Is this the foreseeable future of education?
“You homeschool?!” A year ago this question may have raised a few eyebrows, but it is something that modern parents (and with the effects of a global pandemic!) have come to consider as an alternative approach to their children’s education. Homeschooling takes place primarily inside the home, but the learning process is not confined to its four walls. Homeschoolers follow a curriculum, which keeps up the learning but still incorporates the child’s interests. With the current uncertainty surrounding the reopening of schools, homeschooling might continue to look like a very real option for many. If you’re unsure if homeschooling is right for your family, we’ve outlined things you should consider if you want to give it a try in Hong Kong.
Maximise The Parent-Child Experience
In the early stages of life, the role of the parent is to mould the child’s behaviour and understanding of the world. In this case, the parents act as the primary source of learning, ensuring that the child gets a balance of everything. If you are a very hands-on (and patient) mama, this might be ideally suited to your family.
Even after the initial years, the parent may choose to continue to be the primary teacher because of the family’s particular circumstances. Parents who are planning to travel the world and do short stints in different countries would have to take on the onus of educating their children. Sometimes, parents choose to homeschool their kids due to religious reasons, or because their child was facing intense bullying and/or didn’t fit into the school’s system in a way that would allow for them to thrive. For all these reasons and more, homeschooling might be the most viable option.
Pace And Customise Your Child’s Homeschooling Education
Formal schooling follows a concrete timeline where children are challenged to keep up. Aside from that, not all the topics taught in school are of interest to them. You may allot a week to learning about ballet if your kid is into dancing, or to spaceships if your little one dreams of becoming an astronaut someday. With homeschooling, learning takes place just about anytime and anywhere. This is ideal for a child with special or different learning needs. You can listen to this interesting mother-daughter Ted-X talk on the same topic.
If you stay in a place where there aren’t too many good schools close by (such as one of the outlying islands) or you just can’t afford the fees of the school of your choice, homeschooling is a good option. It also makes sense if your stay in Hong Kong is likely to be limited to a couple of years at the most.
No doubt, there are many difficulties in homeschooling. The parent/teacher’s interest and ability to teach are some of the obstacles. Another very valid question often asked is – but what about friends? You may worry about socialisation since your child will be at home most of the time, but there is an increasing number of homeschool groups like The Hong Kong Homeschool Meet-up Group who meet on a regular basis to provide activities for homeschooled kids. It also has homeschooling support for parents if you feel like you’re not doing enough for your child. Mothers who are homeschooling their children have told us that there are currently anywhere between 150 to 200 children being homeschooled in Hong Kong, so there are plenty of “friends” to be made. You can also choose to join any of the Facebook groups like Homeschooling HK and Homeschool Resources HK for more information. You could also consider joining eDiversity, a group that celebrates that children have different educational needs. While not strictly a homeschooling group, it is a valuable tool of resources, networking and learning opportunities for parents who’ve taken on the responsibility of educating their children.
While the Education Bureau maintains that all children from 6 to 15 years must attend school, homeschooling in Hong Kong is not against the law but is still subject to investigation by the Education Bureau (EDB). If you’re ready to take the leap and decide to homeschool your child, here are the steps to consider:
Inform the EDB that you intend to homeschool your child. It will ask you to provide information such as the names and occupation of the parents, address, contact details, as well as the curriculum and assessment to be used at home and the reason for homeschooling. Don’t skip informing the Education Bureau. If caught, this could develop into a serious offence and you will need to make a claim with the Non-Attendance Cases Team, providing “reasonable excuses” to homeschool your child.
The government inspectors will schedule and conduct a home visit to see if you follow a timetable or teaching schedule, if you have adequate teaching resources and if the worksheets or activities given are appropriate to assess your child’s performance.
There will be no official approval given by EDB. Your case will be registered as a Non-Attendance Case. There will be home visits, often twice a year, to monitor the homeschooling routine and progress of the child. As long as they do not suspect neglect, abuse or lack of education, the parents are permitted to continue homeschooling. Otherwise, an attendance order will be given requiring the parents to enrol the child in a primary or secondary school. While there is no letter of approval for homeschooling, you will have a letter of proof regarding the latest home visit.
We all want the best for our children especially when it comes to their education. Whatever approach you wish to take – Waldorf, Montessori, Reggio Emilia and so on, as long as you feel like it fits your child’s learning style, then go for it!
Editor’s note: This post was first published by Kat Castañeda on 26, June 2017 and updated in July 2020.