Can you save money by home-schooling your children?

2018-05-17 12:13

Private schooling has become increasingly expensive in South Africa. Fees vary depending on the school, but according to insurer Discovery, from preschool 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 you would need to save around R6 700 per month, per child.

“Education fee increases 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,” says Gareth Friedlander, head of research and development at Discovery Life.

“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 activities, can shoot up the yearly costs by approximately 50%.”

Where does this leave parents who are struggling to meet the cost of private schooling? State schooling is an option, but some state schools can rival some of the fees of private schools. Increasingly, parents are looking at home-schooling as an alternative to reduce the impact on family finances.

How does home-schooling work?

Home-schooling was only legalised after 1996, which is probably why some of the older generation may still frown on the idea. However, increasingly, this is no longer taboo and a cost-effective alternative for your children. Home-schooling comes with many benefits, including being able to choose the curriculum you want to follow with your children and, 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 are in Grades 1 to 9.

Options for home-schooling include: the South African curriculum, which means your child will go on to write the National Senior Certificate; and the British curriculum, from which pupils can obtain the International General Certificate of Secondary Education and Cambridge A Levels. Parents can choose from curricula offered by America, Canada and Singapore.

Marinda Stuiver manages a digital marketing business and has been home-schooling her daughter Monica (currently 11 years old) since Grade R.

Monica is on the Packet of Accelerated Christian Education curriculum, which has been adapted for South Africa.

“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 and, every three months, they have to make an appointment at the Northshore Home Educators’ Association (NHEA), a Christian organisation based in Louisiana, US. They go to Durban North to see their senior supervisor who assesses the pupil’s work. The books and tests stay behind and are scored by an independent moderator, explains Stuiver.

Costs of home-schooling

Just like the cost of state and private education, home-schooling costs vary. You don’t escape having to buy books. “We buy the books and pay a monthly admin fee to the NHEA for handling record-keeping. Admin fees for Grade 6 come to approximately R5 400 per year and the books come to approximately R8 000,” says Stuiver.

You don’t have to follow an entire curriculum. David Kop is public policy head at the Financial Planning Institute and home-schools his eight-year-old daughter. He says you can choose subjects from various curriculums you like. “You can buy a full curriculum, which can become quite expensive. But you can also pick parts of curriculums that you like. For instance, we follow the Singapore maths curriculum.”

Kop says there are 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 the 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 home-schooling option. I believe there are much cheaper options, but the curriculum is balanced and good, and our child enjoys it.”

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March 29 2020