The number of children being homeschooled has exploded in the Cayman Islands. Whether parents are choosing this due to practical reasons or philosophical preferences, their concerns are the same: how to provide the best home-based education they can.
Children in the Cayman Islands can be homeschooled with prior approval from the Department of Education Services (DES), and like any educational programme, there is an application process and certain requirements to be met, which are discussed below.
We also give an overview of the advantages, disadvantages and resources available for homeschoolers. In the 2020-2021 school year, approximately 150 children were enrolled in a homeschooling programme in Cayman.
Homeschooling may be a suitable option in cases where:
- A child is waitlisted but has not yet been offered a place in a private school
- A child has special educational requirements that schools may not have the resources to accommodate
- A child has been the victim of bullying at school
- The cost of private schooling is prohibitive for low income families and/or those with multiple children
- Families travel frequently and wish to be able to take their children with them
- Parents want their children to follow a more flexible and individually-tailored programme
- A child speaks a different first language and needs to learn English before transferring to a mainstream school.
The Department of Education Services assess individual requests for homeschooling on a case-by-case basis as they know there are some exceptional circumstances. They do not want children to get lost in the system. They understand that for schooling to work for some children it might need to involve the use of special services, such as Speech and Language Therapy, and this can of course be included as part of the five hours per day of schooling.
How to Apply for Homeschooling Approval
The Department of Education Services in the Cayman Islands now expects all applications for homeschooling to be made online. See the Registration for Home schooling page where you will find the forms and submit your supporting documentation. If you need to visit Nicki Samuels at the DES, then their address is 130 Thomas Russell Avenue, George Town, which is just off the Cayman National Bank roundabout.
You will be required to create an Individualised Home School Plan (IHSP) which must include:
- The child’s name, age and grade level
- Location and address of the homeschool
- A list of the syllabi, curriculum materials, textbooks or plan of instruction to be used in the core subjects
- A timetable which shows the subjects covered on which days and at what time. This would also include any outside activities or online classes
- The dates for submission of semi-annual reports
- Names and qualifications of individuals providing instruction
- A statement confirming the child will be meeting compulsory educational requirements of the Education Law 2016 (Regulations).
For parents wishing to apply after the start of the school year (end of August), written notice must be provided within 14 days of arrival to the Island. Once a family or child is a resident, then the child must be registered with a school.
The Director of the Department of Education Services will inform parents if their application has been approved within 10 days of receipt. If approved, a homeschooling certificate is issued, valid until the end of the school year (30th June).
Qualifications for Homeschoolers
Depending on the age of the child, the parent or tutor providing instruction must hold the following qualifications:
Primary: Parent(s) must have at least a high school diploma.
Secondary: The parent/tutor should have a minimum of a bachelors degree from an accredited institution. This is a recommendation and it is not mandated
The Dept. of Education strongly recommends that an accredited programme for home schooling be used. If you visit www.homeschool.com you will find lots of suggestions. Alternatively, look into the UK-based home schooling group Wolsey Hall, Oxford, or you could try K12 or Abeka. Accredited programmes such as K12 have online teachers who can help.
However, if a parent wanted to use a programme that is not accredited (which many parents choose to do), the DES will consider the programme and make a decision based on whether the curriculum meets their standards. Finding and using an accredited programme is something many parents get worried/stressed about, and knowing there is room to use a programme that is not accredited (as long as it is approved by the DES) can sometimes set their minds at ease.
The DES requires that the school day be at least five hours, excluding recess and lunch, and that there be at least 185 days of instruction in the school year.
The curriculum must include the areas of reading, writing, mathematics, sciences and social studies, and although it does not have to be an accredited programme, it is encouraged. Parents/tutors must maintain a record of attendance and submit semi-annual reports on the students progress to the Department of Education Services. If there are any changes to the programme, the DES must be advised in writing.
The DES will conduct at least two site visits, one scheduled, one impromptu, each year and where necessary will liaise with the Office of Education Standards for assessment and reporting.
Pros & Cons of Homeschooling
The main advantages homeschooling parents report are being able to spend more time with their children and having the ability to adapt the teaching to a childs learning style and interests, ensuring they receive a quality education and plenty of individual attention.
The flexibility homeschooling offers is also key: classes can be held in any location and at the time one chooses, enabling parents to fit schooling around other commitments.
On the other hand, homeschooling is time consuming for the parent (or tutor) providing instruction, and thus means that one parent usually cannot work, and therefore cannot contribute to the familys income. It also means the teaching parent may get little or no time apart from their children.
Socialisation & Friendship for Homeschooled Children
One of the most frequently asked questions that parents of homeschooled children get asked is whether there is a danger that a child might miss out on socialising with their age group and have fewer friends than a regular school student. Its a valid concern, but there is much that can be done to ensure a child does not become isolated.
Enrolling kids in extra-curricular activities, sports lessons, church groups, music and art lessons all ensure they meet and socialise with kids of their age. Where one lives can also be influential: some residential areas are particularly family-friendly, guaranteeing there will be plenty of other kids around to play with.
The Cayman Homeschoolers Facebook group was set up specifically so that parents and children could connect with other homeschooling friends. These children go on field trips with other parents and children and time is specifically set aside each week to socialise with the other kids. A homeschooling family can become just as busy with extra-curricular activities as any other public/private school family.
Resources for Cayman Homeschoolers
The Cayman Homeschoolers Group has worked diligently to create a dedicated homeschooling website which provides everything needed to homeschool in the Cayman Islands. It includes the application procedures and documents, curriculum list, resources for tutoring/educational assessments/therapy, how to write your reports, FAQ, etc. You can also sign up to their emailing list so that you can be kept in the know on when any events and gatherings are happening. See their website here.
There are also a growing number of educational programmes for homeschooled students to participate in:
- High Achievement Academy and Cayman Learning Centre have highly qualified and experienced teachers from the UK and USA if you want your child to have additional tutoring in a specific subject.
- Footsteps School offers one-on-one and group tutoring services as well as homework help and exam preparation.
- Clever Fish works alongside the homeschooling community and offers an after-school enrichment programme that includes homework supervision, academic intervention and activities such as robotics, arts and crafts and more. They also offer activity camps in collaboration with Cayman Sea Elements during school holidays.
- Chatterbox offers individualised classes for children needing help with handwriting, reading, speech and language, self-regulation and functioning skills.
Whilst private tutoring centres and other activity providers can be an excellent supplemental resource for homeschooled children, the Department of Education Services has emphasised that the majority of homeschool instruction must be delivered at home. This means that you cannot rely on private tutoring centres to provide the bulk of your child’s learning programme.