24 October 2018

An essay on some of the false assumptions made about homeschoolers – and/or homeschooling in general – by traditional scholars.

There are three main ‘worries’ that come to mind when traditional scholars, or those who have attended or are attending traditional school, think about homeschooling: schoolwork, physical activity and socialisation. I would not consider one of these to be a real problem. A lot of people would be confused by that statement; schoolwork not being a problem could easily be believable, but physical activity and socialisation might need a bit more of an explanation.

That is exactly what this essay is for: we’ll be delving into some of the most common misconceptions made about homeschooling by traditional scholars or non-homeschoolers.

First things first: our schoolwork. Perhaps some of us lack ‘book smarts’; though those who do make up for it with many other skills, whether it be in creativity, knowledge about life, or even entrepreneurial skills! There are, however, a lot of us who do traditional schoolwork, and excel in it, even doing better than those in government or public schools. All of this has to do with each individual’s interests, choices and preferences: if someone does not enjoy something, they will not be as driven to be good at it. Make them do something they enjoy, however, and they’ll definitely be more willing to do it and will most of the time want to do it.

It’s been made apparent today that schools teach a lot of useless knowledge. Not knowing your country’s or even your own history, for example, could make you seem uncultured and disgraceful, but why do we need to know about the past when school is supposed to prepare us for the future? As homeschoolers, we don’t need to learn about any of that useless information and can rather focus on what we will need in life and what we want.

What we learn is incredibly important, and I could go on about it for ages, but how we learn is also of incredible importance. In school, learners are confined to certain amounts of time in which they must “do this” or “do that” within that prescribed time. As homeschoolers, we’re not confined to time limits; even if we have worked for an entire day, we have at least gotten our work done and understand it properly. Those who are faster workers could work for a fraction of the time a child in school works and could get so much more done. I, for example was one of the faster workers in my class, and I had to sit there for hours sometimes waiting for the other kids to finish their work, only to move on to my next class where the same would happen. Now, however, I work for two to three hours a day, often doing two or even three times the amount of work I did in one day of school.

Not only our time, but the method in which we’re taught is of the utmost importance.

In a lot of schools, the teachers will talk for hours (or just hand out work and maybe explain one or two things) and just leave the rest up to the children. Homeschoolers will, the majority of the time, teach ourselves, with our parents just facilitating. At least, though, we know exactly what we’re learning and don’t have to beg a teacher to explain it to us. If we forget something, we can always go back, and not suffer the embarrassment of having to ask the teacher to repeat something because you fell asleep in class.

Physical activity is also a great concern, and perhaps a few of us don’t get enough of it, but the majority of us are rather fit. Most homeschoolers have extra-curricular activities, a lot of which are sports or activities that give us ‘enough’ exercise. For example, while dancing might not be considered a sport, it definitely gets the job done when you want to get into shape.

And these activities aren’t the only ways we get exercise; socials are organised by the parents or even the homeschoolers themselves. We’ve got socials or events where we go ice-skating, or to trampoline parks, where we get more than enough exercise. If we’re at a social where we’re chatting, and it does not escalate into a full-on game, even then we keep ourselves busy one way or another. And then there are other socials which cater specifically to getting exercise, where we’ll play sports or just run around acting like the children we are.

Then we’ve got the kids who are properly educated in life and know the importance of not only mental activity, but physical as well. I, again, for example, have an exercise routine every day to stay in shape, as I know how important it is and I definitely do not want to be overweight. You’ve even got kids who go the extra mile to organise ‘get togethers’ with friends just for fitness and exercise. I haven’t seen this happen much though, but I know it does happen and I know of kids who want to do it, such as myself.

A lot of the time there are no sports clubs close to some homeschoolers, and maybe they lack motivation to exercise by themselves. There are many schools who are happy to have homeschoolers practice with them, and maybe even play competitively for these schools. There are still companies and/or schools who’ll go the extra mile and give the homeschoolers their own team when they have their interschool athletics or sports days.

Now for the elephant in the room: socialisation. Probably the most irritating assumption made about homeschoolers is that we’re all anti-social. This is not the case whatsoever. I have already mentioned ‘socials’; what might one of these socials be? It’s just a group of friends getting together and chatting or doing something together, nothing special; school kids do this all the time. Thought it’s nothing much, it’s still something and it prevents us from being an outcast, or rather it is just one of the things that do.

Quickly think back to when you were in school, or if you’re currently in school; how many of the people you ‘consider’ friends aren’t people you only see in the classroom or at school, and actually make an effort to see outside of school? For some of you, you may see a lot of them outside of school as well but – for most of you – I can guarantee the majority of the people you consider friends never see you outside of school. All these socials we have are organised because we want to see each other, not because we’re forced to see them when we leave our homes.

As homeschoolers, we’re also not confined to friend groups comprised of only those in our classes or schools. Neither are kids in school. Kids in school, however, don’t always try to make friends outside of their classrooms or school and often have very few friends outside of their school; these friends are, in many cases, simply kids that they had gone to school with. Without this confinement, we make friends with others of all ages and most of us aren’t as scared to meet new people.

I’m hoping this essay has opened your eyes and made you realise we’re not the unfit, uneducated, anti-social kids a lot of you think we are. We care enough for ourselves and so do our parents. In my opinion, homeschooling is far better than traditional school as we can accomplish so much more. Perhaps we don’t always get noticed by everyone else, but as long as we know what we’re doing, and we’re satisfied with ourselves, we need nothing more.

Brock van der Westhuizen, 14-years old, started his homeschooling journey in January 2016 (after having completed Grade 5 in a private school). His favourite subject is Geography, particularly Astronomy, and enjoys athletics and hip hop dancing. Brock’s favourite free-time activities include writing, reading, cooking and baking, and he has even taught himself to play the piano. He has taken part in various Olympiads and Eisteddfod’s and has obtained outstanding results. When he is not on the ice rink or the trampoline, or dancing, he enjoys “chilling” with his friends.