Parents often wonder whether traditional schooling is giving their kids everything they deserve. Homeschooling always seems like an attractive alternative because, ultimately, no-one cares about your kids the way you do.
Whether or not homeschooling is a good idea is a debate that’s been going on for many years. There are people standing on either side of the argument, fiercely defending their positions and are dead set in their ways. Unfortunately the answer is not that simple.
Just as there are good schools and bad schools, there are good homeschools and bad homeschools. Homeschooling is an entirely different style of learning, and to pretend it is a good idea for every learner would be doing a disservice to many, but pretending it is a bad idea for every student would, too.
How does homeschooling work?
General Education and Training Phase (Grades 1-9)
In order to begin homeschooling your child in the Basic Education and Training Phase (grades 1-9), you have to apply to the head of your provincial Department of Education to register your child for Home Education. This registration is necessary for these ages because according to the South African Schools Act, it’s compulsory for a child to attend school from the ages of 7 to 15, which is why you must apply for exemption from this in order to homeschool your child. Once you have registered your child, you have to offer them tuition that falls within the scope of the following three phases of education:
- foundation phase (grades 1-3)
- intermediate phase (grades 4-6)
- senior phase (grades 7-9)
Further Education and Training Phase (Grades 10-12)
From grade 10 onwards, your child will need to follow the same syllabus as they would at a school if they wish to obtain a South African matric certificate (NSC) at the end of their schooling. They will have to complete the standardised matric examinations in order to gain this qualification. However, many parents choose an international syllabus (such as the British Cambridge Syllabus or US GED) for their children to follow. For these syllabi, your child needn’t submit work throughout the year, they only have to complete the standardised examinations. While this is more convenient, it does make it more difficult for you to track your child’s performance throughout the year.
Knowing exactly what work to cover and when can be extremely challenging, especially for a parent who is not experienced in education and/or teaching. Because of this, there are numerous distance learning and online curriculum suppliers that will give you all of the material and content that your child needs to cover in order to complete each academic year successfully. Most of these suppliers will also set and mark standardised exams so that you can ensure that your child is being tested at the appropriate level. Your child will also have to complete and submit portfolio pieces — written assignments and projects, that will have to be submitted throughout the year. This will allow you and the supplier you have chosen to use to continuously assess where your child is at and identify and focus on areas of the syllabus that your child is struggling with.
What type of atmosphere would you need to set up?
Homeschooling requires an immense amount of discipline, and this comes with its own challenges. While homeschooling is innately less structured than typical schooling, having a little bit of structure always helps.
- Physical Environment
Every learner has different requirements when working. Some learners will need their workspace to be absolutely quiet and clutter-free, while others find that background noise or music greatly increases their ability to focus. In order to homeschool successfully, you will need to find what environment is optimal for your child and create it. No matter your child’s learning style, you want to minimise distractions. A good way to do this is to have a designated learning area, separated from the busier parts of the house. You want to ensure that your child has all of the equipment they will need to learn effectively, finding the right equipment to use while working can be time-consuming and is also a great way to procrastinate (so try to avoid it!).
- Have a Structured Learning Schedule
This means that you set out designated learning hours (with scheduled breaks) and you have goals and deadlines. This kind of structure facilitates learning and encourages the student to work in a disciplined manner. It is also important for you, as a parent, to be supportive and patient, while maintaining some discipline. Learning is difficult, especially when you have to do it by yourself at such a young age. It is important that a parent who is homeschooling their child is sympathetic to this while maintaining the discipline required to complete the curriculum successfully.
What type of person is best suited to homeschooling?
It is important to remember that if you choose to homeschool your child you are removing them from an environment in which they are interacting with a diverse range of people. This will better prepare your child to enter the adult world than the isolated homeschooling environment. This is because in a traditional school your child interacts with people from a wide range of socio-economic backgrounds, teaching to understand and sympathise with people who were raised differently to them.
On the other hand with homeschooling your child is also able to come into contact with a broader cross section of people, and it is an opportunity for them to relate to individuals from different age groups on a more real life personal relationship basis.
Traditional schools are better equipped than your home would be and they offer a wider range of enrichment and extra-curricular activities. Homeschooling often means that one parent will have to stay at home full-time in order to facilitate their child’s education.
Homeschooling is a good idea if there is some reason your child can’t attend traditional schooling or if you are completely committed to giving your child an education that is of a higher quality than what is available at the traditional schools in your area.
Homeschooling is far more flexible than traditional schooling. If your child excels in something extra-curricular and would like to pursue that as a potential career choice, homeschooling is an excellent way to facilitate their passions while ensuring that they receive a good quality education.
There are learners who have particular learning requirements that are not facilitated by traditional schools. Such students may not be given what they need in order to thrive by traditional schools. It is important to be wary if your child has a learning disability. Many parents of children who suffer from learning disabilities feel that they understand what their child needs best. Children like this, however, often need people who have specialised in educating special needs children to thrive. Because of this, it is important for the parents of special needs children to do adequate research and perhaps seek professional advice before beginning to homeschool their child.
Pros and cons of homeschooling
Homeschooling has many pros and cons, here are some of the most significant ones:
|Your child can work at his/her own pace||Hard work for the parent and child|
|More flexibility with time (facilitates extra-curricular activities)||Isn’t the norm|
|Removes your child from an environment where peer-pressure and bullying is prominent||Fewer teaching resources than schools|
|Facilitates closer family relationships||Your child spends most of their time at home|
|One-on-one tuition means there is more time for thorough teaching and learning||Socialising can become more difficult|
|Teaching can be tailored to your child’s needs||It takes an immense amount of commitment and dedication|
Homeschooling is not for the faint of heart and there will be challenges along the way. It is hard work for both the child and the parent. It also comes with a lot of responsibility — you take your child’s education into your own hands and if something goes wrong you might question whether you are doing the right thing for your child. This is why it is not a decision that should be made lightly.
Before you choose to homeschool your child you should ensure that you have researched all of your options extensively and discussed it with your child to see if it is something that they would want to do. If you have done all of this, you are able to create an environment that allows your child to thrive and, ultimately, reach their full potential.
Megan Marais, (M.Ed) homeschooling graduate in 2004, shares her experience on homeschooling and how it’s prepared her for life after school:
“Homeschooling allowed me to work at my own pace and become who *I* was, free of the peer pressures of the school environment. After a couple of months of adjustment I found that it had prepared me very well for university, and now I find that it has prepared me extremely well for owning my own business, since I learned self-motivation, time-management, and belief in my own ability to figure out and learn the things I need to get where I want to go.”
Homeschooling your child used to mean that at least one parent had to be home full time – it was very difficult for them to have a job. In the age of the internet, this is no longer the case. There are many companies that facilitate homeschooling entirely over the internet, which means that your child is able to work and learn on their own. This requires a lot of discipline, but it also means that both parents are able to have full-time jobs, so it is definitely something worth considering. These organisations also organise social gatherings for children who are being homeschooled in their area. This means that they are able to socialise with people who are not only their age, but are also coming from a homeschooling environment, so they have the opportunity to talk to people who are sympathetic to the challenges they face and who understand the life they’re living. A popular such organisation is Brainline.