Ardas, who is home schooled, takes a PE class with other home schoolers.
As soon as I got to Memphis, I heard stories about Ardas’ PE class. Stories about the students and about his coach, stories about the little baby who is cute as a button but extremely shy, and stories about the mother named Comfort who greets all the children with a high five.
I am glad I found out about this class because it gives Ardas the chance to interact with other children, his mother told me while driving, and, she continue, he isn’t around children at home and very few attend church. So, he is really ecstatic when he has class.
That night when I put together an itinerary of things to do in Memphis, I included, spend a school day with Ardas. I wanted to see what it was like for children to be home schooled. It sounded like a lot of work for a parent. But, it also sounded like a sacrifice I wouldn’t mind making (if I had children).
I spent the entire school day with Ardas on Tuesday. I got to his house before he was up. While the school bus was outside making it’s rounds, Ardas was still sleeping. I spoke with his mom for a while and noticed that Ardas got up alone. He had a light breakfast and while his mother and I spoke, he got ready. There was no fussing about not wanting to get out of the bed or getting dress. He dressed and fed himself. He also did his lessons alone and seemed interested in the content. He was laughing out loud while reading Freddy the Detective, a book well above his reading level. He did extra lessons on the computer (which I found out was catered to them from sites like k12.com , connections academy and timberdoole.com ) and even had an opportunity to play before he left for gym.
The only question I remember his mother asking him was if he prayed.
When we got to the gym, he literally ran out of the car into class. He was huffing and puffing when he caught up with the other students. The parents sat on the side while their children was taught by their coach, who is also a parent of homeschoolers.
Even though they all were different in age, they all were interacting very well. I must stop here and say that to have kids willing play with children who aren’t in their age bracket isn’t always easy. Especially, when dealing with the middle schoolers. Perhaps one would say that their parents being in the room made the difference, but I don’t think so. The setting was extremely welcoming. I have never saw/ felt this type of atmosphere in the schools I’ve worked at in New York. No matter how many anti bullying workshops teachers go to and assemblies children attend there is still a sort of ‘fear of being openly kind to others’ in the air. However, not here. I could tell everyone was genuine.
After the class, there was another small group session where the children sat around and spoke about healthy eating. The room was small, so parents were forced to speak to one another. I met the coach, Omar Ruvalcaba and his lovely wife, Saleama. Very sweet and serious people. People who you would trust your children around. If their program was in New York, I would suggest it to every parent I work with. And for a cherry on the top, I also met the shy baby, who that day surprised Ardas by initiating play.
To learn more about their program visit their website at https://gamemphis.org/.
When I got off the train, I started walking the wrong way and got a little lost. Rafael was across the street. Usually I would pull my phone out and try to find the directions myself but it was too cold for all that.
I crossed the street and asked him the location of Langston Hughes house.
I had to repeat myself because I think I caught him off guard when I said the artist’s name. I then told him what I was into and why I was looking for it.
I am volunteering at the Langston Hughes House, I said, We are renovating it to open it up to the public as a historical site.
It turns out that he used to deliver mail there years ago. He not only gave me the address but also history of how the house looked 15 years ago: I’ve been in the house before. It was not being kept by anyone and all his things were sitting there just collecting dust. Papers and furniture just sitting there. He then looked at me and encouraged me: It’s beautiful to see a young sister like you involved with projects like this. You don’t see this everyday.
I think I baby sat for Sister Whitlock since 2009. I just graduated from college and started working with children in my neighborhood and at the church. During the convocation that year and for the next seven years I had fun taking her children all over the city every time they visited New York. Now her baby, Zach is as a big boy. He’s in the second grade! He is the only one who ask me if I can take him out. All her kids grew up. I did too. Now, I get paid to do what I did for free and it’s not as fun.