Integrating African-American History into Your Homeschool

Integrating African-American History into Your Homeschool

Why add Black, Asian, and Native American voices to your homeschool? Our podcast guest for this episode is a specialist in this area. Belinda Bullard has successfully graduated three children through homeschooling with a literature-based approach. Her business, Blessed Heritage Educational Resources, provides multicultural history curriculum featuring the African-American presence and contribution. If you'd like to give your children empathy and the ability to understand history from multiple viewpoints, tune in!

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Podcast Transcript

Janna Koch (00:36):

Welcome to Homeschool Your Way. My name is Janna Koch. I'm your host and BookShark's community manager. In today's episode, I am joined with Belinda Bullard. She is the founder and creator of A Blessed Heritage. We're going to talk about her contributions to the homeschool community on a whole, but before we do that, let me introduce Belinda.

Belinda Bullard (00:56):

Well, hi. It's good to be here, Janna. I am a former homeschooler at this point in my life. We homeschooled for the better part of 20 years. I have two young adult children. My baby is now a college freshman.

Janna Koch (01:12):

It's always so refreshing to meet parents who have graduated homeschoolers because so many times we are in the thick of it and we think, "Is this going to work? Are we doing the right thing?" And then to hear success stories, I know, personally, it is always encouraging to hear that and go, "Okay, it can work. It does work."

Belinda Bullard (01:34):

Yes, it does. Our children are doing wonderfully. We stay excited about them. It's been a season of just really watching them follow their dreams and follow their passions and really see the fruits of their labor and the fruits of what we've been able to do here during the time that they were homeschooled.

Janna Koch (01:56):

I think we probably could do a whole podcast talking about just the steps it takes as parents to launch your children into the world after being the wind beneath their wings for so long. We'll definitely have to reschedule a time for that because I think a lot of people would like to hear that.

Belinda Bullard (02:14):

It's not easy.

Janna Koch (02:15):

Since you do have some amazing experience behind you in homeschooling and ahead of you with adult children, what is a homeschool hack that you can share with our listeners?

Belinda Bullard (02:25):

The biggest hack, if you want to call it that, from my perspective, was that teaching is also learning. As our older kids learned how to do things, I would have them work with our younger daughter. When they learned read, they could read to her. They could listen to her read and tell her where she was wrong, and tell her where things weren't right. They could teach basic math as they were in higher math. They were able to reach back and teach and learn in that way for themselves. I would say if you are a mother of more than one, do not be afraid to use your older child to help your younger children with progressing. The older children like to be that mentor and that teacher and stand in moms or dad's place. The younger children, in some cases, learn because they want to be the older child. They appreciate getting that experience of being taught by an older child. It works for so many reasons. That would be my biggest hack.

Janna Koch (03:41):

Well, that's a great lead into a Blessed Heritage and what you have created for the homeschool community. Why don't you go ahead and just talk a little bit of the origins of how a Blessed Heritage came about?

Belinda Bullard (03:56):

Well, Blessed Heritage, which you can see more about us on, that's one word, .com, really was birthed from the way that I wanted our kids to learn history. I know it is not where everyone who will listen to this podcast is, but we wanted our African American children first to know how we were integral in the creation of this country, not just from the perspective of the three or four people that you always see in history studies, ie Harriet Tubman, George Washington Carver, Martin Luther King. If you've got a fairly progressive study, you might see Booker T. Washington. But instead, I wanted them to learn about Asa Philip Randolph. I wanted them to learn about Elijah McCoy. I wanted them to learn about Ida B. Wells Barnett and Fannie Lou Hamer and all these other wonderful people who were a part of what made this nation what it is.


I also wanted them to take in history that doesn't get covered in traditional curriculum. I wanted them to learn about the Native American community who tends to disappear right after the first Thanksgiving. If you read any traditional curriculum, you don't hear much more about them. I wanted them also to see people that are of Latino descent. I wanted them to read about people who came from various countries in Asia. I wanted them to be able to take that all in and to realize the web and the integrated part that we all serve in history that does not get listed in traditional curriculum.


Our products feature the African American experience, but I also try to bring in stories that just absolutely don't get told in traditional curriculum. That is where we started. When we began, I found out quickly there was quite an interest in a market for that product. We became a business fairly soon after we began to put out the product. Lots of fits and starts, lots of reiterations in getting to where we are. We eventually got there.

