What no-one ever tells alternative schooling parents and their children

Did you know that there are an estimated 100,000 children home-schooling in South Africa? And despite this number growing, there is still a lack of understanding about this alternative form of schooling. I interviewed a South African mom, Jackie Du Plooy, about her experience homeschooling her three children. Jackie is the owner of Prestantia Education, our preferred book dealer. Watch as she talks about her reasons for homeschooling and the responsibilities shared by both parents and scholars.

 

  1. Why do parents choose to home-school their children?

    Many parents are motivated to home-school their children out of a desire to control the quality of their education. And they are also keen to impart their own family’s values, apart from society’s norms. So, it is true that non-conformity with some mainstream ideas differentiates home-schoolers from their peers who attended traditional schooling!

    It has led to the most common prejudice against home-schoolers: that they are social misfits or highly religious. Although many home-schoolers in the past were members of faith-based communities, this is no longer the case.

    The control that home-school parents wish to exercise often begins with having a choice of curriculum. These parents often have doubts about the efficacy of the national curriculum in preparing children for post-scholastic qualifications, and even for an economically successful and active life.

    Control of their children’s education via home-schooling also allows parents to extend their authority over family values, such as avoiding mainstream cultural influences with which they may disagree. This may have led to the misconception that home-school children are “weird”! But different isn’t always the same thing as ill-fitting: all parents want the same thing for their children – to see their kids be the best that they can be.

 

  1. Do home-school children get enough social opportunities?

    Many home-schoolers mingle with a lot greater variety of age groups, when compared to mainstream schoolers who are grouped by age in their grades. This is because co-operative home-school groups (co-ops) offer a wide age-range of group activities.

    Furthermore, extra-curricular clubs, such as sports leagues and community centres, are often enlisted to ensure home-school children experience team work, under a leader in a group setting.

    Home-schoolers are no different to other kids: some are shy, others are highly social. Similarly, age-old challenges of raising children remain even in the smaller environment of home schools or cottage schools. The pains of growing up which manifest at mainstream schools cannot be avoided by simply altering the school environment, although bullying and other forms of inappropriate peer pressure can be relieved by home-schooling.

    But home-schooling is not a sustainable way to protect children from undetected or unacknowledged learning difficulties. Yes, micro-schools allow for more personal attention, provided the care-givers are skilled and passionate in their attention. However, just as at “bricks-and-mortar” schools, the efficacy of the educators can vary within a micro-school.

    This is not to say that stay-at-home parents aren’t able to school their own children, time and finances permitting. But the lack of emotional distance within the home-schooling family can lead parents to lose their objectivity. This can result in well-intentioned parents mistakenly avoiding the educational support or professional intervention that their children require and that they are unable to provide themselves. Sometimes independent professional assessment as well as outsourcing of expert remedial tuition is required, to maintain harmony in the home and to cater optimally to some children’s specific learning needs.

  2. How self-sufficient and autonomous do home school children need to be?

Home schooling presumes a certain amount of self-directed learning, which requires a level of maturity beyond what is normally expected of the general school population. For instance, UNISA (which is an adult correspondence university) achieves the lowest graduation rates of all SA universities.

 

Although distance learning providers can facilitate online tutoring forums and even continuous digital assessment, home-schoolers have fewer guided teaching hours than most regular schoolers. This requires more independent study habits and higher self-discipline than is usually demanded of school-going kids. This level of self-regulation can be especially tough for children with an external locus of control.

 

Hence, some form of adult supervision, irrespective of the home-schooling children’s ages, is usually required. This can be achieved either in the care of a tutor centre or cottage school, or else by a home-based parent. Sometimes even when schooling happens in the home, the parent may enlist the services of another care-giver or tutor, to monitor the child and to keep them on task.

 

It is true that a higher amount of self-marking and self-checking of knowledge is required of home-schoolers, in comparison to mainstream scholars. And by consulting professional educators, parents can establish the most educationally sound pace of learning appropriate to each child. For a parent to establish more accurately a child’s academic strengths and weaknesses, they may outsource grading to an independent assessor. This is especially more prevalent in subjective learning area components, such as creative language exercises.

 

 

  1. Why choose Cambridge International as the distance-learning curriculum?

Although some home-school parents are not looking for a specific school-leaving qualification, the need may arise for national certification. Then the choice is whether to seek an internationally recognised qualification that is also accepted locally, or else an accreditation that is purely local.

 

At primary school level, it is possible for parents to choose curriculae eclectically, without consideration for benchmarking their children’s scholastic attainment. However, once children reach high school, it is necessary to consider admission requirements to tertiary institutions. Some of the factors impacting this consideration are a family’s values and their children’s inclination to academic learning. Furthermore, accredited qualifications are costlier and more academically rigorous. And internationally-accredited qualifications are even pricier: there is no such thing as free education when it comes to international recognition.

Cambridge International Assessment Exams are universally recognised, and Cambridge University are globally prized for their school curriculum materials and for their standards of exams. Home-schoolers can study the Cambridge International syllabus at home and then just sit the exams at a nearby British International school without being enrolled there. But their exam fees and books are not cheap, due to the £ exchange rate, even though their syllabi are freely available online.

 

What makes CambriLearn unique?

CambriLearn divides the Cambridge-aligned syllabi into manageable sections over 34 “learning” weeks. Online material consists of customised, multi-sensory written and video lessons available online on any device at any time; but online lessons are blended with offline prescribed texts: lessons are more than just a reiteration of the books – the two work together to optimise learning.

And with CambriLearn, distance learning is blended with high human interactivity: students enjoy direct online access to subject specialists through safe and monitored channels. These hand-picked professional teachers are further trained in the Cambridge-assessment standards and provide virtual classroom tutorial sessions with a timetable that is published well in advance.

 

  1. What responsibilities do parents bear for their children’s home education?

    Part of the role of the home-school parent is to instil a love of learning in their children, so there is a continuous search for fun learning experiences and engaging educational material. This requires home-school parents to research and compile their own learning resources (whether they are pre-packaged by providers or they need custom design).

 

Home-schoolers are usually highly active in many interests outside their home: field-trips, volunteering, sports, cultural and creative opportunities. This requires a degree of creativity from home-school parents, since extra-curricular activities need to be organized outside of the home.

 

Typically, because the home-school day is finished a lot sooner than a regular school day, there are plenty of opportunities to get out and do something else (which is why home-schooling is highly suited to international athletes and high-performance artists). As there are no external school calendars to observe … no school terms nor holidays to comply with … no bells to answer to, home school parents enjoy a lot more flexibility of school timetables. But this requires more organizational skill and scheduling ability from such parents.

And ultimately, home-school parents are the role-models and disciplinarians in their home: until their children are intrinsically motivated to learn, they will have to set them boundaries and appropriate consequences for their breach. This requires constant vigilance and a strong constitution on the part of parents, as their authority cannot be delegated!

Home-schooling aims to prepare children not just for higher learning, but also for real life: economic productivity and self-sufficiency. There is no certainty that a classroom environment is educating the child adequately to parents’ desire. True education nurtures independence whilst enabling inter-dependence:  collaboration by highly self-regulating individuals who are capable, caring and connected.

 

“The illiterate of the future will not be the person who cannot read. It will be the person who does not know how to learn.” – Alvin Toffler

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