Terminology

Home education. Any parent that chooses to educate their child at home rather than at school is said to be home educating. In South Africa, home education has to happen within the family home in order to be recognised by the national education authorities. Parents home educate for a wide variety of reasons. Traditionally, there were two predominant motivations: religious reasons (wanting a level of faith schooling not available in their local schools), or special needs (kids with learning difficulties, health or psychological issues). Nowadays motivations vary greatly, and include an ideological preference for a non-hierarchical, non-institutional approach to education.

Homeschooling. In the UK, this term is largely replaced by the term “home education” as many parents make the point that they are interested in education, not in schooling. In the US, this seems to be used interchangeably with home ed. It is also more likely to be used by parents who use school-like techniques (desks, lesson periods, traditional textbooks) to structure their educational approach.

Unschooling. A term for an approach to education that diverges radically from the traditional schooling approach. Unschoolers tend to abandon curricula, textbooks and other accoutrements of formal education. They reason that life offers up a constant continuum of learning experiences, and that learning can happen daily on an informal basis. Click here for some lucid quotations that sum up ideas about unschooling.

Curriculum. Broadly speaking, the curriculum is the formal course of study prescribed by the educational authorities. In South Africa, the national curriculum is mapped out on the Revised National Curriculum Statements. However, on discussion lists, home educators seem to use the term “curriculum” to refer to one of the published courses on the market to meet the need for home ed material that meets the RNCS. In this sense, there are several curricula that home educating families can choose from, and it’s not uncommon for home educators to buy in an entire course of books and CDs to use as the framework for their learning.

Assessment. Generally, assessment is any method of checking on a learner’s progress. In home ed discussion groups, though, people usually talk about assessment meaning external assessment by a representative of the local education authorities.

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