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.

 

 

Ebola virus in Lagos

It’s a worrying time to be in Lagos.  A Liberian man arrived at Lagos international airport sick and collapsed and was suspected to have the Ebola virus.  Unfortunately he died soon after being taken to hospital and Nigeria officials have confirmed that it was ebola.

Ebola is a nasty virus.  I don’t know of any worse.  It is extremely worrying knowing that here in this densely populated city and just a few miles from our house (where this man died),  the ebola virus was there and may have been transferred.  I’ve spent a few hours terrifying myself with Google images.

Of course no evidence yet that the authorities did not properly contain it.  We may be pessimistic because of the healthcare and infrastructure shortcomings but Nigerian airport staff were  already trained  to watch out for the virus and supposedly all the people in contact with this man from the plane and through to the hospital are being monitored.  Ebola is a slow moving disease so there is no reason to panic yet.

People are very concerned – as they should be – and stepping up their sanitation practices. Some are already avoiding public gatherings – which I think is premature but I’m not a medical expert.  I’ve put hand gel by the front door and I ask everyone to wash their hands.  We’re still going to playgroup and camp and playdates and the store. I was never into street food anyway.

I wish I could run straight to the safe certainties of the UK or USA but that’s just me hyperventilating.  If you rushed off every time there was a travel alert there would be few places in the world where you could live.

So, life goes on while we wait to see to what happens and pray for good news.

 

Some parents be like…

At international playgroup recently, I saw a mother with her son in a body lock while he flailed and screamed.  Been there, done that so I wandered over to offer moral support and maybe learn something.  As I approached, she was trying to force feed him some goo.

“Tell him you will beat him if he doesn’t eat!” she said to me in a strong Indian accent.

“Huh??”

“Please,” she begged with the most angelic smile. “Tell him you will beat him if he doesn’t eat.”

Cheeky. I thought. What do I look like, some nutter who goes around smacking other people’s kids? The  toddler looked at me sullenly.

“Auntie will beat you,” She scolded. “Eat your food!” “Its the only way he’ll eat,” she said apologetically.  “Please – tell him.”

“Erm, so I’m not going to do that,” I said, thoroughly discomfited by the whole episode. Maybe this would end in a  Mediatakeout or DailyMail.com story.

“Maybe wait a bit. He’ll probably eat when he gets hungry,” I suggested.

“He needs to eat now before he falls asleep,” she snapped.

Aware that if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem, I beat a hasty retreat but I did learn something – that not every parent get’s their advice from Dr Spock.

Rainy camp

It’s called summer camp but  Nigeria doesn’t have a ‘summer’. It has rainy season, Harmattan and wedding season.  ‘Summer’ is a bit of misnomer.  It’s currently rainy season where it pretty much rains everyday and floods a lot.

For example here is our road this morning…

 

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Anyway Ru-bear and Kio-Bear have been at ‘summer’ camp this week.

When I saw the shiny flyer I jumped at the chance to offload my kids for some of the day and have me time and organise myself.   Camp has been good making me very focused.  I wake up at 6 (usually its 7.30) and do an hour or two of numeracy/literacy/violin practice with the three year old while the 18 month old does colouring or play dough.  It’s also given me my day back – not that I’ve done too much useful with that. Blackberry Messenger really needs to join my post of things I really ain’t got time for!  As a homeschooling mum I try hard to stay connected to the community so I’ve join a couple of committees and groups and they pretty much BBM/Whatsapp you all day every day.

Both kids  love camp and at first I thought this was a sign that they should be in school but but now I don’t think it means anything. They enjoy camp and they would enjoy school and they enjoy being home with me and basically they are happy kids who find it hard not to enjoy anything that is fun.

I also have realised that when you’re kids are away all day you sort of want to know what they’ve been doing but teachers are not that forthcoming.

Mums complain a lot to me about the lack of feedback teachers give.  I think they want specific minute by minute analysis – like in a football game.   ‘Uh, it’s only 10 minutes in and Phineus has already picked up the dry erase markers.  He’s running with the markers to the white board and look he gets there before anyone else and starts writing out A, B, C,D – oh no he’s lost interest! He’s seen a dead bug on the floor and has decided to step on it. Can his concentration be brought back to the task at hand? Does he need extra tutoring?  Rob – over to you in the staffroom’.   I mean it’s ridiculous  – we all know it’s ridiculous.  You’ve sent your child for someone else to babysit/educate but now you to spend an hour talking about what happened?

