Travelling without the kids

I had to travel without my kids last week and when you homeschool and there’s no-one to replace you, your kids are really sitting around bored, not doing much, barely learning anything.  I have a nanny who kept them safe, fed and happy but her English isn’t good enough to follow the curriculum and then she can’t take them out without me so beyond the odd paint job they were kind of left to their own devices for the five days of my absence.  So, won’t be doing that again in a hurry.

But behind every cloud… is a hairdressing appointment, coffee with an old friend, an untrammelled jaunt through London’s finer environs, clothes shopping, late night trawl through Youtube and a long hot bath!

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Fieldtrip Fridays #2 – a day at the nature reserve

Today we got to go to the Lekki Conservation Centre in Lagos which is a lovely nature reserve with animals living naturally in the wild.  They have monkeys large and small, turtles, antelope, rabbits, peacocks, butterflies, birds, large lizards and some of the scarier stuff like snakes and crocodiles.

The LCC is 23 years old and has so far no one's been eaten!

The LCC is 23 years old and has so far no one’s been eaten!

LCC is about half an hour’s drive from central VI just off the Lekki Expressway without traffic and painless to find.  It was an amazing afternoon and I’m really glad we made the effort.

Founded by the late Chief S.L. Edu in 1990

Founded by the late Chief S.L. Edu in 1990

Insert usual caveats here about inadequate infrastructure (health and safety  isn’t going to be the same as more developed countries and we weren’t offered a guide or information about the place) but the staff that we saw were friendly and informative and there were signs. Its a straightforward enough reserve to DIY.  This centre is still a great family day out as long as you take care and the children you’re taking are steady on their feet and willing to hold your hand (and walk – if you cover the whole reserve you’re going to walk 4-7 kilometres).

Mummy I found one!

Mummy I found one!

We started outside with the peacocks and the turtles. Peacocks have a surprisingly loud honk and are not shy!

Did you see me in Kung Fu Panda 2?

Did you see me in Kung Fu Panda 2?

The grounds are pretty and well-maintained.  There’s a functional library and bookshop (both quite sparsely  supplied). Adequate facilities and its all reasonably clean.  We then entered the reserve, which is accessed by a wooden boardwalk.   Some of the boards are a worn and occasionally a board is missing so take care.

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It was just peachy to be out among nature even though we’d just come off a busy road and honestly its like you just stepped into a forest.  I can’t describe how amazing it is so please do check the photos.  You feel totally cut off from the real world (except for the boardwalk). The sounds of birds and bugs and monkeys are all around you.   We didn’t see any  snakes or crocodiles although Ru-bear was really looking out.  Personally I was glad!  The monkeys were thrilling enough.  There’s a very high tree house you can climb and a children’s playground.    I will definitely  be coming back here for future field trips!

can you see the crocodiles? No we couldn't either

can you see the crocodiles? No we couldn’t either

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Homeschooling hopes/fears

I really don’t want to mess my child up and I worry that’s exactly what I’m doing. I’ve always been a bit eccentric, even when I was a straightened hair size 8 dolly bird tottering along in a mini skirt. Even though I’ve by now read a TON of books and blogs by well respected writers on the benefits of homeschool, my insecurities still kick in that when my sons reach adulthood they won’t be fit for purpose. A few things comfort me in this regards. Firstly, c’est la vie. A lot of kids who go through normal school emerge unfit for purpose. I know people who have had over 100,000 sterling pounds dropped on their education and are totally unfit for purpose. Never mind the statistics about black boys failing in schools all over the Western world. That’s another kettle of fish I’ll dip into another time. In Nigeria, I think the environment is slightly better – parents value education here and most students tend to have a strong work ethic and strong maths. If you attend one of the better schools your English will be excellent and you’ll do well in an international university. But guess what – plenty of them fail too. Nigeria has a lost generation of pampered young adults raised by nannies, spoonfed their education who have zero creativity and no real wish to do anything for their country or indeed themselves. There’s a saying here 40 is the new 25 (that age where you pull your finger out). So again, either way there are no guaranteees. At least I’ll have spent some beautiful years with my sons, enjoying them. Secondly, at this stage I don’t need to worry. Even if he ends up a bit behind he has time to catch up and so long as he isn’t thrust into a school environment – no need to feel inadequate or negative about what he knows or doesn’t know. It just is… Thirdly, I just don’t see the worst coming to pass if we carry on as we are doing. But who knows what’s round the corner….

Fieldtrip Fridays!

It will soon be three years since we came to Lagos as a family, high time to get out more  hence my Fieldtrip Fridays challenge to do a field trip every Friday.  Getting out’s been an issue because of security and traffic but no more excuses – we kicked off our Fieldtrip Fridays challenge with a visit to the Railway museum in Ebute Metta.

Entrance sign for the Nigerian Railway Corporation in Ebute-metta

Entrance sign for the Nigerian Railway Corporation in Ebute-metta

Railways were here before ‘Nigeria’ existed.  The British built them to transport  resources during colonial times.  After they left the railways went into decline, although the Chinese are now bringing them back!  The Railway compound houses a lot of Federal buildings along with the small Railway Museum.  There’s not a whole lot there but well worth an hour or so visit.  There’s open space for children to play or lunch on the grass and Seun the curator is very knowledgeable about Nigerian history and the artefacts on display.

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Ms Seun Adeniyi - curator

Ms Seun Adeniyi – curator

Amaru had a great time inspecting the railway carriages and tracks.

