Homeschooling: Lessons learned

Monday June 15 2020

A woman helps children with revision at

A woman helps children with revision at Kawaala. Following the closure of schools, many parents have resorted to homeschooling. PHOTO | HENRY LUBEGA 

By Joan Salmon

It has been more than three months since schools closed owing to the Covid-19 pandemic. While some schools gave children work to do while at home, some were not able to given the short notice before closure.

But even with school material, uncertainty of when the children will return may mean that the material may be used up by now. With some parents still home too, whether you like it or not, you have to get involved in your child’s learning.

Some parents share how they have coped with homeschooling.
Attention span
Ronnie Odongokara, a parent of two, says without batting an eye that it is not easy.

“Getting the children, more so the kindergarten one, to pay attention is quite difficult. On one day, she will be fine with learning in the morning but that will not be the same the next day as she may want to sleep a little more.”

Odongokara adds that knowing how to pick their interest is another issue.

“It is often difficult to know how to get her interested in, say, Maths when all she is talking about is painting. How do teachers do it?”

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However, it is not all gloom in this household because she says that this time has helped her understand her children better.

“While I knew that my daughter loves Maths, I did not expect her to effortlessly solve some numbers. There were times I expected her to run back for help but all she returned were neatly completed numbers. It put a smile to my face.”

Odongokara says homeschooling has also helped her bond more with her children as well as get to know their interests better. Between school-going and homeschooling, she says she would would want both where the professionals do their work while she is also more involved in her children’s school lives than before.
Sticking to timetables
Leila Kamba, a mother of three, has loved the period thus far inasmuch as it has not been devoid of hiccups.
“While I let them sleep a bit longer for the first two days, I made it clear to them that normal wake up time - 6am, would resume for us to maximize the morning time. Otherwise, the first few days involved doing work they had got from school in the mornings while they did chores in the afternoon and games in the evening.”
Despite the instructions, the boys did not see reason to wake up early, something that Kamba found disturbing.
“They would wake up at 8am and finally sit to do work at 10am which gave them only three hours before lunch time. That was not time enough to do three lessons. It called for toughening up, something I was not ready for seeing that the times were already tough.”
A candid talk seemed to sort things out that the boys have warmed up to studying at home better than it seemed in the beginning.
“We have now also added life skills to our learning which has seen us plant some vegetables, redesign their rooms as well as clean up their wardrobes.”
Charles Keba, a father of four, is still not at par with homeschooling.

Adherance
“I do not know how teachers do this but I am not made for it,” he laments. Keba started the lockdown with a timetable for his children but adhering to it has been such a challenge.

“I work until late in the night to meet some deadlines that waking up early to ensure the children are doing their work is difficult. While they have done some school work, I have barely looked through it. They have also used the opportunity that I am busy to their advantage hence not doing anything school related in the last few days.”

Rather than run after them, he has let books slide for now so that he can deliver his office work before he can turn his energy to them.
Informal learning
Moira Mangeni, a mother of one, is not so keen to turn her home into a school.

“She is just in Primary Two and rather than pump her with work, I am using the time to teach her a few soft skills. I guess it is because I made it a habit to spend time with her on weekends, hence know what she loves or needs to learn.”
So far, little Kimberly has learned how to lay her bed, polish her shoes, and lay the table. The joy of learning something new keeps us going and very soon, we will move to sewing since she has been asking for clothes for her doll.”

Rachel Kakeeto, a mother of two and another on the way, has had her hands full.

“My energy levels have been low but seeing that they have a school arranged class hour has helped me greatly. Our day starts at 7am and by 8am, the older one is in class, giving room for the second one to finish up with her breakfast and clearing the table before her class can start at 9am. This has given us some sort of routine that would have been quite difficult to enforce on my own.”

With follow up exercises given to each after the online classes, studying goes on up to 1pm after which they go for lunch. They nap thereafter, waking up at 3pm to play until 5pm.

“With such structures, homeschooling has been easier than I had expected. All I have to do is encourage them and ensure they are up and their meals ready on time,” she smiles.

Simpson Muhereeza, a father of four, smiles at the thought of how far they have come.

“I have learned a lot about my children and come to appreciate teachers in this period. For example, I did not know that one of my daughters had such great leadership skills. She is the one that mobilizes everyone to wake up, prepares breakfast and ensures all are on table to eat before starting to read or do work. That makes my work easy as I am just consulted where they get stuck.”

Muhereza was not sure he would make it through the period as he detests teaching or having to mobilize children to study.

“My thoughts about the period were gloomy as I thought about having to struggle with them to read or study. Besides that, I also have to work and did not see any success at balancing it with school work. I am glad my children are helping to make this period easier.”

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