Home education is a viable alternative


Ever since being legalised in South Africa in 1996, home education has been on a steady growth path. There were 56 857 children being schooled at home, according to the 2011 census. Recent unverified estimates have put this number at 100 000.

As the country’s biggest home education provider, Impaq had just 400 pupils in 2002. This number grew to 16 000 in 2018 and is expected to surpass 18 000 in 2019.

This growth has come amid the backdrop of a changing education landscape.

Traditionally, home education has appealed to a variety of needs, from professional child athletes who have demanding training schedules to families that regularly travel. It’s also for children who live far from schools, such as in far-flung farming areas.

But it is becoming a viable alternative for parents who struggle to get their children placed in schools, where high demand has led to limited spaces and even overcrowding.

The department of basic education is working hard to address these issues, but home education can assist by easing this demand on our schooling system.

What’s important to note is that pupils who join curriculum providers such as Impaq follow the same Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statement curriculum as their school-going peers. They also fall under examination bodies overseen by Umalusi, such as the South African Comprehensive Assessment Institute and the Independent Examination Board. Because of this, a home-educated pupil can return to a traditional school at any point.

For parents who are considering home-educating their child, it’s critical to consider several factors that can make such an endeavour work.

The first is that parents must be prepared to take on more responsibility for their child’s day-to-day learning needs.

It’s important to use a provider that will supply a schedule and structure of what needs to be done and by when.

Books, including the assessments that have to be completed with the child, will also be provided.

Parents also get detailed facilitator guides, which tell them how to teach a subject.

There are many resources out there to assist parents in this regard, such as online teaching assets. In addition, there are many working groups in which parents — with varying knowledge sets — can assist each other in understanding how to teach the different subjects.

It’s essential that home-educated children practise the concepts they are learning. If a child is doing this, it will become evident very quickly whether there is a concept the child is not grasping.

Many parents find it easier to teach an early grade syllabus such as grade  1, but as children progress higher up the grades, these parents would typically seek the help of a tutor. There are hundreds of tutors across the country and they are independent of home-education providers.

Although tutors offer greater assistance, it’s important to remember that parents have to take responsibility for the child’s education right up to grade 9. This means the tutor is there for supplementary support, but cannot take responsibility for everything.

According to the law, a parent must register the child with the department of education.

Doing home education doesn’t mean that a child misses out on crucial social and integration activities either. In fact, home education can boost this because children can have more time to participate in several extracurricular activities and interact with a variety of peers. For example, there are home-education communities that organise sports and other activities such as debating. There are even matric farewells.

All in all, home education can be an enriching experience for parents and children, but it does require a mind shift.

Before making the jump, both the parent and the child must be ready to take on the responsibilities that this type of learning entails.

Louise Schoonwinkel is the general manager of Impaq, a subsidiary of the FutureLearn Group

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