Janna Koch (06:32):

Let's talk about... We wanted to talk about integrity and history. If I'm a parent and I want to bring in more of a well rounded history, what are some of the things that I need to look for when I'm looking to do that?

Belinda Bullard (06:50):

Well, I would say, first of all, be aware of what are credible sources of history versus opinions, because the internet is this wonderful tool that allows any of us, many of us, some of us who don't need it, to have platforms to put our opinion out there right up next to what is actual information. Be willing to visit the Library of Congress website, as an example. The endings, not just .com, but look at .G-O-V, .gov. Those things, good representations of information that would be verified and truthful. Look at EDUs, educational studies that are again reviewed, that are edited, that are shown to be fairly credible sources of information. Don't just go to a blog, or don't just go to an editorial. Be willing to also be comfortable with the uncomfortable.

If you are true to your history studies, you may not always find things that you can appreciate or enjoy. You may find things that go against what you have been taught, and we have to wrestle sometimes with the truth versus what we have learned. We know now, most of us who are willing to embrace that truth, will understand that the history that most of us were taught in public or private schools leaves out a lot of information. Be willing to wrestle with that which makes you uncomfortable, which might make your family uncomfortable, and then have a dialogue. What is it that we can learn from this? Where is it that we can go get more information? What books are out there that we can read? What articles are there? Who were the heroes in this situation of all different complexions? How do we get more information about those people?

Belinda Bullard (09:09):

Those are some of the things that I often share with parents, is just to be willing to... The internet is our friend, but it also recreates itself three to four months in. Recreate, recreate, recreate. We have to be willing to go to solid forms and primary sources. Don't be afraid, but one of the things I have people do, this is one example, with the high school curriculum, is that we are copy work people around here and we actually copy the Constitution. Most of us have not read the Constitution. We have no clue what it is our country stands on.


Now, part of what the Constitution... One, you learned, there's a lot of Latin in the Constitution. That's always a separate study on its own. But you also learn the truth about where we were as a country, where we were with regard to race, where we were with regard to our understanding of what people thought would be the future and what was important to cover. What isn't covered? Why wasn't it covered?


That can be a jump off point to so many various studies on just the nature of America and how it came to be what it is. But it's just one place that is a good source and a good foundation for information, but not the end of what we should learn and how we should understand. We do that Janna, not just for the sake of learning for learning's sake, but we do it so that we can appreciate someone else's perspective. We do it so that we understand someone else's history. We do it so that we as a collective whole can heal and can reconcile some of our dark past. I [inaudible 00:11:10], and that's what I wanted our kids to know.

Integrating African-American History into Your HomeschoolIntegrating African-American History into Your Homeschool

Janna Koch (11:15):

I would agree that because we haven't put that to not even memory, but even reading it through, I will admit, I've never read through the entire Constitution. In fact, I was just in DC in the beginning of the fall and I saw it, and I saw who signed it. I looked at these other things and there was a wonderful man who is standing there who gave a lot of good information that maybe you didn't even know to ask. It was like, "Oh, that's really interesting." But because we have gotten away from some of that, may be why we have such a hard time right now in our society reconciling different perspectives. I may not agree a hundred percent with everything that you say or believe, but I can at least step outside of my own belief system and go, "Okay, I can understand where you're coming from." It doesn't mean I have to agree a hundred percent with you, but to have an understanding, a place to start a dialogue, where it seems like now, people can't even talk because if we don't agree, we don't agree, and there's nothing to talk about. I would disagree with that. There's so much to talk about because we have a jumping off point.

Belinda Bullard (12:29):

You being right doesn't necessarily make me wrong. We just have not seen life from each other's perspective. The lens is so important. I didn't mean to interrupt. I'm sorry.

Janna Koch (12:37):

No, but no, it's true.

Belinda Bullard (12:37):

I just jumped in on that.

Janna Koch (12:50):

Yes, but it's so true. I think that... A lot of times, I say to my kids, they'll start telling me something about somebody and it'll be from a place that is derogative and negative. I'll be like, "Okay, wait, stop. Do you know why they are that way? Do you know what could maybe be happening that they're responding this way?" We have to look at the other side and not always go, "You're right. That person's just wrong and they must be a bad person because they don't agree with what we're saying." I've taught my kids actually to not agree with a lot of things, and it unfortunately has made life a little bit harder for me at times, but it's been worth it because they feel comfortable having a different opinion without having negative feelings about it.