Anyway so they’re doing camp and camp is pretty cool. Here’s a really intricate structure Ru bear made yesterday! I think a lot of marshmallows were harmed in making this!

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500,000 reasons to homeschool in Lagos

Parents all over the world complain about the cost of travelling during school holidays where airlines routinely hike up the prices – it’s a huge issue in the UK where parents can be prosecuted for taking their kids out of school during term time – but Nigerian parents have it worse. Especially when you consider the already high cost of schooling here.  We get hit twice!

At time of posting the cost of a British Airways economy ticket from Lagos Nigeria to London UK is about 500,000 naira (£2000) – if you can actually get a ticket.  It’s usually around £600 give or take.  So for me, my older son (just a couple of hundred for the baby as he’s not yet two) and my husband £6000 to get  to the UK via economy. If we then want to move on the US to visit my husband’s family – add an extra couple of thousand pounds.

Lagos-UK is probably one of the priciest routes because of Nigeria’s strong links with the UK.  Lagos-US is even pricier. My parents are in the UK and my husband’s mother is in the USA so we try to visit both at least once a year and stay a while. I also want my children to experience the freedom of walking, public transport, parks and museums – things that are unavailable where we live in Lagos. For the price of these summer tickets, we can travel twice during term time and still have money left over.

It’s not the only reason to homeschool of course but and not an issue right up there the Israel-Palestinian conflict – I certainly never flew until I was able to pay for my own ticket aged 18 – but its just another reason to step back from the financial pressure of the school fees and the air fares and the inconvenience to family life and look at what works for your family.

Life’s a beach…

Today we visited our local beach (Bar Beach) with buckets in tow to collect some sand for our sand table.  Bar Beach was recently cleared off squatters in preparation for a huge construction project (Eko Atlantic) and it all looks quite inviting. Acres of golden sand leading out to the sea.

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Anyway we ran into a group of area boys who are territorial young men you generally have to ‘dash’ a few hundred naira (a few dollars) to get safe passage.  So I brought my  Naira but honestly when we rolled up at the beach, I didn’t feel comfortable even with our driver present. Oh and they wanted a few thousand naira for access. And I had a feeling by the time we’d collected some sand they’d want a bit more naira on top.  Anyway we turned around and scuttled off home.

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These guys used to ‘manage’ the beach back when there were squatters so you can see their disgruntlement at having the rug rudely pulled from beneath their feet by politicians.  It’s not like any provision was made for them. Also it’s pretty much what happens with more children out of school than any other country.

Ru-bear cried his eyes out. Pampered child of the West that he is, he thought area boys were a cuddly cartoon gang like the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and didn’t understand why they wouldn’t let us access the beach. Time to wake up and smell the slave-labour produced coffee, Son.

Looks like we’ll have to find another beach.

Homeschooling amid the hurly burly

It’s really hard to homeschool and have a life unless you’re a scheduling genius.

Homeschool is definitely making me aware of how important organisation is.  I’m used to flying by the seat of my pants, always saying yes to everyone and impulsively moving to the beat of my heart.  Yeah – that doesn’t work so well when you’re homeschooling.

Been back in Lagos two weeks now and in this time I’ve had 6 weekday meetings, two weekend meetings, two playdates, a wedding, a children’s birthday party, a fathers day brunch, and had to unpack 6 suitcases, plus try to do the scheduling that needs to be done for the homeschooling. It is getting better but yikes, its been hard and my kids haven’t done too much except a few puzzles and playdough. They haven’t even been with me all that much. I draw the line at TV – if they have to watch TV in homeschooling time they should really be in school but that’s a small victory.  Bad homeschooling mommy!

That said, I think its ok when you have a few weeks where nothing’s happening. All other schools are closing now for summer recess and I’ll be pressing forward with our lessons so we can make up for some of this lost numeracy and literacy time I hope.

As we say in Naija, I’m trying ooo!

Boko Haram

Lagos is a bubble – I say this to put my homeschooling life there into some context amidst bombs going off in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja and a whole school of girls being kidnapped by terrorists.  The sun is still shining in Lagos. People are still going about their business, making money, throwing parties and going to the shopping mall.  It does seem unfathomable sometimes the extent to which the south feels totally divorced from what is going on in ‘the north’ (the majority of Nigeria).  The people are not totally divorced of course – people just this week marched in Lagos for the government to do more about the missing school girls. But it makes me think back to the IRA era in the UK when the IRA were blowing up political conferences and shopping malls and wondering if people in London were just as blithely going about their daily lives notwithstanding that Northern Ireland was a veritable battleground.  I suppose at the end of the day, what else is there to do?

