Now more than ever, home schooling is becoming an attractive educational option. But, what does it involve?
It would seem that many parents are still very reluctant to send their children back to school. Especially those with children in public schools who do not particularly believe that all the necessary hygiene precautions will be taken. And they’re concerned that their children (given how young they are) will not be able to follow what seems like complex COVID-19 protocols.
Many parents have been heard saying that they can always catch-up on lost time, but they will never be able to live with the consequences of their child being infected by the virus and potentially dying from it. For some parents, this is a life or death situation and they are choosing life.
Whatever their decision, we need to respect the right of parents to choose in this situation.
Those who will not be sending their children back to school will have to commit to teaching their children. However, this can be particularly difficult if parents are working from home as there isn’t enough time in a day to teach and work!
Furthermore, there may not be enough devices in households for every child to carry on with online learning as parents may have to share these devices with their children. Navigating this can be hard, sometimes impossible. This is further compounded by internet connectivity. While a lot of learning material is easily accessible online, it requires internet access. In addition, many South African households simply have no devices or internet connectivity at all.
Here are some basic prerequisites to home schooling
To make it work you would ideally need:
- a device, ideally a tablet or laptop
- stable internet access, ideally ADSL, LTE or a fibre connection
- time (try to negotiate working hours with your employer. For instance, you could start your day at 10:00 am to enable teaching from 7:30 am. I strongly recommend mornings for teaching and learning rather than afternoons or evenings.)
- a printer (although not absolutely necessary) can save you a lot of time, especially with younger children who have to do a lot of actual writing.
Once in place, parents need to structure how and what they will teach. Parents also need to have a very good understanding of the outcomes for each subject for the specific term.
The Curriculum Assessment Policy Statement (CAPS) is accessible on the Department of Education website. It is very detailed in terms of what children should be able to do by the end of each term. Therefore, parents can link the learning outcomes with the activities that their children need to do, or concepts they need to learn, for example, by end of Term 2 in Grade 1 Maths, a child should be able to describe and order numbers from smallest to greatest and greatest to smallest. Parents can undertake several activities parents with their child to ensure they are able to order numbers. Once a parent knows the outcome, it is easier to search for suitable activities to teach your child.
Of course, this type of schooling arrangement is only going to be practical for the most privileged South Africans. However, that should not stop families everywhere from caring for their children and supporting their education from home.
Register with the Department of Education
If home schooling is the best option for you and your family, make sure you register with the Department of Education and visit their website for details on the portfolio of evidence you’ll need to put together.
Home learning help
A home-learning support guide has been produced by the C-19 People’s Coalition with contributions from the Nal’ibali reading-for-enjoyment campaign. The guide shares information about the virus, support and ideas for helping children 0–13 years to learn while at home. In addition, it also provides guidance on setting daily schedules.
It specifically suggests activities that many South African homes will be able to implement. And, an abbreviated version will appear in eight different South African languages at the end of June in the Nal’ibali reading-for-enjoyment story supplement.
Focus on literacy skills
My recommendation for parents of primary school children, particularly those who want to keep their children home, but who are pressed for time, is to focus on developing their children’s literacy skills. Reading underpins all school learning, but many children struggle with this. Follow the CAPS outcome guidelines and look for activities that support the mechanical skills of learning to read. But, most importantly, don’t forget that just simply enjoying a good story together will show your children that reading is satisfying and enjoyable. This will prompt them to want to read themselves.
The power of words
Many South Africans do not have access to the basic prerequisites for enabling a home schooling environment. There isn’t a worse time for us as South Africans to be exposed to the inequalities for our society. But, I urge parents to do what is best for them and their families. Most importantly, they need to remember the power they have as their children’s first teachers, as well as the power of stories.
A love of reading increases a child’s chances of academic success, but, in the past, boys may have seen reading as girl territory. Dads, as role models, can change this perception.
Yandiswa Xhakaza is the CEO of the Nal’ibali reading-for-enjoyment campaign. For more information about the Nal’ibali campaign, or to access children’s stories in a range of SA languages, visit www.nalibali.org, or send the word ‘stories’ to 060 044 2254.