‘Is home schooling, in South Africa, more beneficial to some children than conventional mainstream schooling

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JB: I have an easy-going child, and have, since he was born, been teaching him on everything, so we don’t really have a line. When we work, I use the curriculum as the “teacher”, i.e. “the day’s writing is A,B,C so that is what we must cover today”. No problem. Nuturing parent and teacher are one, anyway …
K: There is no line to draw if one considers home education in the light of what I said above – i.e. if it is a lifestyle of learning, then the two roles cannot be separated.
It is obvious that these home schooling parents feel that there is not a difference between teacher and parent. It seems that they all agree that teacher and nurturing parent are one and the same and that’s the way that they feel it should be.
7. What are the disadvantages of home education? (socialization, costs) and how can these be overcome?
DM: I think that for me the greatest pitfall is burnout and also keeping my children motivated. This is an ongoing challenge and there are no easy answers that I have found. It just needs constant vigilance and support. It is also costly but so is private education. Socialisation is not as big a problem as outsiders seem to think it is (See survey of Challenges and Struggles as reported in Issue 053, The Learning Home Magazine.)
Anon: Team sports are the only downfall. Overcome? Involved committed parents have been known to get teams together but sports clubs tend to do a better job. Cost of joining clubs can be prohibitive though.
TD: We have been at home with our children for nearly 7 years and cannot honestly list any disadvantages. Our children are well socialized with a large circle of friends.  They are also able to have intelligent conversations with persons across the age spectrum. We have found that the costs of home educating our children are less than if they were at public school. To list the advantages here would take too long.

JN: The educating parent has very little personal time, and therefore needs the support of the spouse.

Socialization in home-education tends to be of a healthier quality than that in the system, across traditional barriers of age, race and religeon; isolation is a choice made by some, but is not a natural consequence of this lifestyle. Opportunities exist for constructive socialization in mixing with friends, (home-schooled, public and private schooled as well as family friends), sports and cultural gatherings, religeous meetings and social awareness projects.

Cost is not really a factor. While one does not need uniforms or to respond to the endless requests for monies at school, one tends to spend more on books of interest, lots of outings and practical project materials.
JB: Socialization: is the LAST pitfall … kids learn from their parents how to overcome problems in the real world. As our boy is an only child we make an effort to encourage friendships with the right kind of friends. Actually enjoy not having the negative influence that most kids have at mainline school.

Costs: also not a pitfall, as the costs of mainline schools add up and are often higher than home-school costs. If one talks pitfalls – I think of stigmatization … a lot of criticizing from those who don’t have the energy to put effort into their own kids, and keep harping on what they think are pitfalls in H/S. Most h/s families stick to a closed circle of friends and remain anon because of this.

K: The only disadvantage that I can think of is possibly team sport – if your child is sport-oriented then it is quite difficult to find opportunities out of school where these can be played at a competitive level. In most instances though there are usually private sports clubs that offer these sports. Also, if one looks around you can usually find alternative sports that are a lot more creative than the ones offered at most schools anyway, e.g. archery, surfing, abseiling, fencing, baseball, etc, etc.

These parents all feel that socialization is not a problem for their children as different small and large group experiences can be set up easily. It seems as though team sport and personal time for the parent are the only two reported disadvantages.

8. How can home school benefit the South African situation?
DM: Thorough education, entrepreneurial skills, growing Self disciplined adults, Not overly influenced by peers and antisocial behaviours such as crime etc., South Africans who are truly patriotic because they have a deep understanding of issues, people who are willing to take risks and do what they feel is right, and people who enjoy learning and enjoy doing it thoroughly and not just for the purpose of passing exams.
Anon: Parents who are committed to training children to have a high moral standard and good work ethic are going to send out strong influencers of society, with hearts of compassion for the under privileged (and an ability to do something about it). They will not be the influenced that falls into varsity to continue the parties, bad behaviour and selfish attitudes that they have leant in schools by necessity to protect their true selves.

TD: South Africa needs families to remain united – the breakdown of family life is detrimental to any country. It is our experience that as parents prepare to teach their children they themselves are learning. I do believe that parents who have even had a limited education can teach their children at home. The resources available make it very possible to learn with your children as they have been written taking into consideration that there is not a “professional” (trained teacher) facilitating the learning.
JN: Families home-educating in South Africa are making public school places available to students who may not otherwise have been accommodated in their areas. They are taking responsibility for their children’s education excellence, and removing that responsibility from the Department of Education, which impacts positively on that budget. Increased entrepeneurship is a natural consequence of this learning style, an essential element in our society in these times, both for self employment and job creation for others. Home education encourages free thinkers, rather than the conformed mass produced by the system in most cases, and should be encouraged wherever it is viable.

