Here we will address some of the questions with shorter or more to the point answers. Some questions take whole articles to answer and will be referenced with links to those articles below.
Why is home education becoming so popular?
There are various reasons. Just as no two families are exactly alike, no two families’ reasons for home education will be alike. And that just might be one of the main reasons that people choose Home Education: it allows the child to be the individual he was created to be; he doesn’t have to conform to fit someone else’s mould!
You also need to realise that the reason why many parents initially choose Home Ed is not always the reason why they continue along this path – the unintended benefits (side effect) often keep them going. For instance, a family might choose Home Education because a child is battling to cope in mainstream school and the only other solution is Ritalin, but choose to carry on homeschooling because the child is no longer depressed (he is again the happy child they knew before the labelling,) with improved self-esteem and confidence.
Some more thoughts on why homeschooling is growing
1) Parents are turning on the brakes and wanting their littlies to celebrate their childhood through play and discovery. It thus allows children to grow naturally in a safe, loving environment.
2) Parents aren’t wanting their children to be peer-dependent. They’re not wanting their little girls growing up thinking they must be Barbie or Britney Spears or their little boys needing brand names to be accepted!
3) Parents are wanting a superior academic education for their children.
4) Parents are wanting to tailor their children’s education to their individual learning styles, special needs and interests. Thus every child can succeed! No-one is a failure!!!
5) Parents are wanting to instil their values and beliefs (worldview) in their children to lay a solid foundation before exposing them to other influences (hothouse or greenhouse effect.)
6) Parents are wanting to protect their children from violence, drugs, rape and HIV AIDS.
7) Homeschooling is family-centred; it builds strong family relationships. Parents are coming home: business, church and education are all being affected by this move.
8) Homeschooling allows flexibility and time to participate in disciplines that require dedication and huge amounts of daily practice.
Who is homeschooling?
1) Home education is on the rise in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Mexico, South Africa, the United Kingdom, and Japan. It is estimated that there are already more than 10 000 home learners in South Africa. According to Brian Ray, president of the National Home Education Research Institute, in his recent book, “Worldwide Guide to Homeschooling,” there were an estimated 1,700,000 to 2,100,000 children (grades K-12) home educated during 2002-2003 in the United States and an estimated 50,000 to 95,000 students homeschooled in Canada during the 2000-2001 school year. Estimates for England and Wales varied widely from 13,000 to 50,000. Australian figures were in the range of 35,000 to 55,000. And one homeschool organization in Germany reported between 500 and 600 homeschooled students.
2) Christians, Muslims, New Agers (ie. religious and secular families.)
3) Parents (incl. foster parents) without any teaching qualifications and with different personalities (or teaching styles).
4) Self-employed entrepreneurs, medical doctors, attorneys, teachers, you name it!
5) The rich and the poor of all races.
6) Promising young sportsmen and women.
What are the benefits of Home Education?
Home Education firstly benefits the family, as parents and children don’t lose touch with one another and thus society as a whole. Homeschoolers are confident individuals. They get to know themselves (their strengths and weaknesses) far earlier than their institutionalised peers, as the home is a safe place to make mistakes! They are encouraged to pursue their passions, to work independently and at their own pace, to question and to research. Homeschooling parents don’t only focus on academics and an exam as the “be all and end all”, instead they prepare their children for life by also emphasising the importance of good relationships, strong character and practical life skills.
What about socialisation?
Homeschoolers are able to socialise very well, in fact, better than their institutionalised peers! They learn social skills (what is acceptable and unacceptable behaviour) firsthand from their parents’ example instead of a group of rowdy, undisciplined 5-year-olds! Homeschooled children are not removed from life and placed into groups according to their age as school children are. They learn in a family context and often also accompany a self-employed dad to work! They thus know how to interact with various age groups. They often have to help keep the toddlers occupied while mom spends individual time with an older sibling. We have 9-year-old boys teaching 3-year-olds in Sunday School and 6-year-olds visiting “their best friends” in Old Age Homes! They are confident in the presence of adults (not intimidated due to an unhealthy authority figure image) and can conduct meaningful conversations on a variety of topics due to their general knowledge gleaned from pursuing their interests.
