“There is no school equal to a decent home and no teacher equal to a virtuous parent.” – Gandhi
As parents we know that our little ones walk, talk and potty train at different stages – when they are ready to it. We also know that there aren’t fully grown adults babbling in baby-talk and still crawling around; so we can be confident that at some stage our bubbas will adapt and learn to function as most people do. Why then do we expect our children to suddenly become ready for formal education at the around the same age? This is a question driving much debate around an increasingly popular choice to home-school our kids.
BY THE BOOK
There are a couple of important things to know before making an informed choice about home-schooling. It is absolutely legal, however the Department of Education requires that children be registered as home-schoolers, and it only recognises curricula that are based on the state curriculum. In South Africa, you’ll need to follow the state curriculum for Grades 10 to 12, and register with an examination board to write matric.
Research shows that home-schoolers are twice as likely to go on to tertiary studies; so home-schooling isn’t at all a disadvantage when registering for universities. The curriculum is standard and workbooks and lesson plans are very well detailed and laid out; you’re not required to be a qualified teacher in order to home-school your children.
One of the biggest challenges you may face in home-schooling your kids is keeping them socialised. This is incredibly important but not a difficult thing to ensure if you do your research. There are a number of social clubs and home-school support groups your kids can join and some home-school groups arrange sport days, eisteddfods, prize-givings and dances. You could also form co-ops with other home-school families and take turns hosting science classes, art activities or field trips.
HOW TO HOMESCHOOL
There are options on how to home-school your children just as there many options for which school to send your child. Home education materials fall into two main categories: textbook curricula or non-textbook curricula. Some work is designed in so your students can work independently without much of your supervision while textbook curricula are designed around a more traditional approach like completing work from the texts in daily increments in preparation for tests or exams.
One approach, known as the Living Books and Life Experience approach, is based on the writings of British educator Charlotte Mason. The idea is that children are not simply vessels to be filled with knowledge but rather sustainable learning takes place through hands-on experience and reading fun and interesting books, as opposed to simply text books. For more information on this approach read The Original Home Schooling Series by Charlotte Mason.
A third approach, developed by Dr. Raymond Moore suggests that children are often taught academic skills before they have the life experience or background knowledge to know what they are learning or grasp the concepts involved. The approach advocates delaying academics until the child is physically, emotionally and mentally ready to cope with stress of school. For more information read The Successful Home School Family Handbook or Better Late than Early by Raymond and Dorothy Moore.
A popular option for home-schooling children of various ages is the Unit Study approach. The idea is to take a theme or topic and develop it over time, integrating all subjects as they apply. This is a more natural way to learn and tends hold children’s attention on resisted subjects (like math) more sustainably and helps children to retain information for longer. How to Create Your Own Unit Study by Valerie Bendt is a good book on this topic.
The Classical approach suggests that the great defect of modern education is that we teach our children subjects, but fail to teach them how to think. The idea is to teach language and thinking skills that can be used to master any subject. For more information read Recovering the Lost Tools of Learning by Douglas Wilson.
The idea behind the Unschooling approach is that children have a natural curiosity and an innate desire to learn. This drives them to learn as and when they need and want to. The approach suggests offering advice, road maps, guide-books to get your children to where they want to go, rather than being prescriptive on what they should be learning. It’s a more unstructured approach allowing your child to pursue her own interest with parental support and guidance. For more information see The Relaxed Home School by Mary Hood
Of course the approach will depend on what your child takes to best, as well as your teaching style. You may certainly design your own approach taking lessons from each one above. It’s important to do your homework before you decide, as a family, on the best route for you.
South African Home-school Organisations
Eastern Cape Homeschooling Association
Cape Home Educators
KZN Home Schooling Association
The Association for Homeschooling
South African Home-School Egroups
Footprints On Our Land
Homeschool Kitchen Table
SA Environmental Homeschool Group
DID YOU KNOW: Albert Einstein, Leonardo da Vinci, Claude Monet, Charles Dickens, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Charlie Chaplin, Frank Lloyd Wright, Ray Kroc and Louis Armstrong are among a long list of extremely successful home-schoolers.