Sunday, July 2, 2017

An MK Education

Missionary Kids don't often have a typical education experience.  Here at Tenwek, all the kids are homeschooled through middle school (which often includes participating in a coop among the missionary families) and then most of them go on to a boarding school for high school (Rift Valley Academy, about three hours away from here).  Every academic year looks different, depending on which curriculum parents choose and which conglomeration of kids are here and which parents are able to teach.  It's often said of the medical personnel at the hospital, "There is no normal year at Tenwek" and the same could be said of the MK school year.

Every spring the parents begin discussions about how many kids will be in each grade for the following year, who will be around and willing to teach certain subjects, which kids will need to take an online course here or there to cover their requirements, how to physically get the textbooks and workbooks to Kenya, which classes will be in the MK schoolroom versus in someone's home, and so on.  It's a lengthy, ongoing discussion with many kids' education to figure out.  But somehow, every year it works itself out.  Teaching the MKs is a beautiful picture of the Body of Christ working together - this past year one parent taught 2nd grade math and grammar while another taught 4th aend 5th grade science while another taught middle school history while another taught art to multiple age groups, and on and on it goes.   It's a big puzzle, but somehow the pieces all fit together and the MKs get a solid education each year!

Tenwek MK Schoolroom

When we arrived last year I was preparing myself to begin the adventure of homeschooling.  It was not something I was excited about.  I presumed I could accomplish the task fine (especially since I only had to tackle Preschool for now), but it was not something I looked forward to as part of our transition into missionary life.  I am not a teacher and I wasn't sure how the dynamic of "Mama is Teacher" would work for the boys, but thankfully, homeschooling Caleb and Kai has been an enriching experience and is usually enjoyable.  I'm proud to say that I'm teaching them to read!   My lessons with them only last about an hour, and we don't even do lessons every day (and we took a 3-month break last fall while I was in Swahili study), so it's been a fluid thing for us thus far.  But overall it's gone well and Caleb will officially begin a Kindergarten curriculum in the fall.

our homeschool table at home

In addition to homeschooling our own boys, I volunteered to take over a PreK/K class this spring while the mom who'd started it was doing Swahili study.  I ended up spending five months coordinating a class for ten 4- and 5-year olds on Mondays and Wednesdays.  It was more work than I expected, but it went well overall and the kids had a lot of fun.  We had to meet in someone's backyard for the first three months, but then we were able to move inside for the last two months, which was wonderful because the rainy season had started and because we finally had a big table for crafting!

nature hike to the river

PreK/K class

learning about chickens

craft time

indoor location

The MKs here typically stick to a normal American school calendar (starting in the fall, ending in the spring, followed by summer vacation).  They also take days off school for normal American holidays like Thanksgiving.  And this year the kids enjoyed a Snow Day!  Since there's no chance of a true Snow Day ever happening here, the moms coordinated a morning of fun for the kids by cancelling school and pulling out a slip 'n slide and serving ice cream (with homemade cones!)

slip 'n slide

fake snow

ice cream!

Some years ago, someone created the tradition of the Fine Arts Festival at the end of the MK school year, in which each family has a table to display art projects, as well as a program in which the kids have a chance to perform something in front of everyone.  This year the PreK/K class I taught sang a song and recited a verse, and the older kids did everything from recite an essay to sing in Spanish to perform a science experiment!  It was a wonderful way to celebrate all of the kids' accomplishments this year and to marvel at what they're able to do in spite of not having all the usual supplies and resources available that we do in the States.

our table at the Fine Arts Festival

And now the school year has ended and the kids are well into summer break, but they are far from remaining idle.  They continue running around and playing games and feeding flies to chameleons, and the past couple weeks has found the older kids taking some "summer classes" that I coordinated for everyone.  I've been hosting a Cookie class, while other people are teaching photography, CPR, and archery.  Several of the kids are also taking Swahili from a local language teacher.  So the MKs are having fun this summer before they'll dive into the next school year in September.

cookie class with the oldest MKs here

cookie class with 8- and 9-year olds

chocolate chip cookies!

It's an incredible blessing to have so many MKs here.  We know that most mission stations do not have as many kids around as we do at Tenwek, which is the result of the growth of the hospital which has drawn more doctors and their families to this place over the years.  We do not take it for granted. The kids are great friends with each other and they are going through the unique experience of an MK education together.  It's a monumental task for the parents to make sure these kids have a quality education while living in rural Kenya, but by God's grace it happens every year and we thank God for the chance to be a part of it.