Flying Solo

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I love collaborative learning and especially the way young kids will vibe off each other. When it works – it’s wonderful and often they don’t even realise they are learning, but how often does the magic happen? It’s certainly not most of the day or even every day. Some of my most vivid memories of school (and I loved school) where sitting in the group watching the magic happen for two or three members and feeling left behind (not understanding) or bored (I knew it already). I’ve never been that much of a team player, I don’t like working with others on a task. Being a writer is perfect for me because I like hanging out with people but doing the work alone. I liken the idea of the classroom to a false relationship as in the above meme because it’s not what it’s set up to be. We all remember fondly those teachers who really looked out for us as people, nurtured our talents and inspired us because it was pretty rare to have a great one to one connection with the teacher against up to 30 others. I saw a wonderful Ted Talk on Montessori education – it sounded so good – all the TED talks on preschool education sound good, but so much depends on the teacher, class sizes, other pupils and then the teacher and your child having that great connection. When you supervise one to one instruction, you know if the connection is there or not, if the instruction is effective or not and if your child is enjoying it or not. When you’re child is in a classroom, you’re not there and when you liaise with the teacher afterwards, you’re only getting one side of the story.

My 3yo son enjoys group activity very much and I notice he picks up vocabulary, cultural norms and general knowledge that way. But when he needs to master something, he generally needs 1-1 instruction. This was true for me. I know a lot of the ‘bright’ kids at school did work outside school to remain ahead of the class. Their magic was private tuition which starts at age 4 in Lagos for children in school.

Case in point – swimming. Over the past year he has had two sets of 10 weeks of lessons in group format. 4/5 kids every week with one highly qualified teacher. She’s one of very view certified swimming instructors in Lagos. But in those 20 weeks, my son wouldn’t get off the ring. He screamed his head off if you tried to take him out of it but would swim great with the ring on. There was consequently little improvement in his actual swimming ability or confidence. Three weeks ago after a 2 month break we started once weekly lessons with a new uncertified teacher in a format where each child would have their own 30 minutes in the water with the teacher. Yesterday my son was able to swim without any swimming aids for the first time.

In other areas of our homeschool I’ve noticed my son has days where he will move at a snail’s pace and days where he will zip through his activity and beg for more. Each stage we are able to go at his pace. That’s been very helpful.

Group activity has its role to play – but for now I’d just like to celebrate 1-1 instruction. solo-solodolo-Quotes-sayings-swag-swagger-swagg-Quotes

Phonics – the jolly way or the hard way

I confess I am easily influenced, so when I heard Amaru’s peers in nursery were doing phonics I ran out and bought this.

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Learn to read in 20 easy lessons – yeah sure – if you’re an older child maybe but my three year old wasn’t having any of it and we did it every day for a few months and then I just let it go. He was very cooperative and would happily recite but he didn’t really get it. After every lesson it was back to square one. It wasn’t just that it wasn’t working but it wasn’t very child friendly. A huge book with black and white pages with letters on them and the odd graphic.

So I left it for a few months and then I ordered the Jolly Phonics system.

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It was expensive but sometimes you get what you pay for – in this case a little valise full of fab workbooks, a story book, a dvd songbook, a video, a games CD, a phonics poster and there may have been a toy or some pencils or something too. Anyway every time I take out this valise, my son almost wets himself with excitement. It’s really something to see. He will beg to do these phonics all day long. The activities he will want to do again and again. One which was decorating an ‘S’ – we used sssand- and he had to do this 4 different times. Its the kind of thing that also engages my 20 month old. He doesn’t get that it’s phonics, he just enjoys colouring, singing, reading etc.

So no idea if he’ll be reading soon or not but jolly is the operative word. Even I’m having fun! If you buy this new, photocopy all the pages as you move through the book so you can resell it later or reuse it with a younger child. Note: this is British phonics. If we all had American accents I might have tried hooked on phonics.

Inlaws…

School is closed because of Ebola but that doesn’t stop people from telling you your son should be in school. A few people have said, you’re in a good position because your son isn’t in school but most people haven’t.

This week my inlaws weighed in and I always find it annoying when people say your son should be in school BECAUSE he’s so smart and doing so well yada yada. Like at least let it be because he couldn’t recognise his name or add up to 10 or sat at home crying all day from loneliness. Success is not its own reward, it is just another stick people use to beat you with ha ha.

Someone at the summer camp said my son would benefit from school because he didn’t sit still well – which I think is true. He is not a good sitter and he definitely sat and followed tasks better after a few days at the camp. Is this what they call socialisation? I’m not sure. That’s something I’ll take on board, I just don’t know how important it is. What do you think?

My inlaws really want my son in school, even though schools are a hotbed of disease and are currently closed because of the Ebola outbreak. I’m not even sure how I will handle this when schools reopen. Some of my anxieties are cultural. In Nigeria inlaw pressure is more of a phenomenon than in the west. As a wife living with inlaws my children belong to the whole family and inlaws have a say in their welfare and expect their input to be taken very seriously. I know my husband will support me on my decision and my inlaws are great – they’re just more conservative when it comes to education and want the best for all their grandchildren. I guess I will have to decide how committed I am to homeschooling if it means a confrontation with my inlaws about it. I’ll keep you posted.

Ebola Update! Everyone’s homeschooling now!

Well, not really, not yet.   Some international schools were supposed to resume Monday 18th but they have decided to postpone reopening to give people a chance to return (many parents have gone on vacation and have understandable stayed abroad until they feel more confident about returning).  The Government has declared a national state of emergency and requested schools/nurseries etc not reopen until they assess the situation to be safe.  Interestingly, private schools are making their own decisions. Most are saying they will open a week later. I find this odd, disturbing even – schools wouldn’t ignore government advice in the UK for fear of litigation. On the other hand perhaps this is good news, it shows confidence.   The problem with children is that they are not hygienic.    I have visited enough schools during lesson time to know that young children, like to touch toilet bowls, avoid hand washing, drink tap water, soil themselves and are generally icky.  They have no sense of personal space and all the stuff you’re not supposed to do during an Ebola outbreak, its pretty much guaranteed they will do.

None of this is my business by the way since I homeschool. I’ve finally taken my kids out of camp. I may be travelling to the UK soon with my kids to sit out the next few months.  I haven’t so far because its unplanned and very costly as its still holiday time.  BA is charging 5000 dollars for 1 adult, a 3 year old and an 18 month old for an economy ticket from Lagos to London.  But you know what, we may have to just pay this because we are so worried.

Every one is worried, hand sanitiser is mostly sold out everywhere and where it is sold you can pay up to £25 a bottle.  That’s about $40!   My nanny was so happy today we gave her a pair of gloves and a mask and she put them on immediately with her long sleeved sweater to get her bus home.

We still are doing the odd playdate with just one or two friends and going to restaurants but some people are holed up in their homes, not seeing anyone or they’re leaving.

The next few days will be crucial. We have 10 confirmed Ebola cases. Will there be more?  Will there be dreaded secondary contact cases?  The whole country is holding its breath.  This is make or break time for Africa’s most populous nation.