Fieldtrip Fridays #5 – Nike Art Gallery, Lekki

Firstly,

I set myself a 6 week challenge to get out and about in Lagos every Friday and I can’t believe I am at #5 already.  (Ok I missed a week – don’t tell anyone).  I even found a friend along the way who has also been homeschooling temporarily and she has brought her kids along and made the trips even more fun.

This week we visited Nike Art Gallery which is a very famous gallery in Lagos.

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I had been planning to go for some time but hadn’t thought of taking the kids before.  Its a gorgeous place – the 4 storey building itself is a work of art and we learned so much about Nigerian cultural history during the visit, for example, the meanings behind the symbols traditionally used in Nigerian fabrics.

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The owner Nike Okundayo is an iconic figure in Nigeria and beyond.  Meeting her as we left was a highlight. She gave the children bracelets and kisses – how awesome.

Chief Nike Davies Okundaye

Chief Nike Davies Okundaye

The children did not zone out as I thought they would but found the paintings and sculptures intriguing. They delighted in identifying some of the mixed media (like CDs) used in some of the works and also deciphering the sculptures.

Our guide was fabulous, bearing with our rambunctious kids and it was all free. Afterwards we went to a local cafe which offered clay painting to kids and the kids produced their own works of art.  A day of complete inspiration.

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Parenting – Paper Tigers

Paper Tigers by Wesley Yang

Paper Tigers by Wesley Yang

Hope I’m not getting too off topic from pipe cleaner crafts and phonics but ach, this article raised a lot of questions for me about the way we parent and the children we raise.  It’s not new, you may have read it, but becoming ever more relevant the more we hear about ‘China’ and how Western kids with their liberal work ethic are falling behind in ‘the important stuff’ like maths and science and aren’t going to be smart enough to compete etc etc. Anyway, take a look.

http://nyapm.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/PaperTigers.pdf

This article throws major side eye on the Asian parenting model. ‘Grade grubbing’ as it terms it, asking why, if grades are so important aren’t Chinese Americans running the USA?  Nigerian, Cuban, Jamaican and Jewish Americans are also grade grubbers too apparently.  So it seems that one issue for these kids who are taught to cram, rote memorise and keep their heads down is a lack of  self esteem. They’ve been broken by their parents and now can’t say boo to a goose. The other issue is a perceived (not necessarily true) lack of critical or creative thinking.

This seems to be where the irreverent white boys sail past. Some of it’s racism or at least prejudice but that doesn’t explain all the mediocrity, certainly not ‘the earnest, striving, middle class servility’ according to author Wesley Yang.  In the UK, intentional parenting has become something you don’t do anymore as it might offend someone. As soon as they start making your life a misery you send them to nursery so they can be someone else’s problem from 9-5. I remember my neighbour in London would shoo her boys onto the street every day after school and weekends so they couldn’t destroy her pretty house. Those boys went to prison and had children early and still live at home of course.  On the other hand I think outside of this laissez faire style of parenting, other parents have become obsessed with grade grubbing so their kids can become bankers, lawyers, accountants etc.  Is that really the best we can do? Does the world need more accountants?

Nigerians are good at studying. They are identified in a new book about cultural success stories in America as high achievers and producing a lot of number crunchers and lawyers, engineers and doctors but these generally don’t return to Nigeria  except as money men, oil and gas executives to assist western corporations in polluting Nigeria’s waterways and ensuring the continuity of corrupt government.  Good grades are great but as Yang says, scraps of paper won’t make you happy.  Nor will money alone.  We need to look a bit deeper.  Your thoughts?

Just don’t mention homeschooling…

The first rule of homeschool is you don't talk about homeschool...

The first rule of homeschool is you don’t talk about homeschool…

I’ve survived 3 years in a very gossipy and incestuous city by keeping my mouth shut pretty much and letting others do the talking. Although clearly a lot of people, social circles are less fluid than you find in cities like London. People stick to their ‘class’ and therefore everyone ends up being quite homogenous knowing everyone. It can be claustrophobic, so it’s been very tentatively that I’ve been blogging, tweeting and talking about homeschooling.  Needless to say people find it very bizarre and tend to conclude there’s something wrong with me. Literally just left a dinner where a woman has been evangelising at me for an hour about school and how I just need to change my mindset and I’ll be fine with sending my kids to school.

Blogging has made me feel more positive about my choices and this emboldened me to foolishly start talking about it offline.  Big mistake. Huge.

