Home schooling 101: advice from the experts

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Homeschooling 101
Homeschooling 101

Here’s what you missed – plus you can still get a recording of the event, for everything you need to know about home schooling

By Jane Vorster

When schools shut down earlier this year, parents suddenly had to take responsibility for educating their kids during lockdown. And many were surprised to discover that instead of it being a chore, they actually enjoyed stepping into the role of teacher and that their children thrived as a result.

Now, with uncertainty hanging over the rest of the academic year, some are considering sticking with home schooling for the foreseeable future. But what does permanent homes chooling involve? What do parents need to do?

To answer all your burning questions, YOU and DRUM held an informative Home-schooling 101 online event and invited five experts to unpack the legal, social, emotional and practical aspects of home schooling. All of them know exactly what it entails because they’ve homes chooled their own kids, so they had plenty of tips to give to others who are only just embarking on their home-schooling journey.

In case you missed it, here are some of the key takeaways from the event.

Don’t feel intimidated by the process

Everything that you do is going to be focused on your child’s best interests and that’s in fact what the whole legal setup is there to do: promote your child’s best interests, says Christopher Cordeiro, who is the founder of LearnFree – an organisation that promotes educational freedom.

“You don’t have to be jumping through hoops and doing all sorts of things to serve other people – it’s your child’s best interests that are key. The law is there, and the Department of Education should be there to facilitate and make the transition (to permanent home education) easy for you to do.”

Home education VS learning from home

Parents who intend keeping their kids out of school permanently need to deregister them from their school and register for home education with the Department of Education, Christopher explains. But those who are planning on allowing their kids to return next year, for example, must keep their children registered with their schools and will have to follow a separate process with the department. This process differs from province to province, Christopher advises. For more information, consult your local education department website.

“The key difference is that parents who opt for home education will deregister their kids from their school, which means their place at the school will no longer be guaranteed and you won’t be liable for school fees, depending on the contract you have with the school,” Christopher says.

Get good advice

Do not sign a form if you don’t understand something. “Please get advice,” Christopher urges. “If you have something you’re concerned about, contact the Department of Education or the Pestalozzi Trust [an organisation that exists to offer advice to home-schooling parents].” And whatever you do, keep records – emails, screenshots of all correspondence, he advises.

Just do itYou don’t have to have all the answers, says veteran home schooler Wendy Young.

“Home schooling is a 24/7 lifestyle of learning,” she adds. “When you start home schooling, you are committing to facilitating and shepherding your children and it’s not to be taken lightly. But as you grow in your home-schooling role you will find that it’s no longer a parent/teacher role, that the shepherding of your child’s education actually begins to merge and it’s an extension of your parenting.”

Parents need to get out of a “school” mindset

“For many years, parents have believed that education only takes place in an institution known as a school, and lockdown has provided parents with a vision that it’s a perfectly natural state for parents and children to be learning alongside each other,” Wendy says. “And the longer you home school, the more confident you’ll become in this task.”

One of the terms that is often thrown around when you’re starting out is the word “de-schooling”. Wendy explains that this is a period of time when children and parents can adapt to being out of the school system and embrace a new way of learning.

“It’s important to realise this isn’t a time for your child to just sit glued to a screen, while you tear out your hair. This is a time for you to learn to be together again and enjoy each other’s company, bake, visit museums and read lots and lots of books. This will give you the time to investigate curriculums and make decisions.”

A few things to consider before you jump in:

Time: How much time do you have to give one-on-one attention to your children? Whether you choose a relaxed or a formal pathway, there is always a personal, emotional and often financial cost involved that you need to weigh up, says Wendy.

Your budget: “Some expensive programmes with all the bells and whistles seem like they’ll do the job but end up being a costly mistake. Do not rush into buying a curriculum but do consider your budget.”

Learning styles: How do your children like to learn, and how do you like to engage with learning yourself? Do you like to read with your child, do you enjoy doing hands-on activities, do you prefer to go out and watch people doing things and come back and try them yourself? This will determine more or less the kind of programme you will be drawn to, Wendy says.

Choosing a curriculum

You no longer need to keep up with the system so you can offer your kids a customised, tailor-made personal programme that will allow them to progress at their own pace.

Wendy explains that in terms of home schooling, there’s a spectrum, with some parents choosing to “unschool” and do their own thing, totally out of the school system, while others elect to follow the system closely.

“As a family, we tended to sit in the middle with what we termed ‘an eclectic home-schooling model’,” Wendy says. “We allowed our children to have great freedom in many of the subjects, but we kept three of them going year by year, grade by grade and level by level, and those are the three subjects that everybody needs no matter what function you find yourself in later on in life.

“Everybody needs to read, everybody needs to do maths and know how to write. So those were the three that we called our discipline subjects and then we allowed them to choose subjects according to their interests – science, history, coding, music, art, baking, a second language, a third language. And that’s where the eclectic mix came in and allowed us to personalise and tailor-make our children’s education.”

She says when starting out, some parents like to buy a boxed curriculum because that’s what is familiar to them and their children.

“But it’s not necessarily the right thing to do. In my experience and with the parents I consult with, some children get bored and frustrated and mothers burn out trying to motivate their children to learn a school system in the home.”

“I like to recommend home-school programmes that are written by home schoolers for home schoolers. One of the reasons I do that is that it does not assume you have a body of knowledge behind you, that you’re an expert maths or a science teacher.

“The beauty of these home-school programmes is that you can open up a book and start to teach your children as though you’re an expert without having to have all years of teacher training behind you which isn’t necessarily the case when you choose a boxed curriculum.”

Want to know more? You can still watch our event. Click here.

What our readers had to say about the home-schooling 101 event:

Tumi: I am feeling so much more comfortable. I can’t wait to have the discussion with my boys get their buy in. Thank you so much.

Ravesh: Thank you team. Inspirational.

Kabelo: Thank you, this was great.

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