Learning in the kitchen classroom

Simon and Sue’s eldest daughter is now studying at University in the UK and their youngest is studying at a boarding school in Kenya. Yet when the Frenchs first arrived in Tanzania in 2005 education for Hannah and Jasmine was very different. Sue explains:

The kitchen classroom

‘Time to go’ a familiar call as children rush to pick up school bags and lunch boxes before tumbling out the door on their way to school, tripping over half tied laces and wiping breakfast crumbs from their faces.

Not quite the situation as we start the school day seated at the kitchen table, having cleared away breakfast dishes, adjourned some of the domestic tasks and collected the days teaching resources from the bookshelf.

A daunting task

Homeschooling our children seemed to be the best option as we started serving in Africa – but how do you start such a task when you have no previous teaching experience? Added to this was the fact that we were all learning a new language and adjusting to living in an unfamiliar culture, the whole task seemed rather daunting. How would our efforts at home educating affect our children’s future and how easy would it be to separate the roles of parent /teacher?

Homeschooling has also meant that we were able to live together amongst the people we were seeking to reach

The good news for us was that resources are available for parents wishing to homeschool – some designed for use by parents with no previous teaching experience. We opted to use a British curriculum as the materials would be recognisable to our children, so amongst all the changes they were experiencing the school work would seem familiar.

Donkeys for cars

For a non-teacher the material’s written in a way that is easy to use, although there is always the odd challenge: science experiments which need ice when your nearest freezer is four hours drive away, or traffic surveys to collect data when there are only two cars in the village. As a home educator we needed to be flexible with the material and creative in our thinking. It may mean counting donkeys rather than cars in a traffic survey but most problems were easy to overcome.

Challenges and privileges

One further challenge for the children can be the lack of some aspects of school – music, sports and being part of larger groups. Opportunities have to be sought to fill in these gaps; in our case this meant occasionally meeting up with other homeschooling families.

We have learnt that the skills of self discipline and time management are important; it is easy to get distracted away from schooling when visitors arrive at the house or a more exciting activity arises.

If we had our time again would we homeschool? Yes. While it has not always been easy we have found many bonuses in this whole experience. We have had the privilege of being closely involved in our children’s education, to see them grasp concepts and ideas and watch them develop as young people. Homeschooling has also meant that we were able to live together amongst the people we were seeking to reach and the whole family has been able to share in the privilege of living in an African village.

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