Belinda Bullard (14:21):

I once taught a critical thinking class. I taught it to adults and I've taught it with my own children. We would use news articles as an example, which are, in many cases, a good source of information, but we also talk about biases and we talk about when you get information, what's not being shared, and who does it benefit to share what is being shared? What is the perspective that you don't see? Whose word is missing from this angle? Why do you think you don't see certain perspectives? Why is it that you think you don't hear certain voices? Because it all has purpose in the information that is shared with you. If you look critically at it, then you are able, again, to have that dialogue and to understand from the perspectives that always don't get shared, what is it that I'm missing?


I have an opinion. I've read information, so I see things a certain way, but what is it that I'm missing? How do I get to that part of the dialogue? Those are all things that we have to be willing, when I say be comfortable with the uncomfortable, don't necessarily just accept information for what it's worth because it may or may not be creditable. One of the downsides of the internet, as we all know, is right now, one of my favorite books is increasingly becoming 1984 George Orwell, and how things were tailored a certain way. I think that we see that real time with the internet where this big brother, who may also be known as Google, is watching what you watch and things are being sold to these various advertisers. Your information gets customized according to what you want to see. But what is missing? What is the dialogue about what's not there? Who does it benefit? That's why I say we have to be comfortable with the uncomfortable.

Janna Koch (16:46):

Yeah, and realize that we are being customized. We are being fed, and stop and go, "Wait a second, how come I'm not seeing the other side of this?," but it happens... It's that frog in the boiling pot, right?

Belinda Bullard (17:02):


Janna Koch (17:03):

They turn the water up so slowly that we don't even realize that we're being played in some of these arenas. We just take it as, "Oh, well this must be everyone. Everyone must think this way." Then you hear the ones that don't, and you're like, "Well, they're out of place." No, you've just been insulated, being fed ideas that already are incorporated in your belief system.

Belinda Bullard (17:28):

The wrong approach is to dig our heels in and say, "Well, they're wrong." The more educational approach is to say, "Where is this person coming from? I may not agree, but at least can I understand where this person is coming from? Why do they say that? Why do they think that? What is their experience and how is it different than mine?"

Janna Koch (17:51):

Yeah. Another thing that you mentioned was voices. I know that we have talked about this before, but not only do we need credible sources, but we also need first person voices. Talk a little bit more about that.

Belinda Bullard (18:06):

Primary sources are a big... I don't want to say... They are a critical part, especially as we grow older. When we cover the high... As students grow older, when we cover the high school curriculum, we use a number of autobiographies. They are even more informative than a biography. A biography is someone else telling your story, but an autobiography is you telling your own story. You meet people as humans in that way. You meet them and their similarities, and their ability to do things for good, or for not so good. One of the stories that we covered recently was Colin Powell's autobiography. I believe it's called My Journey. I can't remember. I get confused on his books. It's sitting here off the top of my head. But he talks about, in one section as an example, we think of him as just this brilliant man. He did so many things and he was the first this and the first that.


But he talks about, he wasn't that great of a student. He really did not have a lot of interest in academics. Now, the homeschool moms are sitting going, "Oh gosh! No, she didn't say that in front of my child," but guess what? He went on. He realized the power of knowledge. He applied himself to college. Of course, we know he did very well in his military career, but even in going back, he talked about how he didn't necessarily want to go back for a graduate degree, but he knew what that combination of his educational experience and getting an MBA would do for him in terms of his career. He trudged on. He plunged through it. He persevered because he knew the value of an education. That's just one example, but you are probably not going to find that in a biography because they're going to always portray him at his best. That's just not real for most of us. Another one at the elementary level, I love is the biography, even though it's not an autobiography, but it's a biography of Martin Luther King done by his sister. She talks about-

Janna Koch (20:42):

I would not want my family to write my book.

Belinda Bullard (20:46):

Exactly. That's why I love it. Enough said, right?

Janna Koch (20:56):

Yeah. Talk about real honesty.

