Home Schooling: Alternative To Conventional Education?
The concept is not so established in Nigeria. It is relatively new even though some people are already practising it. However, the question still remains as to the possibility of its thriving in this society, despite being a good concept.
Three-year-old Tejiri Odose-Paul has never been to a conventional school. Her father, Paul Odose, a schoolteacher, has been home schooling his daughter since she was a few months old. When The Guardian visited their home, their living room could be mistaken for a classroom, as instructional materials were strategically placed on the walls, as well as a class board, table and chair for learning and piles of books for Tejiri to study.
A visibly excited Tejiri looked bright and very responsive, as she chatted heartily with the reporter. Her equally happy and proud father said: “I like education and so, I told myself that I would tutor my child from infancy. So, from the time my daughter was three months old, we started with ‘My book of Bible story.’ From that we graduated to audio-visuals to enable her see and gradually learn to pronounce words in the book. Then we progressed to building blocks, which she can feel, and touch to further educate her. When she was two years, I started teaching her how to write, by scribbling and then she was able to master the numbers and gradually, the alphabets. She competes favourably with her peers in conventional schools.”
Although it is not an easy task for Odose, a salary earner, to combine his work with home schooling his daughter, he, however, ensures that whenever he is back from work and no matter how tired he is, he makes out time to teach her, since he has decided to toe this path.
“As a teacher, I go out in the morning and come back in the evening. But then, I still try to fix time for classes and I give her assignments and class works to keep her busy all the time,” he explains.
He enumerated the advantages inherent in home schooling a child to include,inculcating the right moral values, as opposed to a conventional school, where peer pressure and bad influence may affect him/her.
“My daughter is very confident because she is being tutored by her parents and it is a one-on-one rapport,” he says. “Since she knows it is her daddy teaching her, she is inspired and encouraged to freely express herself. And even when she makes mistakes, I take time to point out such and together we correct them. But a teacher might not really have the time for such approach. It is also economical, as I don’t have to pay school fees or transportation, and so I am saving a lot of money.
“In my opinion, the only disadvantage is that she may not be able to properly socialise and make friends with her school peers. Nonetheless, she is not missing out because she attends Christian meetings, where she meets and mingles with other children. She also gets to meet with neighbours, as well as have access to the television, which is an agent of communication, though I regulate what she watches. And though my neighbours have criticised me for not enrolling her in a conventional school, they can see the difference. It is really rewarding.”
Odose urges parents to ensure that their children are properly schooled because teachers cannot do it all alone.
“Teachers are not magicians, and so it is the sole responsibility of parents to take care of their children academically, socially and otherwise, especially at the tender age,” he says.
While expressing doubts as to whether government is aware of this form of education, he says it would be beneficial and appreciated, if curriculums aimed at integrating such a method of education can be developed, as obtains in the developed worlds.
“I would like it to be regulated, as it would give us ample opportunity to effectively practise home schooling.”
Mrs. Maria Eke is a civil servant, who was home schooled as a child due to her sickly nature.
“I was in primary two, when my parents decided they couldn’t cope with having me going back and forth from the hospital and so they stopped me from going to school,” she explains. “Then, my mum was a professional teacher, while my father was a Customs officer. So, what they did was to give me assignments from my La’holmes Mathematics and English textbooks.
“I didn’t really have any issues with that approach, as I learnt better, wrote my Common Entrance examinations and passed. I was among the top six at every level in my secondary school days. In my Senior secondary level, I was among the top three. Today, I don’t have a first school leaving certificate because I was home schooled and that was what I told my employers.”
The success of the method, as reflected in her life later influenced her decision to home school her own children.
“I believe that for primary education, home schooling is very good. I currently do it for my children and my sister does it for her children also and I have not regretted it. My decision was to home school them only at their tender age and then get them back into school, when they are old enough to talk and express themselves properly. But then, I am enjoying the results that I don’t think of sending them to a conventional school any sooner. I also have peace of mind while at work knowing that they are home.”
She believes that children between ages zero to five are not old enough to talk about the things that they may face in school.
“Some of these schools employ monsters. I know of a case, where a cleaner was converted to a teacher and I wonder what kind of training she had to enable her impact positively in my child and I just decided that I would try home schooling them. We employed a teacher, who tutors them at home. My intention is to grow them to a point, where my children can express themselves and tell me, if somebody is trying to molest or manhandle them. The result has been so wonderful that I don’t even want to stop.
“Although there is little pressure from family and friends urging me to enroll them in conventional school to enable them mix with others, but I keep making them see reasons why I made this choice. My daughter will soon be five and she reads and speaks publicly. She climbs on a platform and reads the Bible to 150 persons. I don’t think my kids are missing anything. I feel I’m protecting them for now till they are old enough to express themselves. If my kids can successfully home school throughout their primary education, I will do it even to the secondary level, if possible.”
On her view of the Nigerian education system, she says: “I feel there are a lot of unqualified teachers, who don’t really know what to teach these children. And that is my greatest fear. They are in the teaching industry because there are no jobs. I talk to some of these teachers, who can’t even express themselves. I think they should go through some professional training before they can be qualified enough to teach children.”
Prof. Supo Jegede, Dean, faculty of Education, University of Lagos, however, thinks that this concept may not be that successful in our society.
“The culture of homeschooling may not be a very successful venture due to our environment. No man lives in isolation. What makes a person has more to do with interaction with the environment and other people than just the academics. When a child is alone in the house, there are many things he/she may miss, but which could have been learnt in the midst of others and these determine the true behaviour of that child. If a child is isolated, you may not get to find out the true character of that child.
“We always end up copying a society, which is alien to ours because their cultures allow it but ours don’t. If a home teacher is employed to tutor a child, the parents won’t know the kind of education or values the teacher is imparting to the child. There are limited extents to which a teacher can add value to a child in the public than in the private.
“One advantage of homeschooling may be the ability to impart to the child traits and morals that you want him/her to exhibit. But after this, the child will still return to school and may not be able to catch up with his/her peers. A child also passes through many experiences, which will make him fit for high school.
“There must be a strong reason to integrate homeschooling into our culture. Otherwise, we are just trying to copy other societies, which is not in sync with our culture. The instruments, which enhance a child’s ability to read and learn properly, are mostly found in a school. The same cannot be said for a home. Learning differs from education. You can learn something, which you have not been familiar with, but the question is, what does that do to your personality?”
Jedege says there are specific ways that are appropriate for enabling a child to learn what is right or wrong, which may not be learnt easily at home.
“In any case, not all parents can afford home schooling, and even if they can, do they know the proper things to do to make the environment conducive for learning? Or the instruments and gadgets needed? It may be cheap to leave a child with a tutor in the house, but do you know what kind of person the teacher is? If a child is in a school or daycare setting, there are certain circumstances that can be reported to higher authorities. This won’t apply when the child is at home.
“Children are being abused all the time with various cases of nannies and house helps molesting children reported daily. So, won’t it be safer to put the child in a school or a general setting, where these risks are reduced? Regarding morals, it is only the Lord that can take care of a child in that wise. Anyone who is afraid of his/her children mixing with their peers does not trust the Lord, who he or she claims to serve.”