or more lines and is can be referred to as a verse.

  • tone: the poet’s attitude, emotions, and feelings towards the topic. 
lift every voice children
Lift every voice and sing   
Till earth and heaven ring, 
Ring with the harmonies of Liberty; 
Let our rejoicing rise 
High as the listening skies, 
Let it resound loud as the rolling sea. 
Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us, 
Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us.   
Facing the rising sun of our new day begun, 
Let us march on till victory is won. 
Stony the road we trod, 
Bitter the chastening rod, 
Felt in the days when hope unborn had died;   
Yet with a steady beat, 
Have not our weary feet 
Come to the place for which our fathers sighed? 
We have come over a way that with tears has been watered, 
We have come, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered, 
Out from the gloomy past,   
Till now we stand at last 
Where the white gleam of our bright star is cast. 
God of our weary years,   
God of our silent tears, 
Thou who hast brought us thus far on the way; 
Thou who hast by Thy might   
Led us into the light, 
Keep us forever in the path, we pray. 
Lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met Thee, 
Lest, our hearts drunk with the wine of the world, we forget Thee; 
Shadowed beneath Thy hand,   
May we forever stand.   
True to our God, 
True to our native land.

Elementary analysis:

Read each stanza and identify the Parts of Speech that Weldon uses:

Use a red pen and write the following abbreviations over as many Parts that you can identify:

  • Noun n.
  • Verb v.
  • Adjective adj.
  • Adverb ad.
  • Pronoun pro.
  • Conjunction con.
  • Interjection int.
  • Articles art.

v.    adj.      n.     con.   v. 

Lift every voice and sing 

  Till earth and heaven ring, 

Ring with the harmonies of Liberty; 

Let our rejoicing rise 

High as the listening skies, 

Let it resound loud as the rolling sea. 

Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us, 

Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us.   

Facing the rising sun of our new day begun, 

Let us march on till victory is won. 


2. hymn: a song or ode in praise or honor of God, a deity, a nation.

               Circle the words that Weldon uses that help you identify this poem as a hymn. 

3. imagery: a poetic device used for language and description that appeals to our five senses including smell, sight, tough, taste, and sound.

               Read the following Lines. Underline the words that help you see or feel something. Describe the images that you see or feel.  

  • Facing the rising sun of our new day begun,
  • We have come over a way that with tears has been watered,
  • We have come, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered
  • Where the white gleam of our bright star is cast.

Advanced Analysis (middle – high school):

The poem begins with an invitation for all voices to join as one and sing until heaven hears and responds rings out with the harmonies of Liberty (freedom). It goes on to encourage us to rejoice with loud singing, in the blessings of heaven.
He uses similes to convey these ideas.
L5 High as the listening skies, 
L6 Let it resound loud as the rolling sea.
What additional similes or metaphors can you find? Please indicate the Line number and describe the comparisons.
Tone is the poet’s attitude, emotions, and feelings towards the topic.
I espouse a somber tone that is designed to remind African Americans of our dark past and the days when we were without hope. Yet, at the same time, he believes that we are facing a “rising sun” that represents a “new day” filled with new hope and a bright future.  Do you agree or disagree? Why or why not? Support your position with specific words and lines from the poem.
  1. Lift every voice and sing
  2. Till earth and heaven ring,
  3. Ring with the harmonies of Liberty;
  4. Let our rejoicing rise
  5. High as the listening skies,
  6. Let it resound loud as the rolling sea.
  7. Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us,
  8. Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us.
  9. Facing the rising sun of our new day begun,
  10. Let us march on till victory is won.
  11. Stony the road we trod,
  12. Bitter the chastening rod,
  13. Felt in the days when hope unborn had died;
  14. Yet with a steady beat,
  15. Have not our weary feet
  16. Come to the place for which our fathers sighed?
  17. We have come over a way that with tears has been watered,
  18. We have come, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered,
  19. Out from the gloomy past,
  20. Till now we stand at last
  21. Where the white gleam of our bright star is cast.
  22. God of our weary years,
  23. God of our silent tears,
  24. Thou who hast brought us thus far on the way;
  25. Thou who hast by Thy might
  26. Led us into the light,
  27. Keep us forever in the path, we pray.
  28. Lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met Thee,
  29. Lest, our hearts drunk with the wine of the world, we forget Thee;
  30. Shadowed beneath Thy hand,
  31. May we forever stand.
  32. True to our God,
  33. True to our native land.

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Destination D.C. Part 1: Saving and Adding Money

To prepare for our Spring trip to Washington D.C., students, parents, and teachers all agreed that the students must have an active role in saving their own money. 

Jug paintSo, each week, they are foregoing the candy bars, doing extra chores, and bringing in their coins. They must bring in their savings every week, learn how to add their money, and keep a running tab. The money they save will become their spending money in D.C.

dollar jugA few weeks ago, they decorated their money jugs with pictures of D.C. hot spots. Today they are painting their money jugs and counting money.

Eden Painting

​The money jugs have become a fun activity for these girls who bring in coins every day.

felicia's jug

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Poetry Analysis: Learning Parts of Speech With Gwendolyn Brooks’ “The Tiger Who Wore White Gloves, or, What You Are You Are”

brooksGwendolyn Elizabeth Brooks (June 17, 1917 – December 3, 2000) was an African American poet, author, and teacher. Her work often dealt with the personal celebrations and struggles of ordinary people in her community. Her poem, The Tiger Who Wore White Gloves, or, What You Are You Are features all 9 Parts of Speech, making it not only the perfect poem to study the various Parts, but also enables students to enjoy the majesty of a prolific African American woman. 

