With regards to homeschooling, I’ve had many private messages from readers asking how we had arrived at the decision to homeschool our children… Well, here you go, folks…

First of all, let me say that homeschooling was by no means an easy or hasty decision. We had been talking about the idea for years. And at the end of the day, we settled on the following reasons

Academics

Our children started pre-school as Afrikaans speakers. They went to Afrikaans schools and we socialised in settings that were mostly Afrikaans. But it was also during this time that we decided to move to the US. Both our sons started their “formal” schooling in America.

Having to change languages and learn concepts that were foreign to them was difficult, to say the least. But they were taught in the most wonderfully innovative ways and did really well. The schooling district that we lived in was incredible. They catered for every child in every phase of their learning.

It was when we moved back to South Africa that I started noticing the discrepancies in how children are taught. Being a teacher myself, I was amazed at how much had changed. Or had it? My sons were not given a chance to catch up or acclimatise. They were expected to simply keep up with kids that had been in the system for two years before they were – and the differences were massive! Try explaining to a 7-year old what the difference is between miles and kilometres, or ounces and grams, or dollars (with pennies and quarters and dimes) and rands (with cents).

Added to this, they were used to an environment where learning was conversational and engaging, not instructional. They had to relearn so many concepts, but the system here doesn’t allow for that. Let me add that we moved back in June, they would have been finished with their respective grades, however, we chose to keep them in the same grade for the remainder of the year.

We tried both the private and public school system here, but the boys just weren’t catching up and, as time moved on, we felt more and more of a tug towards homeschooling. Where we could give them the focused attention they needed in an environment where they weren’t feeling pressured to pretend that they understood concepts that some of their classmates were handling with ease.

Lifestyle

Let’s be honest, raising children is hard, it’s no walk in the park trying to juggle work life, home life and our kids’ school life. Having 5 children keeps us busy, to say the least. We found ourselves continuously driving from one school to the next. School activities and extra-murals took up the majority of our time.

We found ourselves in a place where we were never spending any quality time together. Our family was always separated between all our responsibilities. It became exhausting. We became exhausted.

Choosing to homeschool has allowed us to re-engage with our children. To slow down our pace of life and seriously put effort into the lives of our children. We are now able to truly experience life in the way that we had always envisioned.

The stress of trying to “do it all” has simmered down considerably and we are enjoying real growth in our relationships with our children.

Homework

Let me not even get started. As a former teacher, my entire perception of homework has changed. Our children are so busy during the day, it grates me that they are now expected to spend a couple of hours every night on work that should be covered in the classroom. Let me add, I realise that there should be some accountability from parents and I am NOT saying that all homework should be scrapped. However, there needs to be a better balance.

Speaking of balance; here’s a little story… We have a very sporty son, and one term we decided he needed a little break from school sports to focus on some of his academics (homework). He did, however, continue to play club cricket and club rugby during this time – partly because the quality of coaching and standard of play at his school was well below the level he was enjoying at his cricket club, and in the case of rugby the school he was in didn’t even offer it at all, but also because we felt that club sport gave him a better balance by allowing him to engage with children and coaches that aren’t in his school. When I received his report card he had been given a negative mark for sports. I queried this with the school and was told that club sports don’t matter when it comes to report writing. A child HAS TO join a school sports team.

I was disappointed, the school did not offer the sports my child participated in and I felt forced into making him participate just to get a good mark on his report.

My other son used to spend almost 2 hours a day in the afternoons crying and exhausted when faced with homework. It became too much for us as a family, trying to juggle 3 sets of homework and 2 little ones running around. Maybe that’s a cop-out – but it’s mine to choose. 🙂 Homeschooling has changed our perspective on homework in many ways.

Finances

We are by NO means strapped for cash, and we recognize that there are countless families who have to make do with much less than we have. However, we could never afford the school we thought we wanted to send our children to and we started to worry about the costs of stationery, school clothes, sports kits, extra-murals so on. With 5 children we were depleting our finances on a monthly basis.

I must add, homeschooling is not “cheap” but we were able to cut down on so many costs and use that money to further our children’s education in a way that works for us.

The choice to start homeschooling has not been an easy ride, it’s taken months of planning, decision making and thoughtful inquiry into what our expectations of our children, ourselves and their futures should be.  I have chosen to work from home and have changed my daily work routine so that I can teach my children.

We have made many changes to our lives so that we can start this new journey.

But it’s been the best for OUR family, and we are happy we chose this route.

Why We Started Homeschooling

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Jacqui Bester