18 July 2017
Journalists who write articles about home education for the mainstream media, seem to have an unwritten rule that says they must write about the pros and the cons of homeschooling.
In listing the cons, they never produce any verifiable facts, but, without fail, they either perpetuate myths, give opinions and assumptions, which are false and unfounded, or quote comments from so-called experts (like school principals or government officials) who have absolutely no experience of home education whatsoever.
These sorts of comments not only irk the homeschooling community, who already feel alienated by friends and family, who have their own assumptions about home education, but they are also misleading and/or patently false!
If your child is in school and you are quite happy with that choice, your choice is respected and no one tries to convince you otherwise, but if you are homeschooling, people seem to think they have the right to comment on your choice. If you comment on homeschooling, be sure you have checked your facts!
Unfortunately, very little research has been done on homeschoolers in South Africa and so we rely largely on the research that has been done abroad, plus intimate knowledge and experience of home education and the homeschooling community in South Africa.
Here is evidence to counter the most frequently-listed cons of homeschooling:
- The Socialisation Myth
- Homeschooling Promotes Intolerance
- Home Educating Parents are Over-Protective
- Homeschooling is Stressful for Parents
- Homeschooling Parents Aren’t Teachers and Won’t Pick Up Learning Problems
- Homeschoolers Can’t Excel at Sport and Cultural Activities
- Homeschooling Strains Relationships, Especially at Adolescence
- Homeschooling is Expensive
- One Parent has to Sacrifice Their Income
- Real Challenges of Homeschooling
Socialisation is the S-word in home educating circles. It’s the number one objection that, without fail, is raised first against homeschooling. People seem to think that homeschoolers isolate their children from the real world and its issues and that their children won’t develop good social skills because of a lack of peer group interaction.
On the contrary, children in schools are isolated from the real world and largely learn the social skills of their peer group, which is usually rather negative behavior. Homeschoolers give children the world as their classroom, with opportunities to engage socially with people of all ages and this is why their social skills are generally quite impressive:
Research shows that children learn their social skills best from parents:
A research report by Michael Brady entitled Social Development in Traditionally Schooled and Homeschooled Children, a Case for Increased Parental Monitoring and Decreased Peer Interaction states, “There seems to be an overwhelming amount of evidence that children socialized in a peer-dominant environment are at higher risk for developing social maladjustment issues than those that are socialized in a parent monitored environment.”1
In a 1997 study of the activities of homeschooled children, Dr Brian Ray of the National Homeschool Research Institute in the USA, found that 98% of the participants took part in two or more activities outside the home, such as scouts, ballet or dance classes, 4H, volunteer work, ministry, bible classes, music lessons, group sports, Sunday school, field trips and play dates with people outside the family.
Further research which focused on adults who were home educated, indicates that they are considerably more active in community service than the general population. A 2006 study reported that 71% of home school graduates versus 37% of all adults of similar age, participate in community service. Eighty eight percent of homeschoolers, but just 50 percent of all adults in the population, belong to a church, civic or professional group.
Homeschooled adults are also found to vote and attend public meetings more frequently than the general population, they attend and succeed at university at an equal or higher rate than the general population and they share the values and beliefs of their parents at a very high rate.” 2
In a Ph.D. thesis 3, Larry Shyers, filmed children from public, private, and home schools in free and structured play. Clinical phsychologists, who did not know the schooling backgrounds of the children then analysed their behaviour. When Shyers compared the analyses of the homeschooled children to those of the other children, he found that in nearly all categories of social interaction, the homeschooled children were equivalent to the children from public and private schools. There was only one category in which the homeschooled students scored lower: problem behaviors!
Homeschoolers Have Less Chance to Collaborate in Groups
A principal of a South African school was quoted saying that homeschooling fails as interaction is limited to families and siblings and there aren’t opportunities for co-operation, collaboration and communication beyond the family circle.
Clearly this man, like many teachers who make similar comments, knows nothing about the networking and close collaboration among the home educating community, among both parents and children.
