Schools are reopening but not all parents are convinced it's safe to send their children back while Covid-19 infection rates are on the rise.
For many families, homeschooling has become an attractive alternative, as Chirani Meyer, a veteran home educator and activist, says.
Meyer is well known in the home education community and serves as group admin on a number of South African homeschooling Facebook groups.
She has spoken to Parent24 and has shared some statistics from her experience of the 2020 lockdown, revealing that there has been a 60% membership increase on various homeschooling groups.
She says there has also been increase of 134% in membership on the Lockdown Schooling@Home SA Facebook group.
Homeschooling by the numbers
A poll done on the group shows that 65% of parents have been using online classes provided for them by their children's schools.
Just 8% used private online institutions.
Twenty-two percent of parents chose to use alternative educational resources while only 2% used the school textbooks.
South African parents take education seriously. Only 2% decided to take time off from formal learning until school reopened.
Almost half of parents on the Facebook group said that they would only send their children back to school when they felt it was safe to do so.
The other half was divided, almost equally, between parents who were eager to send their children back to school once they reopened and parents who decided to homeschool their children permanently.
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What is the difference between crisis schooling, online schooling and homeschooling?
Crisis schooling is a term used to describe the circumstances most South African parents found themselves in at the beginning of the lockdown, where it was necessary for children to be educated at home, Meyer explains.
During this time, parents chose to either do online schooling, use school textbooks and worksheets to keep up with school work, use alternative methods of educating their children at home or take a break from school work until schools reopen.
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Parents who chose the option of online schooling say they like the convenience of the little-to-no prep work and that the children work independently. But on the flip side, it can be expensive and also easy to lose track of what the child has been learning and whether the child has properly mastered certain concepts.
They say there are also downsides to online learning as children miss interaction with school friends. Technical issues, such as a bad WiFi signal, can cause frustration.
Some parents have commented that their children are glued to a screen for most of the day due to online classes, assignments and homework which they don't feel is healthy.
Parents who have chosen to homeschool their children permanently have mainly done so because they have considered homeschooling as an option in the past but after experiencing it firsthand due to the lockdown, have finally taken the plunge.
Other parents have seen a marked difference in their children since they have been at home, Meyer says, adding that they are less stressed and anxious and they feel that keeping their children at home is better for their general well-being.
There are also parents who have lost their income due to the lockdown and can't afford school fees. Home education is more affordable.
A world of choice
Once parents choose homeschool, a whole new world of choice opens up for them regarding educational resources and options for school-leaving certificates, she says.
Many new homeschooling parents tend to cling to what is familiar and attempt to copy and paste the classroom into the living room.
But, Meyer says, this often leads to frustration as a curriculum designed to help a teacher impart knowledge to a large group of pupils in a limited period of time, does not always translate well into the home where teacher-pupil interaction and the environment is very different.
Many parents who work have also started homeschooling their children.
Meyer says that since the middle of May 2020 there has been a sharp increase in the number of people joining the Homeschool Parents Who Work SA Facebook group.
What about working parents?
She adds that parents who work use the option of online schooling, or hire an au pair or tutor, or even ask a family member to facilitate a curriculum for their children at home.
Some entrepreneurs take their children to work where they supervise the children's learning and expose them to the world of business at the same time, she reveals.
"Some parents work from home and are able to schedule their day around work and homeschooling," she says.
Homeschooling usually only takes up a couple of hours a day as the child's time is not taken up by usual delays that happen at school.
All the work can be done in the morning so there is no homework and more time for play or extra-mural activities.
A wonderful opportunity
Many people have the preconceived idea that learning can only happen at school, but in our modern age where knowledge is now freely available at the click of a button, our focus should move away from the institution and on to the individual.
Meyer says homeschooling is a wonderful opportunity for parents to instil a love of learning and the skills needed to access information which, in this fast-paced information age, will serve their children well throughout their lives.
Where to start
If you're helping your child learn remotely during the pandemic, here are some handy local resources.
For more information on how to start homeschooling and what is available in terms of the various approaches and educational resources visit The Homeschool Lounge.
For information on the legalities around homeschooling visit The Pestalozzi Trust.
Facebook groups are free, run by volunteers as a service to the community, and often provide enormous support and a trove of resources.
Parents who need support and encouragement while educating their children at home during the Covid 19 crisis, can join The Lockdown Schooling@Home SA Facebook group
Working parents who want to homeschool their children can join the Home School Parents Who Work SA on Facebook.
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