One of the primary responsibilities of a Muslim parent or guardian is nurturing and sustaining the educational thirst of their ward. This goes beyond the text or ‘matn’, toward manifestation of manners and skills that benefit individuals at a personal and interpersonal level, and in the private and public sphere.
Since homeschooling was made legal in 1996 it is estimated that 100 000 families are home schooling their children in South Africa. While reasons and methodologies vary, there are expected negatives and positives that come with swimming against the tide. If anything research indicates, such a rich choice cannot be made lightly and without commitment from both parents and their extended families over a long-term. What research also indicates is that parents need to be in tune with their Creator, their personal and expanding self-development and be happy and able to network with other parents who have made the same choice.
“In the early days, home schoolers were so few and far between most people didn’t even know what it meant to home school. Just a few decades ago, the handful of families who did home school often fitted into a certain mould that already seemed radically different from the world. Soon enough, home schooling in religious circles became synonymous with ultra-conservative, long-haired, pinafore-wearing, quiverful families who baked their own bread, canned their own fruit and milked their own cow on their own small holding.”
There are many reasons parents may choose to home school. Among them:
Families where the parent/s’ jobs require regular and sporadic moves or parents work shifts.
Families where kids struggle for e.g. ADHD, or excel. Knowing that one can race ahead in an area of strength for one child, or spend time going over a troubling area for another, is a reason many families choose to home school.
Families where kids are heavily involved in extra mural activities, (including hifdh). Parents sometimes choose homeschooling for these kids because they can fit formal school around their practice hours, or they want to give their kids more free time than a heavy mainstream school schedule, plus a stringent practice schedule would allow.
“The South African Schools Act (no 84 of 1996) in article 51 makes provision for “Registration of learners for education at home.” The Minister of Education in the Western Cape has approved Draft Regulations relating to the Registration of learners for education at home (Prov. Gazette 5254 24 April 1998). In terms of the above the Head of the Education Department must register learners for education at home.”
Research done at the University of South Africa (UNISA) titled “The effect of home schooling on the social development and academic performance of the pre-adolescent” found that there are a lot of positive effects on children who are home educated in:
· A greater sense of responsibility
· A positive self-image
· Improved self-confidence
· A positive outlook on life
· Better time management skills
· Own opinion formation and better decision making ability
· The ability to define and pursue own goals
· An independent work attitude.
Homeschoolers can usually:
· Relate better than average both horizontally and vertically
· Take leadership positions often
· Have the tendency to build quality friendships and
· their self image is not dependent on group pressure.
Home schooling however, just like mainstream schooling, is not without problems. The following issues, among many, have been highlighted by Taryn Hayes: educator, blogger, author and home schooling mum.
Making the choice to home school can stir up feelings of superiority and pride, both in the parents and the kids. Parents may feel that they’ve made the educationally superior choice for their child and thus look down upon families who have made different choices. This only serves to widen the chasm between those who do and those who don’t. It doesn’t engender understanding or support. Instead it deepens suspicion and compounds prejudices.
Home-schooled kids, especially those who excel in their academics, have been known to come across as arrogant in their self-confidence. Sometimes this is just a misreading of natural confidence. Sometimes it’s just plain arrogance.
The issue of socialising (and potentially socialisation) can be a problem. Parents need to make the effort to create opportunities for their kids to mix with people outside of their immediate family. This means socialization via extra murals, shopping experiences, odd jobs, extended family and friends, madrassa and club activities. Parents do need to encourage positive friendships and acceptance of differing attitudes and opinions.
Selfishness (in the kids):
This is not a typical pitfall, but it can happen in home-schooled families. Where kids are used to individual attention when they demand it, it can lead to an expectation of being first or to an assumed leadership position, without consultation with others.
Selfishness (in the parents):
Learning styles differ from child to child. They also differ from parent to parent. Sometimes parents choose a curriculum (or an educational philosophy) that fits their own personality but simply does not suit the child. It takes time, effort and not just a wee bit of selflessness to truly focus on the child’s needs, rather than one’s own preferences.
The following guidelines have been drafted for parents keen to home school – themselves, via a teacher at their home, or the home of like-minded parents.
· Read up good resources so as to make an informed decision. Determine costs and space required. Often it is more economical for parents who start with one child and younger siblings to follow using the same books. Aside from saving on uniform costs, home schooling is not always the ‘cheaper’ option. A quality education including field trips, excursions, extra curricular activities to hone physical and socialization skills, cost. Similarly access to the Internet, books and computers are now a vital learning tool.
· Attend a home schooling workshop/seminar.
· Obtain legal counsel and assess your legal position and your commitment to home school your child.
· Obtain a good curriculum. Understand that there are many different ways to home school and different curricula that could be followed. It isn’t legally essential that a child follow the exact themes covered by mainstream schools unless they wish to write the same exams. Many curricula include overseas grading and qualifications like the O and A levels. Similarly, many in South Africa are Christian-based curricula.
· Find out who else home schools in your area and join or form a support group.
· Join the regional home school association.
As with any decision a parent makes with their family’s best interest at heart, nothing is cast in stone. A parent may choose to commit to just the primary years or just the secondary years for homeschooling. They may even want to home school for the years their children commit to hifdh or other extra curricular talents. Similarly, dependent on individual sibling’s personalities, home schooling may serve some better than others. Binding however is never to make the child feel like they need to be ‘saved’ or ‘punished’ via homeschooling. Wherever a child is schooled it is imperative they are given the tools to explore and nurture their own talents as the unique and special individuals Allah has made them.
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