Most Kenyan parents are early planners and it is, therefore, no surprise that most of them are already looking for schools for their children.
As most of them collect fee structures, brochures and other requirements while asking online and offline friends for referrals, there is a group that is going about their lives nonchalantly despite them having school-going children. These are parents who prefer homeschooling their children to taking them to conventional schools.
Contrary to what most people think, homeschooling continues to grow in popularity and now more families are working to graduate their students at various levels. Let us have a look at how one family navigates through this concept that has made it possible for parents to educate their children from the comfort of their homes.
Robai Musilivi Muiruri and Martin Muiruri Waweru first started thinking about the concept of homeschooling when their first child was about three years old but according to Robai, they chickened out because they did not know anyone else who was doing it. When their daughter got to four years old they enrolled her in a conventional school.
“I have a bachelor of education degree and have always had special interest in curriculum development so despite the background homeschooling was quite a scare,” said Robai
Fast forward to 2016 when their daughter got to class one they pulled her out and took the plunge.
“Our reasons at the time were, she loves music and her teacher could not come during the week as she was so tired therefore we had to push it to Saturday. This did not work well for us and her teacher. Secondly, I teach crafts and I am a crafter. The fact that these subjects had been scrapped off the school system did not rest well with us. Thirdly we were opposed to the system of memorizing and do not think that is learning. We needed to teach concepts and for mastery not for testing only,” explained Robai
Robai also adds that her daughter used to say maths was too easy and had trouble with language but had to wait a whole year to move to the next level. This made them think of having a system that can help her move at her pace and get all the attention.
“Finally, what I can think of now there are more reasons I know like not being able to afford to take her to a school we would like but can give her same or better education, “ she said
“The Bible is our guide and we are guided by the principle in Deuteronomy where God commanded parents to teach their children when they wake up, when they go out and come in etc. Since I was available running a business and working from home, it just made sense, “she added.
So what is the cost of homeschooling a child in Kenya? According to Robai, the cost of schooling your child will depend on the curriculum that you pick, how you structure your school and so on.
“It can be very expensive or very cheap. We went the frugal way. We realized there are very many free Christian curriculums online like easy peasy, McGraw (some subjects) PDF.net has many free snooks and that is the route we took. We also belong to the Calvary Academy Resource Centre co-op so with our annual membership fee, we have access to very many curriculum books, “
A co-op is a group of parents who live in Kenya and have chosen the homeschool each other. They meet regularly to support each other, learn new things and try to solve any challenges that members face on a daily basis.
“We recently moved to 844 as our main curriculum and supplement whatever we are learning with the other curriculums and those textbooks we get them free from friends and family or buy second hand since we are not limited to certain publishers as most schools are,“ she said.
The couple only pays for field trips that they take many times with the other coop members and even then take advantage of group subsidy. The only cost in our case is sacrifice.
“I say this is ours I know people buy curriculums like Sonlight for almost 1,000usd per year, then add to other activities it’s pretty high. We also highly rely on DIY so our first instinct is to make before we go out to buy anything, “said Robai
While they look like an organized group, parents who have chosen to homeschool their children face much opposition from their peers, relatives and the society at large.
Robai narrates how a cousin threatened to report them to the children’s office because they were not taking their children to a normal school. Knowing that the relative had their best interests at heart, the couple took their cousin through their way of educating their child and this meant showing her that they had schemes for the various lessons, the learning materials and so on. They also assured her that it was actually legal. The cousin, however, was not convinced and they agreed to disagree.
Speaking of the legal aspect of homeschooling, the government knows of the existence of the concept and does not have a problem with it. They oversee the home schools and the parents are expected to have their curriculums, goals, schemes of work, qualifications of manpower at hand for when the inspectors will pop in to inspect the school and see if the children are getting quality education.
Robai also informed us that they hope that htey are hoping that parliament will legislate some laws on homeschooling because they will help to regulate this type of education for our children.
The coops of homeschooling parents are also a registered organizations and that means that they are recognized entities. At the moment, there are several coops and among these is one on Mombasa Road for ACE home schools boasting 50 families. There are others on Ngong Road, Karen and so on.The organizations and families scattered all over East Arica also meet for the East African Community of Homeschoolers conference every year.
We also got a chance to talk to the one person that all these affect the most and little Hazel was emphatic about her love for homeschool. She said that she loves the fact that she can study subjects like French, crafts, home science, music, and computer.
“Homeschool is better and I love that I can go play outside with her friends once she is done with the school work that is given to me, “said little Hazel
She added that she did not feel that her interaction with other children is affected as she gets to play with them after school as well.
When thinking of home schools, some parents fear that their children will not have time to interact and play with other kids as it is done in school.
Robai disputes this and says that their children get to interact with other children at home and in their coops as well. They have a four-day school week as Tuesday is dedicated to meeting other families in the coop and this helps in interactions among the children present.
The Muiruris plan to homeschool their children until high school level so as to continue giving them the attention they need as opposed to the attention some teachers give their students, especially in crowded classrooms. They also like the fact that they can move them to the next level whenever they want and feel that the child is ready.
At this point, I ask them how they will handle subjects like Chemistry which require laboratories and other materials. To this Robai answered that organizations like the Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) and the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI) help them in that regard.
The coops also help them in obtaining the required materials and equipment. The couple will also hire teachers for the subjects that they are not very good at teaching.
The two girls will join other students when they join tertiary institutions.