The following account is the story of a parent, Engela Janse van Rensburg, who decided to make the switch from a brick-and-mortar school to online homeschooling and she has never looked back!
“Here’s a riddle for you: What is the most in-demand occupation – no, let me rephrase – profession, in the entire existence of the human race? Which profession needs no qualification, has the lowest monetary reward yet has the highest impact on the human race, and the highest emotional reward? Parenting!
Any parent will tell you that the privilege of having a child and the joy that it accompanies, is something very special. But, with this privilege comes a number of choices you have to make. At the birth of your child, you are given a clean slate and you as the parent have to decide what is written on that slate, since this will form the foundations of that little human being entrusted to you.
I call these choices the three C’s: Choice of morals and values; Choice of religious beliefs and Choice of education. And it is in this third choice, Education, that many parents faced a new challenge the last couple of years since the global pandemic struck.
Three years ago parents who decided to homeschool their children were seen by many as the ‘different’ ones. Two years ago parents who never thought of homeschooling their children, were suddenly faced with a challenge: how do I ensure continuous education for my child, how do I keep my child safe and healthy and protected against an enemy no one can see (Covid-19)?
And just like many other families, we were faced with the same questions. When we started to do research, we realised that education entered its own “industrial revolution” phase. We were standing in front of three options: homeschooling where the support from the school was only administrative and I will have to teach my child; a school where classes were presented on a set timetable and the only difference between the online school and a brick-and-mortar school, was that he was at home and did his lessons online; and the third option was a combination of the first two: online lessons combined with self-study. We realised that with both parents also in education and working long hours, there was no time for us to teach our son, although we had the knowledge. It was also for our son a much easier transition from what he knew to something totally different.
Two years later we have settled into our new lifestyle and in the process we have learned a lot of lessons. Time management became very important and it was a skill that I had to teach my son. I had to show him how to plan his term, his week and his day. I had to show him how to plan when to start with an assignment to make sure it is completed and submitted on time. He had to learn how to take responsibility and attend classes, even though he has the freedom to make that choice.
In a brick-and-mortar school, parents are so much less involved in the day-to-day activities of their children. With an online school, I became involved in what happened in my child’s education on a daily basis. I check on his daily classes, I look at his performance and results when assessment results are released and I assist with his revision planning. Then there is of course the technical side – make sure he has access to Wi-Fi during load-shedding, make sure the printer is working, make sure the laptop is still on standard.
The biggest change in our lives was that we became so much more involved in our child’s education. But it also brought another concern with it – we had to make sure that the social development of our son was still taken care of. It is so important to remember that your child still needs contact with his peers and that he can still interact with them outside the academic sphere. It is very easy for a child to become totally isolated and if both parents are working, this can happen very easily.
Whether your choice is homeschooling or an online school, any parent will have to remember that your view about your child’s education will have to change. You need to become more involved in the education and social development of your child. Both you and your child will have to focus on time management, your communication about his education will have to be daily and maybe the most important before you even venture into this new adventure is that you have to make sure your child has the right personality to make a success of it. We are very fortunate. Our son is a self-starter, a self-motivator, and can work independently. Our transition was very easy. In the first year, both of us had to get used to the technical aspects and he had to learn time management skills – which learners do not learn in brick-and-mortar schools. But after 9 months at an online school, I did not need to create his calendar anymore or remind him about tasks. Today, two years later, we have an independent 14-year-old who is far above many first-year university students when it comes to planning his academics and taking responsibility for it.
Do I recommend it? Absolutely! Why? I wrote on that slate given to me the following objectives to instil in my son: independence, responsibility, work ethic, confidence, self-trust, and high-quality education. What is the downside? Social interaction in the form of sport or cultural activities takes a lot more effort, planning and involvement with the homeschooling/online schooling community.
When should you not do it? When you think it is an easy way out of “school” or when your child is not yet emotionally mature enough to take responsibility for engaging with their schoolwork. It is not an easy way out – it will take commitment from both you as a parent as well as your child to pay careful attention to make homeschooling or online schooling a success. If your child is not yet emotionally mature, they will not be able to work independently without support from you as a parent or other support structures (such as tutors or learning coaches).
The new era of education is for me as both a parent and educator myself, extremely exciting and I believe that we have the opportunity to create a future generation who believes in themselves, who knows what it is to take responsibility for your own future and who will develop skills far beyond any of their peers in normal schools. I have seen it in my son – you can see it in yours!”
At Wingu Academy our aim is to grow and develop our students into thriving, forward-thinking individuals who see problems as exciting challenges and failures as learning experiences. We call this the essence of a Wingulian, which includes our students, parents and staff members.