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I mean, this is a country that recently passed a law making homosexuality a crime punishable by ten years imprisonment.  Not that everyone supports such draconian laws but it shows Nigeria’s still a place where deviating from the perceived norm can be judged harshly.  In the same way, I can see now most people aren’t open to homeschooling yet and some will be quite vocal about that. One even said, no decent school here would accept my child on hearing they had been homeschooled.

So, I think I’m going to stop talking about homeschool. Do you talk about homeschool? What sort of reaction do you get?

55 reasons to homeschool – referenced

Read this first…

http://www.relfe.com/2013-2020/why_how_homeschool_what_is_home_schooling.html

Wow, scary huh? And kinda true and a bit above my pay grade in parts. Occasionally so true I laughed out loud. Bit scare-mongery dare I say it?  But it’s made me think.  I mean, I enjoyed school, first public/state school then a private girls school via scholarship.  I was a bit homeschooled in that most of my strengths were established OUTSIDE of school e.g;

  • how to read/write
  • how to sight-read music
  • to recite, appreciate and create my own poetry
  • to be a journalist
  • to write my own stories
  • Latin
  • French
  • ballet
  • how to perform (drama)
  • practical tasks via Brownies and Guides
  • religious studies via church

Just to put things in perspective. I wrote my first book of poetry aged 6 called ‘The Earth’ which was full of poems about how wonderful the planet is. At 8 I wrote and printed my own kids paper which I sold at school for 2p per copy.  By 9 I’d ‘written’ my first play which was staged before the class.  At 10 I was on some televisions shows  – can’t remember the names now, being a precocious kid.  I then got a scholarship (via a government scheme) to a private school at 11.  Around this time I also took part in my first public theatre performance. Aged 14 I made a rap video with a friend which included singing and dancing. This was shown on a Channel4 Documentary called Roots of Rap.  At 16 I wrote my first novel which was published aged 18.  I then wrote a second one published just after graduating from a prestigious university with an LLB in Law and French Law (I hated law – quite liked the French though and worked in Paris on and off).  I then went on to write and see several plays staged (we’re not talking Broadway), I appeared on televisions and radio a lot as a social commentator and wrote for the media extensively, writing a third creative collection published in my late 20s.

Did I mention I was raised by a single mum (a real single mum, not the kind where daddy turns up to whisk you away to Pizza Hut every other Saturday) who did not have that much of an education herself? She only got her degree when I was about 11. I was the only one at her graduation.

Looking back, the things I was good at were pretty much those things I was taught outside of school although school definitely gave me opportunities to share and improve my talents.  I loved school and never had any real negativity at school despite often being the only black girl or only ‘deprived’ child in my class.  It’s just interesting.  Those things I was struggling with before I ever went to school e.g. maths, art, science  (my mum never helped me with and neither did school)  I still struggle with today.  Hmmm.

It’s amazing to be in a position to do for my sons what my mum tried to do for me in her spare time. I always need to have that at the forefront of my mind. It’s so true that when you have kids and you see the effort that needs to go into raising them, you know then how much you yourself were/are loved.

Fieldtrip Fridays #4 Horsesome Day at Ikeja Saddle Club!

The thing I like about Field Trip Fridays is they don’t have to be anything.  No boxes to tick,  no lesson plan to follow, no prep and no need to work in phonics or pre-math (unless you feel like it).  We’ve done all that. Now a day to just be and see, spray mosquito repellant and let it all wash over you – I make the best natural mosquito repellent by the way 😉

Today we visited the Ikeja Saddle Club.  They have a nice website but still fly slightly below the radar here in Lagos, like most attractions.  I was even advised, why bother – there’s a Polo club in the centre of Lagos.  There is, I’ve been there many times – played squash there a while.  It’s in a bad state, houses mostly prized race horses and is just not generally very kid friendly although I’m sure its not a bad place to go. 

ikejasaddleclub.com

ikejasaddleclub.com

The Ikeja Club also houses some prized polo horses but bills itself as a place to learn to horse ride and enjoy riding.  It’s on Isheri road just before the Ogun State border – about 30 minutes from central Lagos (Victoria Island) with low traffic.
We got there about midday when the horses were feeding which was good because they were all in their pens eating grass and we could observe them at our leisure but it meant the kids couldn’t sit on any of them – which of course they really wanted to!
yeah - I need a new camera phone

yeah – I need a new camera phone

Some of these horses have very exotic names. Indosita, Killa, Jopila to name but a few. I’d love to know the stories behind them. Nigeria has its own horses, but most of these were from Argentina apparently.  The grounds are quite large, certainly more than we could cover and there were some antelope and ducks roaming around as well as birds and the default lizard.   A lot of different trees and bushes.  Why is it when I ask the name of a tree I’m always told its a fruit tree?  Answers on a postcard please!
The staff were very friendly and patient. Kudos to those guys – we’ll definitely go back there for some riding lessons.  If you live in Lagos, I highly recommend heading down there too!

