My response in an email to email@example.com
We as a homeschooling community (200 000 strong in South Africa) are perturbed by your very poor article titled: Pros and Cons of Schooling at Home, published in your Centurion Rekord on the 29th of November 2019.
I’ve been homeschooling my daughters for 6 years so I’d like to help set the rec[k]ord straight.
You list the Pros as follows: “It provides a place to better concentrate for learners with special needs when it comes to reading and writing.”
It certainly does help children concentrate on their learning when it is only them and their mom or siblings working in a room together. Homeschooling is wonderful for children with ADHD because they can bounce on a ball while they work or get up from time to time or work outside under a tree or jump on a trampoline while they answer their times tables. It’s also perfect for children with autism who don’t like the over-stimulation of a crowded classroom and noisy, disruptive children or a teacher that shouts or the sound of chalk on a blackboard. It’s true that home education is ideal for children with special needs like my daughter who I found was dyslexic. She found reading very stressful and could not keep up with the mainstream pace. Normal reading lessons were not suited to her differently-wired brain and so I got creative and taught her to read using unconventional methods and strategies. Early intervention and out-of-the-box ideas helped her to enjoy learning and reading and she now reads for pleasure. She was never stigmatized or labeled; never put in a special-needs class or school. No concessions were necessary for her to write tests or exams because I was there to go through any test with her. She is the most confident 12 year old I know! So yes, home education is great for children with special needs but not only those special children.
In fact all children benefit from the peaceful and supportive environment that home education presents. Gifted children also thrive because they can advance in their studies and select other subjects that interest them and graduate sooner than public school allows. Artistic children enjoy homeschooling because they can spend more time doodling and pursuing any art project that their hearts desire. Sporty children can spend more time on their sport and pursue their athletic goals any time of day because of homeschooling. Extroverted children love homeschooling because they can chat with the teacher all day or engage with the plumber, the gardener, the building contractor or any other person who happens to drop in without getting into trouble!
Your second advantage is listed as “There can be a higher standard of education and deeper concentration of the learner.” Yes, as stated in advantage number 1, we have established that home education is well-suited for concentration. Let me help you with some more advantages: Because of the ratio of one-to-one learning that home education provides, the parent can exactly pin-point the specific learning requirements of their child. They can discover what their child enjoys and finds interesting. They can provide them with more books on their favourite subject and incorporate that topic into other subjects. They can stand still on an area of work that they struggle in and source other worksheets or videos to explain that concept. There’s time to pursue a passion or area of interest. If a child has a love for Science for example, they can spend hours experimenting or learning about that particular subject matter. Every home educated child can become an expert in their chosen field of study before they graduate, perhaps for instance in journalism and then write and research articles better than the one that was written in this publication.
You are correct that the standard of education is a lot higher than most mainstream schools because homeschoolers can choose from any curriculum in the world! Internationally accredited courses are available to homeschoolers and not simply the CAPS curriculum that mainstream schools have to use. Online Master classes are used by home educated students as well as the cream of American curriculums. Homeschool parents spend hours researching a plethora of curriculums to select the one that would perfectly suit their child’s personality and learning style. So children are exposed to a variety of teachers, tutors and learning approaches from all over the world. My daughter once joined an online mathematics class taught by an American teacher (Outschool).
Your last advantage speaks to the negative influences that home educated children are shielded from: “Some negative influences may be absent including drugs, drinking and pornography.” Also bullying, bigoting, racism, sexual abuse, occultism, kidnapping, slandering, gossiping, cheating, stealing and swearing can be avoided.
I feel I need to address your disadvantages list because it is so grossly incorrect. The article states that Linda van Niekerk lists the disadvantages of homeschooling as “siblings who are taught together often have no friends but each other.” Even if this were true, I would count this as a wonderful advantage. My five daughters are the very best of friends. They share lots of time together, true, and so know each other very well. They understand their strengths and weaknesses and practice conflict resolution often. They know how to pursuade one another or calm each other down. They know how to appease their sister or make her laugh. They care deeply for each other and understand one another. I would certainly count the emotional intelligence that my children have learnt by being with their siblings every day as a big advantage!
They do, however, have many other friends as I do not keep them locked up at home. They have forged friendships at dance practice, drama and modeling lessons. Their best friend is Yeya who lives two houses away. My daughters visit at least once a week with other homeschoolers and then their interactions are for hours together, not 20 minute intervals.
Second disadvantage of schooling at home: “Children often don’t get the interaction and memories that comes with attending school outside the home.” Once again, the interaction speaks to the first disadvantage already discussed. So, I feel the speaker is grasping at straws by repeating herself. And then memories. Memories?! Is this really a disadvantage? What memories is Van Niekerk referring to? Good ones like taking part in a school play, or the Matric Dance? Homeschoolers have a thriving social network that provides all the ‘memories’ that one may want such as public speaking, sports events, drama concerts and even Matric dances. As mentioned in the previous point, homeschooled children do have friends so many ‘memories’ like crushes on boys and friends’ birthdays still occur.
Other memories that may be lacking are hours of free periods because the teacher was busy or absent; a teacher scolding you for homework not done; a class laughing at a mistake you made; having no friends to sit with at break time. Yes, homeschooled children won’t have these memories.
And finally: “These children are not given an opportunity to be a child.”
I stuggle to address this point because it is EXACTLY what homeschooling DOES provide: an opportunity for children to be children.
Please in future, consult an actual homeschool, not an educational psychologist who has no children, when writing an article on homeschooling.
(home educating mom of 5 from Boschkop, Pretoria)