Al Kags

Home education can help our children thrive beyond this crisis


Originally Published in The Standard, March 20, 2020.

“My advice for any parents wanting to homeschool during the school shutdown – don’t,” said a meme that I read this week. “Arguing with your kids to do work is not what anyone needs now. Instead, cuddle up together and read, read read.”  The meme continues to advice parents to play board games, build forts, paint or set up a tent in the living room and camp out. 

This week many parents are wondering what to do now that the kids are home from school for the foreseeable future. Many parents have gone on social media and wondered what the impact will be on their children’s education now that schools are closed. In response, schools, publishers and even the government have stepped up to to provide timetables, assignments, voice and video recordings that would enable the kids to go through the curriculum and therefore not “lose footing”. 

I am a homeschooling parent, one of more than 4,000 families that deliberately chose to get directly involved in the education of their children instead of outsourcing it to mainstream schools. These parents are right at home with the current environment and can provide some important pointers on how to survive this lockdown period. 

There are many reasons why some parents decide to educate their children at home. In most cases it has to do with values. Many homeschooling parents take literally the notion that values must be provided by the parents and guardians of children directly and that they cannot be effectively delegated to teachers and others outside of the home. The Building Bridges Initiative Report cites that many parents acknowledge that “the Kenyan family is in crisis.”

“There was a common concern regarding the indiscipline of children”

Building Bridges Initiative, Kenya

“There was a common concern regarding the indiscipline of children,” the report reads, adding that parents accepted responsibility for how families are turning out, and many felt that they had failed in their duty to guide and instruct effectively. 

In many home educating households, there is the recognition that the world is going to be markedly different in the next decade or two. Technology is going to evolve so much that many aspects of life as we know it today are going to disappear. Self-driving cars will be ubiquitous and I predict that they will have landed in Africa within the next decade. Many shops and services are going to be virtual as digital money and payment systems will become common place. 

As this happens, whole professions are going to disappear and completely new professions will replace them. As recently as two decades ago, most offices had secretaries, whose job it was to type letters and make calls on behalf of the boss. With emails, video conferencing and mobile technologies, the secretary is now a memory as are many of her tools like the fax and the telex. 

Cyber city analysts will keep the technology that runs the future smart cities humming

Our children will come home and tell us that they work as Data Detectives or Genomic Portfolio specialists. Cyber city analysts will keep the technology that runs the future smart cities humming and as the cities get lonelier for people who will live longer, professional talkers will sit with older people to keep them company and speak with them. The personal data broker will make sure their customers receive money from the companies they sell their data to and personal memory curators will use your past experiences to create realistic simulations of your memories.

Are we preparing them for that world that is, in fact, within reach? Many home educators posit that we are not. Home education allows for the educators to combine theory with real life experiences and exposures that allow the children’s imagination to thrive. The idea is to impart knowledge the way our ancestors taught – how to think and how to act in real life situations. 

Home education happens wherever the kids are.

We teach math to our children while playing a game of monopoly, where they also learn the concept of wealth creation, team work and consequences of not investing early. They also learn math while shopping, where they also learn to budget, responsible consumption, saving (for what you cannot currently afford) and delayed gratification. We teach language by reading together in the car on our way somewhere and we learn about volcanoes when we mix mint sweets like mentos with coca cola. 

Home educators use all times to teach academics rather than just when the kids are sitting quietly in class. While making the bed together with my eight year old, we discuss cleanliness and somewhere in that a conversation about Covid-19 comes up. We then wonder whether there have been other pandemics like this one and we go online together to read about the plague in the 1300s, Ebola in Africa and SARS more recently. As we do so, we learn about number placements when we read about 137,000 people – that 7 in that number is thousands and 3 is tens of thousands.

Homeschooling kids have fun as they learn – the objective is mastery.

This week, as we could not find sanitizers in the supermarkets when we went, we went on Youtube to find tutorials about how to make our own sanitizer. We found that mixing isopropyl alcohol (which is readily available in chemists) and aloe vera gel (which is readily available in supermarkets) makes a great sanitizer. 

All this is to say, dear parents, don’t worry. As you do every day things like make pancakes together with your children, they are learning math, science, social studies at the same time – and most importantly, they are learning your values. Hopefully, even after the lockdown, you will be more home educators. 

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