Although choosing to school children outside of the formal school system can have its panicky moments, the rewards are worth it. This is according to homeschoolers and cottage schoolers who took part in an information and market day at the Fish Hoek library over the weekend.
“We have the right as parents to choose the education for our children,” said Shirley Erwee, who has been homeschooling for 19 years and was one of the speakers. The event was hosted by the library in association with Peak Academy and Footprints On Our Land.
“The first year of homeschooling is referred to as the panic year,” she said to appreciative laughter, adding, “The more you know, the less you worry.”
One of the first tasks of homeschoolers was to “deschool” the children and themselves. Spend time getting to know the children’s unique talents and ways of learning. Don’t rush to buy a curriculum and don’t try to replicate the school system, Ms Erwee said.
“The most important thing is to educate yourself.”
Support groups, whether physical or online, were essential as were getting children involved in activities and outings outside the home - and chores in the home.
The bigger hurdles were the legal ones, particularly if you registered your home or cottage school with the department of education. Schooling is compulsory for seven- to 15-year-olds, but Ms Erwee said, more than 90 percent of homeschoolers did not register - and that it was only when registering that problems occurred. She spoke about conflicting laws and rights and suggested that most homeschoolers choose “lawful non-compliance”, linking up with the Pestalozzi Trust which gave the legal backing, according to the website, to “work together to protect one another’s freedom to provide home and private education”.
Carol Lubbe from Murdoch Valley is one of the parents who deeply appreciates homeschooling. Her children are 12 and 14 and she used to be a teacher at a private school.
“Parents are the first teachers of children, not the state - but if you choose the state, that is also okay, it’s your decision. I think that in homeschooling, children learn to take ownership of their own education much earlier. They realise I can’t force them to learn - they have to choose to learn. If they slack off, they know they have to catch up later.”
She said that once her children had learnt to read, they pretty much quietly got on with it.
“They are self-learners. My effort is to socialise them, such as taking part in market days like this. My daughter is on a poetry camp this weekend! But all parents would do that, so it is nothing different,” she said.
Asked whether she got tired of being with her children all the time or whether she ever felt she needed a break, Carol was adamant she never did.
“Five o’clock comes in the evening and we start cooking and there’s an SMS inviting my children out and they say, sorry, we’re having family time - and we’ve been together the whole day.”
For her, there is time to have a cup of coffee or go shopping, secure that her children would carry on learning.
“We have taken the school out of homeschooling. We don’t school, we learn,” she said.
“The biggest challenge is to find the curriculum and learning system to suit your child, their different learning styles and giftings. All curriculums are good - it’s how you apply it,” she said.
“You can’t take homeschooling lightly. When you educate your children, you have to make informed decisions. I chose not to send my children to a state school because I didn’t want decisions about their education being made for me.”
They chose to use the online lectures.
“The lecturers ig- nited them - they love learning,” she said.
Like many homeschoolers, they would be writing the North American General Equi- valency Diploma, or GED, and the Scholastic Aptitude Test, or SAT, which universities accepted. Other options for matric exemption were Cambridge and the National Senior Certificate.
“Whateveryour choice, own it and walk your child through it,” she said.