Homeschooling in Qatar: Convenience or compulsion?
Waiting lists, exorbitant school fees, endless student assessment tests… If school admissions are driving you up the wall, maybe it’s time to look at home schooling.
When Margaret Douglass and her family flew down to Doha from Las Vegas in 2009, the first thing she wanted to do was to do a comprehensive survey of schools before enrolling her older son in the best of the lot. Since this required time, the plan was to home school her son for a year or two till they decided on the right school for him.
The exorbitant fees that schools charged is what stopped her in her tracks. “We knew school fee allowances were not included in either of our pay packages,” she says. “Moreover, you can’t get a waiver and transfer your child from one school to another, if you didn’t like that particular school.”
Disappointed, Margaret continued to home school her son… till date. And she’s not alone.
Margaret is one of the many parents who are part of the small but growing home schooling community in Doha. She’s the coordinator for one such group called the Doha Home Educators.
What makes home schooling click at the end of the day is the team effort of both the parents and the child. For a child to get accustomed to learning outside of a classroom environment can be tricky, and it’s important that parents be considerably patient. The group has been active for eight years and now has around 70 families on board.
“The brilliant thing about education nowadays is that there is plenty of curriculum available online. You not only have several internationally recognised distance learning programmes at high school level, but there’s a huge explosion of distance learning programmes at the university level as well. Most of them give a certification at the end of the programme,” she says. But one must always choose the curriculum that is followed back home or in the country that their child plans to go to for higher education.
Though Qatar doesn’t completely recognise home schooling yet, this concept is quite popular in several other countries such as the US, UK, Canada, Australia, Japan and New Zealand with most of the world’s top ranking universities accepting home schooled applicants.
It’s a team effort
What makes home schooling click at the end of the day is the team effort of both the parents and the child. For a child to get accustomed to learning outside of a classroom environment can be tricky, and it’s important that parents be considerably patient. And since it is you who will be teaching your child, it’s good to know your areas of strengths and weakness before you take up the role of a home school teacher. Plus there are plenty of educational resources available online to aid you in your teaching process. If you still think it’s hard, there are several private tutors to your rescue.
“Support from your spouse is a huge plus,” adds Margaret, “especially in a country like Qatar that doesn’t recognise home schooling yet. Many people express surprise and shock when you tell them you are teaching your child at home. In such situations you need your spouse to support you and make you believe in your decision.”
To homeschool or not?
For those still new to this concept, making a decision can be slightly tricky.
We ask Margaret to list out the pros and cons that she experienced with home schooling.
1. You child isn’t burdened with unnecessary homework.
2. Your child doesn’t have to wake up early in the morning for school.
3. You can plan for vacations anytime of the year.
4. In a classroom setting, every student is expected to learn new concepts at the same pace whereas home schooling offers a much more flexible learning pattern. Say for example your child is good in reading but poor in maths or vice-versa, you have the liberty to take the time off to explain him concepts in a way that’s easy for him to understand.
5. It is beneficial for children with learning disorders. Most schools here don’t have the time or resources to support children with minor learning disabilities. With home schooling, you can practice special ways of teaching such children, and devote extra time and attention to them.
6. Home schooling gives you the opportunity to spend more time with your children when they need you the most, especially during their teenage years when they are gradually learning to become adults.
The biggest con of home schooling is the fact that you run the risk of isolating your kids if you are not careful. That’s why it’s good to be part of a home schooling group to help your kids socialise. “Being part of one big group gives students the knowledge and security in their own hearts that they are not the only ones out there who are being home schooled,” says Margaret. For this reason Doha Home Educators organise regular group activities such as field trips, workshops or simply fun-activity days to facilitate socialisation among children in the group. “Children are naturally social beings. They make friends easily. You just have to make sure they are at the right places to do that,” she adds.
The only other minor drawback that Margaret points out is the time and money involved in shipping educational resources (DVDs, books, journals, etc) to Qatar. And there’s the fees that private tutors would charge. But even then, the over all cost is considerably less than what you would have to pay as school fees.
Have you ever considered homeschooling? Or given it a go? Do share your experiences.
*This is the first in a series of articles that explore the education scenario in Qatar.