This is not a homeschooling site and it doesn’t need to be because there are plenty of excellent sources elsewhere. But sometimes people send me questions and the good ones just need to be shared. So, from time-to-time I post questions and my responses here rather than respond individually.  I always ask for permission from the person inquiring and I don’t share any identifying information, so if you have a question, feel free to PM me.  Here’s the lastest question.

Dear Paula,

I am the homeschooling mom of 3 boys and 1 girl. I read your book, Morning by Morning. This is my first complete school year of homeschooling. My husband and I spent the first semester doing assessments, making adjustments and praying for answers. I noticed in your book that your sons attended college lecture series. We wanted to include some of the lecture series with Benjamin Todd Jealous, that Morehouse College are having during the MLK celebration.  By the way, I have a 8th,5th and 2nd grader. My daughter is pre-K.

My questions are:

1) How do you prep for the lecture series?

2) What notes did you require? and

3) What was the general process for preparation? 


Dear Homeschooling Mom,

Kudos and congrats to you and your husband on your decision to step out into homescholing. I hope the journey “exceedingly and abundantly” surpasses all your expectations! I included an old clipping from The Columbus Dispatch when we were in our early experimental journey just to remind myself how it felt!  Now for your questions. I’m sorry I missed responding in time for the MLK Day celebrations, but if you’re in the Atlanta area there will be many more opportunities at Morehouse, Spelman, Clark, Emory and others so like learning, it’s never too late.

1) How do you prep for the lecture series?  I think there are lots of ways to prepare children physically, intellectually and spiritually for lecture series and much of that is based around the age and maturity of the particular children.

Physically, a college lecture can be challenging for young children, middle schoolers, high school students (and some adults;) so we always tried to arrive early enough to get good seats. For us, bringing three young sons (starting around age 9) to college lectures,  a good seat  was defined as on an aisle and near an exit.  We also made sure everyone was well rested, well hydrated and well fed with promises of more food later-after the lecture.

Intellectually, CMadison and I focused on providing access to as much information as possible about the speakers in advance of each lecture.  Doing research at the library (this was in the early 90s, before “the Google” ) was a critical part of their compilation of data. We made sure they included both positive and negative commentary about the speakers, including reviews of their books. As they matured we added more research and reading of at least one actual book authored by each speaker. This helped prepare them for the tone and tenor of comments and questions from the audience.  Some speakers’ topics were primarily academic so they were not that popular, well-attended or controversial, i.e., talks on the solar system, space travel, neuroscience.  But some speakers and their topics were very controversial and well-attended. The late Dr. John Henrike Clarke for example was utterly captivating. He spoke at The Ohio State University to a packed house but thanks to a faculty friend, Dr. Linda James Myers, our sons had the opportunity to hear him say,  To hold a people in oppression you have to convince them first that they are supposed to be oppressed and review the history of civilization-without notes. Our sons may have been some of the youngest people in attendance but Dr. Clarke held their attention along with everyone else’s in the room.  Some speakers’ books were assigned in advance of lectures, i.e, the late Professor Derrick Bell’s  Faces at the Bottom of the Well: The Permanence of Racism, Professor Cornel West’s Race Matters, Professor Henry Louis Gates’ Colored People  and Andrew Hacker’s Two Nations: Black and White Separate, Hostile, Unequal.  We also attended discussions and lectures in private homes through Faculty Speaker Events hosted by the Columbus Wellesley Club. As an aside, Wellesley Alumnae Clubs are amazing-all over the world!  Okay, back on topic, we also took our sons  to hear Wellesley Professor Mary Lefkowitz discuss  Not Out of Africa: How Afrocentrism Became an Excuse to Teach Myth As History, but whose book we assigned was the far-less popular (but much better done)  Women in Greek Myth. They also heard the late Professor Tony Martin speak on his seminal work Race First: The Ideological and Organizational Struggles of Marcus Garvey and the Universal Negro Improvement Association.  We hosted the Faculty Speaker Event for Tony at our home.  I met Tony when I was an undergrad and our friendship expanded over the years to include CMadison and both my sisters, also Wellesley alums so it was a delight to introduce our sons to him.

We found that the theories intellectuals and academics discuss become more vivid when one has seen and heard the author debate and defend them.  Professor Derrick Bell in particular had an enormous impact on our sons and over the years they continued to read each of his books as they were published.

Spiritually, we encouraged our sons to explore different religious perspectives while honoring their 5th generation worship within our predominantly black, Apostolic-Pentecostal congregation. During our travels abroad we attended discussions and services at Buddhist temples and here at home we took them to several Jewish religious services as well as to a very powerful lecture by the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan.

2) What notes did you require? As you can see most of work was on the front end. We almost never required notes during the lectures or essays after the lectures. Our primary objective was a robust experience gained by listening, observing and interacting with the audience and in some instances the speaker.  We evaluated the robustness of the experience in our debriefings-always held over lunch, dinner, dessert-some kind of food.

3) What was the general process for preparation? The only things to add to the earlier discussion of process is (a) a reminder to provide as much time in advance as possible and (b) a reminder that even if the preparation isn’t complete (and it rarely is)  try to focus on the blessing and privilege of being in attendance. We brought much of this same process and preparation to attending arts events, whether African drumming, art museums tours and performances at the ballet, opera, symphony or theater. An holistically robust experience, one that would stimulate and feed the spirit, the mind and the body with a relaxing meal over stimulating conversation -that was always the objective.