How to Start: Courage, dear heart

Compiled by Hanlie Wentzel , last updated  22.05.2022.

Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire. ~ William Butler Yeats

To educate a man in mind, and not in morals, is to educate a menace to society. ~ President Theodore Roosevelt

Parents give up their rights when they drop the children off at public school. ~ Melinda Harmon, U.S. Federal Judge, 1996

An eternal question about children is, how should we educate them? Politicians and educators consider more school days in a year, more science and math, the use of computers and other technology in the classroom, more exams and tests, more certification for teachers, and less money for art. All of these responses come from the place where we want to make the child into the best adult possible, not in the ancient Greek sense of virtuous and wise, but in the sense of one who is an efficient part of the machinery of society. But on all these counts, soul is neglected. ~ Thomas Moore

Our Lord wants us all to be the leaven in the dough of society. But He wants us to do this when we are properly prepared. Our job as parents is to prepare our children to be ready for the service to which God will call them. We need to furnish the children’s minds and hearts with the true, the good and the beautiful, so that they may speak “in season and out of season” of the faith they have been given. (Laura Berquist “Character Formation” Sursum Corda Fall 1998)

FIRST STEPS

First things first…well done on making the choice to homeschool!  This is never easy, you may get very conflicting advice from well meaning friends and family. And face it, when you are just starting out, it will feel overwhelming and you need time to develop a whole new body of knowledge and a new skill set.

You are embarking on an amazing new adventure with your family! It will be tough but full of amazing and precious rewards. So take a deep breath… give yourself time and grace, don’t be too hard on yourself. Make sure you surround yourself with like minded and supportive people.

Guard your heart against discouragement. Guard your heart against discouragement. Guard your heart…. did I say it already? Let me say it again! Guard your heart against discouragement. People don’t need to understand or even agree with your choices, but they should respect it 🙂 It is okay to tell them,  “I don’t know… I am still figuring this out.”.

You will need to educate yourself. Read, read, read. Reach out! Ask questions and connect with other homeschoolers. Remember, we all started exactly where you are now. You are not alone, you are joining a wonderful and supportive group of like minded families. 

That said, keep in mind that the homeschool community is very diverse, you’ll soon find out that there are many different ways to homeschool, many different homeschooling philosophies and approaches, and tons of curriculums out there.  And you’ll find people passionate about every one of them! The challenge is to find the right fit for your family. 

1. Locate your local homeschool community 

Join other homeschoolers online, feel free to ask questions and to meet up with other parents to network and find support.

Join their social activities and events, or organize a Meet & Greet. Like any new social group, you will need to reach out and make the effort to connect and get to know people. This takes time and effort. It also opens up the possibility  to make new and wonderful life long friendships. 

2. Join the Facebook Forums & Groups

There are a lot of wonderful and supportive homeschool Facebook groups in South Africa, as well as internationally. They offer info, advice and support on a lot of topics. What I like about them, is that you get a broad spectrum of advice from people who are in the trenches with you, and that has to make it work every day! Not the glossy “happy, smiling people, holding hands and reading books in a forest next to a babbling brook” from the curriculum providers that are selling you a product. But real life advice: the good and the bad, the ups and the downs, the successes and the failures. 

Here are a few Facebook groups I find helpful and useful:

Overberg Homeschoolers: 

https://www.facebook.com/groups/199409816822452/?ref=share

Homeschool Western Cape:

 https://www.facebook.com/groups/homeschoolwesterncape/?ref=share

Homeschooling in South Africa towards the American High School Diploma:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/2204454939794404/?ref=share

Homeschool Services South Africa:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/787453951296357/?ref=share

Eclectic Homeschool Curriculum Talk SA:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/854366335082096/?ref=share

3. Educate yourself on How to Homeschool

We can all help each other and learn from each other, you don’t have to be a guru or an expert. But there are people out there that have been doing it successfully for many years, that learned a lot from their own trials and errors. Their wisdom and experience can cast a light on your path, as you are figuring out the way that you need to go, they can provide tools that you can use and that may make your journey easier. You don’ have to reinvent the wheel, you can learn from others.

Keep in mind that every family is unique, what works for another family may not necessarily work for your family. Once again you need to find the right fit. Take ownership of your own choices and decisions, take people’s advice into account, but you choose the right path for your family. 

