Thursday, 22 December 2011

Let’s “occupy” education in Ghana

I came across another interesting blog called “Motherlode” while reading the New York Times today. Of course I immediately read a few blogs. “Should we ‘occupy’ education?” caught my attention. I began thinking of all the ways we can “occupy” education in Ghana.
1. Refuse to send your children to any private or public school that is either too expensive and/or not able to help children compete on global level.
2. Let the rest of Ghana know of any school where you child has “graduated” from and yet cannot compete with his counterparts elsewhere.
3. Consider abuses against education as acts against humanity.
4. Trial all abusers as perpetrators of genocide; especially since most of the uneducated will probably become victims to violence and poverty.
5. Sue teachers. Similar to malpractice suites against doctors, the lethal tonic of a teacher takes a long time to uncover and heal.
6. Bring to justice all teachers and headmasters/headmistresses using students as their free labor pool. (Many use students as laborers on their farms as oppose to teaching them in classrooms).
7. Talk to other families in communities. Work to take back education.
8. Ban all school buildings without toilets for girls and boys.
9. Ban all “under tree” schools.
10. Refuse the idea that schools are “centers” of education.

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Change has come!

I was recently informed by my former professor of another alternative to traditional education. It is called the Unschooling Movement, similar to homeschooling, centers parents, but they are not married to textbooks, state curriculum and traditional ways of measuring a child’s development.
I am always eager to find alternatives because they are proof that a revolution is underway, and that I am part of it!
In today’s New York Times, I came across an exciting article on Co-op schooling. It’s basically parents, unable to find quality education for their children in the public sector, and unable to afford the private schools, come together to educate their children. Some of the classrooms are operated from people’s living rooms or other rooms in the house.
While some of the quality schools can cost $14,000/year, Co-op schooling cost some parents $1,200/year!
What do these alternative movements reveal? So much! First, the traditional educational system is not working. It is not providing quality education to the majority. Secondly, quality education has become (or has always been) reserve for the elite. Thirdly, parents are paying attention. People world over are demanding more, and instead of waiting, are designing creative alternatives for their children. They realize instead of constantly meeting to talk about how the “system” is failing us; that we should go ahead and do something about it for the sake of our children’s futures. La lutta!

Thursday, 1 December 2011

My Sun turns six years old today

I met a fantastic mom who refers to her male child as Sun. How great is that. Our children are the light that warms the world and keep us moving. I’m going to start using that from now on.
I had no idea that I would have ventured into home schooling when my Sun was born. Like many parents, I did not know which educational route I was going to undertake with my children. I knew I wanted the best, but not sure what my role was in obtaining that.
I started home school officially when he was about 2. We started quite simple. I provided him paper and many crayons for him to scribble and scribble some more. We then moved on to numbers, ABCs which he had learned earlier. Thanks to a Brainy Baby DVD, he learned shapes, colors, and many other things. We would watch an episode together and then read. He then started spelling words. My educator husband said that he showed letter word recognition and that this was a good sign, that he not only knew his letters, but recognized them in other words.
From then on, he started reading and writing letters. Hubby, or the education consultant, as I like to call him, began to contextualize what we were doing. I was horrified to find out that most children in Ghana are not taught to read at such an early age. I was also sad to learn that many schools did not have the trained teachers needed to provide the kind of learning needed at this age.
We were so proud of what we were accomplishing. But I need reassurance. I would call hubby at work with any and all questions. I wanted to make sure that I was actually teaching and that our Sun was learning. I called to let him know amazing things like when our Sun began adding and subtracting numbers on his own. I called for small things, wondering if the fact his arm was not on the desk when he wrote meant we needed another desk or that I had completely ruined his writing ability. Hubby is patient and kind. He explained everything as though he was speaking to a group of educators at UNICEF conference.
There was no topic too small for my hubby to research for us. I wanted to make sure that I was teaching him correctly and that I was linking topics that needed to be linked. For example, was it OK for me to teach nouns followed by verbs, or vice-a-versa. Did it even matter? Hubby said no. I continued more assured and confident. Then our Sun became a full fledge genius.
I am so proud of what I was able to provide for my Sun and other children. Hubby and I often analyze our success. We are so proud to have been able to do so much for him. That we have a 6 year old doing multiplication, writing short stories for publication “one day,” and designing trains with tenders made out of our curtain rails is surreal. I had never thought the path we followed would produce a genius.
And yet, all the experts, hubby included, claim that all children have the same capacity. The fact that most children are not at his level is a human rights issue. Teachers, administrators, policy makers, and parents are all guilty of this crime. I am glad we decided to educate him at home. His education will forever remind him of the love and sacrifice his parents made on his behalf.
I once heard that children should provide gifts to their parents on their birthdays. I agree. My Sun has already promise that I can borrow his bicycle anytime. That’s OK for now, but on his 20th birthday, I will have to be a Chinese mom and demand more. I look forward to receiving an all expense paid trip visiting the African continent, preaching the good word about home education.