Children learning at home are part of a family, even if it is one-child family. Most homeschooling parents are diligent about teaching their children to do work in the home as part of the family team. Why should this not count as co-operation and collaboration?
Also, as stated above, research shows that homeschoolers are more actively involved in their communities than the general population and so it is a myth that homeschool children don’t get exposed to group activities. They arrange opportunities that their children need, such as science labs for practical experiments, robotics groups, coding groups and more.
Homeschooled children also get to hang out with gurus – experts in their fields, who can teach them and expand their knowledge and skills far beyond what any teacher or text book could do in a classroom situation. If anything, homeschoolers are experts at collaboration, communication and innovation – which are said to be the skills required for success in this era.
Any journalist who perpetuates these myths about isolation, a lack of socialisation or opportunities for collaboration has clearly not researched the facts adequately.
How can they ask pedagogues who have no experience of homeschooling for an opinion on something about which they are practically ignorant? Yet this seems to be common practice.
School teachers and administrators would be wise to reserve their comments and not show their bias and ignorance of the realities of homeschooling.
Gauteng Education MEC, Panyaza Lesufi is an example of someone suggesting this. He said, “We are of the view that indeed there is an abuse of this form of system. Because of religion, people do not want their children to be part of the broader society. There are some people who believe their children cannot mix with other children and therefore we believe there must be a review of this home schooling system.
…If a parent we have not screened, can replace eight teachers and say they teach their children on their own, are we convinced that these children are not used to exclude them from social cohesion?” says Lesufi. 4
Lesufi may be correct that there are parents who choose homeschooling because they do not want their children indoctrinated with the state values.
This political agenda in the educational arena is nothing new:
On 20 May 2004, Ms Mmule Madonsela, a senior official responsible for home education in Gauteng, told a meeting of homeschoolers in Johannesburg: ‘Education is a political game’.
Her boss, Ms Tidimalo Nkotoe, stated in a Carte Blanche programme on 10 April 2004 that home education must be controlled, because uniformity is the goal: ‘We are gunning for the same critical outcomes. We are gunning for the same South African citizen.’
On 20 October 2005, Mr Siphosezwe Masango, MEC for education in Mpumalanga, addressed a meeting of what he termed ‘fellow combatants’. It was in fact a congress of the teachers’ union, SADTU. Masango encouraged teachers to indoctrinate children to ‘be properly formed and moulded to our revolutionary ideas’.
While parents may be resistant of the state’s ideology and values, homeschooling parents in general do not believe as Lesufi says, that their children from ‘cannot mix with other children.’
There is no research in South Africa or anywhere in the world, that confirms Mr. Lesufi’s views.
In fact, although some homeschoolers do choose homeschooling for religious and moral reasons, research shows that in general, homeschoolers are more tolerant of others who hold different views than themselves.
A recent study showed that university students who had been homeschooled were more politically tolerant that those who had attended public schools.
Albert Cheng, a researcher from the University of Arkansas compared the political tolerance of college students who had been home schooled with those who had not.5
Cheng defined political tolerance as: “the willingness to extend basic civil liberties to political or social groups that hold views with which one disagrees”. In the study, 304 students were first asked to identify the social or political group whose beliefs were most strongly antithetical to their own such as Republicans, LGBT activists and fundamentalist Christians. These students were then asked a series of questions to measure how politically tolerant they were of groups that were strongly antithetical to the group with which they identified.
The results showed that home schooled group were more tolerant and the more years of home schooling they had, the more politically tolerant they were compared with the public schooled students.
The large majority have not chosen homeschooling for religious reasons, but rather because the mainstream system is failing their children in various ways. Rather than leave their children’s education in the hands of one of the school systems with among the world’s worst academic outcomes, they have taken responsibility for their children’s education themselves.
The Department of Education’s Ministerial Task Team appointed to investigate and report on the quality of the National Senior Certificate said in May 2014 that “there is no escaping the conclusion that South Africa has one of the poorest-performing school education systems in the world.” 6
With regard to racial tolerance – just look at our society and social media, in which the majority attend public school and you judge for yourself if public schooling is teaching tolerance, respect or good social skills.