Let’s review the 9 Parts of Speech: 

NOUN: A noun is a person, place, thing, or idea (ex. dog, school, television, freedom)

PRONOUN: A pronoun is word that takes the place of a noun (ex. he, she, her, they, them, it)

VERB: A verb describes action (ex. ran, sing, dance, talk)  or state of being (ex. is, were, be, are, was)

ADJECTIVE: An adjective is a word that describes  (modifies) a noun (ex. yellow, big, beautiful, saddened, fierce).

ADVERB: An adverb is a word that describes (modifies) a verb, an adjective, or another adverb (ex. loudly, carefully, under).

ARTICLE: An article is a word used to modify a noun, which is a person, place, object, or idea. Technically, an article is an adjective, which is any word that modifies a noun. Articles indicate general or generic (a, an) and specific (the). (ex. I want dog. vs.  I want the dog that I saw on t.v.). 

CONJUNCTION: A conjunction joins words, phrases, or clauses, and indicates the relationship between the elements joined. The acronym F.A.N.B.O.Y.S., which stands for For, And, Nor, But, Or, Yet, and So)  Coordinating conjunctions connect grammatically equal elements: and, but, or, nor, for, so, yet. Subordinating conjunctions connect clauses that are not equal: because, although, while, since, etc. There are other types of conjunctions as well.

INTERJECTION: An interjection is a word used to express emotion. It is often followed by an exclamation point (ex. Help!, Fire! Yaay!).

PREPOSITION: A preposition is a word placed before a noun or pronoun to form a phrase modifying another word in the sentence (ex. on, with, over, before, between).

First, read the poem. Write down as many of the Parts of Speech that you can identify. My examples follow.

 The Tiger Who Wore White Gloves,

or, What You Are You Are

By Gwendolyn Brooks


  1. There once was a tiger, terrible and tough,
  2. who said, “I don’t think tigers are stylish enough.
  3. They put on only orange and stripes of fierce black.
  4. Fine and fancy fashion is what they mostly lack.
  5. Even though they proudly
  6. speak most loudly,
  7. so that the jungle shakes
  8. and every eye awakes—
  9. Even though they slither
  10. hither and thither
  11. in such a wild way
  12. that few may care to stay—
  13. to be tough just isn’t enough.”
  14. These things the tiger said,
  15. And growled and tossed his head,
  16. and rushed to the jungle fair
  17. for something fine to wear.
  18. Then!—what a hoot and yell
  19. upon the jungle fell
  20. The rhinoceros rasped!
  21. The elephant gasped!
  22. “By all that’s sainted!”
  23. said wolf—and fainted.
  24. The crocodile cried.
  25. The lion sighed.
  26. The leopard sneered.
  27. The jaguar jeered.
  28. The antelope shouted.
  29. The panther pouted.
  30. Everyone screamed
  31. “We never dreamed
  32. that ever could be
  33. in history
  34. a tiger who loves
  35. to wear white gloves.
  36. White gloves are for girls
  37. with manners and curls
  38. and dresses and hats and bow-ribbons.
  39. That’s the way it always was
  40. and rightly so, because
  41. it’s nature’s nice decree
  42. that tiger folk should be
  43. not dainty, but daring,
  44. and wisely wearing
  45. what’s fierce as the face,
  46. not whiteness and lace!”
  47. They shamed him and shamed him—
  48. till none could have blamed him,
  49. when at last, with a sigh
  50. and a saddened eye,
  51. and in spite of his love,
  52. he took off each glove,
  53. and agreed this was meant
  54. all to prevail:
  55. each tiger content
  56. with his lashing tail
  57. and satisfied
  58. with his strong striped hide.


Here is a partial review of the Parts of Speech I found in this poem. What else can you find?

Line 2: who said, “I don’t think tigers are stylish enough.”

     The word tigers is a plural noun. 

Line 3: They put on only orange and stripes of fierce black

  The word they is a pronoun. It takes the place of the plural noun tigers. 

Line 4: Fine and Fancy fashion is what they mostly lack.

      The words fine and fancy are adjectives.  These adjectives describe the word fashion.

Lines 9 & 10:   L9 Even though they slither  L10  hither and thither

      The words hither and there are adverbs.  These adverbs describe the verb slither

 Lines 16 & 17 contain prepositions. The word to is a preposition. 

     Line 16 and rushed to the jungle fair

     Line 17 for something fine to wear.

Line 18  Then!—what a hoot and yell

     The word Then! is an interjection. 

Lines 24 – 29 all end with powerful verbs that describes what each animal did. Each line begins with the word the, which is an article. 

  • The crocodile cried.
  • The lion sighed.
  • The leopard sneered.
  • The jaguar jeered.
  • The antelope shouted.
  • The panther pouted.

Lines 37 & 38 use conjunctions to connect individual words. The word and is a conjunction.

     Line 37 with manners and curls

     Line 38 and dresses and hats and bow-ribbons.


Feel free to copy and paste this lesson and use it as a supplement to your lessons on the Parts of Speech and/or African American Poetry. For more lessons that emphasize African Americans, follow my blog. Also, like us on Facebook, TAMS and ED Homeschool. Visit our website at http://www.tamsanded.com