Monday, 21 November 2011

Hurray for Ghana Book Trust!

There is no feeling more exhilarating than combing through hundreds of cheap books desperately needed for your children’s education.
I just returned from the Ghana Book Trust and was immersed from head to toe with books, for all subjects, all grades. Athough two hours was not enough time for me to explore all content, I am happy to say I will no longer be in need of materials for schooling my children.
The books at the Trust are not organized, but I am happy to say, I no longer have a need to order materials for my children’s curriculum via Amazon. I also no longer need to burden friends, colleagues and people I just met with bringing me books.
I’m sure I must have lost friends that way. No wonder people stopped telling me about upcoming trips to Accra.
Home schooling just got a little easier in Ghana! The materials are here…although lightly used, but only 1.50GHC. Can you say Kwanzaa gifts?

Thursday, 10 November 2011

7 billion people in the world

The world’s population has exploded to 7 billion! That’s one billion more people our children will have to compete with for education. According to a UNESCO article on the subject, 7 billion people make access to education even less probable for girl children.
This means that as the world’s population grows, life will get more difficult for girl children, particularly those living in poverty in Africa. Most countries were already unable to provide education for all; growing populations further stress a dire situation. A large population will also affect gender distribution in the schools. As parents find it harder to find good schools, and those few good schools will tend to be private and expensive; only a limited number of parents will be able to afford tuition. In UNESCO’s letter to the 7th billion child born, it states that child should demand and fight for his/her right to education. Girls will most likely have to fight harder and demand more in order to be educated.
All the research proves that an educated girl does more for society. However, the problem is no longer cultural but poor policy. They will now have to compete for access to education and amongst the educated. I realize that although access to education is a must; quality education is failing. That child can have access to a brand new school; but poor teachers with no quality materials will not empower her to compete with the world.
Glad that UNESCO has changed its language by asking for education for all; as opposed to schools for all. Opening more schools is NOT the answer. Providing education and opening school buildings are two different goals. With such a large population, policy makers should be vying for alternative ways to educate the masses. In situations where there are few teachers and fewer relevant materials to teach with; empowering enthusiastic and motivated parents and guardians is the way to go.

Monday, 31 October 2011


Are you a mom in the city of Accra? Do you need help finding out what fun things to do with your children? Or what about advice on education and health? Or just sit and chat with moms going through a similar experience raising children in Ghana.

LegonMoms was created just for those purposes.

We are a network of fabulous mothers living in Accra.
We provide information and support for moms to help them raise wonderful children. Need information on education, health and extracurricular activities for your children?
Send us your queries, suggestions and comments. They will be forwarded to the larger community for answers. Don't do this job alone. Join and help us better provide information and the necessary links you need to make motherhood easier in Accra.

For more information how to join LegonMoms, please contact Mikelle Antoine at

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Nokia preschool home learning project

Nokia has launched a contest asking for people’s best ideas on how to better educate the world. They pick weekly winners and the final best idea will be designed into a Nokia phone application providing education to all. You can learn more at
It is interesting to note that one of the winning ideas promises to make home education more accessible and available to parents all over the world.
The preschool program would provide entire curricula via the phone. Children would play and learn games teaching topics such as shapes, colors, etc. They would play these games repeatedly on the Nokia phone. The idea is to provide repetition and help learning that way. This design could potentially be amended for higher grades as well.
I am excited that Nokia has chosen an application that would centralize home schooling in the dialogue on education. This says a lot; that the powers that be are paying attention to this movement, although at times silent. It also says that a viable response to the global education problem is not more schools, but more empowered parents.

