Not sure where to start with homeschooling? Here are a few tips

With the cost of education rising, parents are increasingly considering home-schooling as an alternative.
With the cost of education rising, parents are increasingly considering home-schooling as an alternative.

Although there certainly are a lot of drawbacks to the coronavirus pandemic, it has opened up a lot of people’s eyes to the benefits of homeschooling.

Due to schools closing and parents' apprehension of sending children back once they reopen, a lot of attention has shifted to homeschooling.

The internet suddenly became flooded with information on homeschooling – from free worksheets, curriculum providers and online tutors to articles discussing the positive and negative aspects of this type of schooling.

Although all this information is great for parents already homeschooling, it can be daunting to new parents weighing their options.

The most common question asked on home school group platforms is:

"Can anyone help? I am considering homeschooling my child, but have no idea where to start."

I have been homeschooling my children for many years now and am happy to provide some tips for first-timers. Both parents need to be in agreement.

The very first step is for both parents to be in complete agreement on this. Homeschooling is very rewarding, but also quite challenging, and you will need the support of your partner.

You need to make decisions around changes to your lifestyle together, including how disciplined you want to be and what curriculum (if any) you want to use.

If this is just a temporary move, following a Critical Appraisal Skills Programme (CAPS) curriculum will make it a lot easier for your children to return to school.

Choosing the right curriculum

If you want to make this a more permanent move, choosing a curriculum or deciding not to use one, will depend on your children and what is the best way for them to learn. There are a wide variety of options available, so really invest time to find out what is best suited to your child, even if it takes a couple of months.

This may seem like a step back if your child has been in school, but if a new way of learning is more beneficial to your child, you will have better results in the long term.

Always keep in mind that homeschooling is not the same as mainstream schooling at all and any time lost during this crucial stage can easily be caught up.

The top ten methods of homeschooling used are:

1. Traditional Homeschool

2. Roadschooling

3. World Schooling

4. Unschooling

5. Eclectic Homeschooling

6.Classical Homeschooling

7. Montessori Homeschooling

8. Homeschooling with Unit Studies

9. Charlotte Mason Homeschooling

10. Waldorf Homeschooling.

Some of the methods we considered were:

Traditional Homeschooling

Children work through a box curriculum from a service provider and progress is tested during the year. Some service providers parents can research include Impaq, Teneo, Clonard, Think Digital, Brainline for CAPS curriculum and Cambridge for IEB (Independent Exam Board) curriculum.

CAPS is the system used by our public schools and IEB is used by private schools as they consider it of a higher standard than CAPS.

Eclectic Homeschooling 

With this method, parents combine different homeschool resources to best suit their child’s individuality. Parents can pick resources that fit well into their lifestyle and leave out topics that their child will not be interested in.

Unschooling 

This is a method where the child decides what they learn based on their interests. It doesn’t follow a specific curriculum, but rather uses life experiences as building blocks for learning.

Wild schooling

This includes equestrian and sailing skills, camping and survivalist, navigation and outdoor cooking - all these are just as important as traditional classroom subjects.

Wildschoolers don’t ignore book learning, but they put it on an equal plane with enjoying and exploring nature. If you have young children, this process will be a lot easier. You don't have to follow a box curriculum.

They learn a lot better through play, and this creates a much more relaxed atmosphere in which you can study them and get to know what works for them. If this causes too much uncertainty and anxiety for you, following a box curriculum might be a better option.

Just remember that you can be very flexible in your teaching methods and still make it a lot of fun. You are in charge of your child's education and you can always change to a different curriculum if the one you are using doesn't work.

Read: 'Downtime is essential': Homeschooling mom of eight talks family life under lockdown

If you have older children, especially those that have been in a mainstream school, it is very important to keep the end goal of their education in mind. Some children are more academically suited, whereas other children are more practical.

An academically strong child that wants to study further will need a curriculum that provides them with the best opportunity to enrol in a university. This is either a CAPS or IEB curriculum from a reputed service provider.

On the other hand, a child that is more practically inclined will become despondent with too large an academic workload that isn’t necessary for the field they want to pursue. These children need only complete their General Education Diploma (GED) to be accepted into a technical college.

Setting up a workspace

Your next step will be setting up space for them to work. Homeschooling can be done very economically – you don't need to build on a classroom or buy top-of-the-range equipment.

Most of us have internet available at home, which can be a valuable asset, but as you can source many materials from stores, it is not an absolute necessity.

There are, however, many sites available on the internet with free study materials and worksheets, so this could be a more budget-friendly approach.

Setting up a separate place specifically allocated for schoolwork is probably the best policy. When they enter this space, your children will know that it is the time to focus on school work and when they take a break they can move away and feel like they are leaving the work behind for a breather.

Also read: Willard Katsande: ‘Homeschooling? I’d rather stick to football!’

Our family hasn’t always had the luxury of a big house with separate space available. We would have all our school work in crates and use the dining room table.

Setting up the workspace each morning gradually shifted the kids' attention to school work and clearing up afforded them the chance to talk about problems or achievements they experienced during the school day.

Determining working hours

Another frequently asked question is "how much time do you spend homeschooling each day?"

This will vary from child to child and depend on the curriculum you are following. A boxed curriculum (especially CAPS) does take up a lot more time due to the large workload.

But because children are not in school where a lot of time is taken up by other activities, time to get the actual work done is shortened significantly. Children also don't have any homework so afternoons can be freed up for social activities or sports.

The great thing is that you can schedule their work around your day and not your day around their school's timetable.

This makes it possible for working parents to homeschool their children. Children indeed do a lot better with a fixed routine, but the routine can be set up according to the needs of the family.

READ: OPINION: Since schools are closed, should school fees be waived?

Working parents can always enrol the services of an online tutor, who can be fitted into their schedule if they find it too difficult to manage work, home and school.

My policy is to be as flexible as possible while still getting the work for the day done. Also, remember that there will be days where your child will struggle with a particular problem that will take up a lot more time to explain and solve.

I'd much rather they spend most of the time getting to understand it properly and leave other work for the next day. Focusing on problem areas for a longer period is one of the greatest benefits of homeschooling.

Home school groups

There are a lot of home school groups available on social networks where other home school parents are only too willing to help and give advice.

You can also access groups for social outings and sporting events to make sure that your child is afforded all the opportunities of children in mainstream schools.

Starting your home school journey is daunting and exciting all in one, but the rewards are priceless.

The main thing is not to get caught up in what other people think is the right or wrong way. We home school precisely because our family's needs are different from anyone else’s, and therefore we can be unique in our approach to it.

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