If you feel you need guidance and support to navigate these uncharted waters, please contact me and make an appointment for a consultation:

https://eunoiahomeschool.com/homeschool-support/

You can also educate yourself and I recommend these resources on how to homeschool:

See these free samples of how to create a Homeschool Schedule from The Good and the Beautiful. As well as simple & smart Tips on Homeschool Planning:

https://www.goodandbeautiful.com/scheduling/

https://www.goodandbeautiful.com/homeschool-planning/

4. Choosing your curriculum 

What kind of homeschooler are you? Yes, there are different kinds. Before you can choose a curriculum, you first need to know what your educational philosophy is. That will determine what kind of curriculum you will choose. Explore the difference between online schooling and homeschooling. It may also be helpful to know your children’s learning styles as well as your own. What works for one child may be different for your other children. Once again, yes you guessed it, find the right fit. 

4.1 Online Learning vs Homeschooling

Homeschooling and Online Learning are the two major alternative education options available to homeschooling families. Often times, these two delivery methods are confused with one another. It is important for parents to understand the benefits of both to determine which one complements the family’s lifestyle and, more importantly, their child’s learning needs.

Here are some key distinctions:

1. Online schools are school directed, rather than parent led. Some have tutor support or online teachers available for subjects. Some use pre-recorded videos to teach subjects and other offer live online classes. Some are self-paced and some have a fixed schedule.
2. Online schools follow a fixed curriculum, e.g. CAPS (work towards the SA National Senior Certificate or IEB), US national curriculum (work towards the GED or the American High School Diploma school exit) or the UK national curriculum (work towards Cambridge school exit).
3. Online schools can provide an accredited school exit, for example when you are working towards the American High School Diploma. All exams are included and are part of the online learning platform.
4. Online schools can be faith-based, like SwitchedOn or secular like Acellus Academy.
5. Students studying through online schools are taught by certified teachers who are trained to engage students online. Student success is enhanced when parents partner with the online school to create a rich learning environment, engage and facilitate learning and to help monitor progress at home.
6. The curriculum for homeschooling is chosen by the parent. You have the freedom to custom fit the child’s education to their specific needs. Formal exams are optional and you can use other methods to assess your child’s learning.
7. Homeschool curricula are flexible and gentle, it is self-paced and parent led. This is ideal for children’s asynchronous development, where they may be two years ahead in Math, on grade level for Science and maybe a year behind in English. It gives the parent the freedom to focus on strength-based learning and a more child-led approach.
8. There are many different homeschool curricula available, and the parent can use an eclectic approach and build their own homeschool curriculum, they can pick and choose what works for them and their family. They can also try out different curricula to see what fits.
9. Homeschool curricula are developed with homeschooling in mind, to educate the whole child, and to facilitate educating multiple children at different grade levels at the same time.
They offer a lot of support to the parent in the form of Teacher Manuals. They equip and empower the parent to homeschool their child successfully.
10. Homeschool curricula can be faith-based like Sonlight and The Good and the Beautiful, or secular like Singapore Math or Math-U-See.

Finally, you can also use a blended method, where you combine online learning with the more traditional homeschooling, and use an online school like e.g. Khan Academy or Power Homeschool to enrich your homeschooling, provide extra learning support, or delight-directed learning in subjects like Coding.

4.2 Find your Homeschool Philosophy

This quiz may help you to find your educational philosophy or confirm what you already suspect in your heart: http://eclectic-homeschool.com/homeschool-philosophies-quiz/

For more info on different Homeschool Philosophies see:

http://eclectic-homeschool.com/homeschool-philosophies-a-resource-list/

4.3 Explore Curriculum Service Providers

There are so many wonderful curricula available for homeschooling. You may be the kind of person that needs a complete curriculum that provides everything you need for your peace of mind, often referred to as a “boxed curriculum” or you may enroll your child in an online school. Or you may want to pick and choose from various sources, often referred to as “eclectic homeschooling”. Or do “blended learning” where you  combine online learning with more traditional homeschool curricula. Or you may want your children’s education to be self-directed, child-led or delight directed, often referred to as “unschooling”. These are just 4 approaches, there are no right or wrong way to homeschool. Once again, find the right fit for your child and family. 

