While homeschooling is still a relatively new concept in Kenya, Celestine Lidede, a digital skills consultant has been homeschooling her children for the past five years.
She shared her experience via Nation.
“For the five years I was in South Africa for my doctorate in business marketing, my neighbour home-schooled her child.
I observed how she worked with her child; how she prepared a conducive learning environment, and I admired that they were thriving on flexibility. While other children in the neighbourhood were in regular schools, my neighbour would occasionally be driving hers to a park or a workshop.
However, I did not see myself homeschooling, although I admitted that the concept was novel.
I was in SA with my eldest daughter, now 19, and my three other children were here in Kenya living with my mother.
When I came back in 2015, I knew that I wanted a change for them. I went through the 8-4-4 system myself and having interacted with individuals who went for other curriculum systems like iGSCE, there was something different about them.
They were more open-minded, inclined to take calculated risks, they had a broader perspective of life and the opportunities it heralded.
You would think that for someone who was doing a doctorate, job opportunities would be beckoning when I came home.
I stayed out of job for months. And with other expenses to meet, I could not afford to offer quality education to my children. Most schools that offered the IGCSE learning system were way out of reach.
Then I remembered about homeschooling and I started warming up to the concept. At first, my mother dissuaded me.
To her, education happens in a classroom, you know, the conventional schooling, where conformity and rigid schedules prevail. But it’s different now. She thinks it is interesting.
I did not know anybody who was homeschooling, so the internet was my only resource. My biggest challenge was getting the right educators. Twice, I got duped.
There was one tutor who came home only for me to learn that he had no homeschooling experience, and another one who played with the kids more than they learned.
I am a digital skills consultant so I get to work from home sometimes. This enables me to observe what is going on.
To be honest, that challenge led me to questions my decision — did I start homeschooling too soon?
But I kept researching and even founded a Facebook group, homeschool254, to network with other parents who were home educators and of course, share materials with newbies.
With the government’s order to close all schools in Kenya, there has been an influx of new members. Suddenly, parents are now forced to wear the shoes of educators.
When most people picture a home-schooled kid, images are those of kids sitting around the kitchen table attentively listening to their tutors or their parents.
The concept is still not very popular in Kenya. Most people have this misconception that homeschooling is smooth sailing.
I mean, you set your own waking time, the number of lessons you want your kids to have, you could take a holiday when you want …what could go wrong?
As a parent of homeschooling kids, you are an integral part of the journey.
My firstborn is 19 years old and currently on a gap year as she waits to join college. She is already working on her start up on digital content creation.
The other three kids – twins aged 13 and an eight-year-old – are into a blended type of learning.
This means that they have physical lessons with their tutors but also the internet is part of their learning. They research a lot.
I follow the IGCSE system because it’s globally recognised and getting materials online; including CATs and past papers has been easy.
The tutors teach them collectively, but when it comes to their strengths, weaknesses and hobbies, the focus shifts to individuals.
I feel that since I started homeschooling, I get to spend more time with my children.
We have a timetable that is shared by the teacher on Google Calendar through Google Drive, and I can track what the children are learning at any given day and the activities taking place.
But the days are flexible since some events and activities only happen when the timetable is out. Our day typically starts at 8am.
Intense learning happens for three hours then the rest of the day is online activities and research.
We are presently in a tech world and I think that we need an education that is the best fit for the innovation era, not the industrial age.
Most of the days end at 9pm or 10pm, but that is because I have encouraged my children to look at life from a Gig economy perspective.
One question frequently asked is, aren’t your kids missing out on socialisation? I have enrolled my children in different clubs that school-going children attend, such as football, coding, ABACUS and journalism clubs.
We have trips to other learning centres, like the museums and kid’s friendly workshops.
Homeschooling has enabled me to bond with my children better and they are better communicators. Also, there is the finance bit.
It is relatively affordable compared to conventional learning institutions. But I tell homeschooling enthusiasts, if your child is not okay with the idea of learning from home and you are unavailable, the concept might not work for you.”