25 Rules for Mothers of Sons

Found this so moving. Lovely thoughts to return to again and again.

Life Out of Bounds

My dear friend, Maria, passed a blog post onto me and I had to share it with all my readers.  Have a tissue handy; maybe it’s the pregnancy hormones or maybe I am starting to grasp reality since my baby with my 5 years old in a few short weeks.

25 Rules for Mothers of Sons

1. Teach him the words for how he feels.
Your son will scream out of frustration and hide out of embarrassment.  He’ll cry from fear and bite out of excitement.  Let his body move by the emotion, but also explain to him what the emotion is and the appropriate response to that emotion for future reference.  Point out other people who are feeling the same thing and compare how they are showing that emotion.  Talk him through your emotions so that someday when he is grown, he will know the difference between angry and embarrassed…

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School vs Homeschool

After homeschooling almost a year, I still weigh up school vs homeschool.    I have moments when I question whether school might be better for my three year old.   When I hear of sports days, school events and activities I do get a bit envious of school. Me and my son got the opportunity to go to a local school and see our neighbour’s girls dance in celebration of Nigerian Independence. They were so cute and they had a ball!  How do I recreate that with my party of 2?

What a great celebration of culture!

A fantastic school celebration of culture!

And I’ve just noticed school mums have nights out together – it’s like the unwritten part of the curriculum!  Plus I get all that free time back during school hours to go to work or whatever and the pressure’s off. If my kid starts falling behind it’s not my fault, it’s the damn  [insert insult] teacher’s fault, not mine. I was getting a manicure!

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Teachers stress me out so much I need a spa day!

But then, when I do actually go to these schools, I’m often underwhelmed.  The kids are often looking bored, slumped on desks, wandering the corridors aimlessly.  You can hear them rote learning behind closed doors, stuck in classrooms that just look so stone age-y. Big wooden desks taking up all the space.  Really, like is that where we are in 2014?  3 and 4 year olds slumped on too-big wooden desks in poorly air conditioned rooms? No wonder they’re slumped!  Some schools are fab of course! Hope you don’t think I’m downing schools or the many fantastic teachers and the great work they do!

For an older child maybe - not a preschooler

For an older child maybe – not a preschooler

Being at home  learning through play is a better option for my son presently even if he was not learning quite as much as they are at the school.  At least he’s happy, confident, alert and well cared for.

That for me is the bottom line right now. I’m working on the academics too. I’ll share our schedule in my subsequent post – it’s still a work in progress but I need good reasons to send my son to school at right now the reasons are just ok, which isn’t enough.

Nannies

I wanted to discuss nannies a bit more as I know it must seem culturally strange to those who don’t live in countries like Nigeria, India, Indonesia etc where domestic labour is cheap and nannies are an expected part of the working household along with the driver, and the cook/housekeeper. In Nigeria you can add gateman to that list. Most compounds are built with a boys quarter (BQ) on the grounds where the staff would stay.  The term ‘boys’ comes from houseboy or housegirl which is what house help used to be called in less pc times.

Not all mothers in Lagos who can afford to have nannies do although nannies are popular.  For a start cheap still costs good money and secondly a lot of mothers simply don’t believe in having nannies looking after their kids.  Other mothers have 1 per child.  3 nannies for 2 children is not uncommon. For some its a status thing.  Many nannies are mistreated too unsurprisingly.

My fellow Brits back home certainly look down (with some envy) on the idea of house help as lazy. It’s just not considered British, never mind Mary Poppins, Downton Abbey, the obsession with class or the fact Prince Charles still has a butler to help him get dressed in the morning!

I have friends in Lagos who want to care for their children themselves, others don’t trust nannies to do a good job. Like anywhere there are horror stories.  Nannies have been great for me.  They’ve given me a bit of time back in my day from cleaning out the bath, to ironing, folding, backing, washing up  to remember who I was before I had kids.  I can write, I can go to meetings. I can get dressed in the morning (but still ain’t got time for those 3 strand twists).