Homeschoolers come from every race, ethnicity, socio-economic class, educational background and belief (or non-belief) system and in general, their intention is not to keep their children from the ‘broader society’, but to equip them to survive in it, by giving their children the world, with all its diversity as their classroom. Since when did an age-segragated classroom, in your local socio-economically stratified suburb, become ‘broader society’?
Most homeschooling parents make sure that their children mix not only with other children, but with people of all ages and from a variety of walks of life. They help them to develop a healthy self-esteem and to respect others who are different from them, physically, politically, spiritually or ideologically.
Mr Lesufi’s comment suggests a possible lack of tolerance for those who choose beliefs that differ from that of the state.
“True tolerance and diversity require a constitutional commitment to liberty for all, not a ‘constitutional norm’ of silencing the ‘intolerant.’ ” ~ Mike Farris, HSLDA 7
One might question whether the state school system teaches ‘other view points’ and ‘tolerance’ as the national curriculum is the means by which the state conveys its ideology to the next generation, with the subject Life Orientation being used to teach the liberal morality that has the state’s stamp of approval.
Children must learn to cope with the harsh realities of life, such as teasing and bullying – the skeptics say:
If one considers the potential life-long emotional scarring that bullying and labelling at school can cause children, it is horrifying that some would even suggest that this is normal or desirable. No wonder this abuse is perpetuated in our society.
Veteran homeschooler, Ann Zeise has a good answer to bullying: “One of the best books I’ve read on this subject of so-called socialization by desensitization is The Courage to Raise Good Men. In it the authors [Olga Silverstein and Beth Rashbaum] quote studies that show that constant exposure of our boys to brutal activity does NOT make them stronger and more courageous, successful men. On the contrary, it is boys who have a close relationship with their mothers, who are treated with firm kindness by their fathers, and have a few close buddies to pal around with, who wind up being the leaders in our society, the good fathers, the active citizen, the homeowner, the well-off business man.”8
Girls are also often victims of bullying or cyberbullying and as with boys, it does not make them stronger. Frequently the bullied ones become bullies themselves and perpetuate the problem, sometimes with tragic consequences.
Because homeschooling parents are able to choose the social interactions that their children enjoy and because they are usually closely involved with their children, they can teach their children what is normal, acceptable behaviour and what is not and how to deal with people who are bullies, in an appropriate way. They do not ‘wrap their children in cotton wool’ but rather they help their children to develop healthy self-esteems and not to be dependent on peer approval. Like any good parent, they do not allow their children to be perpetually victimised by those who are abusive. They nurture and protect their children, growing emotionally strong children, who will be able to stand up for themselves when exposed to the harsh realities of life outside the home.
Their methodology could be compared to raising plants in a greenhouse. You don’t expose small seedling and tender young plants to the harsh conditions outside the greenhouse, until you know that they are strong enough to weather the storms of life. All parents should strive to do this!
The failure of schools to deal effectively with the problem of bullying is becoming one of the factors driving the growth of the homeschooling community. Parents who remove their children from such harmful situations and seek healing for their children, should be commended, rather than criticised!
The fear-mongers love to warn that it is stressful for parents to bear the full responsibility of educating their children.
The reality is that it is always a parents’ responsibility to ensure that their children are educated, even if they delegate the task to a school. It is often more stressful for parents who are unhappy with the school system, to leave their children’s education in the hands of others, who don’t love their children, who don’t have their long-term best interests at heart and who are not dedicated to finding solutions for their children, than to take them out and educate them at home in freedom!
Parents with children in school are often more stressed than homeschooling parents as they have to oversee their children’s homework, projects and studying for tests and exams. Most homeschoolers are free of all that and only do formal lessons for a few hours each morning. There is no homework!
Moreover, if parents discover how homeschooling works best and do not make the mistake of trying to replicate the school system at home, then it is even less stressful and actually quite a lot of fun!
