With Covid-19 affecting the academic year, parents may be thinking of homeschooling as an option due to fears of their children being infected with the virus, and due to perceived cost savings.
View Today interviews Vicky Moraitis from Think Digital College (TDC), Tracy Hartridge from the Alpha Study Centre and homeschooling parent Olga Rosenberg.
Rosenberg decided to homeschool her children because she felt that the mainstream system was ‘creating anxiety for our kids and the classes were too big’. The institution she chose is a licensed micro British school which teaches the Cambridge curriculum. The institution registered her children with the department of education.
Rosenberg advised parents to do their research, as there are many institutions, and not all of them are licensed. She said that the benefits of homeschooling are that her children are happier, and they enjoy learning. They can also spend as much time with teachers or tutors as they need. However, she cautions that homeschooling will not be suitable for all children. ‘Your child needs to be ready mentally and emotionally. They need to be self-sufficient and motivated as individuals.’
1) Requirements for homeschooling
Moraitis: There are no requirements up until Grade 10 as homeschooling in South Africa is unregulated until Grade 10.
2) Homeschooling accreditation
Moraitis: if your child is in the FET phase (Grade 10 to 12) the school should be accredited with one of the three governing bodies for primary and secondary education:
1. Department of Education.
Think Digital College is registered with SACAI as they govern distance providers. The matric certificates of all three bodies are issued by Umalusi, so there is no differentiation at the end of the day.
Hartridge: Choosing a homeschooling curriculum needs to be done with great care. Don’t rush out and buy the first one you hear about. The aptitude and interests of the child need to be considered. There are book-based curricula and online, computer-based curricula. There are local and international curricula. Weigh up the options carefully and find one that you as the educator can work with.
3) What are the benefits?
Online learning is:
– Flexible – study from anywhere in the world.
– Convenient – take control of your own learning and learn in your own space at your own pace and in your own time.
– Cost-effective – saves you time and money.
– Immediate – available at the click of a button.
– Children at home can work at their own pace: a child who learns easily can fly through their work, whereas a child who requires more time has the opportunity to take longer.
– A curriculum suited to the individual child can be used.
– Children complete essential work and don’t need to complete unnecessary ‘busy work’.
– Family relationships are strengthened.
– Siblings become friends and help each other with school work.
– Families can go on holiday in low season.
4) Possible drawbacks
Moraitis: Decreased physical social interaction. Learners working together at TDC have the opportunity to interact and engage with other learners in their grades online through a monitored Chat Room.
Hartridge: Home education is not always the ‘cheaper option’. Curricula can be pricey.
Rosenberg: There are no sports, so you need to source them yourself.
5) The role of a teacher
Moraitis: All TDC lessons are pre-recorded by subject matter experts. Qualified teachers add value to the lessons as they would inside a classroom and learners are taught how to think rather than what to think.
Hartridge: The parent doesn’t necessarily become ‘the teacher’. There is so much ‘teaching’ available on the internet. The parent facilitates the learning in the home by providing the means for the children to learn: a space to work in, internet, visits to the library, outings to places of interest or a tutor for challenging subjects.
6) Can parents homeschool their children themselves?
Moraitis: Absolutely. TDC has been designed and developed for students who do not necessarily have access to teachers or private tutors. Parents have access to tools that make monitoring their children’s academic progress easy. These tools include Weekly Reports that are emailed directly to them every Monday morning. The detail their child’s activity on the system for the week. They also receive copies of every assessment as soon as the learner has completed it. Lastly, they have access to Progress Reports as well as Final Reports, which indicate quarterly results. These tools make it easy for parents to track progress as well as identify areas of remediation and concern.
7) Options available and things to consider
Moraitis: Parents can choose between two curricula: CAPS, which is the standard South African curriculum and is available in English and Afrikaans; or they can choose the British International Curriculum, which is only available in English.
Parents can also select the ‘with’ or ‘without’ tutor support option when registering. The online tutor option gives learners access to an additional ‘Tutor Chat’ tab on their dashboards, whereby they are able to chat to tutors online and ask them general or content related queries. They can expect a response within 15 minutes. This, however, does not include face to face tutoring and is not a solution for students struggling with content comprehension or mastering of concepts. The tutors would then recommend private tutoring, which should be sourced independently.
8) Monitoring children and keeping track of the due dates for tasks
Moraitis: Parents receive a weekly report every Monday, outlining their child’s activity on the system. Each assessment completed by their child is also emailed to them with the question, their learner’s answer as well as the correct answer. Progress reports, as well as Final Reports, are also available on the learners’ dashboards.
