Sitting at the reading table in her home in Nairobi’s Ongata Rongai, Sarah Maiywa is busy helping her daughter with her academic work.
The daughter, Brenda Mariam, also calmly sits at the table doing her school work.
Sarah is among the few parents in Kenya who have embraced homeschooling.
“I started educating my children from home in 2015, and so far I love it, they are more confident and have become more responsible academically,” says Sarah.
The mother-of-four has had two of her children go through the 8-4-4 school programme and her two last children are home schooled.
Brenda, her last born, has been home schooled for three years now. Her brother went through primary level as a home schooler before joining a nearby secondary school.
For homeschooling, parents looks for a curriculum that best suits the children, buys teaching materials and educates the child at the comfort of their home.
Sarah who is a teacher by profession with over 10 years of classroom experience says the programme is the best she has exposed her children to.
According to her, she wanted a programme that would build her children’s confidence without necessary putting pressure on them to pass exams.
After doing research, she opted for the Accelerated Christian Education (ACE) home schooling programme from the US, which is Bible-based.
“Schools give children a lot of pressure to perform and I wanted my children to learn at ease. Home schooling is learner based, the learner sets their own goals unlike in schools where the teacher sets the goals and learners have to go with the pace of the teacher and other learners,” Sarah says.
She enrolled for a one-week training before she embraced it.
The curriculum, she says, helps to inculcate Christian values in her child.
Asked if the programme makes her children antisocial, Sarah says together with other parents they organise social activities for their children.
“As parents doing the home schooling programme, we usually organise social trips for our children. Sometimes, I collaborate with schools when they have field trips and my daughter accompanies them,” she says.
Children church missions have also been helped her daughter to become a social person.
Other advantages of homeschooling, she says, is that it opens a child to the international space, encourages a reading culture at a tender age, help children overcome mother tongue influence and teach them good handwriting.
In a year, the children do 72 subjects.
Grade one to six is primary level, grade seven to nine is junior secondary while grade 10 to 12 is senior secondary. The learners get a general certificate at junior secondary and senior secondary.
“A parent can decide to exit their children at any level and enrol them in a school at a curriculum of their choice,” Sarah says.
Once they finish Grade 12, they join university.
Besides educating her daughter, Sarah also runs a homeschooling school where parents have enrolled their children.
In the school with 15 learners, each child has his or her own working space.
“We don’t put the children in a class, each child has a working office where they set their goals, learn alone as if they were in their homes,” she says.
The parents pay a fee of between Sh50,000 and Sh70,000 per term. They also buy workbooks and textbooks costing up to Sh30,000.
Brenda, the daughter says homeschooling has drawn her closer to her parents.
“I have learnt to be independent, and work out things by myself,” she says.
Lilian Atuti, another homeschooling parent says the family chose the programme because they “felt the normal school system puts pressure put on children.”
“If you don’t score top marks you are a failure. Our daughter was stressed in her early schooling since pupils who scored low marks would be embarrassed,” she says.
Homeschooling, she adds, shields her three children from bad influence and offers their family a flexible life.
“When my husband has to work far away we just move as a family because we move with our school,” she says.
Lilian says homeschooling can help address societal challenges such as immorality, corruption, suicide and lack of self-worth.
“Homeschooling allows us to teach our children honesty, hard work, and thoroughness,” she says.
Her older children wake up at 5.30am, do devotion, do unfinished classwork before helping prepare breakfast at 6.30am. “At 7.30am we do devotion as a family. By 8.30am, we settle down to our work. At 10.30am, we have a break then proceed with classwork for three hours. In the afternoons, we do subjects like art, piano and violin lessons. We finish at 5pm with physical activity, like running or rope skipping,” she says.
The curriculum has thought questions, experiments, research, use of Internet resources such as Brainpop, Spellingcity, Britannica to ensure the children are engaged throughout.
“The textbooks are also colourful and appealing. Subjects are not done in isolation. If a child is studying science, she gets to do a little bit of Maths and Social Studies,” says Lilian, who started homeschooling her children six years ago.
In Kenya, parents who do homeschooling are required to register with the government. However, there is no law that recognises the system in the country.
The government also allows such parents to register the children to sit for national exams at will. Home schooling parents have been pushing for recognition by the Ministry of Education.