Even helping children master so-called difficult subjects at high school level is not a problem. There are homeschooling resources with DVD teaching guides, comprehensive manuals, answers keys as well as online video tutorials to help high school homeschoolers master trigonometry, calculus, physics, chemistry, English literature – you name it. You don’t have to be an expert in traditional high school subjects to help your children study and earn their matric or foreign equivalent.
Minister Lesufi says parents cannot replace teachers9, but the reality is that teachers cannot replace parents!
Being qualified and being certified are two different things. Parents may not be certified but they are certainly qualified to oversee their children’s learning.
Research in the USA, by Dr. Brian Ray, president of the National Home Education Research Institute, showed that whether or not parents were certified teachers had no significant effect on the academic achievement of home educated learners on standardised academic tests.10
In fact, homeschoolers consistently scored higher on standardised tests than their public school counterparts:
In 2007-2008, Dr Ray compared the scores of homeschoolers and public school students on three standardized tests, the California Achievement Test, the Iowa Test of Basic Skills and the Stanford Achievement Test. He found that with public school students at the 50th percentile, homeschoolers were at the 89th percentile in reading, the 86th percentile in science, the 84th percentile in language, math, and social studies.
(The percentile is not the test score, the 89th percentile means that 89% of all students scored lower than homeschoolers in reading, for example.)10
It is often academics, teachers, principals and government officials who raise this objection that parents are not trained teachers. They wrongly assume that children must be taught in order learn. However, the unschoolers of the homeschooling movement have proved over and over again, that children thrive when they are given the freedom to pursue self-education with parental support and encouragement.
Unschooling puts educational choices and control in the hands of the one doing the learning. There is no compulsion or pressure from any external source.
Homeschooling parents do not have to teach their children. They can simply expose them to as many things as possible, so that they can learn on their own. This is a paragdigm shift from the thinking of those who operate in the school system. They know very little to nothing about the success and power of autonomous learning.
Parents who were school teachers report that they have to unlearn much of the training they received for classroom management and learning in the school context and discover other, more effective ways that children can learn at home.
A parent at home does not have to be trained to deal with the dynamics of teaching up to 40 children at a time. She only has a handful of children, at most to oversee. She does not have to set exams to test them to report back to the parents. She is the parent and she knows just how each child is progressing in each subject or skill. A test will not tell her anything she doesn’t already know about her children’s abilities. She does not have to follow the national curriculum, which places a strangle-hold on most children’s love of learning!
A homeschool parent must be a learning facilitator, a guide and mostly a cheer leader, encouraging their child to take ownership of his/her own education, which they usually do during their teen years, if not sooner.
She should however, spend some time and money initially, learning more about home education and how it differs significantly from traditional schooling as replicating school at home is one of the least effective and least enjoyable ways to go about home education.
Since parents have an intimate knowledge of the history, health and developmental milestones of their children from birth, they have a significant advantage over a teacher who has none of that background information. Since homeschooling parents are interacting with the child in a one-on-one context, they usually notice very quickly if a child is struggling to progress and they are usually diligent to get (professional) help, if necessary. Their love relationship and their desire for their child’s long term best interests, makes them highly motivated to find help and solutions to their children’s problems.
Teachers, on the other hand, often struggle to give the specialised help that certain students need because they are dealing with large classes and the many demands placed on them by the system and it’s burdensome administrative requirements. In South Africa, the average teacher: pupil ratio is 1:30. 11
The Children’s Act, 38 of 2005, compels parents to provide adequate care for their children. This responsibility of care includes: “guiding, directing and securing the child’s education and upbringing, including religious and cultural education and upbringing, in a manner appropriate to the child’s age, maturity and stage of development”.
Clearly, the law recognizes that parents have a vital role to fulfil in the upbringing of children; no such role is ascribed to teachers.
“As the home education movement has grown, so has the number of opportunities for home learners to participate in sport and other activities. Many home educated youngsters are excelling in their extra-mural activities, winning medals and trophies at national level and competing in international competitions. Many of these local success stories are published online on at this page: Homeschool Success Stories.
