If you follow me on social media than you already know that I enter my kid's into a lot of contests surrounding their interests. Visual Art, writing, singing, and coding contests are usually our area of focus. Although--I would really love it if one of them picked up an interest in film. I'd love for them to create a short film or commercial--but right now no one is biting the bait! 🤣
Anyway, my kids are so busy at home working. learning new skills, and doing all kinds of creative things (some require and some during their free time) and once I realized other people, groups, organizations were interested in their work--I began to have my antennae out for contests for a few of the following reasons:
In the picture above, is my eldest daughter Jayda who I had enter into the New York Times "Coming of Age" Teen contest. Over 5, 500 submissions were entered, and her art piece was selected along with 29 other students for the online and print edition of the newspaper.
She has won other national awards, but this is by far the most prestigious award won in our family and Jayda in particular felt so honored to have her work picked as a memorial of when the World Health Organization declared Covid-19 a world-wide pandemic.
So I encourage all parents--research contests in your child's specific area of interests--the benefits are pretty amazing!
Click here if you would like to purchase a print of her artwork, "2020 Thoughts" (New York Times Winner) or click the Shop Tab and select Merchandise. All proceeds will go toward her college fund!
P.S. Feel free to check out my Pinterest Board for Contests
What do you get when you add Valentine's Day + Black History Month + a Homeschool Student? Well last month I decided that I wanted to do something special for Valentine's Day and Black History Month, so I partnered with homeschooled artist Keala Venema (one of Jayda's friends). Keala is a senior in high school and together we produced the "Love Knows No Color" product series in my gift shop.
I wanted to bring awareness and acknowledgment in particular to inter-racial couples because at one point in our country's history this type of union was illegal.
The art piece "Loving" and "Love is Love" is to honor the story of Richard and Mildred Loving, the plaintiffs in the 1967 U.S. Supreme Court (the Warren Court) decision Loving v. Virginia, which invalidated state laws prohibiting interracial marriage.
We all owe so much to those who fought for the rights that we have today!
And if you haven't seen the movie, "Loving" check it out on Netflix--it's so good!
Since releasing the "Bear Learns to Share" series, my daughters and I are learning so much about entrepreneurship. When I released the journals last month with my daughter Jayda---I expected people to love the art for the cover, but I did NOT expect people to ask for prints. I thought that was such a fantastic idea because although I absolutely love to write in journals there are a lot of people who do not.
So because Jayda's art was so well received--prints of all the journal covers can be purchased in my gift shop!
There are some additional goodies in the store so click the "Shop" link in the tab, click the "Shop Merchandise" button and you'll enter the store.
This has been such a wonderful journey---my girls and I are definitely engrossed in "business school!" Anyway, I'd love to hear what you think so please leave a comment below.
African Women's Empowerment Journals (Designed by Ayanna Murray/Cover Art by Jayda Murray)
I have been homeschooling for over a decade and let me tell you---schooling definitely merges with home life so that oftentimes it's hard to distinguish between the two. This year as a homeschool high school course, Jayda and Anaya are both receiving high school credit for publishing their writing and art work. They are learning so much about the entire publishing process--something I never dreamed of learning at their age!
I love how they are able to learn the practical uses of their creative writing and art skills. In the picture above you can see the new journal series that Jayda and I created together. The artwork is just stunning and reflects the beauty of black women everywhere.
I am hoping to partner with Jayda in the New Year to create a multi-ethnic journal line because representation is so important!
P.S. Listen to this podcast if you are interested in learning about some of my creative writing resources that I recommend for homeschool.
I am so lucky to have a very talented and gifted teenage daughter who absolutely loves to draw. Years ago I wrote a post about what got Jayda started towards her love of art and I owe a ton to children's illustrator Brian Pinkney.
After she met him at a children's program held in Mount Vernon, NY she hasn't stopped drawing. That moment literally changed her life.
Take a look at one of her speed drawings:
Jayda has literally been making art non-stop for the last 5 years. It's been amazing to see her progression--just check out her portfolio and you'll be able to see the growth.
As a homeschool mom, I’ve taught so many classes, from science, choir, literature and art being one of my favorite subjects. I loved using techniques from Mark Kistler--he actually has a great YouTube channel for kids that I highly recommend.
As Jayda’s first art teacher, I was the first person to introduce art to her but I never imagined that it would become one of her passions.
So when it came to hiring an illustrator for my first children's book, Jayda was a no-brainer! She took my story “Bear Learns to Share” and look at some of the pictures she developed:
As I discussed in my post, “Dream Giver,” as a homeschool mom, I’m always introducing my kids to things that I think will perk some of their interest. Sometimes I have signed them up or "volun-told" them for things and it was a complete flop. Other times they have thrived and gained new interests.
For my boys, in particular, nothing has really excited them except for playing video games (which I currently limit to the weekend). To be honest this does cause some concern but as a mother, I am trying to use their interest in gaming to guide me.
Unfortunately, due to COVID-19, we have decided that they wouldn’t play sports this year. In our county, teams are still competing but we don’t want to take the risk of acquiring the virus.
