I recently had the opportunity to attend the first-ever African Home Education Indaba, held at Brainline’s venue in Montana, Pretoria, South Africa. And what a blast! It was an incredible three-day experience, combined with the Gauteng Expo. Here are my thoughts on the event and what it contributed to the homeschooling community.
As an intro, I would like to quote Mike Donnelly of the HSLDA:
“…this conference is so important, and why your participation here is so significant. You are part of a global movement that reflects basic human dignity. It is a movement that is rooted in love and inspired by freedom. What could be better than that?”
International speakers on home education
There were a number of impressive international speakers, some who even came with their families.
- Peter Stock from HSLDA (President of the Home Schoolers Legal Defense Association, Canada)
- Mike Donnelly from HSLDA (Attorney member of HSLDA, Director of Global Outreach, adjunct professor in government law, USA)
- Alexey Komov and his son from Russia (Founder of Classical Conversations, board member of Global Home Education Exchange, board member of the World Congress of Families)
- Dr. Debra Bell from the US (Executive Director and lead teacher of AIM Academy, award-winning, bestselling author)
- Dr. Brian and Betsy Ray from US (Founder of the National Home Education Research Institute, a leading international expert in his field)
- Godfrey Kyazzi with his wife and son from Uganda (Board member of the Global Home Education Exchange and an advocate for home education in Uganda and East Africa)
- Canute Waswa, his wife and four children from Kenya (a member of East African Community of Homeschoolers, member of Global Home Education Exchange)
There were also many South African speakers, including Bouwe van der Eems, Martie Du Plessis from Dynamis Institute, Karin van Oostrum of the Pestalozzi Trust, and many others. Listing everyone and their resumes would form a long post on its own.
Fathers and experts on home education
It was incredibly moving to see so many of these speakers stand in front of a hall full of families and say, “I’m a homeschooling father.” They shared their expertise in their fields, along with their family’s stories and topped it off with their Christian faith. Most of the speakers were Christians and unapologetic, yet respectful about it.
There is something powerful that happens in a room full of families when fathers like Mike Donelly and Waswa Canute stand up and make statements along the lines of, “I love homeschooling my children. I fight for my family. I support my wife. It is the best thing I’ve ever done in my life.”
I am sure I was not the only parent frequently moved to tears by such incredible validation of the role of parenting, its importance, its eternal value.
The legal info regarding home education
The first few sessions were about the legal side of home education and about how regulation affects/can affect home educating families. Dr. Brian Ray presented some fantastic research statistics and information from the USA where there are currently about 2.4 million children being homeschooled. The research shows that regulation from the government – whether little, moderate or intense – has NO impact on the successful outcomes of the average homeschooler. This means that those who lobby against homeschooling cannot use the argument that more regulation and control of home educators would improve or ensure that children do well. There is NO correlation!
In terms of South Africa, there is a huge gap between the intentions for the regulation of home education, the intentions of the government in terms of improving equality and quality in public schooling and the actual implementation and results. The BELA Bill has still not been passed and the Pestalozzi Trust is working hard on having it amended to avoid unfair control of home educating families.
The Kenyan perspective on home education as presented by Waswa Canute was interesting. They have a loophole in their law that allows families to homeschool (as “special schools”) and their homeschooling community is growing very well. The East Africa Homeschooling Community is hard at work on putting more resourceful infrastructures in place, putting a positive face on homeschooling in the media and advocating for quality education.
Freedom in Education
Why is this so important? Freedom allows children to explore their learning process, discover their passions, interests, and talents early on, and get a head start on a meaningful career. The beauty of home education is that it allows exactly that.
With less peer pressure to fit in in a system that is designed for uniformity more than diversity, children are free to direct their own learning. They are empowered, motivated and “uncapped” by the responsibility to find their own way and grow in independence (with appropriate parental guidance, of course).
Practical tips on home education
On the second day of the conference, the sessions focused more on the practical aspects of home education.
The best basic tools
Some of the key basics discussed by Karin van Oostrum of the Pestalozzi trust included having a vision (long-term goals planned with your family), fuel, and tools to start and finish the homeschooling journey. She spoke about keeping your children close to you for as long as possible, to help them have a firm foundation when they are adults and have to enter the world as individuals. Healthy bonding with an authority figure has a major positive impact on a child’s learning and development. She also emphasized the standard crucial basics of allowing plenty of free play, reading aloud daily and maths as part of daily chores.
Keeping children interested in learning
Dr. Debra Bell spoke on how to keep children interested in learning. She was a public school teacher and has a Ph.D. in educational psychology, so she closely studied how children learn best. Again, research shows that home education creates a wonderful environment for individualized learning, where content can be adapted to connect with the child’s interests. Interest is an intrinsic motivator, which is far more powerful and effective than external motivators. In short, this means that arranging your child’s education around his/her interests enables the child to keep learning far beyond the hours you might have planned. It also improves their memory, concentration, attention, focus, and understanding of what they are learning. Interest-boosted learning is easier than having to bribe, cajole, plead and nag your child to do their work!
