Diversity, Challenges, Dedication – Kenya report, 2012

We got on the plane and buckled our seat belts. It was a daytime flight scheduled to last eight hours. That was good because we had some polishing work to do. Little did we know that God had a greater task to accomplish as He prepared us for the time we would spend with our brothers and sisters in Kenya.

Finally we tucked away our notebooks and turned our attention to the crystal clear view. Italy, the boot-shaped nation with Sicily at its tip, was surrounded by sparkling water below us. There was something about the sight that began to open our minds to the proportions we were seeing – still massive from seven miles high. Some thirty photos later we continued to mark our way on across the Mediterranean.

The coast of Africa added to the impact on our perspective with iridescent water meeting ruddy shores. Desert sand stretched as far as our eyes could see with only an occasional spot of ‘civilization’ with no apparent connection to anything else. Yet the landscape was anything but static as it flowed below us for hours. We were intrigued by dramatic changes in elevation that looked as if they’d been carved out of stone. Other times there were patches of odd shapes displayed in random patterns.

At one point we went over a large body of water with smooth shores on one side and an extensive and rugged façade on the other. Vegetation and a settlement were highlights of this sighting. Another snapshot was of a huge depression which remarkably resembled an elongated elephant footprint. We were even treated to a sand storm which we caught on video. It was as if God was unrolling a scroll before us displaying the geography of Africa as a portent of the immense breadth and diversity of the people and cultures we would meet.

The homeschool community in Kenya is a wonderful introduction to the nation as a whole. Parents are warm and welcoming, and children are delightful. When we met six year old Tinashe for the first time she graciously extended her hand in greeting. When I admired the pink of her outfit she giggled. Nine year old, bespectacled Jane was so engrossed in her book that she didn’t notice our approach. When we asked if she thought our granddaughter might enjoy what she was reading she enthusiastically shared her thoughts. Fifteen year old Nate casually introduced us to the Jackson’s chameleon he’d collected from a nearby tree.

We had many and varied interactions with parents. Perhaps one of the most significant was when we asked a small group what the challenges are that they face since they don’t seem to be oppressed by educational law. The immediate response was socio-cultural opposition. The first question any parent is asked is where their children go to school. The answer they give determines exactly where in the social ‘pecking order’ the family falls. The resulting status affects a wide range of cultural interactions across the extended family context.

In some ways needing to stand in the face of inquiries about how undertaking the full-time discipleship model of parenting will affect the lives of our children is an experience shared by all homeschoolers. But the verbal and facial expressions of the Kenyans in front of us made it clear that the pressure brought to bear on them by relatives, friends, colleagues, and (yes) fellow worshippers is a major hurdle with which they must contend.

It’s important to remember that expats (expatriates) make up a portion of the homeschool community in Kenya. They may hold passports from other countries, but they are residents who seek the same encouragement, support, and resources that their national counterparts do. While English is a common language, swahili is spoken by most folks. Tribal languages also abound and therefore curriculum is a key topic in most homeschool discussions.

It might seem an easy fit to use English language materials, but the ‘cultural divide’ can be wide. Subjects such as history and literature are especially highly context-oriented. Social studies and geography often do not include adequate in-depth material on participating nations. Music and art may include a broader exposure yet still omit a particular and relevant genre or heritage. We suggested parents consider developing Kenyan homeschool curricula as a way to contextualize academic material in the light of biblical truth.

Probably the element that struck us most powerfully in all of our interactions with Christian parents who are choosing to take on the responsibility for the academic education of their children at home was their dedication. No matter the demands, no matter the effort, no matter the opposition they are fully committed to provide their children with the best educational opportunities possible. It may not be a surprise that parents want to give their all, but there’s more to it in Kenya.

Every parent with whom we shared in any depth expressed a deep conviction of the call of God to homeschool. Some stories were brief. Others were long and involved, covering years. “Inez” probably communicated most eloquently. “We just knew that God was telling us that, in the midst of the turmoil around us, the only way to make Jesus central in the lives of our children was to keep them at home for their schooling. So that’s what we’ve done and God has blessed us.”

Back at home in Prague we begin to settle back in, but all the while we ponder what took place over the last three weeks. God took us to the beautiful continent of Africa. The Spirit prepared us for the trip as thoroughly as those He brought us to meet. Jesus blessed the offering we submitted for the sake of His gospel. The Father accomplished His will according to the plan He laid out before the foundations of the world. We learned a lot and pray blessings over our brothers and sisters in Kenya. Will you join us?

This article was offered for publication to a wide audience of homeschool organizations and publications. We are uncertain at this time exactly where it appears.

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