Pros and cons of home schooling

2013-08-24 00:00

TO home school or not to home school your children?

That’s the question many parents are asking, as faith in state schooling drops and the allure of more parental control in children’s learning beckons.

In response to a DA question early this year, Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga said 3 019 children in the country were being home schooled.

However, the Association for Home Schooling in SA’s chairperson Bouwe van der Eems disagrees.

Van der Eems said the number of home-schooled pupils in SA is estimated to be around 90 000 and growing at a rate of 10% to 12% per year. Most of these home education sites are not registered with the relevant provincial Education Department.

In KwaZulu-Natal, there are 328 registered home schooling sites with 420 pupils, according the department’s statistics, but there could be more.

Van der Eems said some provincial departments have limited administrative capabilities to register children for home education and have limited understanding of home education and the law.

“Officials often require parents to meet all sorts of requirements that are not stipulated by the law and as a result about 90% of home schooling parents do not register with the department,” he added.

Home education has been legal in South Africa since 1994 and has been growing exponentially since then.

The association said while parents choose to home school their children for physical and philosophical reasons, many want to protect their children from the influences of negative peer pressure, bullying and drugs. Others are not satisfied with the academic standards of the education provided at schools.

“It has been found that home education is very beneficial to family life, and family members develop very strong bonds,” Van der Eems added.

He said children can receive individual attention and progress at their own pace; it provides families with a lot of freedom and they can go on holiday outside the school holidays.

“Parents can provide their children with a quality education through home education at a lower cost than private schools,” he added.

But he said there could be strains financially if one parent has to stop working to do the home education.

“It is sometimes difficult for home-educated children to take part in activities that are provided at schools, such as sport and cultural activities. However, this is becoming less and less of a problem as lots of small businesses are starting to offer these activities for home schooling families,” he said.

Strengthening family bonds

VEENA Pillay from Ballito, a mother of two, has home schooled her two girls.

Her eldest daughter, Maya Pillay (16), was home schooled up to Grade 11 and scored the highest mark in the world for Cambridge International Exam IGCSE Physical Science. She also came tops in Sociology and English in SA.

When it was time for her to start Grade one, her parents decided to home school her because she was already way ahead of her peers.

“She loved it and thrived in that environment,” Pillay said, adding that she adopted the Cambridge International Examination syllabus.

She said home schooling offered her daughter so much freedom as she was not restricted by the rules and regimen of a mainstream schooling system.

“I’d say, ‘It’s a beautiful day, let’s go outdoors and read poetry’.”

Maya said home schooling gave her freedom to explore her own interests and she also learnt how to teach herself. This, she says, will give her an advantage when she gets to university where she plans to study criminal and human rights law.

Pillay cites the disadvantages of home schooling as being a lack of interaction with other children. “It can get a bit lonely.”

Sonja and Greg Wood of the Midlands home schooled their children, James (19) and Missy (24). Both are now entrepreneurs.

“I don’t think I missed out anything because of the family unit being so strong,” James said, while Missy said she would love to home school her future children.

James said over the years he was taught how to discover things and encouraged to continue learning.

The wellbeing of the family is the wellbeing of society, and home education knits together families, one of the reasons the Woods decided to home school their children.

Sonja said home education provides an opportunity for parents to teach and understand their child’s heart and helps build a strong relationship between siblings.

Sonja said they taught their children more than just reading, writing and numeracy; they also enabled them to develop good character traits.

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