There is a price – I think when you start leaving things to a nanny you do risk losing some intimacy with your kids.  I notice that the English of both boys has suffered slightly.  My 3yo  will often use broken phrases like  ‘off de light’  instead of ‘turn off the light’. But I think more benefits.  I can homeschool. I can homeschool without going insane.  I can give undivided attention to each of my kids when I need to. I can sleep – sometimes.  I don’t have to spend my time making pounded yam  or akara for the kids – Nigerian food can be labour intensive.  You know one summer in London, Big Mommy (Nigerian Great Grandma) made me make Akara, a fried snack made of crushed, peeled beens.  Two hours in, I was crying with frustration.    This should so go on my list of  ‘Things ain’t nobody got time for’!

Your nanny also becomes a support to you – someone who understands your kids and also wants them to help them grow, even part of the extended family.  She may not  – I’ve heard some stories and wouldn’t think anyone odd for not having nannies here. Self help is the best help as they say but I’ll stick with my nannies for now!

What to do with the 1yo when I’m with the 3yo

It’s something which bothers me and which I’ve not really found conclusive answers to on other homeschooling blogs.

Photo on 31-12-2013 at 19.00 #8

The 1yo is still eating anything he finds on the floor from shoes to crayons. He is majorly destructive in that he’ll just hurl everything to the floor and rip it to shreds kind of way.  He is going through an attack-for-attention phase regarding his older brother who he will bite, smack, pinch and yell at in a vain attempt to get him to play with him.  All of these things make it difficult to do craft, teach phonics etc.

The other snag is that if I do a nice interesting sensory bin for the 1yo – this happens…

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What I have been doing so far is leaving the 1yo with the nanny while I do the activity.  More on nannies later – incredibly lucky to have a nanny, but my nanny is not really a trained child care giver in the Norland nannies sense – her English is very poor and she doesn’t know about sensory play etc so I don’t like the idea of the 1yo spending too much time with her as he tends to be just sitting in the high chair while she cleans up, not being spoken to.    I’d like him to be in the room with us doing his own thing alongside us but how to make it alongside, not on top of, whomping the 3yo upside the head etc.

The only possible solution I can think of  is to have the 1yo in the high chair in the room with us while we work  using sensory play stuff like play dough, sensory bottles, toys,  colour wheels and making  a good old mess.

Photo on 18-02-2014 at 01.17

Things ain’t nobody got time for…

Since becoming a homeschooling mum I’ve discovered a really long list of stuff I ain’t got time for! Thought I’d share a few of them with you – don’t laugh.  Don’t ask how I ever had time for some of these things.

Working 9 to 5

so there's this after work event. Kiss the boys for me.

so there’s this after work event. Kiss the boys for me.

This was the first thing I really didn’t have time for. Luckily I had the choice to give up my job as a magazine editor. I really enjoyed the job but after having my second son it got to be too stressful trying to manage things at home while at work. I took time out and realised I wanted to be with my boys.  And a homeschooler was born…  I may return to some kind of  work at some point though.  Watch this space!

Facebook

funny-wasted-too-much-time-on-facebook-picture-mark-like

but let me just look at these new pics posted by someone I last saw aged 6

Cos Facebook is like the black hole into which your whole day disappears as you move from one friend’s fantastic birthday pics to your mums support group, to that really interesting article someone shared, to liking someone’s new volunteering page to – let me not even get started on that candy crush/diamond thing.

3 strand twists, micro twists, braids, manicures etc

so I really ain't got time for this

so I really ain’t got time for this

Special occasions aside, I don’t have time for all these twists, threading, braids etc. I barely have time to wash my hair right now and while I love natural hair and I like to look pretty I’m restricted to something I can do in five minutes.  

Girl chats

funny-girls-show-crazy-friends-talking

Remember before we had kids when we talked ALL the time…I ain’t got time for that now

Girlfriends are so great – love love love my girls but of course their kids are in school so guess when they want to have coffee mornings and heart to hearts at the back of the pilates class?  – yup when I’m ‘sposed to be homeschooling, that’s when.  As soon as the morning school bell dings, my phone lights up like a Christmas tree.  Sorry ladies.  I’m a homeschooling mum, my phone is on silent. I promise to answer your bbms and whatsapps when I have time for that. I still don’t know when that is.

Anything Kim K related

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Some people have all the time…

Can I be a famous, gorgeous reality star with an entourage of yes men and be paid private jet money for shopping and dating?  No?  Ok well let me just get on with this homeschooling then and no I don’t have time to watch reality show re-runs during the day.    In fact I’ve disconnected the cable as my son was getting too much TV time himself.

Maybe my personality is too addictive, maybe its cos I’m new to homeschooling and just need to put my house in order first but finding I’m really having to prioritise to follow my homeschool schedule.  What have you given up in order to homeschool?