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, 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 are 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 deal with
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 & 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 home schooling to be made online. See their 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 home school
A list of the syllabi, curriculum materials, textbooks, or plan of instruction to be used in the core subjects
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)
The application period ends on 1st August of each school year. 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). This must be renewed prior to expiration each year if the parent wishes to continue homeschooling.
A homeschool cannot serve more than five students.
All applications must be submitted by August 1st for the upcoming school year.
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 bachelor’s 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 must be an accredited programme. 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 is being able to spend more time with their children and having the ability to adapt the teaching to a child’s 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 family’s income. It also means the ‘teaching’ parent may get little or no time apart from their children.
Resources for Cayman Homeschoolers
The Cayman Homeschoolers Group have 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.
There are also a growing number of educational programmes for homeschooled students to participate in:
Footsteps School provides homeschooling support in individual, paired or group sessions during the afternoons (after 3.30pm) when their regular school hours end.
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 an afterschool homework club and they offer individualised classes for children needing help with handwriting, reading and speech and language.
Please Note: Whilst private tutoring centres and other activity providers can be an excellent supplemental resource for homeschooled children, the Department of Education has emphasised that the majority of homeschool instruction must be delivered at home, or at the home of another person approved by the parent. This means that you cannot rely on private tutoring centres to provide the bulk of your child’s learning programme.