9) How do parents monitor how their children are doing during the year?
Hartridge: A curriculum which offers assessments will guide the parent through the procedures and dates.
Rosenberg: They are assessed daily without them knowing.
10) Parent-teacher interactions regarding learners
Hartridge: We regularly communicate with parents and have meetings with parents regarding their children’s progress.
11) Class format
Moraitis: all lessons are pre-recorded and can be accessed from anywhere at any time.
Moraitis: For Grades R–9, all assessments are completed online and the results are allocated automatically to the learner’s report. There are no specific cut-off dates for the assessments, as the system is self-paced until the end of Grade 9, which allows learners to take the assessments whenever they are ready to do so.
For Grades 10–12, the learners follow a scheduled assessment calendar through-out the year. These assessments are made available on the due date for a limited time only and are completed under the supervision of an invigilator. The learners then receive their marked scripts with feedback from the assessors within three weeks of their submissions.
These results are then added to a progress report – this is a formative report that details what results were achieved in every submission. The final report is a summative report that displays their quarterly results.
Hartridge: This depends on the curriculum chosen if you’re homeschooling. Our Micro school has senior students working independently from textbooks and we offer on-site tutor support for all the subjects. Tutors also mark completed work and give each student individual feedback.
13) Are learners able to attend university after they matriculate?
Moraitis: Reports are accepted by all private and public schools. Matric certificates are issued by Umalusi (CAPS) and Cambridge International (Cambridge) and are accepted at all local and international universities.
Hartridge: If they so wish. Part of our mentoring of senior students are planning when they will write exams and whether they plan on going to university or not.
14) Practical subjects submission
Moraitis: Learners document the practical activity/process by taking photos before (preparation phase), during (while in progress) and after (final result/end product) and providing evidence as stipulated in the relevant task.
Hartridge: We offer English, Afrikaans, Maths, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, History, Geography, ICT and Business Studies in our senior Phase. We have a fully equipped Science Laboratory where Science students practise experiments in preparation for practical exams.
Rosenberg: The institution does have a lab for the practical.
15) What will happen if there is loadshedding and the teacher can’t present a lesson?
Hartridge: Our students work independently from textbooks so load shedding does not really affect them.
16) Tutor quality
Moraitis: We have the best teachers from private schools, who are heads of departments or have their Doctorates, Masters or Honours in their fields.
Hartridge: We have qualified teachers working with the students. We also have student teachers working alongside the teachers. In the senior phase, we also have Subject Specialists for the Sciences, Maths and English. Our ratio of tutor to students never exceeds 1:10.
17) Any specialist areas of interest as part of the curriculum such as IT, music and drama?
Moraitis: TDC recently launched our very own Coding and Robotics curriculum/course. Coding and Robotics. We have 4 levels available, and these can be done by children of any ages. Level 1 is a beginners level and level 4 is advanced.
Hartridge: We offer ICT.
18) Registering with the Department of Education
Moraitis: Legally, one should register Grade R-9 students with the Department of Basic Education but 99% of our parents don’t because they say they never get a response and there are no rules governing homeschooling.
To date, none of our parents have ever had an issue with the Department as they are able to provide sufficient evidence that schooling is indeed taking place on a daily basis. We encourage our parents to print out the weekly reports that are emailed every Monday, keep a record of all the activities completed in notebooks and print out a copy of the assessment, which is emailed to them once a learner completes it. This should all suffice in terms of producing evidence of work being done at home.
Ultimately, the decision is up to the parents. There are bodies, like the Pestalozzi Trust, who can assist any homeschooling parents if they ever encounter a problem. Grade 10–12 learners are automatically registered with Umalusi through us.
Hartridge: We are in the process of registering with the DBE as an Independent school, so students don’t need to register with the department. We, as a micro-school, are registered with the Pestalozzi Trust.
Moraitis and Hartridge stated that there are various Facebook Homeschooling support groups that have been formed where parents can ask questions, hold discussions and seek advice or guidance from other homeschooling parents.
Due to Covid-19, the Department of Basic Education has no deadline for homeschooling registrations. Parents are advised to contact the department for enquiries on +27 (0) 71 474 6167 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
THINK DIGITAL COLLEGE thinkdigitalcollege.co.za
ALPHA STUDY CENTRE alphastudy.co.za