It recently struck me how many decisions of increasing controversial nature my wife and I have had to make since we got married, decisions that I would never have considered controversial before. When our first child was born the question was home birth or hospital birth? The next issue was whether to bottle feed or breast feed. Soon we were confronted with the question of our parenting philosophy as influenced by our feeding philosophy! We learnt about demand feeding vs parent directed feeding. I was amazed to discover that there are actually feeding philosophies. We soon realised that the next big question was going to be whether to home school or send our kids to public schools. Our oldest being 3-and-a-half we reckoned that the time has come to do some serious howework on the subject, pun not intended.
I always knew that home schooling was a controversial subject but I didn’t realise just how controversial until my wife and I attended an information day yesterday presented by the Pestalozzi Trust. The entire morning session was spent talking about the legal issues relating to home education. Mr Leendert van Oostrum, executive officer of the Trust explained that home education is provided for in the South African schools act since 1996 but that the government is making life difficult for home shoolers. The Pestalozzi Trust describe themselves as a legal defence fund for home education. They help their members stay out of court and provide legal advice in the event that they do need to go to court.
According to Van Oostrum many of the demands prescribed in government education policy documents are unreasonable and unjustifiable. He argues that because policy documents are not laws but merely guidelines, they may be ignored if they are not in line with the constitution. A recent example is found in the Call for guidelines and criteria to register learners for home education, published by the Gauteng MEC for education, Ms Angie Motshekga on 20 August 2008. One of the criteria to register for home education proposed by the MEC is that parents should ensure that the educator “is in possession of a minimum teaching qualification (three year teaching diploma) and be registered with the South African Council of Educators (SACE).” This would of course disqualify most home schooling parents. The full story including the Pestalozzi Trust’s comments can be read here, Gauteng frightens homeschoolers.
Driving back from the information day we talked about some of the controversial decisions we had taken over the past few years and how so many of these represent a return to basics, to a simpler lifestyle, a lifestyle that celebrates nature, an approach that values quality over quantity, and a protest against the notion of just doing something because “that’s the way it’s done”.
We haven’t made our final decision about home education yet but we have been stimulated to read more, to educate ourselves, to study the constitution and the education laws and policies. The mere process of investigating this option is forcing me to become a more informed and responsible citizen. I endeavour to blog some more on this subject because it has so many different aspects. I am also very interested to learn from anyone who would like to share their views.