Recently I had a chance to travel to Kenya with AWANA International (www.awana.org/). I knew my heart was going to break seeing the children living in poverty in the slums of Nairobi’s Kibera, but . . .
I never expected to learn so much about homeschooling from the teachers and students I met.
First, the slums are a hard place to visit. Over one million people live in a community of make-shift shacks, unsafe power lines, and filth. Channels of human waste pool down the middle of muddy pathways, and garbage is mixed in the mud. The stench caused my stomach to lurch.
A pastor friend guided us through the narrow paths and soon we came to a small courtyard. We stepped inside, and the sound of children’s voices met us. Over 200 children were packed into a small room singing praises to God.
In Kibera most children can’t afford school.
Many of the children are orphans, and they are completely left to their own devices. They would die from hunger and living in the elements, but because of caring people, these children are taken in, fed, clothed, and educated in “schools.” These schools are not part of the government. They receive no funding. Few of these schools have books, yet they have volunteer teachers and caregivers who do all they can to give these children an education.
We, guests sat on white plastic chairs as the children gave us a presentation. Because of Awana’s training in Kenya the children quoted Scripture, shared biblical stories, and gave personal testimonies of God’s work in their lives. It was amazing!
I walked away thinking of my kids and our homeschool. Here are a few things I recognized and learned about homeschooling:
Passionate teachers are more valuable than curriculum. In the Kibera slums, the teachers had no books or curriculum, but they were passionate about teaching. Through Awana training (and the use of a teacher’s books and one chalkboard) they taught the children God’s Word. The teachers also taught subjects such as English, Math, Science, and Social Studies, not because they had the newest and coolest stuff, but because they know that education will help children achieve a better life outside of the slums. The teachers are excited about learning (not just getting through the lesson plans), and the children were excited, too.
Children can achieve more than we think they’re capable of. In Kibera, the school children quoted long passages of Scripture from memory. They were able to do so because their teachers worked with them, over and over again. As a teacher, I sometimes give up far too easily. I’ve found that when I encourage hard work, my children rise to the challenge.
Developing children’s natural talents is more important than getting the book done. In one of the Kibera schools, Beatrice, the teacher, taught jewelry making, dance, and acrobatics. “We try to find the child’s natural talents and develop them,” Beatrice told me. In a country where the unemployment rate is 42%, Beatrice knows that jobs are scarce, and those who work out of their natural inclinations have a better chance of finding a job and succeeding in life. As homeschoolers in the US, we often look more to the curriculum than to the child. Beatrice’s example has stuck with me.
I’m excited to start my homeschooling year. After visiting Kibera I know there will be changes — mostly starting in this teacher’s heart.
Want to adopt Awana’s discipleship tools into your homeschool?
If your children aren’t involved in a local AWANA club, you can purchase materials to use in your home, especially designed for homeschoolers. A student kit includes: entrance booklet and student handbook, as well as associated parent handbook and verse music (where applicable).
For homeschool co-ops, they are also offering a traditional club registration which provides the full opportunity to run Awana Clubs in your co-op. (For more information go to www.awanahomeschool.org/)
Also, if you’d like to sponsor a child in Kenya, allowing them to receive spiritual training, you can do so for only $10 a month! Go to: www.awana.org/donate to sign up. Awana is committed to making the hope of the gospel and long-term discipleship available to every child, everywhere. Your generous gift will be put to use immediately to transform young lives, and eternities, in communities around the world.
How do you teach your children discipleship?