Pictured above: Sally and Eddy Ombewa at home in Kazakhstan. “The most rewarding thing is that the children feel in charge of their own learning,” says mum, Serah, about homeschooling.
Homeschooling flexibility is one of its biggest draws – especially for families living abroad. We recently spoke to Serah Ombewa, whose family, originally from Kenya, moved to Kazakhstan last year and whose two children, Sally and Eddy, are enrolled with Wolsey Hall. Here she shares her thoughts on her family’s homeschooling journey so far and how homeschooling flexibility helps let her family take charge of their day:
“We are a Kenyan family living in Ust-Kamenogorsk (Oskemen) in Kazakhstan. We have been here for almost one year now, and have just gone through our first five-month winter, where temperatures drop to -40⁰C. Being from Africa, this is all very new, especially since we had lived for four years in Rwanda where it can be very hot.
We have enrolled two children at Wolsey Hall Oxford. Sally, who is taking her IGCSE course, turns 14 in May, while Eddy, in Key Stage 3, is 11. They are entirely homeschooled as we could not find any schools here that teach in English and also needed an internationally recognised curriculum.
We found Wolsey Hall on the internet when we were making plans to relocate. Being first-time homeschoolers, we did not know what criteria to use in engaging a homeschooling provider. We were attracted by its relationship to Nelson Mandela, who studied for his Bachelor of Law through Wolsey Hall Oxford. At least someone famous knew Wolsey Hall.
It took us the whole of our first month to get organised but we finally put together a flexible schedule that works. Our day starts at 9 in the morning and ends at 4:40 in the afternoon. The timetable has seven lessons of 50 minutes each, and a long lunch break to allow Sally to learn the guitar and recorder, and Eddy to watch science videos (mostly BBC Planet Earth).
On most days, Maths lessons are in the morning hours, and the other subjects are randomly distributed. Changes to the timetable are made when there are assignments or when one falls behind schedule in one subject and needs more time. Free time is spent watching TV or movies, listening to music, Eddy playing with friends (even with very little knowledge of Russian or Kazakh!), Sally reading, dancing, or knitting (teenage friends are a little hard to come by because of language barrier).
The most rewarding thing is that the children feel in charge of their own learning. They follow the course outlines, use the internet a lot, and move at a pace that is comfortable. The most challenging part of homeschooling for me as the parent is being able to take them through the content. I usually need to do a lot of reading and look through their work to ensure that all is well. For Sally and Eddy, they miss their classmates and friends and the funny classroom experiences that are part of regular school.
For now, we take it one year at a time and our first milestone is Sally’s IGCSE examinations in May 2016. If we will still be in Kazakhstan after that, she will go on to A Level and Eddy will complete his Key Stage 3 and move on to IGCSE.
To new parents at Wolsey Hall, I have found that the members of staff, especially the course director, are willing to help when the going gets tough. Homeschooling can be overwhelming at the beginning. Personally, I needed help to register onto Canvas (I totally messed it up the first time), to come up with a daily timetable, and I continuously reach out when I am not sure of one thing or another. I find that the staff are near even if geographically far. We are happy to have found Wolsey Hall!”
– Serah Ombewa
As you can see, having a flexible homeschool schedule has really made a difference to the Ombewa family. We would be interested to hear your experiences of how homeschooling flexibility works for your family. You can get in touch through our contact form – we’d love to hear from you!