Belinda Bullard (20:58):

Yeah, exactly. Exactly. I want kids to, even if they are not the most fascinating studies, we need to learn to plunge through the Gettysburg Address. We need to learn to plunge through the Constitution. We need to look at autobiographies even if they're a little thick. One of the things I talk about in the high school curriculum, quite honestly, is skimming and learning to read through things. In that same autobiography of Colin Powell, are a lot of his military strategy. Well, guess what? If you are not a kid who's into that, you are not going to want to go through page after page, after page of the different battles and what they were thinking and how they planned, and yada yada yada. That's okay. That's okay. You don't have to get the storyline. But that too is a skill set that you then have to learn to take into college, or take into advanced studies, or even if you are working a job and just need to read a how-to manual, guess what? You need to learn what's important, and you need to learn what you can peruse and keep it moving. It's a valuable skill either way. But yes, primary sources are extremely important in our learning, and part of gaining the integrity of our studies and not just opinions.

Janna Koch (22:25):

Yeah, there's a lot of opinions out there for sure.

Belinda Bullard (22:29):

Oh, for sure, for sure. Again, social media gives us all this platform to be able to put our opinions out there. To a large extent, many of us don't need it.

Janna Koch (22:44):

Yeah. I think to your point-

Belinda Bullard (22:46):

Not everybody needs to know what you think.

Janna Koch (22:48):

Yeah. Well, to your point about skimming, I think so many times when I've come across something and I try to tell my kids, "Oh, that was really interesting." They're like, "How did you get that out of that big book?" But it's like not throwing the baby out with a bath water, right? Yes, there are times where I'm in a book and I'm like, "Oh my gosh, is this ever going to end?" But we have the freedom. It's so funny, and maybe I'm just talking to type A personalities out there, you can skip chapters. You can hop around in a book. I didn't learn that until the last couple years that had this guilt, start to finish, cover to cover. But truly, that is a skill that once you learn how to do it, and it's not just skimming to find an answer, but it's skimming to find what you're looking for.


Sometimes when I see my daughter doing her history, I get a little nervous because I feel like, "Are you really reading every word? Are you really gaining all the information you need? Are you just finding the answer?" But part of me has to step back and go, "That's okay. It's okay to just find the answer sometimes, right now, but then we can go back and discuss it on a whole," and she will come back and be able to have a discussion with me and I'll be like, "Okay, I hate to say that that works, but it really does work when you're...", in certain instances.

Belinda Bullard (24:10):

Absolutely. Absolutely. I have one who actually does read every word. Like her mother, she reads very slowly. That can take forever. We had to work through this. Learn how to eat fish and throw out the bones is what I say. But basically, read through what you need to read through and learn when things are not as critical to your understanding the overall picture. You can't say that to every kid because some kids skim to the point that they don't get anything. But for a kid who reads slowly, who reads, who wants to take in every word, who may be genuinely interested, but they're just moving slowly and that, unfortunately, is not life for many of us, skimming is an important skill.

Janna Koch (25:04):

Yeah. Well, thank you for permission because sometimes I need permission when I think I'm getting too far outside of the box. I'm like, "Wait a second. Somebody reel me back in." That's good information. We have good sources. We have primary sources. What would be another tip that you would give parents is they're looking through trying to add some more authentic history to their home school?

Belinda Bullard (25:30):

I would say be willing to talk with other people who may not have your perspective. I think that, as you talked about, sometimes we dig our heels into the story that we've been taught, and that we are married to, and are unwilling to take in another viewpoint, but be willing to get out into venues, festivals, movies. These are not expensive things, necessarily. Just try to gain some understanding of something that may be outside of your normal bailiwick, to take in books and literature that you hear about. If you're not able to just go out and buy another curriculum, what are those stories that you catch this person? Even some of the names I've thrown out, I believe once we were talking about...


I was talking with someone about Asa Phillip Randolph because they were talking about their child doing something with labor. I said, "Oh, you should look up Asa Phillip Randolph." I gave them the movie. Try 10,000 men named George. Just things, even if you just catch it on the wind, "Hey, that's something I didn't know." Guess what? Maybe I have a son who's really interested in trains, and who's really interested in history of locomotives and those aspects of just getting us to where we are in terms of transportation modes. Go and look at the [inaudible 00:27:12]. Go and find out who they are. Read some Lawrence Yep studies, and read some of those Golden Mountain series where he talks about how the Asian Americans, in many cases, were brought over to help build railroads. That is a critical part of when you think about coming to America versus the changes that they had to endure coming from either China, or coming from Japan, and coming from those areas into the cold to build a transcontinental railroad, what they had to endure, the weather changes even, and the provisions that were not necessarily made for them coming across Iowa and Wyoming and some of those places, that coming from coastal Texas just sound cold.