Some sporting achievers even leave school and opt for home education to allow more flexibility and time for them to focus on their sporting careers
Homeschoolers have always had the option of joining private clubs and in so-doing they participate in both individual and team sports and they enter regional, provincial and national competitions. In some places, private schools allow home learners to join their sports teams. More and more homeschool support groups are arranging their own sport coaching, competitions and events.
There are plenty of other opportunities available to the general public for children to participate in cultural events privately and home educators take advantage of these too e.g. dance and drama, chess clubs, robotics clubs, music and singing lessons, woodwork classes etc.” 12
Because home educating parents have the opportunity to build good relationships with their children and the children are not peer-dependent like their school-going counterparts, most homeschooling parents report that adolescence generally passes quite smoothly.
Because homeschooling parents spend QUANTITY time with their children, they have to deal with any discipline issues. They can’t leave them to a teacher who has no life-long love relationship with their child. Parents have to take up their role and teach and train their children’s characters and it is this training in integrity that makes homeschoolers so successful as adults! This character-building is actually an enormous part of home education for the parents too. Home education is not just about the academics of children, it’s a family journey in which everyone is challenged to grow and mature in character.
Any parent who views spending time with her children as a con, would probably not consider home education, so this point is irrelevant for those parents.
Parents make mistakes and may lose their tempers with their children, (as do many teachers) but if they learn how to apologise afterwards and seek forgiveness from their children this can be a great life lesson in relationship-building and dealing with conflict. It is better to learn this from a parent, than from a teacher, who has no love relationship with the children he/she teaches and who often works under great pressure and feels entitled and justified to express anger.
Homeschooling is not without family conflict, but this chafing between family-members who love each other is where conflict-resolution skills can be learnt in a healthy environment! Whether you are parent or a classroom teacher, you don’t just have patience, you develop it when you need it.
In schools teachers have the task of motivating learners to do learning activities which, to the children, are often irrelevant, meaningless, boring and dull. Parents then have to motivate their children to do their homework and assignments, when they’d rather be enjoying leisure time at home.
With homeschooling, this is not the case. Children can be given the freedom to study what interests them and they do not require much motivation (unless you are doing school-at-home). Research shows that children, if left to their own devices are naturally curious and want to learn about the world they live in. Just look at little, pre-school aged children for evidence of this. Schooling robs them of this freedom and curiosity.
Homeschoolers have absolute control over how much they spend on learning materials. Many homeschoolers very cost-effectively and successfully use libraries and the growing number of free resources on the internet to educate their children on a shoe-string budget. You can actually SAVE money by homeschooling, even if it means a parent must give up a full-time job to stay at home. There are many (hidden) costs of working and sending kids to school that can be avoided when homeschooling.
One parent said: “If both my kids went to school/creche, it would cost more than I have ever earned per month.”
Another said “I’d rather have “loss of income” and raise healthy, emotionally whole, open-minded children than have money and …lose it anyway by paying a host of psychologists, counselors and other therapists to help my children.” She actually runs a swimming coaching business from home!
While it is true that one parent usually has to give up going to work outside the home, the reality is that few stay-at-home homeschooling parents do not earn an income. Most of them run part time businesses selling products or professional services from home or online.
In many instances, home educating families have adapted their ways of earning a living so that both parents work from home, or partly from home. Even single parents successfully juggle their jobs and homeschooling their children!
Those who have given up corporate careers with big salaries, report that the money they earned previously, could never have bought the solutions to the challenges that their children faced in the school system and so the emotional healing and peace their children now enjoy justifies the change in income level. Frequently, parents report that children that were previously on medication, suffering from depression and having suicidal thoughts are able to heal and find new zest for life without the prescription drugs and all sorts of expensive therapies.
If you don’t pay the price to give your child the customised education that she may need, then the child pays the price for your salary!
And homeschooling is not just for children with special needs or emotional problems.
