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Never mind homeschooling, parents are now 'unschooling' kids

Parents and kids sing praises of innovative ‘unschooling’ system

05 August 2018 - 00:02 By PREGA GOVENDER

Kaspar Reineke stopped going to school when he was in grade 2 because he found it "incredibly boring and unfulfilling".
Now 13, he is writing a book about world religions titled The Grand Pilgrimage.
Kaspar and his brother Luke, 8, are among South African children whose parents have opted for "unschooling" - an educational model in which children follow no curriculum and do not have to write tests or exams.
Instead, they focus on "self-directed" learning and choose what they want to study, from playing the violin to pottery, playing Minecraft or ice-skating.Zakiyya Ismail, an advocate of children's rights and freedom in education, estimated that 1,000 children in SA are unschooled.
Ismail's Facebook page, Unschoolers in SA, has 3,800 members and 48 mothers are part of the Johannesburg unschooling WhatsApp group.
Kaspar and Luke spend most days at the Re-imagined Learning Centre in Troyeville, Johannesburg, which is run by Ché-vanni Davids and has nearly 20 children.
The title of late Nigerian musician Fela Kuti's song Teacher Don't Teach Me Nonsenseis on one of the walls.
Kaspar said that after he left mainstream school he spent the next three years "having fun" and increasing his vocabulary by watching videos on the internet.
He does a bit of English and maths at the centre, adding: "For the most part, you choose what you want to do."
Kaspar's mother, Felicia Moonsamy, said they had to take him out of school because he was bullied and was bored.
"He actually started hating maths, not because he's not good at it but because of the repetition."
She said her sons were thoroughly enjoying unschooling, adding: "They even discuss the things they research, and exchange notes and talk about things. I will not let them do anything else but this."
The Troyeville centre is one of two facilities in SA catering for unschoolers. The other is Riverstone Village in Randburg. A representative said: "The community feels we are not looking for publicity."
Johannesburg filmmaker Langa Klaaste - son of the late newspaper editor Aggrey Klaaste - and his wife, Lindiwe, moved their two children, Zola, 7, and Zoleka, 6, from their conventional school last year after they "stopped expressing themselves well"."They started complaining about how they were not being heard at school. I don't want my kids to know any boundaries. I want them to go beyond what they can imagine. They must fantasise and live out their dreams," Langa said.
The children are now being unschooled.In SA, schooling is compulsory for all children aged seven to 15, and parents who do not send their children to school can be fined or jailed for up to six months.
Basic education department spokesperson Troy Martens said she could not comment on unschooling because she was not aware of the concept.
"Taking a learner out of school is illegal if you are not going to provide them with adequate alternative education."
However, Martens said the department was not aware of any parent being prosecuted for not sending their child to school. "It is every parent's responsibility to ensure their children have access to basic education."Ismail said parents who opt for unschooling were not breaking the law because their children were still getting an education.
Ismail, who has unschooled her three children, said unschooling allowed children to learn the things that interested them.
"It's free from the coercion and compulsion of standardised schooling."
Her daughter Makayla, 11, who has never seen the inside of a classroom, said she had learnt to read by playing games and role-playing.Ismail said: "If you're thinking about unschooling, I highly recommend it. Children are able to learn more naturally and happily on their own than in a classroom where they're forced to be."
A conference on unschooling, organised by Ismail, will take place at the African Leadership Academy in Johannesburg on October 20 and 21.
Children who are unschooled can write the internationally recognised general equivalency diploma - the equivalent of a matric certificate - if they want to attend university.
South African universities generally insist that unschooled students provide proof of having been accepted at an overseas university before they are admitted locally.
One of these students, Tarsha Leigh Jenneker, 24, graduated with a BCom law degree from Wits University last year.
She left school in grade 3 after she and her family became disillusioned with the schooling system.
Jenneker's sister, Jenayne, 28, who was unschooled from the end of grade 9, is the co-owner of a catering company in Johannesburg.
But unschooling is not for everyone. Mia von Scha's two children returned to formal schooling after five years because they missed their friends and "needed more mental stimulation".
She said: "The general philosophy is amazing.
"However, in practice it requires a lot of involvement from the parents, which is not always doable."..

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