Those are all important aspects of history. They are stories that you will not see in traditional curriculum. That's just one example. Even if I don't have... I spent a bazillion dollars on this curriculum and now I really need it, but hey, I heard someone over here talking about this person, or this era, or what else can I learn that is outside of what I have? If I am talking about the 1920s and the roaring twenties, they're all kinds of studies that are out there about F. Scott Fitzgerald and the Great Gatsby and those types of stories. But hey, do I also know about what happened in Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1921? Do I know about some of the other studies that have come out during that time? Do I know what was happening with labor movements? Do I know what was happening with immigration that led into the Great Depression and how..? Do I know what happened with the number of Oklahomans who began to move out to California because they were trying to get in on some of the gold and some of the promises that were made out during that time?


There are whole eras that you can take and just add to what you have and bring in various stories. We need to be willing to do that, even if cost prohibit us at this point, just to get out there and see what else is there. Maybe it's not what I learned. Maybe it's not even something that I necessarily agree with, but that too is conversation.

Janna Koch (29:54):

I think it's so important as parents that we lead by example. I know that I love to read, but I get stuck in a genre that I really enjoy, or a lot of times, I gravitate toward female authors. I have my reasons. I think they write a character in a little bit different way than male authors. I started to recognize some things like, "Oh, I really don't read a lot of male authors." I'm like, "Why is that? Maybe let's throw in a different book every now and then, even it be a murder mystery," I don't know, but to show our kids that yes, we can enjoy and like what we like, but always be pushing ourselves to do something outside of our comfort zone. As parents, if we are doing that, then our kids can see that and go, "Oh, that's what we do. We don't just pick up the same thing because we like it. We can find enjoyment, but we never would've known because if we don't try, we don't know." It's the same thing with food. You can't tell me you don't like it if you've never tried it. You have to at least try it before you can have an educated opinion about whether or not you like it.

Belinda Bullard (31:05):

Absolutely. Absolutely. Yeah, that... Aiming into what you said, I think that it's important for families to be willing to, and for parents who are setting the course of the lesson plans, one, to expand beyond what is there to see what is not there that could take your studies much farther. When I talk to parents in conferences, I say, "Okay, how do you know that your kids are getting it? Are your kids talking about it over the dinner table? Are they bringing it up at later when you aren't even studying it anymore? Are you having dialogue about it and talking about the why's of it?" Our minds, Charlotte Mason would always talk about the mind being a feast of ideas. Are they chewing on it? Are they thinking about it later? Too many times, we may not... If we are not willing to be uncomfortable in some places, we may not be giving our children the feast that they deserve, and the feast that will help them as our country and our world becomes much smaller, again, going back to the internet, and also becomes more multicultural in terms of who we interact with in a day to day basis.


Because more and more, we see we are not interacting just with people who look like, walk like, talk like, think like, breathe like us. We have to have a better understanding and appreciation for other people's perspective. You don't get that in any other way unless you are willing to educate yourself and to even deal with the what is not necessarily your bailiwick or your comfort level. You have to get out there and delve into those things that may not be places where you agree, but they are places where you can learn.

Janna Koch (33:15):

Well, that is excellent information. Belinda, remind our listeners one more time where they can find resources that you offer.

Belinda Bullard (33:24):

We're at Just one word.

Janna Koch (33:29):

All right. Well, I appreciate you taking the time to walk us through some of these ideas to help us know better and do better as we are teaching this next generation of homeschoolers a history that we may not all be comfortable with, but the truth is important, and that we can know better and do better. Thank you so much for your contribution, not only now, but what you've done over the past 20 plus years.

Belinda Bullard (33:56):

Thank you for having me, Janna. I always enjoy. I feel like we are getting to be friends and sister girls and can talk forever about history and about homeschooling. I always appreciate it. Thank you for having me. Thank you for allowing me to be a part of BookShark in this way. I appreciate it dearly.

Janna Koch (34:18):

You are welcome. For those who are listening, we are going to bring Belinda back because I do want to have an entire conversation on how to let go of your children. That will be a later installment. Thank you so much for being here. Until next time, bye-bye.