When you are homeschooling in South Africa, you will soon realize that a whole new world has opened up before you. You are now a part of a global community of homeschoolers and international resources and curricula are now available and within reach of your family.

You can develop and nurture each child’s interests, intelligence style and inherent giftings. You can adapt your homeschool environment and your teaching style to suit your child’s learning style. Create life long learners that actually love to learn and enjoy reading a book! Who knew it was possible? 

See my own free online Curriculum Directory for the South African context:

See other lists of homeschool curricula available:

4.4 Matric Pathways in South Africa 

For more info about the different Matric Pathways available to homeschoolers in South Africa, see:

https://eunoiahomeschool.com/matric-pathways-sa/

Here is more info on homeschooling with Cambridge as a school exit:

https://eunoiahomeschool.com/homeschooling-with-cambridge/

Here is more info on the American High School Diploma as school exit:

https://eunoiahomeschool.com/the-american-high-school-diploma/

Here’s more info on the GED as school exit:

https://eunoiahomeschool.com/2021/08/27/the-ged-as-a-homeschool-exit/

https://eunoiahomeschool.com/bridging-the-gap-ged-to-degree/

4.5 Neurodiversity & Support Needs

Homeschooling is a beautiful and gentle way to create a specialized, self-paced, asynchronous, child-centered, delight-directed, rich learning environment that teach your autistic children in the way they learn.

For more info on homeschooling and Neurodiversity/ Autism see:

https://eunoiahomeschool.com/homeschooling-autism/

5. Attend your first Homeschool Expo

Go to a Homeschool Expo and see for yourself what the different curriculums look like. 

https://homeschoolexpo.co.za/

6. Join the Pestalozzi Trust

A hot topic in South Africa is: Is homeschooling legal? Do I need to register with the DBE (Department of Basic Education)? There has been a lot of discussions on the various Facebook forums and social media groups. There are different opinions about this topic, you need to educate yourself and know what the law says on the subject. 

You can read more about it here:

7. How do I take my child out of school?

SA Homeschoolers Getting Started explains that it is your right as a parent to choose the
best type of education for your child and that you do not need to justify your decision to the
school; you merely need to inform them. If it is in your child’s best interests to be home
educated, you should take you child out of the school as soon as possible and you do not
have to wait until the end of the academic year or even the end of the term.

SA Homeschoolers advise that you wait until your child is home from school on the last day
that they attend, before you mention anything to the school, to avoid possible victimization.
Then, if possible, the father should phone the school (do not write a letter and do not visit
them) since schools apparently give fathers fewer hassles than they give mothers.
Tell the school: “I have transferred my child to home education. I shall email you my
arrangements for paying any outstanding fees. Thank you for the good things my child
experienced at your school. Please forward the transfer certificate.”

Avoid giving any more information. If you get questions or arguments, wait politely for a
chance to speak and then say: “I am grateful for your commitment to my child’s best
interests. However, I cannot discuss this over the ‘phone or answer your questions at this
stage. Please put your concerns in writing so that I can discuss them with my wife and my
advisers”. Avoid saying anything more and avoid putting anything in writing except the
financial arrangements.

Can my child ever go back to a public school?

According to SA Homeschoolers many parents are concerned that they will not be able to
send their homeschooled children back to a formal school if circumstances change and they
need to do so.

A public school is not allowed to discriminate against children who have been
homeschooled or use tests to place children in a certain grade.

The admission policy for public schools states that: “26. Learners are to be admitted to
public schools and placed in different grades in the school according to the age requirements
published in the same notice. 11. The governing body of a public school may not administer
any test relating to the admission of a learner to a public school, or direct or authorise the
principal of the school or any person to administer such a test. ”

8. Just do it

Now…all that is left is to dive right in! Sink or swim!

You will soon find your feet. You cannot wait until you have it perfect or know everything you need to know about homeschooling, education in general, child psychology, matric pathways, tertiary studies, career aptitude, etc. We all need to start somewhere. Every great journey starts with the first step. Go ahead, just do it!

Here are some helpful tips on how to organize your homeschool day:

https://www.goodandbeautiful.com/how-to-organize-a-homeschool-day/

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