Original timber tracks from late 19th/early 20th century

Original timber tracks from late 19th/early 20th century

an old Railway Car

an old railway car

An air alarm - honk - train coming!

An air alarm – honk – train coming!

Inside the museum are a pictures and artefacts from the railway era and a bit of Nigerian history in general.IMG_1452IMG_1451  – please excuse the quality of my railway map pic.  You can still get the train from Lagos up to Kano with a few stops on the way. It takes 3-4 days depending on delays.

We saved the best till last – an amazing vintage railway set complete with steam train that actually moves (when the power’s working!).  What a great way to round off the tour!

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Hope you have enjoyed the first episode of our Fieldtrip Fridays.  Would love to hear your thoughts!

Reasons to love Lagos

After my last blog I became a little conscious of being negative. I don’t think anyone can successfully homeschool out of negativity. My favourite homeschool bloggers are so inspired and confident and positive about their abilities.  Their infectious, determined spirits are what really push me to do this thing ‘normal’ parents think is very strange.  If you’re wondering what is great about growing up in Lagos here are some of my reasons.

IMG_1410  Can you believe I’m standing on the edge of a very busy metropolis looking out towards an uninhabited island? To my left is the Atlantic.  Views like this are abundant in Lagos as it is a water city.

2. Lagos is a very diverse city.  Nigeria is a very important country economically in Africa and beyond. In spite of its problems it attracts people from all over the world.   There’s a growing Indian and Chinese community in Lagos.  History has always brought waves of immigrants in search of a better life from Liberia, Ghana and elsewhere as well as an expatriate business community keen to take advantage of the plethora of opportunities here.

3. The weather.  Its usually very warm, often sunny and this makes it a good place to rise early and retire late.  Although the AC is great,  this is for most of the year a place where kids love to be outdoors.

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4. Lagosians.  Nigerians are very child friendly and men here are on the whole comfortable relating to children and showing their emotions. This is my experience anyway.  Grown men will always stop to pinch my babies’ arms or chatter to them.  In London, my son tapped a man on the shoulder on the tube and the poor guy looked terrified.

IMG_0017Scene from Calabar festival 2013 (I know its not in Lagos but hey!)

5.  It’s only in Lagos that I get to homeschool my kids because the opportunities mean I can choose to work or not.  I worked for over two years when I arrived here part time but I recently stopped when I had my second child.  Now I’m thinking of doing some freelance work when I have time.

6. Last but not least. African heritage.  I love that my kids can grow up in Nigeria celebrating their Nigerian heritage, understanding African history, learning about the culture and getting to know their family here. I hope this will help make them confident and centred when they go out into the world.

Ru-bear representing for South-South with his hat and cane

Ru-bear representing for South-South with his hat and cane

Some thoughts on schools for young children in Nigeria

I came to Nigeria for the first time in 2011.  My husband lived here in his childhood and attended school in Lagos. There are good school, the problem is these are very expensive. There isn’t a free public school system comparable with those in the West. For a somewhat international standard kindergarten fees  range from $12-20K per year. We’re not talking cutting edge education either – most of the teaching is not done by internationally qualified teachers but local teachers or even ‘nannies’ supervised by someone who may or may not have international standard qualifications/training.   My son was in nursery here – a sought after nursery which cost about $500 per month. I really liked the head, she was so friendly and nice and knowledgeable.  My son loved nursery to death.   He’s a very sociable  chap and a bit of an attention whore like mummy on Karaoke night (lets not go there!).    BUT there were no native English speakers in the building.  The head was Lebanese/Nigerian. Her deputy was Lebanese. The rest of the staff were either Indian, Lebanese or Nigerian nannies who pretty much tend to grow up speaking their ethnic tongue first before learning English.  Also, I felt my son developed insecurities about his ‘lack’ of abilities so it was time for him to come home.  The culture here is to have your child in ‘school’ from the age of 2 whereas in the UK no raised eyebrows at your child being home until the age of 4.  It’s surprising homeschooling isn’t more popular as a lot of the fee paying mothers here don’t  work and there are nannies/cooks/drivers etc so there’s no pressing reason to shunt them into a nursery setting. I think it’s partly a status thing.  School is viewed as aspirational here (its also big business) – unfortunately 1 in 10 children in Nigeria have no access to education at all so keeping your child at home looks ‘village’.  Still on the lookout for other homeschooler since I’ve been here. That’s a challenge for me.  I’m really hoping my blog brings other naija homeschoolers out of the woodwork or even serves as an encouragement to others who want an alternative to paying high fees to educate their children.  Anyway interested in your thoughts.

We are Nigerian British Jamaican American

IMG_0004_2 Hey there, here we are, about to embark on our homeschooling adventure.  That’s me, Vanessa, my husband Suaye and our sons Kio who has just turned one and Ru who is three and change.   Ru was in nursery from the age of two and a half – he loved it.  But I was travelling so much it didn’t make sense after a while – hence the homeschooling.  Since June 2013 he has been at home with me and Kio and we have been doing activities inspired by so many homeschooling blogs.  Mahogany Homemaker on Youtube, icanteachmychild and so many more.  It’s been up and down – very challenging with the constant travel (mostly London and Lagos) so we have spent a lot of time doing field trips.  But I’m persevering. Keep posted to follow us on this journey and catch my homeschooling thoughts! Appreciate all your comments too.