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.

Thank you for visiting us. Let’s stay connected. Visit us at or on Facebook, TAMS and Ed Homeschool. 

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

Thanks for stopping by. For more great homeschool ideas, follow us on Facebook at TAMS and ED. Visit us at

Poetry analysis: Imagery & Onomatopoeia

For this lesson, I used the book, I Got the Rhythm, by Connie Schofield-Morrison who uses imagery and onomatopoeia to help us experience the beats that makes our bodies rock. Before I jump into that, however, I want to send a shout out to illustrator, Frank Morrison, whose art captures the essence of finding the rhythm within ourselves!

“To find the rhythm in yourself, all you’ve got to do is look around.” 

I Got the Rhythm by Connie Schofield-Morrison

imagery: the literary term used for language and description that appeals to our five senses. smell, sight, taste, touch, and hearing. 

onomatopoeia a word, which imitates the natural sounds of a thing. A few examples: “Honk honk,” says the car or “Ssssssss,” says the snake. 

Although I Got the Rhythm is not a book of poetry, per se, it is, nonetheless, a great resource that breaks down the elements of imagery and onomatopoeia, which are two prominent poetic devices. 

About the book: On a simple trip to the park, the joy of music overtakes a mother and daughter. The little girl hears a rhythm coming from the world around her- from butterflies, to street performers, to ice cream sellers everything is musical! She sniffs, snaps, and shakes her way into the heart of the beat, finally busting out in an impromptu dance, which all the kids join in on! Award-winning illustrator Frank Morrison and Connie Schofield-Morrison, capture the beat of the street, to create a rollicking read that will get any kid in the mood to boogie.Related image

Teachers, instruct your students to close their eyes and listen as you read the book. Tell them to point to the body part (eyes, nose, mouth, hands, and ears) that describes the images as you read them. Remind them of the definition of imagery and encourage them to feel the experience. 

Image result for frank morrison illustrator I got the rhythm

I’ve Got the Rhythm

By Connie Schofield-Morrison

I thought of a rhythm in my mind think think

I heard the rhythm with my ears beat beat

I looked at the rhythm with my eyes beat beat

I smelled the rhythm with my nose sniff sniff

I sang the rhythm with my mouth ooh la la

I caught the rhythm with my hands clap clap

I kept the rhythm with my fingers snap snap

I shook a rhythm with my hips shake shake

I felt the rhythm with my knees knock knock

I walked the rhythm with my feet stomp stomp

I tapped the rhythm with my toes tip tap

I danced to the rhythm of a drum beat bop

Related image


I clapped and snapped

I tipped and tapped

I popped and locked

I hipped and hopped


Analysis: Refer to my blog on Poetic Devices for definitions of the following as needed:

  • How many times does the author use the word “rhythm”?  Why do you think she repeats the word so many times?
  • What is the theme of this poem? 
  • What is the mood of this poem? 
  • How do the illustrations complement the words? 
  • Underline the verbs. Write a synonym for each one. 
  • Write two examples of imagery used.
  • “snap snap,” “clap clap,” “beat bop,” “bing bang” and “boom boom” are examples of onomatopoeia. Write what each sound is describing. For example, “snap snap” is the sound of fingers snapping. 

About the author: Connie Schofield-Morrison has been writing since she was a young girl and is inspired every day by the big sounds and bright colors of the world around her. I Got the Rhythm is her first picture book.

About the illustrator: Growing up in New Jersey, Frank Morrison began developing his own style through ‘R.I.P’ art scenes that brought him considerable street recognition and local acclaim. But it wasn’t until he visited the Louvre Museum in Paris with his dancing group, that he realized painting was his true creative path. His talent and hard work paid off with over 20 illustrated children’s books, including the Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe Award winner, Jazzy Miz Mozetta and the Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor book, Little Melba and her Big Trombone.



TAMS and ED stands for Technology, Language Arts, Math, Science, and Education. We provide a tough yet achievable home school for students who need personal attention in a safe home environment. We utilize a number of cross-curricular teaching tools including standard textbooks, computers and technology, academic excursions, and hands-on learning. Our qualified Board of directors consist of certified educators, parents, and administrators who are passionate about challenging every child to reach for the academic stars. Visit us online, click here.