JB: Overflowing mainline schools … and a curriculum that is degenerating … I don’t think SA realizes how bad the situation in the schools is. The more kids that can be home schooled, the larger % will receive a viable education and be of benefit to the economy one day …

K: I really believe that home education is “producing” children that are going to contribute very positively to society – self-motivated, entrepreneurial, independent thinkers.
All the interviewees agree that home school is a way to better the South African situation because it provides an alternative form of schooling which can, because of the individualised nature of the process, contribute to a better quality education which in turn translates into a stronger economy for the country ultimately. They feel that schools can’t accommodate all children and that being schooled in a ‘family’ set up is more beneficial to the child’s overall development.
9. Do you have any record of what percentage of South African children are home schooled?
DM: No, not personally

Anon: Estimated around 25000 – 50000 families homeschool with one to 10 children in each.
TD: Yes, I believe that the last count (unofficial) is at 20 000. This may seem unbelievable but it is due to the fact that many home educators are “underground” so to speak. This is a very unfortunate situation as the government does recognize home education as an option and parents can register their children as being at home.
JN: I do not have access to this information, but believe statistics to be extremely inaccurate, reflecting perhaps as little as 1 or 2% of the reality.
JB: No, but I think there are more than what is thought
K: No.
Although it can be said that the statistics are inaccurate due to lack of home schoolers registering, a rough estimate is between 20 000 and 50 000. This reflects a large number of home schooling families in South Africa.
10. Which qualification do home schooled children receive at the end of Matric?
DM: Many options available – South African Matric as private candidate, SAT scores, Cambridge A levels, Cambridge HIGCSE, School leaving certificate from American university.

Anon: A and O levels or standard SA gov matric.
TD: This depends on the resources and/or programme they follow. Some complete through Intec and Cambridge, others enter as independent candidates and write the SA Matric at their local school. Others prepare and write the American SAT exams. Other complete their learning to a post matric level without an official Matric Qualification, these families then approach the Tertiary Institutions personally with the work their children have completed and write entrance exams (mostly these families have done this overseas – and their children have been accepted for Tertiary Education)
JN: Many curriculae exist, each one with it’s own final result. Since the Matric as we have known it will cease to exist in the next year or so, I anticipate that my children will be able to compile comprehensive portfolios of their tasks and achievements, for the purpose of acceptance to a university or other educational facility, if they choose to continue their education in that way. If not, I trust that they will be fully equipped to support themselves in a meaningful and constructive way, and that learning will continue to be a lifestyle for them. For us, practical empowerment is of far greater value than a paper qualification.
JB: Depends on curriculum. Are able to sit in on official matric exams, but can also do higher standard A and O levels.
K: They actually have a choice between various options – the South African Matric (or FETC), the British (Cambridge) GCSE (or HiGCSE), the American SAT and several others (I’m not too familiar with all the options yet because my children are still in their primary years.
It seems as though a wide variety of options are available to Matric home schoolers. The British (Cambridge) GCSE (or HiGCSE), the American SAT are available to home schoolers. Home schoolers are also able to ‘sit in’ on school Matric exams, if they would like to. It seems as though some of the interviewees see portfolios and continuous assessment as more beneficial to the child, these more comprehensive assessment methods are what universities will be looking at in the future therefore this is a principle which supports OBE.
11. Do you envisage the format of the present model changing to be more inclusive of a broader base of the community where quality education is desperately needed?
DM: It depends on what the present model is! I certainly think that it is possible to encourage people in areas where quality education is desperately needed to give more input into their children’s lives and take responsibility for ensuring that their children receive a good start to education. At the grassroots level, any adult should be able to facilitate basic education, no matter what the level of their own education. i.e. up to a preschool level. There have been programmes developed to be administered by an illiterate adult! (I hope this answers the question as I am not really sure what the question is trying to ask.)

