x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

A parent's guide to home-schooling

We help you weigh up the pros and cons of this momentous decision.

Home-schooling has benefits and drawbacks.
Home-schooling has benefits and drawbacks.

Whether your child isn’t getting along at school, you’re not impressed with the curriculum, or you’ve just moved and want to keep your child in the school system they’re used to, here’s what you need to consider.

The advantages:

Wide social circle

Home-schooled children are often more comfortable with a variety of age groups because they're used to spending time with people other than direct peers. The late Dr Raymond Moore wrote in his book Better Late than Early: "The idea that children need to be around many other youngsters in order to be 'socialised' is perhaps the most dangerous and extravagant myth in education and child-rearing today."

Results

"The curriculum we are using is heavily test-based, so it's easy to gauge progress. Beyond the tests, my children have bounded ahead in reading, writing and maths. My youngest is one to two years ahead of her peers in Canada because we were able to skip concepts that were easily grasped and spend one-to-one time learning the harder material. My oldest has noticeably improved her speed, accuracy and comprehension in reading. If I had known I was going to see results like this, I would have started home-schooling earlier," says Danielle MacIsaac, a Dubai-based mum of two girls age nine and five.

Avoid bullying

"Some children have a very negative experience with school, and often benefit from home-schooling so they can develop the maturity and resilience to manage socially challenging situations," says Marie De Daunton, an educational psychologist at kidsFIRST Medical Centre in Dubai (www.parentingdubai.com).

Flexibility

"My husband works a pretty irregular schedule," says Silvia Aldredge, a mum of three boys age 10, eight and six, in Dubai. "So if we have a midweek day where Dad wants to take them to the park to play, we can do that. We've also been able to take some terrific off-peak trips. We did a study unit on the Ottoman Empire, munching corn on the cob in an Istanbul playground."

 

The disadvantages:

No specialist teaching

"A home-schooled child does not have the opportunity to engage in cooperative learning activities, be exposed to different teaching styles, benefit from teachers who have specialist subject knowledge and partake in school social life," says De Daunton.

Heavy preparation

"In addition to patience, a parent who is home-schooling needs perseverance. Home-schooling children is a full-time job, which requires a great deal of preparation as well as direct teaching," says De Daunton. Parents may find it's a lot more work than they expected. Preparing lessons, activities and monitoring progress can be time-consuming.

No peer group

Home-schooled children don't have the opportunity to mix with peers on a day-to-day basis. However, there are a number of home-schooling associations that organise field trips and activities, such as the Dubai and Northern Emirates Home-schooling Association (www.uaehomeschool.wordpress.com).

Lack of activities on tap

"The biggest challenge is that all the activities and social life of a school need to get re-created. At one point we had karate over by the Burj Khalifa, swimming at the Meadows and a weekly meet-up at Jumeirah Beach Park. I am jealous of parents who tell me their kids can't play because they are at school doing various activities," says Aldredge.

Sacrifice

"It takes a tremendous amount of personal sacrifice to stay at home and educate children. It means I can't have a job or develop my career and I can't work on a master's degree in my field. It's a full-time commitment and sometimes that feels limiting," admits MacIsaac.