We promote diversity and tolerance in a safe learning environment. For TAMS and ED students, the world is their classroom. Come and join us!



Poetry Analysis: Family Gathering by Nikki Grimes (Grades 3rd – 8th)


P.L.O.R.E. a reading strategy that teaches children to Predict what the passage is about, Locate new vocabulary words, names, dates, and facts, Organize thoughts and ideas, Read / Re-read the passage for better understanding, and Evaluate what the passage is about.

Setting:  the where” and “when” of the poem. Setting is an environment or surrounding in which an event or story takes place. 

Tone: the poet’s attitude toward a subject or an audience. Tone is generally conveyed by the words that the poet uses. The tone can be formal, informal, serious, comic, sarcastic, sad, or cheerful, or it may be any other existing attitude.

Image result for aneesa lee and the weaver's gift imageAneesa Lee and the Weaver’s Gift is a book of poetry about a girl, Aneesa, who is Japanese and black. The book opens with what author NIkki Grimes calls “Weaving Words.” Throughout the book, Grimes weaves poetry that adventures through Aneesa’s personal experiences including being teased about her family heritage.  

In Family Gathering we will use P.L.O.R.E. reading strategies (Predict, Locate, Organize, Read/Reread, and Evaluate) to determine setting and tone. 

Family Gathering

by Nikki Grimes

Beneath the forest canopy

Aneesa and her family

Enjoy a Sunday’s peaceful pleasure

Gathering blueberry treasure

Then all join in Aneesa’s search

For maple, alder, and white birch,

For marigold and goldenrod,

Raw dyestuff sprouting from the sod

All dandelions, roots, and nettles,

Berries and wildflower petals

Possess within at least a hint

Of Mother Nature’s rainbow tint.

Aneesa works her spade and dreams

Of dipping silk in saffron pools,

And elderberry lilac streams,

Of wringing green from privet leaves,

And all the while her cuffs and sleeves

Are staining green and purple.

Let’s explore with P.L.O.R.E.



P stands for PREDICT.  Read the title and predict what the text will be about. Jot down a few ideas. 

What does the title, Family Gathering, suggest?  


 Next, LOCATE and circle key words, names, and dates. Underline significant ideas and important passages.

How do the words, “peaceful,” and “pleasure” set the tone?



ORGANIZE  your thoughts. Use the space space in the margins to jot down thoughts and ideas that you develop as you read.

As you read, consider words that you do not know the meanings of. Write them in your vocabulary journal. For example, what do the following words mean?

  • canopy
  • alder
  • saffron
  • privet


What are some other key thoughts that help you understand this poem? Jot down a few ideas that will help you Evaluate this poem. Remember, you must be able to prove your Evaluation with evidence from the text. This is know as “text evidence,” or “proof.”

20150525_194316RE-READ the poem. Summarize your second reading. Now that you have defined vocabulary words and considered setting and tone, is your understanding more clear?




 Carefully EVALUATE the poem.

  • Number the lines.
  • Answer the following:
    • What makes this a poem?
    • What is this poem about?
    • What is the poet’s message?
    • What tools did the poet use to help show his/her meaning?
  • Highlight Line 1. How does this line describe the setting of this poem?
  • Highlight Line 2. Which words or words set the tone of this poem? Why?
  • Go back an look at the ideas you wrote down in the section called “Organize.” Use those ideas plus the other P.L.O.R.E. strategies to write your evaluation. 

Image result for NIKKI GRIMES imagesABOUT THE AUTHOR: Nikki Grimes was born in Harlem in 1950. She began writing when she was six, and was a voracious reader throughout her childhood; she gave her first public poetry reading at a local library there when she was 13.



TAMS and ED stands for Technology, Language Arts, Math, Science, and Education. We provide a tough yet achievable home school for students who need personal attention in a safe home environment. We utilize a number of cross-curricular teaching tools including standard textbooks, computers and technology, academic excursions, and hands-on learning. Our qualified Board of directors consist of certified educators, parents, and administrators who are passionate about challenging every child to reach for the academic stars. Visit us online, click here.

We promote diversity and tolerance in a safe learning environment. For TAMS and ED students, the world is their classroom. Come and join us!