Home education can be successful!
Martie du Plessis from Dynamis Institute spoke about raising our children to be change agents in 20 years. Her focus was on the legacy, the “adults” we are raising for the world. Considering the pace at which the world is changing, it’s a crucial point.
We need to think about raising children who will be well-equipped, strong and discerning leaders when we pass on from this world. Our children need to be change agents who can think, analyze and ask critical questions in every sphere of life, rather than just accepting whatever system is placed in front of them. She describes parents as “sacredly able.”
Martie’s colleague JaquelineMorkel’s research in South Africa along with an interesting background in metallurgical engineering contributed to these facts, demonstrating how home education can stretch our children, little by little, without breaking them.
Dr. Brian Ray’s research clearly shows that homeschooling DOES work. In fact, in most cases, homeschooling children perform above average. This brings us to the matter of curriculum choice.
Curriculum discussions at the Home Education Indaba
There were speakers discussing the different graduation options for students, namely an American High School Diploma, the GED, Classical Conversations, and Cambridge. Of course, there are other options as well such as CAPS and IEB, with various providers, etc, far too many to discuss at the conference or in this post.
It’s your right to homeschool your child(ren)
In South Africa, it is still legal to homeschool your children. It is also legal all over the US and many other countries. Not only that, but it is your right as a parent. Mike Donnelly, the president of the HSLDA, spoke passionately on the subject. He is an attorney, advocates for many homeschooling families and frequently speaks on how constitutional rights and human rights support the very many positive aspects of homeschooling.
“[Homeschooling is] in itself, it’s a good thing. It’s good for children. It’s good for families. It’s good for communities. It’s good for countries, which makes it good for the entire world. To me, it’s an obvious and natural thing for families to seek to educate their own children. For some, it’s a sacred obligation… Parents are by nature the primary educators of their children.”
Summary of the African Home Education Indaba
If you skimmed, here are the key points that stood out for me, that may encourage you too:
- Homeschooling is a powerful, globally growing movement and it is successful, it works!
- Scientific research proves that home education benefits children’s physical, social, mental, educational and spiritual development, enabling them to be above-average achievers.
- Government regulation has NO impact on the successful outcomes of homeschooled children.
- Independent, self-directed and interest-led learning is a powerful motivator.
- It is your right as a parent to homeschool your child. You are “sacredly able” because God made you a parent. It connects with human rights, natural law, and constitutional law. And in fact, homeschooling was the NORM for 6 000 years, up until the early 19th century!
- Homeschooling will help raise children who will be change agents for the future.
- Whether Christian or not, fighting for homeschooling is about fighting for the freedom and right of parents to educate their children as they see fit.
- Unschooling won’t ruin your child.
- Read aloud with your children every day, do a little maths every day and play every day!
- Fathers are key in the family and homeschooling structure. Fathers should support the mothers emotionally, communicate and be involved as far as possible (Canute Waswa). Mothers need support! Without it, if the mother goes down, so does the homeschooling and the family.
How and what can you contribute to the global movement of home education?
You have an important role to play as a homeschooling parent. It’s not just about your children, your family and the values you want to impart to them. It’s also about the wider homeschooling community – all the other families who would like to gain/continue enjoying the freedom to do the same.
You can contribute by:
- Registering with the Pestalozzi Trust if you are in South Africa, with HSLDA if you are in the US or Canada, or with the relevant defense organizations in your country. These organizations will defend your family in court if the government should prosecute you for homeschooling. Also, courts MUST consider international constitutional law in this matter (which helps).
- Joining your local homeschooling community – online and in person. Talk about homeschooling to other families whose children may be struggling or getting bullied in school. Be positive, don’t be pushy. Reassure other families and refer them to more helpful information.
- Share your children’s JOY of learning, their experiences and their progress with others. The world should hear more about homeschoolers’ incredible achievements!
- Join organizations that support the cause of homeschooling and assist them in any way you can.
- If you are an academic, support the research of home education in your country. The more global research that is compiled, the stronger the case for keeping undue government interference at bay. If you’re not an academic, you can contribute to research financially.
- Respecting homeschoolers whose methods, world view, values, and choices may differ from yours. We are all in it together, even if we don’t do it the same way. Changes in regulations will affect everyone, so be united in what matters.
- Stay informed! Knowledge is power and after all, we want to raise informed adults, too!
Whatever your homeschooling journey may look like, whatever your world view or faith, know that your role is IMPORTANT. You are a parent making significant sacrifices, facing criticism, dealing with an overwhelmingly digital world, and you’re doing okay. There are many other parents just like you, finding their way. Connect, get support, share your story. Everyone could use encouragement, inspiration and a good laugh about your own lessons in parenting along the way!