Monday, 10 October 2011

My favorite sites for free worksheets and resources

10 Easy steps to take back your children’s education

1. Breathe; it’s easier than you think. Realize that you are about to embark on the most rewarding gift you can ever give to your children. This foundation will guarantee them successful futures. There is no greater sense of accomplishment. You will also learn a great deal or relearn what you were never taught. I just figured out fractions!
2. Think about what your children’s needs are. You might want to read up on what other home schoolers’ are doing. Remember that home schooling is a million dollar business; others have done the work for you. All you need is to pay attention and find your child’s needs.
3. Join an online support network. I belong to Some of the members have been schooling their children for decades and have tons of experience to share. They also have a “how to get started” packet co-produced by yours truly.
4. Find like minds in your community or create your own. Reach out to others and let them know what you are doing. Begin by speaking to people you meet in your children’s extracurricular activities. You will be surprised how many people your initiative helps.
5. Start browsing available materials online. You can search by subject and grade and get free downloadable worksheets. Check out some of my favorite cites in the next blog. Not finding the worksheets you need; make them yourself. Check out this worksheet generator for more info.
6. Feel free to develop your own curriculum. Not all books, worksheets and materials will work for you; hence why it’s best at times to develop your own. I like materials that are colorful and not too wordy. I don’t like most materials designed for the British and Indian market. I find them too confusing to follow.
7. Frequent local bookstores for other materials you cannot find. Most of the cites listed are limited on science materials. Luckily I found great science materials from Harcourt and Evan-Moor. Some of my favorite book stores are: EPP, Kingdom Books, Systrus in Osu and Ghana Book Trust. My list of favorite educational book companies are listed on this cite.
8. Develop a work place. I designed a classroom where we work; but any corner will do. Design to your taste.
9. Be flexible. Teach when best for you and child. I teach in the mornings and lecture at Ashesi in the afternoons. This is one perk of being an academic; find what works for you. I have colleagues who teach in the evenings after they come home from work.
10. Breathe some more. It will feel as though you are not getting much accomplished in the beginning. Reach out to your community when that happens. You will feel exhausted or frustrated at times; but know that nothing tops the gift of education.

Monday, 3 October 2011

The Homeschooling Advantage

About 4% of all educated children in the US are homeschooled. This number is even higher if we contemplate on the fact that home school is growing across the globe. There is a growing home schooling movement in South Africa, Kenya and other parts of the world. In the US alone, this number has exploded due to the plethora of online sources and materials that make it easier to educate from home. Another reason is that parents are looking to give their children an advantage to allow them compete in the world. (“The Home Advantage,” Coure Hero, 2011).
Finally research that gets it right! No more sidelined to the periphery, I hope such study will ignite much needed debate and gain attention from UNICEF and UNESCO. These two global bodies can only strengthen education by paying attention to the home schooling advantage and observe how it can be copied in other places; especially amongst the worlds’ disadvantaged.
Imagine if the girl child who is barred from attending school outside of the home had an alternative? Or the child who has to walk hours to reach a school only to find the teachers not there and no books? Imagine the young and old getting a second chance to learn to read, write and to educate themselves? What other educational problem could home school not solve? The home school advantage can benefit on a global scale if international bodies like the UN acknowledged the potential. How many more children would be educated if homeschooling was removed from the periphery and given its rightful place as a solution to this global problem.
Research has also found that you need not be college educated or rich to home school. The key ingredient is parental involvement. Empowering parents as key educator benefit the child. It’s only wise for the world to pay attention to this method and not dismiss it as fanatical; at best. Textbook producers and online businesses are surely paying attention; home education is a million dollar business. All that is needed is the UN to come on board.

Friday, 30 September 2011

World Teachers’ Day

October 5th is marked as World Teachers’ Day. This year’s commemoration will focus on closing the gender gap in the schools and recruiting quality teachers. UNESCO estimates that the world needs an additional 2 million female teachers to reach gender equality. Furthermore, female teachers will also attract more girl students. Young girls, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, constitute the majority of children not in school. According to the UNESCO article, 2/3rds of all illiterate adults in sub Saharan Africa are women. The region, alone, needs an additional 1 million teachers to provide every child quality education.
The solution is not to open more schools, as the article pointed out. There is a growing pace of school construction in sub-Saharan Africa. The problem is further aggravated by lack of trained and competent teachers. Having well trained experts, eager to teach and competent is what will solve this problem. But none of this is possible without parental involvement. Without parents as primary educators, acknowledged and respected as such, global education will continue to be in peril. It is unpardonable that after so many years of celebrating World Teachers’ Day, UNESCO continues to ignore the contributions of the home schooling movement to education.
Let us be reminded that homeschooling came about as a reaction to the dilemma. Parents, in response to the problems their children were facing in the schools, sought a solution. Their resolution was immediate and on a local scale; but more can happen if we all answer the call and do something about the setback.
As one of the fastest growing forms of private education, home education provides the much needed wo(man) power needed. Although hardly acknowledged in the global discourse on education, home schooling the primary years, helps tremendously in achieving the Millennium Development Goals. Another UNESCO report stated that if each child had access to quality primary education, the other years were almost guaranteed to be a success. The early years of education are the most needed foundation that most of the world’s children do not have access to; especially African girl children.
Homeschooling parents are providing what is much needed in education; parental involvement. The schools cannot do it without quality teachers. Quality teachers cannot do it without parents on board. It truly takes a village and it begins from home.

Monday, 19 September 2011

Why home school?

