Too close to home?

Homeschooling became a hot topic in 2020. Some who would have formally never imagined it as an option now see its merits, simply due to the reality of being forced into it by COVID-19. The question frequently asked is, what are the pro and cons? And sadly that’s an incredibly difficult thing to answer.

As Dean McCoubrey, Founder of MySociaLife, the 8-module Online Safety and Digital Life Orientation Program adopted by schools in South Africa explains, “The feedback from students who now find themselves being homeschooled is very mixed. One size does not fit all when it comes to kids and the households in which they live. There are different levels of attention that learners can access, different technologies, and different parents supporting them. Is homeschooling being driven by a parent (or homeschool teacher), or is it blended with online learning? In some cases, it could be largely online. There are myriad permutations here. Of the 4000 students, we teach – and we teach them 8 times in a year – the feedback is very diverse. Some are feeling anxious, while others are relishing this new approach to their education.”

The pros of homeschooling speak for themselves: Less time in traffic, you can customize your child’s learning tools, you can protect your child more from issues like racism or bullying, and you can accommodate special needs or learning requirements.

By contrast, according to neuroscientists and cognitive therapist, Dr. David Rosenstein that advises MySociaLife on the direction and tools used in the 8-lesson program, “There is a difference between peer group interaction and adult interaction – right now children don’t have children to play with and learning through play is huge. Also, peer interactions improve learning through peer modeling – for example, “hey if my friend can count to 100, then I can too…so I’ll learn to do that”. In addition, peer interactions are incredibly important learning that happens in that type of context and responds differently to adults than they do to peers. You relate to someone of your developmental age differently.”

Parents also have their own stresses and strains, and can potentially let their own fatigue or perspectives get in the way. “While homeschooling may suit some children in Lockdown, there have been many parents that have felt the pressure of juggling these complex tasks while trying to work, or manage other siblings,” explains McCoubrey.

He adds, “We have a lot of parents asking us for our parent presentation on how to manage their child’s increased life online. Homeschooling is powerful if you have time and energy, and can provide adequate support, blended with a dose of self-awareness and objectivity. We, at MySociaLife, know first-hand how it requires immense energy to hold the space, support teens and pre-teens, keep their motivation, stimulate them with tools that help them engage, and remember the information. In our Program, we use video, animations, discussions with others, workshops, gamification, and quizzes. Life online (social media or e-learning requires a map. Up until now, it’s not been attended to, which is why our program has been in such demand in schools. We don’t just teach students, we teach parents and teachers too. There are several groups here that want to do this better.”

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Dean McCoubrey

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