This interview is part of a series called “Tapestry is Everywhere!”, in which we learn from Tapestry users who are applying the curriculum in surprising ways or places. In this article we’ll meet Alesha, a homeschooling mother and Tapestry user who lives in West Africa!
Why are you in West Africa, Alesha?
We are missionaries with Pioneer Bible Translators. We work with a people group called the Kono who don’t yet have a Bible in their own language, or indeed anything written in their language until recently.
Is there any one interesting thing about the Kono culture that you’d like to share with us?
One thing that’s interesting is how everybody eats very communally. They mostly eat rice with some kind of sauce on top. It’s much more communal than we have in the West. For big events they will cook a huge amount of rice, like a laundry basket of rice, and bring it out and everybody eats from the same dish. I love food, so that’s a big thing for me. It’s a rule that you have to eat with your right hand. It reminds me of the Last Supper with everybody eating out of one dish, literally sharing the same meal. Of course it’s easy for us to worry about germs, etc., but it’s a big honor for them when we join them. They just did a meal like that recently at our church.
I have to ask, why do you use Tapestry in Africa?
Why did you picked Tapestry in the first place?
I’ve been using it for six years. One year we didn’t homeschool because we were doing language training in France, and one year we used another program, but mostly we’ve used Tapestry. Two other families and ourselves had students in second and third grade, and we decided we wanted to do Tapestry. We wanted something that combined chronological history with activities, and we really liked how the writing program fit into the history studies. My oldest is now a freshman in high school and we’re all still using Tapestry.
What have been some of the challenges of homeschooling with Tapestry in Africa?
I think the biggest challenge has been not having a library nearby, which means it’s hard to do any homeschooling program (not just Tapestry). But the internet really helps and I really love how thorough Tapestry’s booklists are. That means that if I follow the booklists and plan in advance to buy all the books on the list, we will have a good variety of options and everything we might need to complete the assignments.
I can easily see how the internet would be important. Do you have good internet?
Yes we do, and we are even joining a virtual co-op this year (the Shema co-op). I’m going to put my three oldest daughters (one rhetoric student and two dialectic students) into it, and I’m really grateful that we have the option to do that so that my daughters can have peer discussions!
Have you had any interesting culture clash experiences, being homeschoolers in Africa?
Well, we have kind of a French education system here, and my rhetoric level daughter’s peers in the church choir can’t really wrap their minds around how she does school on her own. They are used to doing rote memorization based on what their teacher tells them, so they can’t understand it. In one conversation that my daughter Kaelyn was having with the girls from choir, one of them said they figured that Kaelyn could do her school by herself because she must only do one subject, not lots of subjects like they do here at the national schools. I thought that was funny. And they were surprised that she doesn’t get “spanked” at school by her teacher. Apparently they do!
Are you glad, as you enter the high school years, that you’ve been using Tapestry for six years? Do you feel that your older daughters are enjoying their education and learning to be thinking people?
Yes, I do. We just finished up speech writing as an exercise and I asked them to do their best even though there wouldn’t necessarily be an audience. I was impressed with how willing they were to work hard, and I see them being more independent, meeting deadlines, etc., as they get older. I would attribute that in part to being a missionary—having to be flexible because we travel a lot and have to do school at strange times… but also I think they work hard and are independent because of being homeschooled from the beginning.
Has TOG been a source of encouragement and continuing education for you as you are sort of “on your own” in another country?
Yes, definitely. I keep learning and it’s been a way for me to be challenged, and to keep on learning more about home even when I’m far away. We’ve never actually done Year 1 but we are going to do it this year and I’m really looking forward to it because of the opportunity to focus on building a biblical worldview. The village here has actually shown me a lot about what it must have been like to live in biblical times.
Do you have any prayer requests for us?
An ongoing prayer request that we have for our kids is finding the balance between helping them to stay connected with people and things back home, and yet learning about the culture and people here. Because of my children’s ages and the way the culture is here, we don’t feel comfortable just letting them go off on their own, and homeschooling does take a lot of time, so you do have to find time to help them get together with others. Also, pray for them to continue to develop good relationships with each other in their sibling group.
For myself, I would ask you to pray for much the same things as I ask for my children. Homeschooling takes a lot of time and preparation, and I want to do that, but I also want to be sensitive to the Spirit’s leading to consistently be willing to reach out to new people as He brings them into my life.
We are grateful to Alesha for taking a few minutes to talk with us about how Tapestry supports a missionary family while they are serving Christ. We invite you to join us in praying for her!