Let’s begin this little heart-to-heart with a confession. I’ll go first ?
I dropped out of school. To be more specific: I dropped out of kindergarten!
No, I’m not joking. I started going to school when I was 2½ years old (after being taught basic early childhood literacy skills at home) – but, I quit after a year! One day, I came home and told my parents that I didn’t want to go back to school. The story goes that I was bored and my intellect wasn’t being challenged. In my 3-year-old words, “Everyday I’m learning A-B-Cs!” My parents checked my notebook and saw the evidence. So, for the next year or so, my mother and aunt continued my education with a variety of activities at home, at the Hope Zoo and Botanical Gardens. Then, all the way through primary school, I ended up skipping grades because I was out-performing my classmates. But, by the time I started high school (at age 10), I finally surrendered to the boredom of not being challenged by my teachers. Mediocrity became my normal.
However, my mother felt obligated to pass on her addiction for ‘time-travelling through the printed page’ to my siblings and I. She bought us books on top of books – every room was a mini library. Plus, she would give us reading assignments during the school year and then double the load when we were on holidays. I also had these hardcover notebooks that I had to fill with all sorts of writing assignments: book reviews, creative writing compositions, research essays, letters to the editor, and even poetry. She never gave me a chance to feel bored, but if I did, she would tell me, “Go and read a book!” I doubt she had a big dream or master plan, but she developed her own little curriculum for us children.
I could continue by detailing my mother’s methodology for supplementing the public and private school educations that my siblings and I were afforded. Instead, I’ll share with you the reasons you and I should be doing the same for our children, because unfortunately, we have forgotten that, “Home is the first school”. We have blindly handed over the job of shaping of the minds and futures of our children to the government. Yet, the truth remains unchanged: we need to take full responsibility for the education and empowerment of our children. We cannot expect the mainstream school system to shape and mould our children into the purposeful, dream-driven and empowered individuals they need to be. So, the burden lies squarely on our backs, as parents, to hew and polish our little diamonds in the midst of this rough world.
Yes, I know the reality – that we all can’t educate our children at home on a full-time basis. Many of us will still have to rely on mainstream schooling for various reasons. But, we all can be supplemental homeschoolers – just like my mother was. Supplemental homeschooling, also known as after-schooling or part-time homeschooling does not require a lot of time or effort, but produces significant, long-term results! We don’t need to purchase special curriculums or be trained teachers. A child will learn a lot through self-discovery if we guide them through well-selected reading material, assign a wide variety of writing projects and grab as many opportunities for goal-oriented recreational activities. From reading books about black inventors and scientists, to designing mini-magazines displaying the geometric designs unique to African hair styles, from writing book reports on the wonders of melanin, to debating the importance of having entrepreneurship as a school subject, the topics and activities are limitless! Just start with the first book and see how simple yet empowering this journey can be.
By homeschooling, we will give our children roots and wings! They will be grounded because they know themselves and understand their potential for greatness. We will empower them to shine and reinforce that they can succeed at anything they set their minds to. So, let us establish new family traditions and give our children more than the bare essentials they’re offered at school. Let us make the effort to be engaged in activities that can nurture our children’s gifts and strengthen their weaknesses. At the end of the day, we brought them into this world so we shouldn’t leave them to battle this world alone. Let us hold their hands until they can stand on their own. Let us school our children in our homes.
Didan Ashanta is a natural living enthusiast who blogs at DidanAshanta.com. She currently lives in Tokyo with her husband and 9-month-old daughter.