Understanding how homeschooling works

Understanding how homeschooling works

Are you thinking of homeschooling your children? This is what you need to know. 

Homeschooling/ iStock

There are two methods of ensuring that your child gets an education - going to a formal school or homeschooling. 

Homeschooling offers the same quality of education a child would get at school - from home. Teaching can be provided by a parent or a tutor.

In South Africa, homeschooling was not made legal until 1996.

Since it is allowed in the country, hundreds of parents are homeschooling their children.

"I started homeschooling out of need. I never actually planned to be a homeschooling mom," says Olga Alard, who has been homeschooling her child for four years. The child is currently in Grade 5.

Olga, who is a missionary in South Africa, says they were residing in a rural area in Mpumalanga and her child was not getting the kind of education she wanted him to have. So, being a professional teacher, she decided to homeschool her child.

"Homeschool basically entails providing education where the parent can control what the child is learning, and providing the teaching and instruction that is geared to the children's specific needs," says Olga.

She adds that she wanted to give her child a good foundation.

"Because we are a Christian family, I didn't necessarily want my child to be instructed on some ideas and concepts that I don't support," she says.

"We couldn't afford a private school at that time. So, we decided to just teach the child. I found a curriculum online."

She adds that one of the disadvantages of normal school is in some areas you find many pupils being taught by just one teacher. In Mpumalanga, where she was residing, she says in some classrooms there were 50 children with only one teacher. This means some children might not be given full attention. 

But, with homeschooling, the child is given the attention they need. 

She says her son goes to school two times a week.

"Because we are missionaries and sometimes we need to travel, sometimes we need a break, so homeschooling provided this flexibility where we don't depend on a rigid school system where the child misses one day of school, then it's a big problem," she says.

Registering for homeschooling

"Homeschooling does not mean it is not controlled and it is not structured. In South Africa, you have to be registered and there are some formalities that we have to go through," says Olga.

In order to register to home school your child, you need to apply to the head of your provincial education department. This is compulsory.

You must bring along:

- Your Identity Document (ID) and a certified copy of the ID, as well as a copy of the child's birth certificate.

- The last copy of your child's school report if they were in school before. 

- Your child's immunisation card.

- A weekly timetable which includes the contact time per day.

- A breakdown of terms for the year.

- Your chosen learning program.

Choosing the curriculum

There are many homeschooling curriculums that are available, but it is important for parents to do research and choose the curriculum that best meets their needs. Some of the popular curriculums are Accelerated Christian Education, Love2Learn, Impak, Brainline/Breinlyn, Nukleus, Kenweb, and Clonard. 

Olga says the curriculums are reviewed to ensure they meet the same standard that is offered in normal schools.

"Year by year it's all in line with what the public schools and the private schools are doing. It's the same knowledge, the same level of instruction, so the children are not behind unless the child is sick or there are some problems, but there is a flexibility for the child to catch up," she says. 

Homeschooling can be done until grade 12. Olga says she believes homeschooling better prepares the child for university learning.

"The parent teaches the child how to cope with difficulties, how to overcome difficulties, how to ask questions in a nice manner," she says.

Just like at college, she says the child is accountable to set their own goals and ensure that they meet them.  

"It prepares the child to solve their own problems. The child has to set his own goals and plan, and they are held accountable for doing those things. They are taught how to create their own timetable and everything that the university requires," says the mom.

She adds that statistics show that the level of passing matric is very high.


Pupils can take exams online, at a tutoring centre or go to a school that offers the same curriculum the child is learning at home.

The cost of homeschooling vs school fees

The cost of education is high in South Africa. Parents have to buy uniform, pay for teachers, pay for buildings etc. This can make school fees costly. 

But when a child is homeschooled, parents don't have to worry about buying school uniform, paying for school transport, paying for teachers etc. According to Olga, this can save them up to 50% of what they would normally pay at school.

How to teach

"You have to be very disciplined and provide the instruction for the child," says Olga.

"Usually homeschooling curriculum comes with the teacher's instructions, with a teacher manual, where step by step they explain to you what you need to do and how do you create the schedule,  how do you provide the instruction, how you explain the material."

Some curriculums even provide the material for the experiment that you need to do for subjects such as Science. 

"There are instances where parents can form groups and if one parent is strong in teaching a certain subject then she will focus on that subject and another one will focus on another subject, so their children will be taught by different parents," Olga says. 

When it comes to social skills, Olga says people have a misconception about homeschooling. She says homeschooled children are not "locked in the house alone". She says they get to engage with their friends and relatives, and homeschooling curriculum comes with field trips where children can engage with others. "Homeschooling is not lacking in activities that involve different types of social activities," says Olga.

"Formal schooling only provides a certain set of social skills. When a child is bound to sit at a desk from 8 to 2, that's a big portion of a day where children are not permitted to speak to each other, where children are not allowed to ask questions unless they raise their hands, and sometimes the question goes overlooked, so there is a set of social skills that is provided by the formal school but socializing by just sitting at your desk and not speaking to your neighbours is a different concept of socialising."

Lastly, Olga says some homeschooling curriculums require that the child gets an 80% pass rate, which is way higher than the normal school pass rate. "This can help the child even cope better at college."

For those who can't afford private education, homeschooling might be the best. 

Image courtesy of iStock/ KatarzynaBialasiewicz

READ: It’s becoming a costly affair to send our children to school

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