Homeschool cooking: Make ahead breakfast burritos


This popular breakfast staple freezes well and takes about 2 minutes to cook in the microwave. Once it’s done, you can open it up and add some salsa or fresh avocados and tomatoes, or you can serve as is. The wax paper wrapping means your children can eat their burritos in the car and you don’t have to worry about messy spills.



  • 10 flour tortillas
  • bacon, ham, or sausage
  • shredded cheese
  • 1/2 c. green onion  (chopped)
  • 8 eggs (slightly beaten)
  • wax paper



  1. Thoroughly cook the sausage.
  2. Stir in the green onions.
  3. Scramble in the eggs.
  4. Spoon the cooked mixture onto a flour tortilla shell.
  5. Top with shredded cheese.
  6. Roll the burrito.
  7. Wrap each one in wax paper.
  8. Store in a container. Remember to label the contents and freeze date.


Homeschool cooking: Cobb wraps

Kids will enjoy this cold meal option that simply takes the ingredients that one would normally find in a Cobb salad and wraps them in a flour tortilla. Packed with protein and plenty of fresh veggies to choose from, this make-ahead meal is sure to be a hit with every member of your family.


Because this Cobb wrap has so many different parts, you should prepare your ingredients either in the morning or the night before.



  • Avocado  (chopped)
  • Bacon
  • Baked chicken  (chopped)
  • Boiled eggs (chopped)
  • Black olives  (chopped)
  • Fiesta cheese (shredded)
  • Flour tortillas
  • Green onions  (chopped)
  • Lettuce  (chopped)
  • Tomatoes  (chopped)
  • Salsa (optional)
Cobb wrap. Photo credit: TAMS and ED Homeschool

Allow children to select the items they want to include in their wraps. Top with some salsa and enjoy!

Ithaca College offers a world of multicultural resources for homeschoolers

Ithaca College rated #9 among regional universities in the north.

Every day, I scour the Internet looking for quality resources that I can share with my students. Like a little girl on Christmas morning, I could hardly contain my excitement when I discovered how much Ivy League darling, Cornell University, and Ithaca College love their homeschoolers. These two schools offer valuable (and free) resources that every teacher should take advantage of. One, is the Homeschool Science Program with challenging science kits for students of all ages. I will discuss that program in a separate blog, so check back. The other fabulous resource is Ithaca’s WISE Program: Working to Improve Schools and Education.

The program is the brainchild of Ithaca professor, Jeff Claus, who teaches Social and Cultural Foundations of of Education, a broad-based, social science study that focuses on analysis of contemporary issues in education with particular emphasis on issues of equity, diversity, multicultural education, and the development of schools more effective for ALL students and families. The purpose of the course is to help these future teachers develop greater sociocultural understanding, embrace new ideas, and garner respect for those who think and look differently.

There are a variety of interesting topics to choose from. Here’s a few:

In How schools  kill creativity, Sir Ken Robinson makes an entertaining and profoundly moving case for creating an education system that nurtures (rather than undermines) creativity.

A Girl Like Me, is a thought-provoking video with African American girls who are honest about public perceptions and expectations of them. From their big butts to their nappy hair, color is more than skin deep for these young African-American women who are struggling to define themselves.

The Asian American Experience has excellent resources on the Hmong: people living traditionally in isolated mountain villages throughout Southern China and Southeast Asia. They are also usually known as Miao in China. Their culture has been long misunderstood. According to oral history in the Hmong community, it is said the Hmong women hid the ancient Hmong paj ntaub script in the clothing of the Hmong people, especially in the pleated skirts of the Green Hmong. From this time forward, the scripts became motifs or symbols in Hmong embroidery Knowledge of the scripts was not so relevant in the lives of the Hmong and was eventually lost. Today the motifs in Hmong embroidery are used as decorations in clothing, accessories, and crafts.  Learn more.  Resources for elementary age children, click here.

