Home Education 101

It's important to consider the pros and cons of home education before taking a decision that best suits your family's needs. Stock image source: motionarray.com

Thinking about educating your child at home? Here’s what you need to consider

Due to the Covid-19 outbreak and the impact it’s having on our everyday lives, some parents and caregivers may be seriously considering the option of homeschooling. The reality is that homeschooling is not cut out for everyone, particularly those who don’t have flexible working hours or access to a stable internet connection and digital learning resources. Homeschooling is not a decision to be taken lightly because every family’s personal and financial circumstances are different.

Officially, home education is defined as an alternative to attending a public or independent school where a parent of a learner of compulsory school-going age takes on the responsibility of educating the child at home.

If you keep your child at home, you are obligated to apply to the Head of your Provincial Education Department to register your child for homeschooling. You can find out how to apply and what you need to do by visiting the Department of Basic Education’s website. You will find information about where to download the application form and what type of supporting documents you need to submit. The Basic Education Laws Amendment Bill (BELA) is expected to affect the government’s policy on homeschooling going forward. However, for now, the best a parent can do is follow a curriculum that reflects the minimum requirements for their child’s age, grade, level and ability.

We spoke to Jacqui Olivier, a mother and trained physiotherapist to find out more about the practicalities of homeschooling. Jacqui has been educating her 15-year-old son at home since the age of four.

What advice can you offer parents who are considering homeschooling?

The decision to educate your child at home is a huge responsibility and can be quite daunting at times. It also requires a lot of sacrifice.

  • Do your research well in order to decide if this is really what you want to do and if so, which approach would best suit your child/children and your family.
  • If something is not working, don’t be afraid to change it.
  • Don’t compare it to school — it’s not!
  • Be kind to yourselves. You will make mistakes, have bad days, and feel like giving up.
  • Enjoy the time (good or bad) with your children and nurture those relationships —   time passes so quickly.

What approach to teaching works best for you?

With regards to structure and content, there are different approaches to homeschooling. On the one side you get “unschooling” which has a more interest-led, or child-led approach without formal lessons. On the other side, you get the “school-at-home” approach using very structured, prescribed content. We are somewhere in between preferring some structure but still having the freedom to explore his interests (using a variety of resources) and the flexibility to progress at his pace.

What has been your biggest challenge?

One of the biggest challenges I think is the self-doubt: Are we doing the right thing for our child? Is he missing out by not going to school? Are we doing enough? It is important to constantly remind ourselves of our reasons for homeschooling and to evaluate with this in mind.  I look at my boy and, although he is a work in progress, I see a kind, respectful, socially well-adjusted, self-motivated young man developing; and I know we’ve made the right decision.

Have you found relevant resources online to help?

Yes, there are endless resources out there, many of them are free.  These are some useful links but there are many more: