"For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, so that no man may boast before God." (1 Corinthians 1:26-29)

Friday, September 3, 2010

School Days and MKs

This week I started homeschooling the boys.  They're only 2 and 4, so it's only preschool, but I wanted to capitalize on the progress we'd made with Caleb when he attended preschool while we were in the US.  If you heard any of our presentations while we were home, you'll know that we were looking for a teacher to come and teach our boys so I wouldn't have to do the homeschooling myself.  I've been a bit nervous about it, knowing that I'm not the most patient person in the world, tend towards being a perfectionist, and Caleb seems to have inherited my independent (and somewhat stubborn) personality.  Choosing our home school curriculum before we left was a bit of a project.  For one thing, I felt overwhelmed with the many possibilities and a bit stressed out as I was trying to figure out how in the world I was going to help my children "keep up" with the American education system.  It seems like we're pushing our children to learn how to read and sit in school at a younger age than ever.  Not that I doubt my little boys' geniuses, but behaviorally, I'm not so sure they're ready for all these advanced programs and options!  Of course, they aren't growing up in the structured environment most of their American counterparts are growing up in.  They have a lot more freedom here, and honestly, I'm kinda glad I'm raising my boys in this context, despite the lack of resources and diminished exposure to so many "modern" things.  After all, I want what most moms want: for them to have fond memories of their childhood.  That starts in the home, of course, and we work at creating a loving environment to the best of our knowledge and understanding like any other parent does.  But I like to fancy that they'll have the kind of childhood memories that you read about in books like Tom Sawyer or Huck Finn - the part about spending hours out of every day outside, climbing mango trees, exploring, pretending to hunt wild lions, and playing king-of-the-hill on the sand pile.  So what if they don't ALWAYS wear their shoes, or if I have to change their clothes three times a day and give them at least as many baths.  They're boys!

And they're MKs.  Having been one myself, I have some idea of what goes on in those little heads and hearts.  Maybe they don't have the same access to all the educational privileges they might have back in the US, but they've entered the school of life at a much earlier age than some.  "World views" was a class I remember taking in college, but they're in this class every day.  Philosophy.  World religions.  Interpersonal Communication.  Cross-cultural communication.  Foreign languages.

So, in the end, we chose our preschool curriculum based partly on recommendation, partly on what sounded "doable" to us, partly on the flexibility of the program, partly on its Christian base, and partly on the breadth covered.  Yeah, you got it.  We pretty much closed our eyes and jabbed our fingers at one of the options and picked that one.  Well, maybe that's stretching it a little, but having all these misgivings about teaching my own children, it felt that way.  I've taught Sunday school classes and Spanish elementary classes before, no problem.  I'd even say I could have been pretty good at it if I'd chosen to be a teacher (well, if I could get my impatience under control, anyway).  When I was 5, we had a dress-up day at school where we were supposed to come dressed like what we wanted to be when we grew up.  I remember wearing my hair up, a pair of my mom's high heels, a long pearl necklace, a skirt, and a big pair of "grandma" glasses in an effort to look like a teacher.  Twenty-seven years later, though, faced with a small class of two, toddler boys, and I'm having anxiety attacks!

Well, despite the aforementioned inner drama, the first week of school has come and gone and, surprisingly, it hasn't been too bad.  We all need to get used to this new routine.  I gotta get used to my boys' attention spans - what they can't really handle and where they need to be "pushed" a little.  They need to get used to mommy as teacher - what they can get away with and what is now a new boundary.  But, despite the somewhat unscientific way of choosing our curriculum, I really rather like it.  It suits my style (very hands on) and takes a lot of pressure off of the boys to have to sit still for too long at one given time.  And it's flexible enough for daddy to step in and rescue the situation when I have just had it.  Unlike teachers in a "real" classroom, I can just re-shelf the book when I'm fed up and let Dale pull it back out when he gets home from his work at the Center.

It's only been a week, but I have already run across a few scenarios that make homeschooling (with an American curriculum) in an overseas context unique.  For example, this week's unit in our Bernstein Bears' Book of Science and Nature is all about winter.  Talking about snow and cold temperatures and when the first day of winter is and the changes of the season.  Well, seeing as how there are only two seasons here (wet and dry), this is proving to be a hard lesson to do "hands on".  Fortunately, we have lots of pictures from the wonderful blizzards we had last winter while we were in the US.  And we've improvised some, too.  A trip to the Mahadaga market produced two long-sleeved pull-overs (we forgot to bring any with us) that turned out to be ice-hockey shirts, so we could talk about winter dress and winter sports.  The freezer doubles as a glacier.

I've also been working through a "perceptual growth" workbook with Caleb that is supposed to prepare and test for school readiness.  Most of the exercises have to do with eye-hand coordination, fine-motor skills, visual memory, association, ability to distinguish between similarities, etc.  One of the exercises had a picture of a pile of leaves on the left, then two pictures of a house to the right, one without a tree, and one with a tree.  Caleb was supposed to pick the picture with which the pile of leaves should be associated.  Considering that the last time he saw "Fall" in the US he was 8 months old, he doesn't have a very strong association for this (though he could associate the idea of a tree with leaves).  Later on in the same exercise, the picture on the left was of a fork.  The two on the right were a soup bowl and a knife.  We never give our boys knives to eat with, we rarely eat meat here, and when we do, it's always ground beef, so we don't have to cut it.  Most of our neighbors eat with their hands.  So, again, the association between a fork and knife wasn't quite as "simple" as one might think.  Of course, once we talked about how you can't use a fork to eat soup, Caleb got it, but he has to make the association by eliminating the other option, not because the two ideas "belong together" in his mind!

Well, as usual, I'm getting long-winded as I muse on these things.  Hey, it's my blog...I can rant a little if I want!;)  But I'll leave you with a few pictures of the first week of school for your amusement.

[caption id="attachment_678" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Making cookies after reading the story "If You Give a Mouse a Cookie.""][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_675" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="After reading "Jack and Jill", we filled our own pails with water and found ways to amuse ourselves, including "water painting" on the patio behind the kitchen."][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_674" align="alignleft" width="225" caption="After reading the story "George shrinks," we dressed up in daddy's clothes and talked about what it would be like if we shrank, too!."][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_673" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="The beginnings of Burkina Faso's first-ever ice hockey team."][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_672" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Playing with blocks of frozen cheese and ice as we talk about winter and cold."][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_676" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Back in the classroom, daddy talks to us about the calendar."][/caption]


  1. Interesting to hear about and see your little classroom -- you did a lot in one week! Also to hear what you're noticing about the culturally-specific "knowledge." The same thing happens to kids from different cultures heading to school in the US. They must be dumb if they don't get those "obvious" associations, right?!

  2. Way to go Flo! Looks like you may have had a bit of fun :) The pics of your boys are so great, and I love the "hockey" shirts. I know what you mean about having to adjust for US normal stuff in books. the seasons were a bit tricky for us too. Trying to describe fall and snow is harder than you think, when one has never really seen it! I'll be starting next week..wish me luck!