Covid-19 and beyond: More parents go the home-schooling route

Parents trust home schools
Parents trust home schools

More parents are considering home-schooling amid the Covid-19 coronavirus outbreak, judging by enquiries made recently.

This is according to Karin van Oostrum, chief executive of Pestalozzi Trust, a registered public benefit organisation promoting the rights of home education.

Marita Green (46) and her husband Shaun (47) have been home-schooling their children since 2002. They have successfully taught one of the children up to university level, while the other is now an entrepreneur.

Marita said home education was not difficult to do and there are a variety of resources and help available for home teachers.

She told City Press this week that there were many home-schooling websites and Facebook groups to help parents get started. These platforms also offer ongoing support.

After schools closed on Wednesday until April 14 following a government directive, Van Oostrum said parents could use this time to help their children catch up with the syllabus. Home-schooling beyond the Covid-19 pandemic was another option to consider.

This is what Green and her husband have been doing since 2002.

“We started home educating our children back in 2002 when our eldest was five. We spoke to another home educating family at a wedding, and everything that we discussed made so much sense that we started considering home education for our children,” Marita said.

She is currently teaching four of their youngest children. The couple, who live in Ekurhuleni, have not stopped working.

Marita is a freelance curator of online resources, while Shaun is an associate at a large architectural practice. He has also been a lecturer of architectural management at the University of Johannesburg for more than five years.

The reason for home-schooling

Marita said home-schooling afforded the family a better opportunity to take up their responsibility as parents.

“We looked at the options – public, private and home education – and decided to try out home education ... and we were able to provide a more well-rounded education [for our children].”

She said their decision has worked out much better than they had expected.

“Our eldest two have completed schooling. One is studying at a university while the other is building an entrepreneurial business. The rest are learning and thriving. I have seen my two eldest children through schooling from the beginning. Currently, our other children are in grades 9, 7, 3 and 2.”

The different methods

She said that, when the family started home-schooling, they did the school at home method and followed a normal online curriculum.

“We have since realised that school at home is only one of many options. For instance, a Charlotte Mason approach, Unschooling, Classical Schooling, Unit Studies, and the Waldorf and Montessori [systems]. We follow a Charlotte Mason approach for the primary school years, and Unschooling for the high school years.”

The aim of education, she said, was to draw out the child’s potential. “So, each child gets to develop their strengths and weaknesses at their own pace.

“Generally, the children are at different levels with each subject. They might also do subjects that are not available on any curriculum.

“When a school leaver’s qualification is needed, the education of the child is at such a level that the certification is more easily acquired,” she said.

Which portals to use

Marita said there were a number of excellent resources available by experts in each field, which parents could choose from to fit each child’s learning style. She said many of these were available free.

For primary school children these include www.amblesideonline.org.

They adapted it for South African use. For high school pupils they used www.amblesideonline.com, DuoLingo, the mathematics enhancement programme from https://www.cimt.org.uk/projects/mep/index.htm.

The older children generally need less guidance and learn according to their interests.

Executing day-to-day duties

She said they didn’t have a set time table as the children moved at their own pace.

“Some will finish early, while others might take longer. They may also decide to do their work before sunrise or do two or more lessons in one day to free up time for other planned activities.”

She said younger children sit with her in the morning while working together through reading, writing and maths.

At mid-morning, she reads aloud to them from various living books for another hour. This period covers history, geography, literature, science, biology, government and finance. “We will also discuss world news and the books that we have read from the day before. During this time, they will either finish their earlier work, or keep their hands busy with drawing, building [projects] or whatever they can do quietly.”

How she maintains discipline

Because learning is a lifestyle in her home, she said discipline never really becomes a big problem.

“If a child does not want to work, there is usually a reason for it. Perhaps they are not ready for the work, or they find it is below their level, [they] are unmotivated or overenergetic. They might be busy with a project that draws their attention away [from the work]. Depending on the reason, we will find a solution. Sometimes, all that is required is to sit with them until they are done.”

Advantages and disadvantages

Marita said the advantages of home-schooling were immense. “Children learn from a young age how to integrate into society. They can learn at their own pace, learn from the best in each field of study, and learn deeply and widely. They have access to a variety of resources, sports and social networks.

“They are not encumbered by peer pressure. They are not scared to try new things.”

Marita had to think long and hard when asked about the disadvantages of home-schooling. She said that, because of its flexibility, when something doesn’t work, you have the ability to change it.

“So, disadvantages depend on the parents’ willingness to adapt and learn,” Marita said.

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