Anon: No, it is the parents responsibility and unless education around true parenting happens in these communities no amount of school or new curricula can change these problems in the community.
TD: I believe that if parents could be correctly educated about home education – there are many myths and fallacies out there – home education could be taken into communities where there is a desperate need for quality education. However, I do believe that the legacy of Apartheid has resulted in the majority of parents believing that true education happens within the formal structures of school with qualified professionals – when people have been denied quality education for decades this is understandable.
JN: I’m not sure what you mean by this question. Home-schooling does not conform to a specific model, as each family works in a way that works for them, and depending to some extent on which programme, curriculum or material they have chosen, but there are certainly trends that would benefit the system. There are some excellent educational products available, which would vastly improve teaching efficacy in the system. Reducing class numbers and utilizing the many unemployed, properly trained teachers available would positively impact the present status quo, as would effectively prioritized use of the financial resources available to the education department. Moral decay and lack of effective disciplinary measures need to be urgently addressed. All these aspects are manageable in the home situation, but clearly present more of a challenge where the numbers are greater and the teacher does not have an intimate interest in the well-being and best interest of the students.
JB: Would LOVE to see govt applying this – but I don’t see it happening, somehow.
K: I am not sure which model you are referring to.
It seems as though there is no set way of practicing home school. The way that parents decide to educate their children is varied and personal depending on the individual needs of the children.
No specific model is cited as being in place regarding home school. If government became more pro active in the process by establishing a model which can be adapted to suit the South African context, drawing on the experience of the present home school fraternity, a new genre of schooling could emerge.

12. Can home schooling be adapted and managed to offer mother tongue education?
DM: Yes. Could be hard work though. The best materials have taken years to develop.

Anon: Not clear on this question???? We have Black , Coloured, Muslim, Afrikaans, English families home educating. Not sure what you are asking here.
TD: Absolutely – many mother tongue Afrikaans families are using english resources and adapting them for their families. Afrikaans parents are also writing mother tongue resources for use within the wider home educating community.
JN: Home-schooling is always offered in the mother tongue! A second language, is just that! You may be confusing home-schooling with a cottage school, where a limited number of children are taught by a qualified teacher in a home-like environment. There are a very few examples of this style of school here as far as I know, but it is quite different in concept to what is referred to as home-schooling. Obviously, in small groups, mother tongue teaching would be significantly easier than in a large class with a variety of home languages represented.
JB: 100%
K: Definitely. The majority of the education should be in the mother tongue anyway (if the parent is the educator). As far as the materials (curricula, books, etc) are concerned, they could certainly be translated if the demand is there – home educators in South Africa are an incredibly creative and entrepreneurial group. One question that I have though with “mother tongue education” though is, how are the technical terms in some subjects going to be accurately translated from English?
Most of the interviewees agree that it is possible to adapt home schooling resources to suite the ‘mother tongue’ however some thought it would be hard work. Something else that was reflected in these answers was that people of colour and different religions choose to home school as well.
13. How involved is the computer in the home schooling process?
DM: This is up to the individual family and curriculum used

Anon: Supplementary for most but there are computer based home ed programs. See Brainline and Impak
TD: We make use of the computer in order to educate our children about computers. However, we did not us a computer for the first two years of our home education – we used our local library and continue to do so. I personally know of many families who home educate extremely successfully without a computer in their home.
JN: It is a very useful tool, and important for the lifestyle of today and beyond, but it is not a pre-requisite. Home-education can certainly be effective without this luxury.
JB: Depends on curriculum – we use none at present
K: This would depend on the parents’ preference as well as on the curriculum. Some curricula are computer-based while others do not require the availability of a computer at all. I think that you would find a computer in most home-learning homes.
Although computers could be used, it is not a necessity when home schooling. Depending on the proposed curriculum the parent chooses.
14. In your opinion what does the future hold for home school in South Africa? (Is it a practical, viable option for all South Africans?)
DM: Definitely not a practical, viable option for all South Africans. Not all parents can do it. However, for those who want to and can, it is of great benefit to the Department of Education which is short of resources anyway., and to the rest of South Africa. Home Education costs the DoE far less. It has also been proven that the success rate at a tertiary level is much higher in students who have received some of their primary and secondary education at home . Home Education should have a firm place in the education of future generations.
Anon: Of course its viable - it grows from the bottom up with moms of tots starting to be aware of this form of family growth and child education. We have contact with about 10 – 15 moms per month wanting to begin home ed.
TD: As mentioned above, I do believe that home education could be a viable option for all South Africans. I feel that home education is a fast growing option that many parents are taking in South Africa. I do feel that if parents continue to remain “underground” this will have a negative effect on those parents who have chosen to home educate and to register.
JN: It is a practical, viable option for all families seeking to unite their families in a common vision of educational excellence in the best interest of their children and the place they will take in society. It is not so where at least one spouse is not available and committed to the children for a dedicated portion of the day, due to other responsibilities. In my opinion, it should be encouraged where people are willing to make this commitment, but could never be successful if imposed against the will of the individuals involved.

JB: Very bright, but the govt has not yet officially recognized it. So wait with bated breath. All home-based SAfricans who have the inclination would be able to do H/S – I think it should be encouraged.

