The hullabaloo generated by the Ebola Virus Disease in Nigeria may have subsided but it has also left an unpleasant aftertaste on the palates of many. While the debate went on about the resumption date of schools, the whole drama got me thinking: Could homeschooling be an option, especially for those parents, like me, who are concerned about the safety of sending our children back to school just yet?
While homeschooling is not a very common practice here in Nigeria, I’m aware that it is an option that many families in the western world adopt, for entirely different reasons though. I am going to broach the subject by giving some background idea as to what homeschooling is about.
Advocates of this method of education believe that the best place to educate a child is in his own home and not in the traditional classroom. By the way, you will recall, that the home, not the school, was the original education system. Interestingly, some people of world renown – George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Edison and Albert Einstein – were schooled at home. Now I bet you never knew that. Well neither did I, until recently.
Now, why do parents, who homeschool their children, do so? The following are a few of the reasons that I gathered:
- You have a class size of 1, which means you can pay your child individualized attention, allowing him to dictate the pace. This is unlike the traditional classroom where you have a size of 30 on the average, depending on level, whether pre-primary, primary or secondary.
- Children are protected from unhealthy influences.
- Children learn early on how to interact with adults, which quickens maturity
- Students and parents both learn in the process.
- The traditional classroom promotes rote learning, hence does not inspire creative, independent and critical thinking. Students often study just to pass exams.
- Standardized testing in the traditional classroom, which is used as the yardstick to determine the students who are “brilliant” and those who are not, does not provide the platform of flexibility that is necessary to accommodate individual student needs.
- Religion. Many parents believe that the schools are places where children are indoctrinated with everything except what the parents find religiously acceptable. So to ensure that their children do not leave “the path,” they take on the homeschooling option.
Despite the fact that the concerns and motivations above in favor of homeschooling are valid, those who are pro-classroom think that these are not enough. Indeed, parents should not deceive themselves into thinking that homeschooling alone will protect their children from the immoral influences found in the public schools.
Moreover, there is no way for anyone to be completely shielded from contact with the world. Formal schooling is only one of the several factors that shape a child’s thinking. Others include parental example, associations, entertainment, and religious education. Without diligent training in all these areas, no educational system will prove successful in raising the type of child that you want.
Having said that, if you are contemplating the homeschooling option in Nigeria, what are the factors to consider and how should you proceed?
The first thing you should consider is local legislation. What does the law say about it in Nigeria? While homeschooling is legal in all 50 states of the United States of America, I do not know of any legislation that isolates and addresses the subject or that regulates its implementation in Nigeria. I am however aware that in Lagos state, it is seriously frowned upon for school-age children not to be enrolled in and attend school. Other states in Nigeria share similar standards.
Second factor is that schooling your children at home can be quite demanding on you, both physically and financially. You have to work with a curriculum and that demands prior preparation before delivery. So while it allows for both parents and children to learn, it also comes with the responsibility to train yourself ahead.
Furthermore, since one or both parents obviously have to be available at home to teach their children, it would mean that they are either present at home full-time or part-time, at least. That would in turn require that at least one or both parents not be in full time employment. The question is: how realistic is that in Nigeria? How many families really can afford to live on part-time income, when most can barely meet all their needs, even with both parents working full-time?
Homeschooling is an option that many would contemplate, only in the old scheme of things, when our mothers were very available. Now the days are far behind when our mothers had only the appellation ‘homemaker’ to describe their responsibilities. In this dispensation, many mums are also bagging the title ‘breadwinner,’ with the prefix ‘sole’ coming before it as a qualifying adjective. Indeed our mums are not as available as they once were.
It gets even more complicated as your child gets older. If you pull through the primary education stage, how do you handle the secondary education, especially when you do not have a certification? While that is a major concern, some home-schooling advocates say that parents do not need college credentials to be good teachers. According to the book “Home Schooling—Answering Questions,” parents need not know all the answers in order to encourage their children to seek after answers to their own questions.” Children can be directed to appropriate source materials. Parents and children can learn together. And where advanced training or expertise is required, private tutors can be hired on a part-time basis.
Interestingly, I know a couple who homeschooled their three boys from scratch to Secondary school level. The father’s job required extensive travelling with the family, so instead of having to worry about changing schools every now and then, the chose to homeschool. The boys sat for the GCE exams and passed. When you see and interact with them, they are so well integrated that you would never be able to tell the difference. What that tells me is that, if I choose to homeschool, I want to do it with the intention of having my children sit for the general exams, like the primary and secondary school leaving certificates (GCE, SSCE).
Now, if after examining the reasons for and against, you are interested in homeschooling your child, how do you proceed? Well, if you are not sure how to start, you might want to parley other parents who share similar values to pull resources together and teach their same-age children. Each parent is expected to have his or her own contributory area of expertise. That’s exactly what a friend of mine did in collaboration with other parents who shared the same ideals. His 16- year old daughter can already undertake some tasks that many her age have not mastered and you’ll simply be amazed at her level of maturity.
While it has its rewards, homeschooling requires courage, stamina, inventiveness, and steady nerves, as well as good organization, since you have to balance out your involvement in house chores with academics. So think realistically about the commitment involved and ask yourself, “am I ready for this?”
The final goal is to raise balanced children who grow up to become responsible members of society. The ultimate good should be that of the child. However, the choice for or against, is yours.
1. Other practical issues to consider in Nigeria is the impact that homeschooling might have on your future job prospects. For a fact, in Nigeria, many employers (even the Civil Service) want to be able to trace your educational history to a specific institution. Reasons for this can vary from mere formality to wanting to eliminate the possibility of age falsification. Many are also concerned about socialization issues – how well is the child able to relate to his peers and his environment? How does he acquire those norms and ideologies that finally become part of his lifelong personal doctrine?
2. My personal take: I see homeschooling as an opportunity for the child to receive training on how to live, not just how to earn a certificate. The advantage of the homeschooling curriculum is that it can be tailored to your child’s needs, affording you the possibility of incorporating the “how to” method of teaching, emphasizing the practical more than the theory, teaching valuable life skills. We all know now, that there are many youths out there who loiter around the streets of Nigerian cities with their certificates but do not possess the simplest of life’s necessary skills. I know many-a-degree holder who works as a security personnel on the streets of Victoria Island, Lagos and earns a monthly salary of between N15,000 to N25,000, when his uncertified (no bachelor’s degree) counterpart is running a successful carpentry business or auto mechanic workshop and earning more than N100,000 a month.