I’ve been bombarded by questions from parents about home schooling ever since I appeared on one of Ghana’s television programs. Contrary to the assumptions, there is a growing number of Ghanaians already home schooling their children or are very interested in beginning. The reasons are the same as to why any other parent would need to take back their children’s education: failing and expensive schools, lack of trained teachers, bullying from teachers, bullying from other children, lack of materials, lack of motivated teachers, etc. The list is endless.
People assumed such parents would be western educated or had lived abroad. However, I was sought out by market women, seamstresses and other professionals. The seamstress wondered if her 5 year old should be reading; the school had not begun teaching her. She feared asking the teachers and did not want to appear “too know.” The market woman’s child is always sick. He spends more time in the hospital than in school. She had no idea what the school’s curriculum was or what they had intended on teaching her 8 year old. It was bad enough her 8 year old was not reading, but she also did not know basic mathematics. The gate men at my friend’s house wondered if his sons would ever go to college. He lost all hope. He did not see how they would go to a university from the school they currently attended. The school had no windows or bathrooms. The children either swept the compound or weeded the grass on a daily basis. Asked what he wanted from the school that he was not getting, he answered, education. Well, “why you don’t say something?” I asked. “If you say something, they will treat your children bad,” he answered. It is better to stay silent and not think about the problem.
I was surprised to find out just how bad the educational system here was. A World Bank report blamed the poor education system on teacher absenteeism. Ghanaian teachers spend 76 days out of 196 in the classroom. And when they are in the classroom there is no guarantee that they are teaching. According to the parents and students I spoke to, they are working the children like their own private work force. Students, instead of being taught, are running errands, cooking, cleaning, going to market, ironing and working farms.
To make matters worse, parents are completely dis-empowered. They fear the teachers and fear making demands of the schools. Instead of doing something about the problem, many are silently waiting for someone else to begin the revolution. I guess that might be me.

Monday, 12 September 2011

ADEA and UNESCO launch Bouba and Zaza and “Childhood Cultures”, an intergenerational African series of children’s books

"The book series addresses the glaring shortage of children’s books adapted to African contexts. A study conducted in Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Sierra Leone and Togo on child-rearing resources available to parents shows that children from 0 to 4 years of age generally have no books at home, especially in rural areas.
International research findings show that appropriate food, medical care and intellectual stimulation during the early years of life improve children’s aptitude and learning capability throughout their lives. Such research also indicates that the availability of books in the family environment has an incidence on children’s level of educational attainment and that children who have many books at home stay in school about three years longer than those who do not."

One D and you’re out!

Ghana’s educational system is one of the world’s worst. The majority of children do not have access to education. Among those who do, only a small portion ever make it to university. In fact, only 6% of Ghana’s 23 million are in the tertiary institutions. A new policy threatens to reduce that number even further.
Unbeknownst to many, Ghana’s National Accreditation Board and the Ghana Education Service have passed a new policy which denies students with a grade of D in any subject in the national exam access to university. This does not mean an average of a D throughout the student’s academic career. According to the Daily Graphic, such students, as well as mature students who did not obtain a high school degree will be kept from entering the university.
The problem is even worse than what was reported. The majority of the students tend to fail or obtain Ds in English, math and science. They do so because Ghana does not have enough trained teachers or relevant materials to prepare the students in those subjects. Why should students be penalized when they are victimized?
This policy will make education in Ghana even more elitist. Elitist here does not mean better, but rather limiting the majority. Only a very small group of parents will be able to afford expensive tutoring services which may or may not make any difference. An even smaller number will be able to export their children to other countries for tertiary education. It is clear how this policy will further increase the brain drain.
Why would Ghanaian policy makers adopt such a policy when the education system is already stuck between a rock and a hard place? Because educating your children is not their top priority; it’s yours.

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Why this blog?

This blog is to center the home schooling movement within the global discourse on education. People often think home schooling parents are on the periphery as Midwestern Christian Americans keeping the schools from teaching their children evolution. However, that is not the main story. There are homeschooling parents, like myself, living in Africa, working outside of the home, Muslims and or non religious. We want to teach our children because the schools have failed. We have taken back education because we cannot afford not to.
Parents are the first and natural educators of their children. Educational standards have failed, partly because they have allowed it to. However this is not the end of that story. The other half has to do with efforts from the home schooling movement. Their efforts have rung the alarm that something can be done from each individual; beginning in the home.
I am particularly pleased with the global efforts of UNESCO and UNICEF. This blog will follow their educational initiatives and policies. I will also comment and suggest ways forward for parents on the fence on home education.
I am a parent, a historian and an educator. However, becoming a parent has made me more aware of the failing educational standards around the world. Becoming a parent has also made me appreciate the UN’s efforts to curb the falling standards. This blog is to highlight the fact that home schooling is central to solving the problem. Parents must take back education. This blog is also a guide for other parents wanting to reclaim education, but not sure how to proceed. Parents need to be primary teachers again because leaving it up to the teachers is not working. It takes a village, and a village begins from home.

Waiting for Superman