To school or not to school

I see in my strap line that I mention that I want to make this a blog not just to document our lives in Ghana but also as a reference for my children about their home education journey.  Nothing of which I have written about yet!

Currently I am keeping all four of them at home.  We were sending the smaller two to a nursery school just behind the house for four mornings a week, really so I could concentrate on schooling the bigger two.  We then ended up sending the bigger two there for a couple of mornings a week for sports and ‘socialisation’ more than anything, especially as there are no ‘afternoon clubs’ or extra curricular activities here in Elmina.  I’ve come full circle on how I feel about it though as I wasn’t sure that they were benefiting in any way.

The walk to School

On their way to school

Don’t get me wrong, the school itself was great (for this area) but sadly if judged against a similar school at home would be woefully under resourced and have a poor educational and pastoral provision.  The proprietor, Anthony, although incredibly enthusiastic and forward thinking is limited by what parents on the whole expect here in Ghana.  That is that they want their kids to come home clean reciting their ‘abc’s’ at the age of two!  A little unrealistic.  They (the teachers and parents) see ‘play’ as not learning and were shocked to find my kids mostly play yet know so much.

Although it was predominantly a nursery school Anthony is ‘keeping’ the children as they get older and now has, what they call here, a KG1 and KG2 class.  Probably reception and Year 1 at home, so sending the boys there wasn’t such an unusual thing to do.

It really became apparent that I needed to do something when I had a lot of tears and ‘me no want go school’ in the morning from the little ones.  After a while, the boys started to run home mid morning without telling the school.  They would also cling to me before going in.  They would say how they didn’t like it as everyone touched them (a common problem for them even if walking down the road here, in fact even when sitting in the car with the window open!), they didn’t like that the teachers carried sticks and hit the other children, and fundamentally they found it ‘boring’, sitting there at a desk doing work that they could do with their eyes closed.  Often the teachers wouldn’t give them any other work as they wouldn’t do it as they found it too easy and boring.

The school. Our house is the white building just visible behind the thatched hut.

They were having the excitement of learning crushed and who’s benefit was this for?  Admitedly mine more than theirs.  I was the one enjoying the ‘free’ time.  It wasn’t all bad and there were some days they skipped in no problem.  They made friends, although I have to say, the play seemed rather aggressive, however not sure whether this was how it normally is for boys or whether Ghanaian kids especially play aggressively.  The fact that children get beaten at home may make play a little more aggressive than normal.  They were also allowed to get away with things; not working, not staying at their desk, doing what they wanted, automatically given something another child might have and bribed with biscuits (more so than the other children).  Not what I wanted them to ‘learn’.  It was as if they were being treated like they were special and the main difference between them and the other children is of course colour.  I did not want them growing up thinking they were in any way better, different, or even untouchable.  No, I would not tolerate them being hit with a stick but I also didn’t want them to feel they could do what they liked.

So here we are all together back at home.  Some days are amazing, some are challenging and some are pretty awful, all are busy but I know we are doing the right thing for them at the moment, after all the eldest is still only six.  They are learning, but without anyone other than local children to compare to I have no idea whether they are ahead, behind or just fine.  I’d be very happy for just fine and I don’t think we are far off.  Some things I’m sure we excel in and others I know we don’t but surely that is true of any child.

What I love most is being able to see them grow and develop and know that I have been involved in all of that.  I’m the one seeing that eureka moment of when they first ‘get’ how a word is sounded out, and no teacher is going to feel as amazed or as in awe when they do mental subtraction for the first time out of the blue.  I may have outsourced painting but even then I managed to get to see bubble painting today.  Admittedly I left quickly as it was all too stressful for me as the concrete, grass and any clothes they had on turned red. I’m not sure any paint ended up on paper but chucking the bubbles around was fun!

And yes, I’m petrified that they are missing out or I am not doing enough, but I am more petrified that by sending them to school here I will destroy their creativity and their ability to think outside the box, problem solve, imagine and excel in anything other than reciting their times tables.  The big question and concern from most people is the socialisation.  Well I think they are pretty ok with that too.  They ‘throw’ themselves into playing with other children when they meet them and they are pretty confident with adults, even my ‘shy’ boy.  It just takes time with him but they have no fear of other people and luckily we now have their cousins next door.  Finally lets not forget they have each other.  The bond they are building now will hopefully be the best they could ever have.  No matter what we may decide regarding their education when we move back to the UK in the future these memories, I’m sure, will be very precious.  And for that I am thankful.

And finally:

Today, as mentioned, we have mostly been…..

Ochina! x

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