Probably the most frequent question I get asked concerning our trip to Africa is "What about school?" It's a fair question and looks different depending on who it is coming from. We are a homeschooling family but even that does not look the same in every family. Some may take classes online, we don't. Some are very relaxed and don't follow any type of curriculum, we follow more than one. Some take classes through a co-op of families, we do. There is freedom in our decisions on how to teach our kids, but in many ways I feel a great pressure in that freedom. I do feel like I have "eyes" watching me at times and there is a pressure to some degree of caring what others think (by this I mean extended family or friends that don't homeschool). I would say my biggest reason for the pressure I feel is that I don't want to fail my kids. I don't want them to be ill prepared for life or finding a decent career path using the skills and talents God has given them. I have one shot at this, there are no "do overs".
Originally, when I thought of going to Africa, I did think that we would just bring our work with us. My reasoning is that I didn't want to get behind on anything. After talking to a friend that had gone with her family on the mission field for an extended time, she helped me see it differently. I believe her comment was, "Why would you want to taint your child's experience by bringing their 'American' school work with them? They would miss so much." Giving that some thought, I realized she was right in many ways and I needed to come up with a plan.
We started our basic school work several weeks early and I had each of my kids test out of the first few chapters of review in their math books. Our co-op has been wonderful and the kid will be able to jump in the middle of their subjects when we return. For their Enviromental Science class they will be doing a project on what they learned in Cameroon with regard to Enviro Science. As a family we love to read aloud, or individually, so we will have a Kindle full of books as well as the real deal. Math will be real life stuff like dealing with conversions, buying things from market, figuring travel time and working through real life construction puzzles with their Dad. We will have a front row seat on our African culture class. French is spoken in parts of Cameroon so they will have a chance to put their French into practice. They will learn about Bible translation and the effects of illiteracy and how they can help. They will learn compassion and mercy that would never come from seeing a documentary or reading about poverty. Their one assignment that they will all have to do is to keep a journal of our trip so they can document it through their own eyes.
My hope is that all of us will walk away forever changed from this experience, but especially my children. I hope that they come home with a vision for how God can use their lives. My wish would be for them to work hard at the tasks put before them and the school that must happen to reach their goal. I would want for them to see school as essential steps to live a bigger life with purpose and not just a time to do the bare minimum. They do not need to wait until they are adults to make a difference in this world, they can begin today.
I think the answer I got from our travel nurse is the one I liked the best. When I told her we were not bringing our regular school books with us, she responded "Oh, field work, sounds good!"