This is definitely something I have contemplated more than once over the past few years, especially as my girls have reached school going age. More often than not if you have a child with special learning requirements, a main stream school system, may not be able to provide adequate support for such a learner – making home-schooling a more attractive option.
Until in 1996 parents in South Africa had no other option other than sending their children to a school to be educated but in 1996 home education was made a legal alternative in South Africa.
To satisfy my curiosity as to why people home school and how they go about it, I decided to get a few moms to answer a few questions and shed some light on this ever popular topic.
Who is the person behind the “teacher”? My first question to moms who home school was whether or not it is necessary to have any training as a teacher but the general consensus is not. Personally I think it would be benifical to have some training, however most of the moms that I interviewed come from a completely different background to teaching. The only other consideration is, legally you are not permitted to teach other people children.
What Motivates Moms To Home School?
Here the answers varied but generally it all comes down to wanting a certain type of lifestyle for you and your family. One which is more laid back and without the stresses and pressure that main stream schooling can place on a family. To quote one mom: “The lifestyle that was possible through home-schooling was the biggest reason for me. Having more time with my children as they grow and learn, having more choice over the quality and contents of their education and being able to custom-make it for each child so it gives them the best opportunity for learning and developing at their own pace and according to their own style.”
What are the benefits of Home-schooling?
The main benefit of home-schooling is the flexible environment that you can create around your “school” day. There are less time constraints on you as a mom and a teacher and you can structure your day as you see fit. Extra – murals can be done if and when it is convenient for everyone to do them. One mom said the benefits for her are: “a slower, more relaxed pace of life and more family time but also lots of freedom for the children and parents and the opportunity to encourage a love of learning and education in our children.” Children also become accustomed to house chores and are more involved in each aspect of running a household. You are also able to better protect your children from the abuse that bullies inflict but I guess that we all have to deal with this issue some time in our lives, we cannot protect our children forever.
How Do Moms Motivate their Children To Work?
I have always wondered how home-schooling moms are able to motivate both themselves and their children to get out of bed in the morning, never mind actually getting any work done. I guess the key to this is being disciplined and having some sort of structured routine to work from. I think when your children are younger, pre-school age, it is less important to have a set structure but it as children become older structure would become necessary. One mom explained that the Charlotte Manson Method is helpful when establishing a philosophy for your home-schooling work ethic. To quote from the “Charlotte Manson” website: “Her method, the Charlotte Mason method, is centred around the idea that education is three-pronged: Education is an Atmosphere, a Discipline, a Life.”
What does a typical Home-school day look like?
I know that my girls would want to spend their day drawing, painting, playing computer games or watching TV; I almost forgot they would have to fit reading in there as well. Maths would definitely not be top of the list of things to do but I guess you can incorporate it in to your day somehow – baking perhaps? For moms with younger learners the school day would consist of “art, games, reading” whereas older students would, according to one mom: “focus on the 3 R’s – reading, writing and arithmetic as well as Afrikaans. We also do lots of baking, loads of outdoor play, crafts and have extra murals in the afternoon.”
What curricula do moms use?
One of the curriculums I have come across in my research is: “Little Footprints” which is a South African home-school curriculum, consisting of child literature lesson plans that focus on South Africa. You explore the fascinating people, animals and places that make up our beautiful land.
For maths studies parents use “MathUSee” and “Letterland” for Phonics. If you are looking for a more spiritual or biblical approach, to you teaching, then ‘Tapestry of Grace”, could be one to consider.
There is also Clonard home education system, which provides general curricula from Grade R to Grade 9. From Grade 10-12 the options they recommend are: “British International Distance College, any other FET College or a High School.”
Some parents utilise outside tutors for certain subjects like languages i.e. Xhosa, Afrikaans or French. Most extramural activities are done outside the home i.e. dancing, playball, team sports etc.
This was always a concern for me, how do you socialise your children if they do not go to school. As far as I can tell as long as parents make the effort, by joining a network of homeschoolers, socialisation does not seem to be an issue. What one Mom said on socialisation: “I’m part of a home-schooling co-op; it’s a group of 6 families that get together once a week to do projects, outings, games and playtime. Each Mom gets a turn to host a day, and can use her unique strengths and skills to teach the children something fun and exciting that day.”
An article I read during my research stated that, generally by Grade 4 children become more sociable, becoming intrigued by the social environment of a school and may ask to try “school”. I know that my eldest daughter is in Grade 4 this year and she has become more aware of friendships and what they mean. A talk we had at the school recently however stated that most true bonds only happen around grade 6 or 7.
What advice can home-schooling moms give to others?
I am sure that there are many people out there who are contemplating home schooling for their children, so I asked some moms what advice they can give to others:
“Home education can offer children the most amazingly joyful childhood but it is scary especially at first – choosing a path that is different from what everyone else is doing. Once the decision is made, most families seem very happy. Initially parents will have to make an effort to meet other homeschoolers.”
“The first thing I would say is ‘fear not’! It is a daunting road, make no mistake. There are no clear ways of the ‘perfect’ way to do anything along this journey, as each child is different, each family and each Mother! … and you are faced with endless Curricula choices that can be very overwhelming. Also, what works one year, maybe doesn’t work the next year based on the ages and stages of the children. But what I am learning along this road, is to not compare to others, not try and do things the way you think you should, but to be in touch with God, yourself and your kids and to make choices that are both Spirit-lead, intuitive and informative.”
A local website that I came across could also be a helpful resource: “Home School Info South Africa” , if you are considering home-schooling.
A big thank you to those moms that took time out to answer my questions, it was both enlightening and encouraging reading, what you had to say – I hope it can be of help to others too. I think it takes a huge amount of courage and tenacity to undertake this endeavour!