New Vision (Kampala)

8 January 2013

Uganda: Homeschooling My Kids Gives Me Satisfaction

From her own life experience - missing out on the attention of her parents - Beatrice Langariti promised herself that she would be there for her children and one of the ways would be homeschooling and she has kept this promise. The mother of five put aside her degree and masters to teach her children. She shared her story with Gloria Nakajubi.

Beatrice Langariti is a mother of five children aged between three and eight years. Since she got married 12 years ago, she has devoted her life to raising her children in line with her beliefs and principles.

She graduated with a bachelor's degree in economics and later did a master's in religious counselling in the US. But with all these academic achievements, her family is her first priority.

My experience

I got the idea of homeschooling my children when I was still little because of the experience I had after my parents separated. At a tender age, I missed the love of my parents and would not wish the same for my children. I wanted to be there for them at every stage, especially in their early life.

Beatrice says she has been doing this ever since she started having children and she has not regretted the decision since. "I want my children to grow up in a particular way, which I do not think can be achieved if they attend public schools," she says.

Her determination can be seen in the fact that on top of having an autistic child, she has adopted two more who also need special attention. She now has five children.

A typical school day

I wake the children at 6:00am and take them through washing their face and brushing their teeth. They each take a glass of warm water, a smoothie and then start working out for like 45 minutes or an hour.

A typical workout involves simple exercises like frog jumping and skipping; singing and doing housework. After the exercises, they take a snack before a briefing and a recap of what was learnt the previous day. This is also the time to handle general behavioural issues.

"In case someone made a mistake the previous day; this is always the time to talk about it and decide on the way forward. I also talk to them about good behaviour and how to relate with each other," Langariti says.

At 9:15am, we get a break for a meal. We do not take tea or porridge for breakfast. I try to avoid sugar in the kids' diet. After the meal, the kids get back to the living room, where we normally have our classes. We can always switch the venue. We learn a lot ranging from bible study, poems, reading, phonics, singing and languages.

Right now, we are doing Luganda and the children are really doing well. Though this is not our mother tongue, we ppreciate the fact that it is one of the most recognised local languages in Uganda.

The children always take a nap at midday and wake at 1:30pm to have their lunch. After the lunch break, we resume the lessons. This time, it is more of the practical. I also go through the local curriculum to see what the children in public schools are learning at a particular stage and integrate some of the things in my own curriculum.

Classes end at 4:00pm. The children are then fed on fruits or leftovers from lunch, which is usually their last meal of the day.

Teaching Guidelines

We follow a particular, but rather flexible curriculum, which I draft myself depending on what I want to teach them at a particular time.

We are also affiliated to the Baker school in the US, where I get most of the reading materials and other tools that help me to evaluate myself as I teach.

There is no formal holiday in homeschool, because everything is part of the learning process like house chores, going for shopping and any other outside activity.

Weekends are used to relax, though not totally. We continue the learning process, but at a slower pace than during the week days. For example, I let the children sleep longer like up to 7:30am.

"During weekends, my husband and I take on the teaching, unless he has travelled out of the country," Langariti says.

You need a lot of discipline to achieve what you set out to do in this setting, since it is prone to disruptions from visitors and other family engagements.

"I never entertain visitors in the morning. I restrict my phone calls to the breaks during the study," she says.

Her motivation

Every time I go out and my children do things that are fit for kids of an older age, I feel very good and it makes me want to do this forever.

"There is a time my three-year-old recited a prayer on a kid's function and everyone was amazed. People started asking which schools they attend. When I tell them I do it myself they cannot believe it," she proudly says.

The goals that I want to achieve in my children's lives keep me going everyday. I want them to grow into complete adults equipped in all aspects of life.

"I want to raise godly, obedient and self-confident children and I am positive I will achieve it by teaching them myself," she points out. The other motivation is the quality of the relationship I have with my children. We are so close that they talk to me about anything at any time.

"Like the saying goes, charity begins at home. If I do not inculcate in them the right values in life now, there is nowhere else they will get it," Langariti says.

Future Plans

Well I intend to go on with homeschooling for as long as I can. So, this will call for hiring a trained teacher, who will be helping me out. I will need to register them with a local school around so that they can be do their annual exams with the other pupils. This will help me to evaluate how them.

Challenges

*It gets tied to one person, who may seem irreplaceable and in most cases it is the mother, so if mummy is not fine or has an emergency to attend to, then school stops.

*Like earlier noted it is prone to interruptions like guests who may not understand the concept of home-school.

*It gets challenging when you have more than one child with different ages and different academic needs.

*There is also negative criticism from the society as most people do not consider home school an ideal teaching system.

*The Government has also not yet set up policies that can ensure quality education for the children whose parents choose to home school them. This gets dangerous as some parents choose to do it but cannot give it their best.

Advantages of homeschooling

*The flexibility of the curriculum and the schedules can fit well in any environment.

*It is not about finishing the curriculum, but making sure the child understands it. "My adopted son Baraka has had to go through a number of operations on his leg and during the times we are in hospital, classes stop until he recovers. So he is not left behind." Beatrice says. She adds that during that time her daughter Zoe, who is in the same class with Baraka is left to do revision of the previous lessons to keep her engaged.

*Home school is very safe for the children since they are shielded from accidents and unnecessary movements.

*It is also cheaper since it eliminates costs like school fees, transport, uniforms and other general school requirements. For example I buy one text book and it is shared by Zoe and Baraka and I can also keep the same book for the younger ones.

* You get to know your child's academic weaknesses and devote more time to that area.

*It is convenient for a travelling family.

* You are always in charge of your children's life. You can easily correct them other than when they have to go out for the whole day or three months

Expert view

Dr. Elizabeth Kiboneka, the head of the Mwana Mugimu Nutrition Unit at Mulago Hospital, advises that parents who take on the responsibility of homeschooling their children should not underestimate their nutritional needs.

It is recommended that children between six months and six years should eat at least five times a day and these are distributed in a way that the children have an early morning breakfast, mid-morning snack, lunch, evening snack and dinner.

The other thing is that the parent needs to understand the recommended calorie intake for a particular age and sex so they do not give them just anything.

Exercises are a very important aspect in the lives of children, but these have to be rather in regard with the child's age to avoid over working them.

But for this mother, this is not a bad nutrition plan, though to be sure, it would be good if she visited a specialist and they carried out a critical analysis on the children to find out their actual nutritional needs and advise her on where to improve and what to maintain.

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