Let's Real About Homeschooling

During these uncertain times, we as parents have had a real taste of homeschooling - between Zoom classes, work schedules, lots of negotiating, laughs and tears, we’ve seen it all and definitely have a renewed respect for school teachers!

As schools start to reopen, the pending question remains: should I send my little ones out into an environment where they could potentially contract this virus? Considering full time homeschooling has definitely crossed the minds of many of us, so this week we chat to previous homeschool mom Lidia Bonthuys about the ins and outs of teaching your kids at home.

"Back in 2001, when keeping your children at home was taboo in South Africa and it was practically impossible to register with the department of education, I decided to homeschool my two children, and we did, for five and a half years. As much as it felt right and exciting to me, it was also a definite learning curve – (punny!) – as I soon realised why homeschooling is more for the parent than the child. Extreme patience is required, as well as ingenuity and an iron resolve to stand your ground!"

What made you consider homeschooling your kids?

Homeschooling was a gut decision for me – I just felt it in my heart. I didn’t want to ‘sacrifice ‘ my children to the school system. I wanted to nurture a natural love of learning in my children.

What scared you the most?

The scariest part for me was knowing that I was pretty much solely responsible for my children’s education and character-building! My desire was to create forward thinking, independent, successful human beings who were also honest, kind and selfless.

How did you keep your kids motivated to work on a schedule at home?

Keeping my little learners motivated was challenging. I used various methods, for example, achievement charts for rewarding good work and behaviour, regular educational outings, alternating fun activities like science experiments and poetry high tea, with more serious sit-down work, and best of all, we would often take the classroom outdoors!

Was it hard for them to adapt to working from home?

It was easy to work from the comfort of home. Especially on freezing winter mornings when cuddling under cosy blankets and drinking hot chocolate was a perfect way to set the mood for a happy learning day.

Did you notice a change in their behaviour during homeschooling as opposed to when they attended a regular school?

I noticed a difference in behaviour and overall attitude when they were learning at home as to when they attended school.They were a lot more relaxed and aware of respecting others. I found that school brought out more discontent and confrontational behaviour, perhaps due to peer pressure and unhealthy competitiveness / bullying.

Something that worries a lot of parents about homeschooling is the lack of "social time" for their kids. Socializing is so important for children, especially in their developmental years. How did you ensure your kids got enough social time?

Social time was very much a part of our day-to-day as we had many extra mural activities. We were involved in the local kid’s church and community activities like volunteering at the nearby animal shelter. Also, there were regular organised social events for the homeschooling community, like ice skating and picnics. When my children later joined the school system, they integrated easily, made friends right away, and went on to excel in every area. They share a special bond and are best friends, largely thanks to their early days spent learning together.

How did you access your homeschooling resources?

There are so many different curriculum options, from computer based and ACE which are largely self-driven by the student, to unit study based which are much more interactive. I chose KONOS for general studies, LLATL and Footprints on our Land for Language, Literacy and SA History, and Math-U-See and Apologia for mathematics and Science. The local bookstores had many extra workbooks and Afrikaans syllabi also. I recommend contacting OIKOS and South-African- Homeschool-Curriculum. These are veteran homeschool South African families with a wealth of experience and knowledge! Also read up on Charlotte Mason’s approach to learning. 

Would you recommend homeschooling during the pandemic?

I would absolutely recommend homeschooling, especially during a pandemic. If I could do anything differently, I would include a more diverse and interactive range of activities and learning opportunities which would include all age groups as well as travelling and income producing experiences. Homeschooling has progressed immensely over the past years, growing as a viable option for schooling with a huge range of resources available to suit your parenting style and ethos. If you're considering it, don't be afraid to take the plunge!

"Homeschooling is often sadly mistaken as a way for overprotective parents to ‘keep their child in a glass cage, safe from the world’. It also often conjures up images of alternative and unruly children. But I say that couldn’t be further from the truth. To me, it is a beautiful way of embracing your home and enjoying a gentler lifestyle with your family, while instilling precious values and core beliefs, and giving your children a sense of security and confidence which allows them the freedom to grow and flourish."

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