Can you save money by homeschooling your children?

With the cost of education rising, parents are increasingly considering homeschooling as an alternative. But how much can it really save you?

homeschoolingPrivate schooling has become increasingly expensive in South Africa. Fees vary depending on the school but according to insurer Discovery, from pre-school to finishing the first degree, the average family with two children at private schools will spend around R5 million on education in today’s terms. To afford this cost you would need to save around R6 700 per month per child.

“Education fee increases also far outpace salary growth each year, so these fees and the amount you need to save will take up larger portions of income over time. The fact that children are starting school earlier than before and the many extra costs associated with education, such as laptops and other technology, extra tuition, sports and other activities, can shoot up the yearly costs by approximately 50%,” says Gareth Friedlander, head of research and development at Discovery Life.

So where does this leave parents who are struggling to meet the cost of private schooling? State schooling is an option but there are some state schools that can rival some of the fees of private schools. Increasingly though, parents are looking at homeschooling as an alternative and as a way to reduce the impact on the family finances.

How does homeschooling it work?

Home schooling was only legalised after 1996 which is probably why some of the older generations may still frown upon the idea. But the idea is slowly gaining more acceptance as a cost-effective and efficient alternative for your children.

Homeschooling comes with many benefits, including being able to choose the type of curriculum that you want to follow with your children. If your child is social and sporty, it affords them a good deal of flexibility to engage in outside activities.

It’s important to still register your child with the Department of Education if they fall within grades 1 – 9.

Options for homeschooling include: the South African curriculum (CAPS), which means your child will go on to write the National Senior Certificate (NSC); the British curriculum where learners can obtain the International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE) and Cambridge A Levels. Parents can also choose from curricula offered by America, Canada and Singapore.

Marinda Stuiver, who manages a digital marketing business, decided to homeschool her daughter Monica (currently 11 years old) since Grade R. “PACES is an American-based curriculum adapted for South Africa. So they add Afrikaans as a subject and rename the modules in the curriculum to match South African naming but the work inside the workbooks is American based,” says Stuiver.

Regular tests are conducted. “Every three months we have to make an appointment at the NHEA with the senior supervisor who assesses the learner’s work.  The set of books and tests stay behind and it is scored by an independent moderator,” explains Stuiver.

Costs of homeschooling

As with state and private education, homeschooling costs vary. You also don’t escape having to buy books. “We buy the books and pay a monthly admin fee to NHEA that handles record-keeping. Admin fees for Grade 6 come to approximately R 5 400 per year and the books come to approximately R 8 000,” says Stuiver.

But you don’t have to follow an entire curriculum. David Kop, HOD: Public Policy at the Financial Planning Institute, who homeschools his 8-year-old daughter, says you can choose subjects from various curricula that you like.  “You can buy a full curriculum which can become quite expensive. But you can also pick parts of curriculums that you like. So, for instance, we follow the Singapore maths curriculum.”

Kop adds that there are also many free resources online. “This enables you to work according to your child’s needs. Then you don’t need to buy expensive uniforms.”

Stuiver agrees that not having to buy school uniforms is a big saving. “The rest is just petrol to and from NHEA in Durban North when we have to report to the supervisors but we coordinate it with collecting the next set of books.  We are not using the cheapest homeschooling option ‒ I believe there are much cheaper options, but the curriculum is balanced and good and our child enjoys it,” she adds.

This article first appeared in City Press.

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