January 06, 2007

Home in Kenya is where the school is

Since I have family who live in Kenya, every once in a while I check the online edition of The Standard for the latest news. I was surprised this week to find an article, and a positive one at that, on homeschooling in Kenya, "Home is where the school is". Here's some of what reporter Kevin Mwachiro wrote, and you can read the rest here:
When I first heard about home schooling some years back, I dismissed the concept, believing that the particular missionary family was sheltering its children from the real world.

I pitied the children, believing they led a boring life with their mother-cum-teacher in a life where bedrooms doubled up as classrooms. Looking back, I recognise that my ideas were formed from a point of ignorance.

The concept of home schooling may be new to many, and one that we believe is only practised by foreigners and we quickly dismiss the concept. Truth be told, there is a small but growing number of Kenyans who are opting to educate their children within the comfort of their homes. ...

The Gitongas have three children, Gloria (9), Stano (5) and Joy (15 months). Patrice is self-employed and Liz is a teacher. They had never considered homeschooling as an option for their children. They had struggled to find a school for Gloria, with Liz having strong reservations about putting her children through the heavy workload of the 8-4-4 system.

The schools that they considered would require a trans-Nairobi commute or a full day at school and the notion that her three-year-old was to face a full day at school was too premature for the Gitonga’s [sic]. Liz remembers describing the suggestion of homeschooling as ridiculous, when it was offered to them by an American friend. Patrice was more welcoming to the idea. After some thought, they agreed to give it a try for a year.

By the time the year was over, Liz found herself on an adventure that she could only describe as exciting. With the aid of resource materials and teaching ideas offered to them by the same American friend, she witnessed her Gloria blossom at a rate that shocked them. This was a confidence booster for her, "If I could teach my child to read I could do anything," says Liz.

When Gloria was ready for standard one, the Gitongas found themselves questioning what education was and whether the education being offered in Kenya would empower their children to be that best they could be. The teacher-student ratio was also another concern for them.

The pull to continue homeschooling was easy. Liz and Patrice felt that they would be able to impart solid foundational values onto their children. They strongly feel that parents expect too much of teachers by expecting them to discipline their children, give them values and teach them as well.

"It’s just too much to expect of the teachers. We can influence our children by being examples for them, imparting values, monitoring their learning and giving them a holistic education," says Liz. For Liz and Patrice, the important thing is to expose their children to a world bigger than themselves, and show them that they can actively contribute to society not only now, but in the future.

"There is no rigidity to their learning. One day we will be learning about photosynthesis and the next thing we are out in the garden seeing how it works. We want to expose our children to an education that shows them the interconnectivity of life. Learning is better remembered in this way. When I started off with Gloria, we went through many biographies, so that we could expose them to individuals who achieved great heights and made a difference in their society. We want to expose them to what they can achieve as human beings. One of Gloria favourites is the children’s version of Nelson Mandela’s Long Walk to Freedom," explains Liz. ...
And my favorite part of the article,
Liz and Patrice have faced criticism from people who question the sensibility of actions. They have no apologies to offer to anyone, citing that homeschooling is an option and is similar to choosing private or public schools. When I asked whether she would describe themselves as being over-protective, she smiled, stating that they were only playing the role of parents.
I would quibble with the reporter's contention about the disadvantages "to having the parent as the teacher": "If the child is home-schooled from the start, the child will always have the same teacher. If you have the same teacher year after year, eventually the teacher’s strengths will become the student’s strengths, and the teacher’s weaknesses become the student’s weaknesses." Aside from the fact that this doesn't take into account a child's natural ability for a particular subject, if the parent as teacher is doing a proper job, each year the child becomes more and more of an independent learner and thinker.

But by the end of the article, even Mr. Mwachiro seems to have second thoughts about the perceived disadvantage as he writes, "As a teacher, you learn as you teach; parents can grow as teachers, while the children grow as students."

1 comment:

Nairobi Home School said...

www.homeschool.co.ke for more info