bChicken feet – Ko taw qaib


  • Abstract Art: Art that does not attempt to represent external, recognizable reality, but seeks to achieve its effect using shapes, forms, colors, and textures.
  • Appliqué: Ornamental needlework in which pieces of fabric are sewn or stuck onto a piece of fabric to form pictures or patterns.
  • Batik: A method of producing colored designs on textiles by dyeing them, after having first applied wax to the parts of the fabric to be left undyed.
  • Chain Stitch: An ornamental stitch in which loops are crocheted or embroidered in a chain.
  • Closed Blanket Stitch: A Blanket Stitch variation in which the vertical stitches are alternately angled to create triangles.
  • Couched Herringbone Stitch: A pattern consisting of columns of short parallel lines, with all the lines in one column sloping one way and all the lines in the next column sloping the other way so as to resemble bones.
  • Mirrored Image: An image that has its parts arranged with a reversal of the right and left, as it would appear if seen in a mirror.
  • Moj Zeej: A human-like figure usually cut from joss paper to represent the soul of a sick person.
  • Money Bag: A decorated bag with shoulder strap used as ornamentation in Hmong attire.
  • Monk’s Cloth: A coarse, heavy fabric usually used for cross-stitch embroidery.
  • Noob Ncoos: A square made specifically for the deceased. It represents the landscape of the ancestors in the afterlife.
  • Paj Ntaub: Hmong textile art. It refers to a flower cloth.
  • Pattern Tracer: A tool used in batik artwork to make patterns and motifs with hot wax.
  • Peacock Ocellus: An eyelike spot on the peacock feather.
  • Phuam: A Hmong headdress/turban headdress.
  • Pom Pom: A decoration consisting of a ball of tufted wool, cotton, or silk.
  • Pov Pob: A Hmong courting game in which young men and women toss balls back and forth.
  • Qua Sev: An elaborate textile embroidery use as a belt and worn with Hmong women’s clothes.
  • Quilt: A warm bed covering made of padding enclosed between layers of fabric and kept in place by lines of stitching.
  • Reverse Appliqué: A decoration or ornament, as in needlework, made by cutting and sewing the upper material to expose the fabric below.
  • Running Stitch: A stitch that runs back and forth through the cloth without overlapping.
  • Siv Ceeb: A thin black and white striped cloth worn with Hmong women’s headdresses.
  • Surface Stitch: Parallel rows of running stitches used to fill or reinforce worn areas of a textile.
  • Tapestry: A piece of thick textile fabric with pictures or designs formed by weaving colored weft threads or by embroidering on the fabric.
  • Tsho Tshaj Sab: An elaborate hemp robe use for dressing the deceased in a traditional Hmong funeral.
  • Xaguv: A Hmong silver necklace worn around the neck with Hmong attire.
  • Yarn: Spun thread used for knitting, weaving, or sewing.

The Healthy Kids section contains articles and programs that promote healthy options for children at home and at school. Cooking with kids is a web site that educates and empowers children and families to make healthy food choices through hands-on learning with fresh, affordable foods from diverse cultural traditions. The site offers a plethora of recipes from around the world. Here’s one:

  Black Bean Tostadas  

Black Beans
  • cans (15 oz ea.) black beans
  • ½ medium onion chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves minced
  • tbsp vegetable oil
  • ½tsp ground cumin
  • ½tsp salt
  • ½tsp fresh oregano or ¼ teaspoon dried oregano
Tostada Toppings
  • ounces mild cheddar cheese grated
  • ½head Romaine lettuce thinly sliced
  • cup sour cream(optional)
  • Salsa Fresca
  1.  Drain the juice from one can of black beans. Empty both cans of beans into a bowl. Use a potato masher to mash the beans until they are no longer whole. Set the mashed beans aside.
  2. In a saucepan, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions and sauté for 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cumin and cook for 30 seconds more. Stir in the black beans. When the beans begin to boil, reduce the heat to low, stir in the salt and oregano and simmer for 10 minutes, uncovered. Keep warm until ready to serve.

Although I discovered a number of broken links, I am glad that I hung in there. I made some fabulous connections and great ideas to use with my students.

Keep in touch.  TAMS and ED stands for Technology, Language Arts, Math, Science, and Education. We provide a tough yet achievable home school for students who need personal attention in a safe home environment. We utilize a number of cross-curricular teaching tools including standard textbooks, computers and technology, academic excursions, and handson learning. Our qualified Board of directors consist of certified educators, parents, and administrators who are passionate about challenging every child to reach for the academic stars. Visit our website.

We promote diversity and tolerance in a safe learning environment. For TAMS and ED students, the world is their classroom. Come and join us!

Felicia Moon-Thomas, Director