February was Black History Month, and while it’s fantastic to see schools and organizations stepping up their educational focus about the African American experience and contributions to our country, I always like to remind people that this learning should be happening year-round.
Black history is American history. As teachers do their best to diversify their lesson plans within the parameters of the state learning standards, parents can always help educate children about black history.
I get how hard it can be—it’s hard enough to teach our kids good manners and personal hygiene. Surely we can’t be expected to be black history teachers, too! But if we want our children to have more than a surface knowledge of this important piece of American history, we have to be intentional about supplementing the information that our children are receiving in school.
Here are some ways to teach your children about black history even when you’re swamped:
- Don’t wait until Black History Month to teach your child black history.
You know when you keep pushing something off and it becomes more challenging to manage? The same goes for teaching your children black history. Incorporate black-history education into your children’s life year-round and you won’t have to worry about trying to squeeze everything they need to know into the shortest month of the year.
- Learn more about black history yourself.
The more you know about black history, the easier it is to teach. Whether you read autobiographies of African American women or watch documentaries about the contributions black people have made in this country, make learning about black history a priority for yourself even as you make it a goal for your children.
- Think locally.
You don’t have to travel far to give your children black-history experiences. Every single American city has been impacted in some way by African Americans. Find the black history events, organizations, and celebrations in your city and start participating.
- Watch movies about black history and/or the black experience during family movie night.
The next time you sit down with your kids to watch a film, pick one that is representative of the black experience to help you open up conversations about black history in America. Movies like The Great Debaters and Remember the Titans are both entertaining and educational.
- Donate books about black history to your child’s classroom.
Teachers do a lot of heavy lifting when it comes to teaching our children. There is a limit to what they can teach, though, because of state standards and budget. Consider donating some books about black history to your children’s classrooms to give the teachers a hand in expanding their students’ knowledge about African Americans.
- Incorporate learning about black history into family vacations.
Whenever my family goes on vacation, we always visit a museum or two. When you go on family vacations, be intentional about adding black-history stops on your itinerary. Whether you’re visiting a stop on the Underground Railroad or going to a local African American museum in the city you’re visiting, make learning about black history part of your fun.
- Explore black culture through food.
You have to eat, right? Why not add some traditional African American food to your menu to spark conversations about black history? Of course you can start with soul food, but there are so many different black cultures in our country with cuisine you can explore, like Cajun, African heritage (such as soups, stews, and so on), and Jamaican.
- Listen to podcasts and books about black history while you’re commuting.
My children and I are in the car all the time, so I started downloading books and podcasts for us to listen to on our commute. I pick books and episodes that talk about black history, culture, and the experience as an easy way to educate my kids about all of those things. If you find that you spend a lot of time in your car, use that time wisely to learn more about black history.
The most important thing to know about teaching your children about black history when you’re busy is you have to make it a priority. We all talk about wanting to make the world a better place, and the foundation of that is education and understanding. Knowing the full and complete history of our country and the experiences of all its citizens brings us all closer. Surely we can find time to make that happen, right?
By Brandi Riley, author of Just Us Girls: A Shared Journal For Moms and Daughters. She has been sharing her story as a mom at Mama Knows It All since 2010.