“People make the mistake of thinking that when their children thrive academically in schools, their children are also very happy in school. What am I missing? My children were thriving academically, but they were unhappy, frustrated, overwhelmed, oppressed and stressed in school. I was the fool who kept them there for far too long. ” ~ Benita de Beer
“My youngest child was on a downward spiral in all aspects of his life and I just found the courage one day to take him out of school. Two months later, he is finished with pre-GED, is mastering engineering graphics excellently, after not understanding a word of it in school, he is learning so much every day.
….Away are the stressful times of useless school projects, deadlines, bullying, bad influences and self-loathing. I cannot tell you how much I enjoy my child. He is so sharp and funny and precious. And I can share in all that. And help him to become the man growing inside of him.” ~ Susan E.
“My daughter left school at the end of gr. 7, labelled a failure and she was suicidal at the time due to pressure.
I deschooled her and just wanted to focus on her doing courses in things that interested her. I had NO intention of pushing her to get a matric if she could find her passion instead.
At 14 she obtained an international masters diploma in cake decorating. At 15 she went to college and studied special effects makeup and prosthetics for the film industry. It was at 16 that she had a constructive debate with her friends and their comments were she would make an awesome lawyer. So she decided on her own accord that she wanted to finish school so that IF she decided to study law, she could.
…[It’s] the best decision we have ever made regarding her schooling.” ~ Theri Rossouw, homeschooling mom and National Small Business Chamber national entrepreneur of the year winner 2012
The above are all the FALSE cons of home education.
Real Challenges of Homeschooling
There are a few real challenges that new homeschooling parents face initially, but in time, these also become non-issues.
As previously stated, new homeschooling parents suffer from self-doubt and the dis-ease of worrying “Am I doing enough?” With time, experience, encouragement to make a mindshift and seeing the fruit of homeschooling in their children’s lives this soon fades. There are innumerable homeschool support groups both online and offline to help new homeschooling parents.
- Dealing with comments and criticism from non-homeschoolers.
This is a real challenge for home educators and perhaps one of the REAL disadvantages as your educational choice is frequently questioned or challenged by friends, family and other people who have no right to question it. However, the positive aspect is that it also gives us opportunity to grow in patience, grace and sometimes assertiveness. Incidents like this also provide an opportunity to enlighten others about a very viable educational option about which most people know very little and have many wrong assumptions!
- Keeping the home neat and tidy
It’s a challenge to keeping a home clean and neat when you are all constantly living in it. Even this has an upside, in that it affords children the opportunity to learn to do household chores and learn team work by helping with housework, but it is an ongoing challenge anyway! A small price to pay for the many benefits of an educational choice that enables you to give your children an excellent academic and moral education as well as to raise children with healthy self-esteems, who become successful and socially responsible citizens as adults. (Research shows!)
Before making public comments or publishing any so-called cons of homeschooling, please check your facts to avoid perpetuating these myths and in the spirit of good journalism, present the research that supports your claims or quotes from experts who do actually have knowledge AND experience of home education.
- https://www.nheri.org/pdfs/154B.pdf, accessed 24/11/2014
- https://www.jacarandafm.com/news/news/lesufi-home-schooling-must-be-scrutinised/, accessed 17 July 2017
- Ministerial Committee Report on National Senior Certficate, Department of Basic Education, May 2014, page 108, http://pmg-assets.s3-website-eu-west-1.amazonaws.com/141119nsc.pdf, accessed 18/07/2017
- https://www.hslda.org/docs/nche/Issues/T/Tolerance.asp, accessed 18/07/2017
- http://a2zhomeschooling.com/main_articles/discriminating_elitist_racist/, accessed 18/07/2017
- https://www.jacarandafm.com/news/news/lesufi-home-schooling-must-be-scrutinised/, accessed 17 July 2017
- https://www.nheri.org/research/research-facts-on-homeschooling.html, accessed 17 July 2017
- Minister of Education, Angie Motshekga, Parliament 12 September 2012, http://www.politicsweb.co.za/archive/pupil-teacher-ratio-at-3041–angie-motshekga, accessed 08/12/2014
- Shirley Erwee, Homeschooling the Primary Years, Penguin Random House South Africa, 2015, page 52