Johannesburg - Though still an unfamiliar concept in our education system, home schooling is becoming an alternative for many families.
The exact number of pupils being home-schooled in the country is unknown, but those in the sector say that, for a variety of reasons, there are growing levels of interest.
For most families though, home schooling is the last option – one they resort to because their children fall through the cracks of the mainstream education system.
Reasons include children who are disabled and can’t be accommodated either in mainstream schools or in special need schools, or those who are bullied and abused at school.
For Kathy le Cordeur, deciding to home-school her four children at a time when the concept was still relatively new was one she made willingly.
“I had no problems with the school my children were in. In fact, I was happy with it, but the more I read up on home schooling, I realised the lifestyle linked with what we wanted,” she said.
Le Cordeur, a former teacher, decided to take her children out of school in 1996 – the year home-schooling was legalised.
She quit her job to teach her children full-time at her home in Weltevreden Park, Roodepoort, and was assisted by a family friend who came from the US and knew a lot more about home schooling.
“I hadn’t been doing it for six months when people started coming up to me and asking how I was doing it,” Le Cordeur said.
Even though all her children have successfully completed their schooling and are now working, Le Cordeur still helps parents who come to her to get started, writes an online newsletter on the subject and provides online home-schooling resources.
She admits that, as successful as she and her family were at this, the decision to home-school the children wasn’t easy.
“It wasn’t smooth sailing and there were plenty of times it got frustrating. I see home schooling as an extension of parenting – it has its ups and downs,” Le Cordeur said.
The benefits, she said, were that, apart from learning to be independent at an early stage, her children also performed well beyond their levels academically, particularly in reading and languages. Le Cordeur said that because her children conversed with her and not with other children as they would have in a school, their usage of language improved dramatically.
Though they were studying from home, Le Cordeur made sure that the children continued with their extra-mural activities.
Le Cordeur said local sports clubs and schools – especially small independent schools that need the extra numbers to bolster their teams – are some of the ways home-schooled children can participate in sport and interact with their peers.
Le Cordeur said that apart from planning get-togethers with other families who also home-school, the families also mixed lessons such as art and music classes so that the children could interact with each another.
For Adi de Hoop, walking away from her career as an IT specialist and home-schooling her cerebral-palsy daughter, who’s now 11 years old, was a choice she was forced to make.
De Hoop said she was sitting in a school principal’s office during yet another rejection when she realised the only way her daughter Nimoe would have an education was for her to teach her child herself.
De Hoop, who lives in Rivonia, Sandton, said her daughter’s Grade 1 application was rejected by seven schools. “All the schools, both independent and public, in my area said no. In schools in the wealthiest part of Africa, my child could not get in.
“I didn’t have a choice. I had to make education accessible to my child,” she said.
De Hoop, who said her child’s vision was deteriorating at the time, said she couldn’t find a single curriculum that was suitable for Nimoe, so she used different aspects of various curriculums.
She also enlisted the help of a tutor, and Nimoe is now at Grade 3 level.
Her experiences with her daughter have prompted De Hoop to become actively involved in raising awareness of the challenges facing children with disabilities. She also provides training to parents and caregivers who look after disabled children.
De Hoop said there was still a lot of stigma and, in certain instances, shame among families who have children with disabilities. She said there are still parents, rich and poor, who hide away and isolate their disabled children.
“There’s a huge lack of skills, awareness and information when it comes to caring for children with disabilities. The school is not the only aspect of the discrimination – it happens across the board,” she said. - The Star
Homeschooling and the law
When applying for registration, parents have to sign that they undertake to meet the requirements in the South African Schools Act as well as “other reasonable conditions determined by the (provincial) head of department”.
Though parents aren’t obliged to teach the Department of Basic Education’s curriculum, what they teach must meet the minimum requirements of the national curriculum.
The Association for Homeschooling estimates that only 10 percent of homeschooled children are registered.
Families evade registering because they want to avoid being prescribed to on what and how they should teach their children.
Many of the families involved in home schooling are members of trusts that provide legal assistance to parents if they have queries about their children’s home education.
The Department of Basic Education’s spokesman, Panyaza Lesufi, did not respond to The Star’s query about how many children are being home-schooled.
What records does one have to keep?
After your child has been registered for home schooling, you must keep the following:
What you should do:
Apply to the head of provincial education department and take the following with you:
It may take up to 30 days for your application to be processed.
The service is free.
Source: Department of Basic Education
The situation in SA
If you want to educate your child from home, you must apply to the head of your provincial department of education to register your child for home-schooling.
You can either teach your child or hire a tutor.
The lessons you offer your child must fall within the scope of the following compulsory phases of education: