A compelling pattern that I have observed in relation to our education system is that the more our public education system has become questionable the more parents are getting interested in home-schooling. In addition, home-schooling is comparatively a more affordable yet higher quality education option in its own league compared to taking your child to a trying public school but still failing due to a plethora of reasons outside your control.
We all grew up in the conventional school system where we go to school at 7am and get back in the afternoon. Our concept of school or education has been to go to a place to learn. I wonder if this is why it can be argued we study to pass exams and not to know.
It’s all part of our socialisation and how the industrialisation-era type of education we inherited processes and produces educated products and not always knowledgeable and knowledge-hungry individuals who are building blocks to a better society.
So you find that’s how it has been and that’s how it should always be for many people ie go to a place, learn, pass and be secure for life. I suppose the main question among the fundamentalists is “why would you home-school your children in Zimbabwe?”
There are a number of home-schooling programmes around. Being a Christian and looking for something consistent with my Christian values and worldview, as I looked around it came naturally that I ended up being referred to the well-known Accelerated Christian Education, commonly known as ACE.
This was founded in the United States. Those who referred me to this curriculum already had their children on it so there were some clearly tangible results there.
Having this reference, however, did not adequately nor immediately answer specific questions I had. These questions included how does it really work, which exams do the children sit for, up to what stage does it reach, how about socialisation, among a whole host of other questions.
The natural thing to follow for me was thorough research online. I found myself being drawn in more and more by what I was finding pertaining to the ACE programme mentioned. Finally, I sent an e-mail right to the headquarters in the United States, unaware that there was in existence already a regional (RSA) and even local office that I had bypassed!
A few more back and forth e-mails finally led me to the local Zimbabwe office of ACE registered locally as the Christian Education Trust or CET located in Msasa, Harare.
The patient local administrator answered my million and one questions via an extended e-mail conversation and a final meeting in person. The ACE programme has two options. You can take your children to what is called a learning centre which very much resembles a private school or you can teach your children from home.
A learning centre has trained teachers and staff; on the other hand to teach your kinds yourself at home it is mandatory that you go through training which must be renewed every five years.
Usually, a learning centre carries fees more or less in the league of private schools per term. Home-schooling on the other hand carries expenses for study materials and term registration fees both of which must be processed through the local CET office.
While my initial idea was to send my children away to a learning centre, circumstances detected that I teach them myself in as much as I just couldn’t, at the time, wrap my head around doing this full time and being “responsible” for my girls’ education so to speak!
By December 2011 I had gone and completed the “mandatory” or rather strongly recommended paid training facilitated and hosted by the CET office.
This was by any standard quite an intense 5-day training programme which equipped me with skills to manage and administer the ACE curriculum effectively. It also thoroughly gives the parent an appreciation of what the programme is all about and where it leads your children to.
I would most definitely recommend this five-day training programme even for anyone who just wants to hear more and discover what ACE is all about before making a final decision as to take it up or not. More likely than not the training will leave you hooked!
In my case, by the end of the training I was now “qualified” to home school my children using the ACE curriculum.
The first year, which is loosely equivalent to traditional public school Grade One was my learning curve.
I was basically getting to grips with what home-schooling is and is not and together with the children finding our own rhythm and footing.
Discipline, patience and determination are three main qualities that in my own journey are indispensable when home-schooling. The ACE curriculum goes all the way to university so you can carry on to that level if you so wish.
Many people worry about socialisation and extra-curricular activities when home-schooling. That is legitimate. Why ACE is one of the best home-schooling programmes in Zimbabwe, in my opinion, is because it has a fully staffed and very supportive local office that communicates with parents and organises events among other things.
Children always have an opportunity to get together with other children. Remember, however, that there are numerous points of contact for children with their peers.
In their local community, with children of friends and relatives and even at church and other social events over and above events organised by the home-schooling administration.
Home-schooling has been a rewarding experience. I’m certainly grateful for the time I get to spend with my children, which in today’s demanding lifestyles in of itself is a gem worth more than a million dollars to have.
There is just nothing more rewarding than when you see the fruits of your labour. Taking your children from a place where they could not read to a place where they can not only read but write, neatly as well as add and subtract which are the basic building blocks of education.
William James once said, “So it is with children who learn to read fluently and well: They begin to take flight into whole new worlds as effortlessly as young birds take to the sky.”
This review should not be taken as to downplay other home-schooling programs available in Zimbabwe. I think as a matter of fact, the concept is great and other parents I have spoken to who have followed different programs are just as happy.
This article was first published in 2015 by Rumbie on ofzimba.co.zw