Joined: 31 Jan 2010
Location: The real world
|Posted: Wed Jun 28, 2017 4:19 am Post subject: Expat trend toward homeschooling
|Why more parents in the UAE are homeschooling their children
By Jessica Hill, The National | June 27, 2017
Marcela Romero is a stay-at-home mum, but on weekday mornings you will not find her fretting over what to put in school lunch boxes, or piling her kids into the car in Al Ain for a school run. Ms Romero – mum to Josue, 8, and Agustina, 6 – is among a growing number of parents who choose to teach their own children at home.
Included in the list of subjects is "real-life" education. "I teach them practical life skills, such as cooking, household responsibilities, groceries and organising parties," she says. "We keep learning fresh by visiting different interesting places, and by developing in my children a deep curiosity and desire to understand the world around them."
Parents teach their children at home around the world, but here rising school fees and cuts to employees’ benefits make it more affordable than mainstream schooling. And with long school runs twice a day, it can also make sense time-wise if one parent is prepared to do the teaching.
If Emirati families choose home schooling they are required to use the UAE curriculum, with education authorities providing curriculum materials and support. But the Ministry of Education does not have regulations for expatriates. Those parents go it alone, join organisations offering home-schooling programmes in their home countries or form a community with other like-minded parents.
"There are no school laws for non-Emiratis," says American mum Seema Khan, who runs Home Education Network of Abu Dhabi, which has 60 members. "They ask us to follow the education laws of our home countries." Samantha Gautier, also of the US, has been teaching her three children – Hashim, 9, Nourah, 8, and Omar, 5 – for the past three years in Abu Dhabi. Ms Gautier says her family made the decision when there was a shortage of choices after Hashim had bullying problems at his school. "It’s definitely growing because of the economy," she says. "A lot of people are having a hard time paying the tuition, which is increasing every year. A lot of people are seeing the differences between what’s being taught here and where they are from. And there are people whose kids were being bullied at schools. For whatever reason, they’re choosing to pull their kids out."
For other families, "unschooling", or allowing learners to follow their own interests, is a lifestyle choice. Caridad Saenz, a Cuban-American mother of six, started teaching her eldest son Juan Jose, 14, when he was in Grade 2 and the family lived in Las Vegas. "The teacher recommended that we home-school because he was reading at such a high level," Ms Saenz says. "He seemed bored at school." Her children have followed their natural interests. Juan Jose has a passion for game designing; Juan Diego, 10, loves playing piano; Juan Pablo, 9, enjoys maths; and Tica, 7, loves the theatre.
"It can be a problem that they want to be on their gadgets all day," Ms Saenz says. "We’re very child-oriented so we let them, but if we see that they’ve hit a week where they’re just not learning anything new we try to spark their interest. This Saturday, we brought out a frog from a biology dissecting kit and went over the anatomy."
Learning at home does not suit all children. Sallyann Della Casa, who runs the educational organisation the Growing Leaders Foundation in Dubai, says children who are intrinsically motivated are better suited to home schooling. "Those who enjoy working alone and at their own pace, are genuinely curious, willing to explore and well-disciplined may flourish," Ms Della Casa says. "Children who get their energy off other kids may not thrive." She says that in the growing "gig economy", in which many young parents work from home, home schooling can be a viable solution.
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