Red flags – Feed me mummy!

My homeschooling journey began in June 2013 after my son’s classmate was kidnapped.  He was two at the time and his mother (Canadian expat) had travelled leaving him at home with her own mother, nanny, driver etc.  Not sure if the father was also there.  Life continued as normal until the nanny mentioned to the grandmother that the toddler had a playdate to attend and off she went with the toddler and the driver.  Then the grandmother received a ransom demand for about 250,000 USD.  My most recent security update suggests that more than half of all kidnappings in Africa happen in Nigeria and that based on the 2013 kidnappings, Niger Delta is the main hotspot followed by Lagos where the risk remains high.  Most kidnappings in Lagos are inside jobs facilitated by trusted domestic staff or friends but they can be completely random.

When I found out about the classmate, I started by quitting my job.  I wasn’t thinking about homeschooling then, just wanted to be able to move with my kids and not be too reliant on staff.  The toddler was returned to his parents ‘unharmed’, in that he was left under a bridge at night and found by his family. I can’t imagine what they went through, never mind what they had to pay. There were a spate of kidnappings in Lagos last year but it does seem to be a rare occurrence now. There are a lot of expats living in Lagos, who have lived here for many years and with their kids.  They are not bothered by the kidnapping stories because Lagos is pretty safe for a megalopolis with terrible infrastructure, inequality and 20 million people. That is testimony to the spirit of the people here.   I’ve not had any bad experiences in my three years here and in this time I’ve been to Brass Island, Calabar, Port Harcourt and various parts of Lagos mainland without incident.   But now I try not to let my kids go out with nanny/driver unless I am with them, no matter how tempting.

That summer at home with my son – we spent much of it in the UK/USA was challenging.  I was now realising the extent to which my son had become disempowered by the nanny culture – which is the opposite of ‘Look Mummy I can do it by myself’.  More ‘Look Mummy my mouth is open for feeding!’  Even at the nurseries and preschools, nannies wait on the children. These ‘nannies’ are not qualified in preschool education, they are just there to wait on and watch the children. My son was used to constant attentiveness for his wants and needs.  If he was thirsty or hungry, he expected instant water or food or he howled immediately but then also expected you to sit and spoon each morsel into his mouth.  He could not handle quiet time – the TV had to be on (that’s what nannies do when you go out by the way, they turn the tv on so the children don’t bother them), one reason I think my son struggles to concentrate.  I don’t blame the nannies either. I was at work and I didn’t give proper guidelines for my kid’s care.  He was used to being sated with sweet biscuits when bored and being carried everywhere. He was starting to fall into pidgin-speak.  ‘Off de light’,  ‘take’  when offering something, broken phrasing instead of full sentences.

That’s when I realised I needed to spend more time with him and my new baby to implement some changes and gradually began researching homeschooling on the internet.  I started to believe I could easily do whatever he was doing at the expensive nursery (although it was a lovely place).  The first few months were stressful, I’m not particularly organised and trying to think of crafts to do every minute sent me into a panic.  Gradually I learned about curriculums and availability of crafts and lesson plans online.  These really helped. I also bought some books around homeschooling and bit by bit I’ve felt more confident.  I don’t regret my decision.  It’s been a wonderful opportunity to spend time with and understand my children better and myself as a parent.

 

 

Fieldtrip Fridays #7 – back to the LCC

Today we headed back to the  Lekki Conservation centre with our new field trip buddies who hadn’t been.  I’d been in the process of making excuses about not going anywhere this week so it was good to actually be going somewhere and with company.

On our last trip we saw more tortoises. This time they were hiding but we saw some snake skin a python had intriguingly left for us on the boardwalk. This kids loved that and we also got to see two big Nile monitor lizards close up.

I want to come to this place more often. It’s very shaded so even when it’s hot you can still do outdoor activities. Slightly worryingly, the guide said Lagos State is planning to ‘enhance’ the facilities with a bbq area and bar. doesn’t sound like the most appropriate appendage to a nature reserve where you have to be very quiet if you want to see any animals. Oh and my son threw a huge tantrum because I wouldn’t let him climb the tree house, but other than that – good times!