So that has left us to virtual after-school activities. I signed them up for a video-game development class with Code-Crew. The classes are structured great and they are extremely affordable--I’m talking $10/class.
You might think for the inexpensive price, it would be light and fluffy instruction but Code-Crew is known for its thorough instruction. As a result, my boys are enjoying this semester building video game apps, using the software “Thunkable.”
In addition to the Code-Crew class, I signed them up with CyberPatriots.
CyberPatriots, according to their website, “is the National Youth Cyber Education Program created by the Air Force Association (AFA) to inspire K-12 students toward careers in cybersecurity or other science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines critical to our nation's future.”
I have no idea if my boys will like it, but they will be joining a middle school team and compete from October 2020-January 2021.
I’m hoping they will come out with increased knowledge and interest in computer science and cybersecurity, as well as exposure to new career paths. In addition, I hope seeds of leadership development, teamwork skills, and value for a strong work ethic will be planted.
We’ll see how it goes!
If you follow me on Twitter or Facebook you will see that I often post things related to technology. I really became interested in social media, specifically internet marketing in 2009. I was running an online business and I was completely amazed at the power of the internet.
Once my kids started getting older, my responsibilities as a homeschool educator increased and I found it increasingly difficult to maintain my business life while continuing home management and education. As a result, I took a step back from the industry.
However, I have had a rebirth of interest in this field as my eldest daughter expressed interest in building a video game when she was 10 years old. As the curriculum director of our homeschool I had no clue on what to do. Sooo I started researching gaming software and technology.
Like Alice in Wonderland, I totally fell into the world of technology.
And what an exciting world it is! Due to the gender and ethnic gaps in hiring, there is a new push for companies to hire women and minorities in technical fields especially with the rapid increase of tech job openings.
After learning about the high need I knew that all of my kids needed to learn computer programming as a required course for our homeschool.
Now I am committed to taking my kids to hackathons, computer clubs, and classes--anything that will help push their interest in this field.
If you are interested in getting your kids into Computer Science/Technology make sure to check out my resource page for helpful tips.
I grew up in Oregon where I saw few African- Americans in positions of influence or authority. Everywhere I looked things were pretty lily white. In fact, our family could actually go days--sometimes weeks without seeing other people of color (outside of our African-American church).
However, when I arrived at Spencer Butte Middle School I encountered my first brown teacher, Mrs. Judy Wade. I received a phone call this month informing me that she had died. In all honesty, I almost went on as if nothing had happened but then I heard in my heart “Stop. Take the time and reflect. Mrs. Wade deserves that.”
I’m so glad I did because Mrs. Wade was more than a teacher. While running the halls of Spencer Butte, she looked out for my sister and I. She was like a second mother--checking in on us and making sure we were doing good in all of our classes.
Even after I moved on to high school and college she remained a cheerleader in my life. In fact, twelve years ago when I had my first daughter, Mrs. Wade took the time to knit the most beautiful white blanket for her crib. Sent all the way to North Carolina, her labor of love was truly touching.
I didn't get to say goodbye but I will never forget the mark she made in my life. Mrs. Wade was a special woman and her life will be missed.
Click here for her obituary: http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/registerguard/obituary.aspx?pid=179891022
Now that Jayda is totally into computer programming and wants to learn how to build video games and apps, it is my job as mother, teacher, after-school coordinator and guidance counselor to get her plugged in with other like-minded people!
One of the ways that I have done this is by researching hackathons in our area. Now before you get all worked up over the word hackathon--let me first explain what a hackathon is. Google has the following definition:
So no, this is not a gathering of kids learning how to break into other people's computers--although I have met people there who know how to do that! There are usually hackathons for professionals and separate ones for middle and high school students. If your child is in middle school you can usually get permission for them to attend a hackathon for older people but make sure they are mature enough to handle the environment and plan on chaperoning.
Recently Jayda and I attended Hip Hop Hacks (http://hiphophacks.org ) held at Spotify. The format was different from other hackathons in that it included speakers from the music industry and attracted a variety of people from the music and tech world. I loved how we were challenged to connect our love for music and tech together, in order to create something useful for the world.
There were great workshops to attend and lots of cool people to meet. I would encourage anyone interested in getting exposed to the tech world to attend a hackathon--they are happening everywhere!
Here are a few sites to get you started:
Check out the Hip Hop Hackathon photo album: https://flic.kr/s/aHskxKoih5
Our kids are totally into computer programming. After getting introduced to Scratch which is a programming language developed by MIT, my kids were hooked. Scratch in particular is a great way to introduce kids to the concepts of programming with their easy to use block coding method.
“With Scratch, you can program your own interactive stories, games, and animations — and share your creations with others in the online community.” Scratch Website
Here are some of the things my kids have developed:
Scratch is so easy and yet schools like Harvard are using it as an introduction to their Computer Science program. If Harvard is using it--you definitely want to consider adding it to your homeschool or after school activity for your kids!
It’s free and easy to get started, just visit: https://scratch.mit.edu/
Murray Homeschool Academy
I have been a homeschool educator since 2008. Here I blog about our educational experience and hope you can learn something from our journey.