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Leaving Mainstream Schooling? Pros, Cons and Options.
Mainstream schooling is the conventional or traditional way of educating children, usually in a medium to large sized school where they are split into classes of average size and are educated in classrooms according to the same syllabus at the same rate. Some adaptations for children with different needs may be available as part of an inclusion program in mainstream schools. This approach works well for many children but may not be personalised enough for those who have unique needs due to their temperament, interests, learning abilities, social needs, health or curriculum preference.
Mainstream schools provide learners with a neutral, real-world environment with peers of the same age where they can learn important life skills, are challenged to do their best and follow a standard curriculum. Diversity of students allows for development of robust social skills and performing well amongst one’s peers builds a child’s self-esteem. When children with unconventional needs learn alongside children with traditional needs, both sets of learners develop acceptance, collaboration and patience.
There is no one best setting for all and children’s needs and circumstances change over time. In certain cases, a child’s social, environmental or educational needs or goals extend beyond the scope of what mainstream schools and teachers, even those that are inclusive, can offer. If, for example, children don’t match the pace of their peers academically, they may feel out of place and inadequate and need to rather build stronger learning foundations or be taught in a different learning style. Or, as another example, children with sensory processing sensitivity who process stimulation very deeply may need more nurturing environments where they can learn to manage and harness their trait (Baryła-Matejczuk et al., 2020).
As parents and teachers, we need to realistically appraise and regularly re-evaluate the learning environment into which children are placed. Alternate methods of schooling may be attractive and suitable for children who do better on a more flexible timetable in more relaxed settings, where their specific challenges and strengths are catered for. Furthermore, desired subjects and curricula may not be available in traditional environments.
There are three types of alternative education to consider:
- Online Learning – all work happens via the internet, so classes, assignments and coursework are all available online. For many this has become the norm, given the Covid-19 restrictions.
- Blended Learning – here online and traditional learning is combined. Some physical classes are attended but assignments are completed in the student’s own time and are submitted online by due dates.
- Distance Learning – All course material is sent to the learner to be completed and assessments are submitted online. There are no live online classes and learners work at their own pace.
Alternative education usually takes place in either of the following settings:
Home Schooling or Home Education
Learning, whether online or distance, takes place at home, supervised by a parent, tutor or online teacher. The process may vary from open and free forms that draw on many and varied resources, to highly structured forms that closely follow an approved curriculum. This is a widely appealing option as there is evidence to show that when home-schooling is constructively implemented, with adequate social and physical development provided for, children are more likely to have higher self-esteem, deeper friendships and better relationships with adults. They are also less susceptible to peer pressure (Potter, 2012; Burton & Slater, 2021).
Cottage Schooling or Tuition Centres
With cottage schooling, sometimes called “co-operative schooling” or tuition centres, a small group of children are taught by a teacher or facilitated by tutors at a location outside the home for short periods during the week.
For more information on the approaches and curricula options that South African alternative educators choose, visit:
Baryła-Matejczuk, M., Artymiak, M., Ferrer-Cascales, R., & Betancort, M. (2020). The Highly Sensitive Child as a challenge for education – introduction to the concept. Problemy Wczesnej Edukacji, 48(1), 51-62. https://doi.org/10.26881/pwe.2020.48.05
Burton, K., & Slater, E. (2021). Homeschooled children are far more socially engaged than you might think. The Conversation. Retrieved 20 January 2021, from https://theconversation.com/homeschooled-children-are-far-more-socially-engaged-than-you-might-think-111353
Potter, H. (2012). Do home-schoolers do better in college than traditional students? college.usatoday.com. Retrieved 20 January 2021, from https://www.usatoday.com/story/college/2012/02/18/do-home-schoolers-do-better-in-college-than-traditional-students/37389311/