It is vital to be properly informed about the legalities of homeschooling so that you are not in a position where your children’s rights can be violated.
A homeschool mom writes: “When we started them on this curriculum, their dad insisted that we register them with the Department of Basic Education so that we don’t ever run the risk of all the work they’ve done not being recognised – ….[letter shortened]
…So, three people from the Department of Education came here and they told us our children would be assessed at the end of their foundation phase, which, as I’ve mentioned, is at the end of this year!
I’m absolutely petrified of them being assessed!
Am I just not cut out for this? Do you think I should I call it a day?”
These are excerpts from a long email from a panic-stricken mother in her third year of homeschooling, using a highly structured school-at-home curriculum. Further on, she described her daily challenges and how she is failing horribly at keeping up with the demands of the curriculum. This causes her to stress and undermines her confidence in their decision to homeschool.
There are two concerning aspects of her situation which are so common that we have to keep addressing them.
1. Choice of curriculum
2. Registration with the Department of Education (DBE)
Firstly, new parents often choose a curriculum package that resembles the school system to give them the confidence they need to start homeschooling.
They choose a highly structured programme with a text book for every subject, a daily schedule, tests and exams. This replication of school at home is familiar to them and comforting to them because they feel insecure. The curriculum package that supposedly covers ‘everything’ and offers accountability, gives them some security.
Our article Eclectic Homeschooling explains in more detail why this approach so often causes stress and misery, causes a mother to doubt her ability to homeschool (as in the email above) and very often fails.
Secondly, many of these CAPS curriculum providers also tell parents that they MUST register their children with the Department of Basic Education (DBE).
Too many parents are just doing this blindly because they think that ‘obeying the law’ is the ‘right’ thing to do. They do not know and understand ALL the laws pertaining to parents, education, children and their rights, and often suffer because of this ignorance of the legalities of homeschooling.
The SA Schools Act is not the only law to consider with regard to the responsibilities of parents and registration of home learners.
The Children’s Act is also applicable as is the Promotion of Administrative Justice Act, the Promotion of Access to Information Act and the Protection of Personal Information Act, among others.
Article 26 (3) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states:
“Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.”
[Government officials should not!]
How government officials sometimes illegally exceed the boundaries of their authority and violate the rights of home educated children is explained here:
For example, the home visit by DBE officials mentioned in the email above was illegal and should not have been allowed by the parents, unless the officials had a court order in hand! They did not.
It could also be argued that the assessments that the officials would like to conduct at the end of the year will also not be in the best interests of these children.
Parents have a constitutional obligation to make decisions for their children that are in the best interests of the child.
According to the Pestalozzi Trust, the homeschool legal defence association, “parents can better act in their children’s best interests if they do NOT register their home learners with the education department.”
Read their article: Should I Register?
The Trust has reported that about 80% of the situations that they get involved in, are with families who have, or are trying to register with the DBE and run into problems. There are fewer problems if you DO NOT REGISTER and this is a lawful choice to make if you have good reason for your lawful non-compliance.
The Pestalozzi Trust advises the following:
“Legal Aid. We suggest that home educators join the Pestalozzi Trust, or make use of the services of lawyers of their choice, whether they register with the education department or not.
Why is it necessary to have legal aid prepared?
• If a home learner is NOT registered with the education department, his/her parents can be prosecuted and upon conviction be sentenced to 6 months in jail or a fine.
• If a home learner IS registered with the education department, his/her parents may find that the requirements of the education department which have to be met make it impossible for them to act in their child’s best interests.
Membership of the Pestalozzi Trust:
The Pestalozzi Trust is prepared to support its members in any conflict with the authorities–with officials of the education department, the welfare and the police. The main task of the Trust is to keep its members out of court, and the Trust succeeds admirably in this task.
If home educators do not join the Trust, they should take trouble to find lawyers who are knowledgeable about home education and the related legislation before they start their home education journey, and who will be willing to defend their home education in court, should the family come into conflict with the authorities. Members of the Trust receive an emergency number which is available 24/7, and are kept informed of all developments pertaining to their home education.”*
Whether you do or whether you don’t register with the DBE, this needs to be an informed choice and you need to know all the laws affecting your children and your responsibility to protect them from unnecessary and unlawful state interference as well as the risks and the benefits of your choice.
Then you need to know how to defend your position, if necessary.
We strongly recommend that you join the Pestalozzi Trust as they are the watchdogs of the freedom of all homeschoolers in South Africa and it is because of their work in both the past and the present, that you have the freedom to choose home education for your family.
If you are new to homeschooling, please don’t pass on bad, uninformed advice to others and rather refer them to the articles listed above.
BE CORRECTLY INFORMED
* Should I Register? http://pestalozzi.org/web2/en/should-i-register/, retrieved 24 April 2017
Invest in Learning More about Homeschooling
Shirley has recently moved all her online webinar presentations about homeschooling to a new hosting platform called Teachable.
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You can quickly create a user account at Teachable FREE and then access the following courses, which are also downloadable:
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The Cambridge Webinar – R150