K: Judging by the incredible increase in interest in home education in South Africa, people must be considering it as a very viable and very real option of education for their children. I personally believe that it is an excellent option, not only because of its effectiveness but also because of its practicality and flexibility. It is an option for all people in this country - regardless of religion or race! (There are already home educators in South Africa representative of most of the religious and cultural groups.)
It is clear that it is only a viable option if the parent wants to home school. There is clearly a growing interest in home schooling in South Africa, the future is bright and the interviewees believe it is an excellent option for all parents wanting to give their children the best.
Please feel free to write any comments/opinions regarding the topic.
JN: As discussed on the phone the other day, I am concerned by the low number of home-schoolers who comply with the department’s requirement to register themselves as such. In my experience, the department offers an extremely limited involvement and is more interested in what is offered to the students than what the student may produce, but all reports that I have heard of dealings with them have been positive. They are clearly unaware of the increase in recent numbers, and do not consider us a significant sector of society. The perception exists that we are a group of religious extremists, which may be promoted by this underground behaviour. While there may very well be a component of this, among other things, it certainly is not true of the majority of home-schoolers with whom I am in contact. A large number certainly describe themselves as Christian, but there is no one doctrine or ethos peculiar to all, and the community includes New Age followers as well as Muslim folk. I believe the opportunity to develop character in individuals and equip them to survive in a morally decayed situation is an important factor in people’s choice to do this, but it is not necessarily a religious choice.


The question being considered is “Is home school a growing phenomenon that is viable in the South African context where conventional mainstream schooling is prevalent?”

In my research of the historical roots of home schooling and mainstream schooling, it became clear that home schooling has been practiced for a lot longer than I originally thought. Whereas it was a struggle to get home school legalized in South Africa, there has always been a percentage of the population who wanted to do it. Since it has been legalized, the estimated statistics of families who home school have grown considerably. The estimated statistics of home schooling families are so considerable in fact, that they can be compared to the estimated statistics of the UK and Australia. Historically, home school was illegal up till 1996, however there has been a paradigm shift and now the government recognises the validity of home school in South Africa. It makes sense that home school should be legal in South Africa as it is a democratic society and parents should have the right to choose whether they would like to educate their children or not.

It clearly takes a specific kind of person to educate their children at home, it is certainly not for everyone and therefore mainstream schooling will always be prevalent.

As there is very little research material available on home schooling in a South African context, I found it was helpful to look at international trends and statistics. It was interesting to note the similarities and something which is clear is that home school is a growing phenomenon in all societies. It is not something that just exists for a certain family type, race and economic group but instead can be applied in any family if they choose it.
Learners with special needs are often disadvantaged in the mainstream education system because teachers are often ill-equipped to cater for their individual needs in an already crowded classroom. Therefore it follows that home schooling would benefit these learners. Something which became evident through my research was that many home schooling parents felt the need for extra support and guidance from other home schooling parents, especially when starting out on this road or schooling a child with special needs.
Finally, in interviewed various home schooling parents, I found that the reasons and ideals for doing home school were admirable and justified. There is no reason why it shouldn’t be a valid, recognised form of schooling. It is totally different from mainstream schooling and a more appropriate term for home schooling would be to home educate as it is not a formal ‘school’ set up. Home schoolers use life experiences as the basis for learning activities and through these everyday experiences they feel that their curricular outcomes are achieved. The learner is able to move through work at his own pace, concentrating on those areas of interest that he has developed. The disadvantages of home school were discussed and whereas they all stated socialization was not a problem, I disagree.
With all my interviewees, a common reason for home schooling included keeping their children away from undesirable elements which they felt existed in schools. They felt that they would like to have complete control over what their children are exposed to. I don’t believe that controlling your child’s socialisation process is necessarily a healthy thing, as a vital part of growing and maturing in this area as an holistic person is being exposed to a number of different people and situations other than your own. Generally teachers are well trained/equipped with the skills and knowledge to facilitate learners with care and maintain discipline. Older children who may be exposed to undesirable elements have the freedom to choose what they want to do, hopefully making the right choice. It is important because as young adults, these same undesirable elements exist in society and not being aware of them could be detrimental to the person.
Home schooling is legal in South Africa and growing in popularity. Parents from all cultures and communities, with adequate educational support and guidance could home school and in this way many of the educational challenges of the current system could be addressed. The parent would however have to be literate and motivated to want the best opportunities for their child given their particular circumstances. I would like to see Government working more closely with a constituted home schooling body to establish a framework for this process.
I would like to conclude by saying that there is substantial body of evidence showing that home school is a growing, potentially viable option for inclusion in the South African educational landscape.


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