Cottage School Annual Presentations

The Cottage School is more than just about kids having fun and dancing. The Cottage School is a reinvention of education a way that children can learn naturally and enjoy learning so that they learn more. Here are some of the pictures from the annual presentation we held at the end of the term. #EducatingAllOfMe #CottageSchool

This slideshow requires JavaScript.





Teaching and Practicing Empathy as Homeschoolers During Covid-19

Let’s continue to learn, continue to grow and in doing so let’s be he best examples of kindness that the world needs right now.

It all seemed like a dream. Countries across the world closed schools because of Coronavirus. Overnight many parents started to get a glimpse of what it must be like to homeschool their kids. Hilarious and sometimes sad memes started popping up of parents voicing their frustrations as well as adult jokes of alcohol being used to teach fractions and multiplication.

Homeschool parents gloried in the fact that now others were forced to do what we have chosen to do as well as in the fact that once seen as a cultishly weird practice, is now commonplace in the majority of households simply because of Covid 19.

using alcohol to teach time at home

As an educator who has taught in both traditional and non-traditional learning settings, what I find is missing majorly in both learning places is empathy. We often forget that while learning Math, Literacy, Science, Art and the like are important (and they are), we are not trying to produce a bunch of brilliant tyrants that cause more pain to humanity.

In this season, where people are trying to figure out their “new normal” some are trying to figure out where their next meal is coming from while others are grieving the loss of a loved one. Let’s include the practice of empathy in our learning environments.

TCS Student Admiring Art

Rather than take on an, “I told you so” kind of stance, here are some ways to practice empathy and kindness while at home

  1. Keep Current:

Take a verified course on Covid-19 that stays away from conspiracy. Check out Coursera for an Updated Course on Covid-19 here.

2. Choose a theme

Choose a theme per week on a virtue word that you can work on together. There are so many to choose from: Love, Peace, Kindness, Sharing, Friendship, Acceptance, Harmony…the list goes on and on. Create activities that include songs, art and ways to practically express these virtues. Have the children journal and share their thoughts together as a family.

TCS Student Gardening

3. Give Back

Is your family safe? Healthy? Do you have food in your cupboards? If so then you are soaring during this time.  Remind your family that these are privileges that some do not have right now.  Discuss how you can either get involved with a charity that is doing good work in vulnerable communities or discuss ways to do acts of service as a family (while maintaining social distancing) that supports your community or vulnerable individuals.

Yoga Heart Kenya donating to an orphanage

4. Look on the Bright Side

Research and discuss the positive sides that Coronavirus has had on the world e.g. less car emission globally, the increase in animal sightings, dolphins swimming where the water was once too polluted, families spending more time with each other…the list goes on and on. Try to immerse yourself in these beautiful, positive stories to remind yourself that even in the darkest situations there is light.

5. Keep the Schedule and Give them a Break

And as we educate ourselves rather than overwhelm ourselves with current events while practicing empathy in our daily lives and giving back to the community, keep the homeschool schedule as a way to keep stability in the home. So much has changed in the world and stability is needed, while at the same time giving your children and others extra grace during this time is warranted. Some children may experience more anxiety and not know how to express it. Parents may be stressed more than usual due to financial worries. Expecting the best grades right now is a fictional tale but so much learning of the heart can take place if we allow ourselves and our children to experience this.

Dad hugs son

Let’s continue to learn and grow and in doing so, let’s strive to be the best examples of kindness that the world needs right now. So that when this is all over, many will remember us because we were available to meet the needs of the community. And to me, that is the best example of learning anywhere-creating learners who are able and available to solve real world problems. And right now, that is just what our communities need.

Apart, we stand together.
For Mental Health Support contact Befrienders Kenya.

Bringing Back Joy in Learning

“…They asked for the exam early and broke out in singing when I mentioned doing a review.”


“…They asked for the exam early and broke out in singing when I mentioned doing a review.”

It was about two weeks ago. Students were preparing for their exams. Excitedly they came into the classroom.  I began to go through the topics that we had learned in class one-by-one; reviewing areas where they needed to brush up and reminding them of the various learning projects that they had completed with the particular unit. I asked them to recall grammar, use of punctuation, spelling words and the like.


As the review continued something interesting began to happen. Throughout the review, someone would break out in song and everyone would begin singing along. It would go something like this; “Ok everyone what do you remember about homophones?” The students would reply with, “Weather, whether, weather, whether, weather you’re happy or not. Weather, whether, weather, whether, weather you’re cold or you’re hot…” while performing the actions to show the difference between the two words (Thank you Veggie Tales).

Afterwards, they would give examples of the particular unit of review and how it could be used in writing. We did this for metaphor, simile, making inferences and so on. “Ms. BB, (as they call me) that question was easy.” “We know this from the songs. Can we have our exams early?”



If what you’ve just read above doesn’t sound like a classroom that you’re familiar with you are not alone. We’ve been conditioned to believe that learning is stressful and hard for so long that when learning is actually enjoyable we tend to question whether any learning has taken place at all.

Songs and movement can be used at every grade level to enhance learning. Students who struggle with memorizing the dates in a Social Studies exam can sing all of the lyrics of the latest pop songs. Could the music industry have a clue into the interest of children and tweens that school policy-makers and curriculum writers may be missing?


As the time for class came to an end I realized, not only were the students enjoying their review, they also had confidence in their knowledge of the topic. Perhaps it’s time to trade in the sterile, quiet classroom structure for ones where students freely break out in singing a song when exam time is on the horizon.

Perhaps it’s time to bring joy back into the learning process.

Joanne Ball-Burgess B.A., M.Ed

Head Teacher of The Cottage School

The Cottage School Photography Workshop

The philosophy of The Cottage School is that deeper learning takes place when paired with the arts and real-life application.

In January 2017, the students at The Cottage School engaged in a week-long photography workshop. Under the guidance of Biko Wesa and the teachers at The Cottage School, a curriculum was created that crossed over into Math, Literacy History and Science that covered the topic of Photography for the week. The students learned about the history of the camera, how the camera evolved over time and notable photographers throughout Africa and around the world. After the morning theory and research, the students learned the art of taking photos in various locations.

Continue reading “The Cottage School Photography Workshop”