HOME-SCHOOLING by Kirsten Alexander

Every parent wants the very best for their child, and education that leads to a good life is top of the list. But what if the schools available just aren't good enough? Or what if your lifestyle finds you living on a yacht, out in the hills or travelling frequently? Is homeschooling a viable option?
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. As parents we know our little ones walk, talk and potty train at different stages - when they are ready to do it. We also know there aren't fully grown adults babbling in baby-talk and still crawling around; so we can be confident that at some stage our babbas 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 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 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 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 difficult 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 sports days, eisteddfods, prize-givings, workshops 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 so students can work independently without much supervision while textbook curricula has a more traditional approach and involves daily completion of work from texts in preparation for tests or exams. One approach, 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 that sustainable learning happens with 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. Another approach, developed by Dr. Raymond Moore suggests 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. The approach advocates delaying academics until the child is physically, emotionally and mentally ready to cope with the 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 maths) more sustainably. It also helps children 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 and 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 Your approach should consider what your child best gravitates towards and what your own teaching style looks like. You may design your own approach taking lessons from each of the above. It's important to do your homework before you decide, as a family, on the best route for you and your kids. South African Home-school Organisations Eastern Cape Homeschooling Association Cape Home Educators KZN Home Schooling Association Pestalozzi Trust The Association for Homeschooling South African Home-School Egroups Footprints On Our Land Homeschool Kitchen Table Tuisonderwys Homeschooling SA Homeschool SA Environmental Homeschool Group Christentuisonderwys IT'S NOT EITHER OR While home-schooling is a big commitment, it doesn't mean you can't pursue your own interests or even a career of your own. Of course, your work will need to be home-based but you won't have to be constantly supervising your children.   Many families who choose to home-school their children are one-income families, so it is entirely possible to manage on one income. In fact, most home-school websites will tell you that you can spend as much or as little as you can and still give your child a great education. Having said that, home-schooling is certainly not more expensive than sending your child to a mainstream school.   If you have the opportunity to teach your children at home, take it. You won't regret the time you spend with your children.

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