Can my child re-enter mainstream schooling?
Yes, any child in South Africa between the age of 7 and 15 years has a Constitutional right to education. Some schools may request standardised tests before placing the child in a specific grade, though age is normally given pre-eminence.
Does Primary differ from Secondary Homeschooling?
Yes. During the primary years, homeschoolers not only concentrate on teaching numeracy and literacy but most importantly on developing a love for learning and good books by reading aloud a lot to everyone. The child’s natural inquisitiveness is not suppressed but encouraged and regular excursions into the big, wide, wonderful outdoors is a regular occurrence.
During high school, however, learning often becomes a little more structured with the young adult taking more responsibility for his learning and the parent becoming a sounding board and mentor.
Can Homeschoolers go to University?
Yes, many curriculum suppliers offer either the National Senior Certificate or Cambridge AS and A-levels (the more popular option). Also most SA Universities are now requiring their own entrance exams due to the drop in the matric standard.
A young man who was resident in East London matriculated through Damelin at the age of 15 (this was one of the first exams he wrote in his entire life!). He applied for university entry for a BSc degree at RAU at the age of 16. He had to go for various interviews as they felt he wasn’t emotionally mature enough to deal with ‘Varsity life! He proved them wrong and at the age of 21 is in the process of completing his MSc with Maths as a major!!!
Homeschoolers, however, sometimes don’t choose tertiary education but instead seem very entrepreneurial and create employment for themselves, or are employed and trained on the job in family businesses. Homeschoolers are in demand due to their strong inter- and intrapersonal skills and dependability. They are highly motivated and can work independently – skills employers appreciate.
How and where do we start?
What NOT to do right now
- Don’t remove your child from school without legal advice (but also don’t worry too much about the legal aspect)
- Don’t let your decision to HS be based on your child or mother-in-law’s acceptance of the idea.
- Don’t rush out and buy the first curriculum you come across.
- Don’t expect your house and routines to remain unchanged.
- Don’t expect your friends or family to be ecstatic about your decision to HS.
What to do right now!
- Parents come into agreement
- Write down your reasons for wanting to HS. Explain them to your child (it doesn’t require his approval though)
- Remove your child from school
- Relaaax (and deschool)!!!
- Join ECHSA and a local Support Group
- Read LOTS of books on Home Education
- Set your long term and short term goals (Head, Heart & Hand; Marathon vs Sprint)
- Get to know your personalities, learning styles, strengths & weaknesses
- Research curricula
- Follow your child’s interests
- Share your passions
- Read Aloud TOGETHER (all those classics)
- Play board games & computer games TOGETHER
- Go for nature walks and research your finds TOGETHER
- Involve your child in day to day tasks (e.g. budgeting & paying bills)
- Give your child responsibilities (chores to develop character & skills)
- Record your daily activities – see the learning in everyday life!
- And finally, decide on curricula & buy only for now!
How to homeschool successfully
- Have your husband’s support; he should be the authority under which you can take refuge.
- Establish your authority as parents. Make your rules and the consequences of breaking them, clear (be consistent.)
- Organise your home & your time (as it suits your personality; this does not mean that you have to schedule every hour of the day, but a routine helps!)
- Delegate responsibilities.
- Start slowly (implement one subject at a time e.g. Week 1: Maths, Week 2: Maths & English, Week 3: Maths, English, Unit Studies)
- Know WHY you’re doing something and what the goal is (so that you can adapt the method if it doesn’t work.)
- Allow your husband to take over certain functions at specific times (e.g. weekends he is in charge of the kids, you relax.)
- Seek mentors (in your community), tutors or professional help when necessary – you don’t have to do it all!
- Join an HS Support Group (to share your ups and downs!)
- Get a hobby (your children can’t be your entire life, this can cause more downs than ups!)
- Have time alone/away once a year with your husband to relax, re-evaluate & plan.