Homeschooling in India: Some Busted Myths and Key Findings

I have been working extensively with kids for quite a few years now and enjoy the whole process of guiding them , teaching them and understanding them. However, I have never considered homeschooling my own children. Both my kids started their playschool at 1.8 years and since they enjoyed and had no complaints whatsoever, I continued sending them to mainstream school.

These days , the moment I open the news paper or any social channel, unfortunate news of kids in school flash right in front of my eyes. Especially, the past few weeks have been filled with difficult news of a 7 year old being murdered, innocent 5 year olds raped, pre-teen suicide, teachers punishing in the most unthinkable way.. etc. Such news will leave anyone disturbed and every parent more paranoid and insecure. And that’s when my thoughts turned towards the whole idea of homeschooling and more seriously.

Earlier , I used to believe homeschooling isn’t for the Indians but several myths got busted when I connected with some super confident moms who are happily homeschooling their children by choice.

The main reason why these moms chose to home school their kiddos from an early stage is because they didn’t want their little ones to succumb to any kind of academic burden from the mainstream school. They firmly believe in letting their young buds blossom in their own, free way.

Given a chance, Ranjini R Ramachandran, a house wife, from Kerala would like to continue homeschooling her child till high school level. However, she is unsure as of now how long can she continue homeschooling as her family and the Indian society might not agree to her point of view, in the long run.

Being in India, Ranjini’s concerns are totally understandable.

Homeschooling is not just limited to toddlers

Chetnaa Mehrotra, an Image consultant and playback theater practitioner from Mumbai, homeschools her teenage son. He went to school till grade 4.

Reason for homeschooling :
Chetna says , ” My son and I wanted to explore more authority-free way of learning”

Sangita Jain Vasuraj from Bangalore, quit her job and homeschooled all her 3 children. When the kids reached the 9th grade, they were enrolled in an online school following the American curriculum, from where they earned their GPA.

Renu from Coimbatore , homeschooled her son till the 7th grade and her daughter till the 6th grade, after which they joined mainstream schools. The reason being Renu decided to pursue higher education herself and needed to give time to it. She’s happy that she could successfully give a strong foundation to her kids based on experiential and contextual learning.

When I asked about the importance of syllabus and curriculum:

Picture : Google

Divya B A, who is a part of a home-school collective , follows the Waldorf curriculum. After having attended several seminars and workshops on Waldorf method, she believes in this method as they focus on 3 H’s- Head, Heart & Hand (i.e., Body, Mind & Soul) of the children. In the kindergarten, children learn through play, songs, stories and practical life exercises. Children in higher class are taught to knit, weave, stitch, do farming, build with real material along with developing academic skills. She wishes to home-school her child, following the Waldorf curriculum till the 10th standard, if she doesn’t find an appropriate Waldorf school. Also, when I asked her about Montessori schools, she said “Montessori term is often misused these days. Many people call themselves Montessori preschools but are not following it completely. For instance in a pure Montessori set up, children don’t write till the age of 5 or 6.”

According to her, “mainstream preschools concentrate on academic learning and pressurize children to read & write at an early age, the walls are painted with colorful images which can be over stimulating for children, teachers speak loudly to make themselves audible, classrooms are over-crowded, children are put through standardized testing and so on.”

Ranjini R Ramachandran has her own targets. At present , she keeps her (almost) 3 year old engaged through play way method of learning and relatable stories about earth, origin of life and body functions.

Chetnaa follows NCERT books and her son is due to appear his board exams in 2019.

Renu says ” I made my own curriculum based on the curricula available namely cbse, icse and igcse. I looked around and purchased books that suited my need and methodology. I followed Oxford press publications for different levels mainly and had additional resources too.”

I asked Sangita ‘How did you handle the complicated subjects in the higher grades’ ?
She says “With the Internet , you have nothing to worry “.

Social Skill Development- A Common Concern

Divya believes in the importance of social interaction and thinks social play is very essential! Hence she joined a team of parents. “Children need slow raising in the initial years, for example a small sapling which has just begun to grow, if cared and nurtured in an organic way without using chemical fertilisers, they become stronger within. Once they grow up into a tree, they can face any amount of wind or rain.. Similarly, the foundation within Waldorf children are so strong that they can face any challenged in the world outside once they complete their schooling. It is a misconception that children cannot mingle with the normal crowd, if they are home-schooled or put in alternative schools.”

Chetnaa is happy that her son is enjoying homeschooling and he has a good friend circle in the society where they stay. He may go back to school after 10th or may not. Nothing is decided yet.

Renuka Mahesh, who runs a homeschooling center believes that the homeschooled kids are socially active. She arranges trips and tours periodically. Renuka says “Every kid is naturally socially active. You won’t need a class of 50 to get socially active.”

Sangita says “Along with homeschooling, my children played sports, did drama, attended language classes…” So her kids had other avenues to expand their social circle.

Challenges Faced by the Homeschooling Moms:

According to Ranjini, “Society has more power on a kid than his own parents..They have a pre-written plan for kids. I m from Kerala..There are no parks near by..So I have to travel 16 kms to “play”….My friend from U.S and other countries have advantages like that..They have parks near them, they can take kids for swimming classes and other activities..But near our place there is nothing”.

Divya faces challenges in terms of finances, resources, judgment from relatives and friends, in her homeschooling journey.

When Sangita started homeschooling, it was not a common phenomenon. “We had people who would ridicule the kids etc. But otherwise it was fine. The kids had to handle the ridicule. No one told me anything . My children were once told by a parent ‘you have no social etiquette as you don’t go to school’ But these were honestly stray incidents. At that time everyone was more curious about this whole concept. And curious to know how the kids will turn out. Including our extended family”.

Inspite of the challenges:

Ranjini asserts that her child is more advanced than a school going Upper KG child. He is an independent reader already and is a happy child, devoid of any pressure. Growing freely, at his own pace.

Renuka believes that a homeschooled child is advanced in every field be it in General knowledge or in Math and that is primarily because the whole process of homeschooling is child led.

Renu’s son, Nirmal, is in grade 12 and daughter, Nidhi received full scholarship for IB DP in a Canadian International School in Bangalore and is studying there now.

Sangita is very satisfied and happy with the way things turned out with her home-schooled kids. She believes that every child is disciplined by default, as long as no external factor disturbs their way of doing things. She takes pride in how her kids would wake up at 8 am , much before her. The kids would decide what they were going to learn, they would prepare their breakfast, each taking turns to make for the other two. If they didn’t finish their assignment, they were responsible enough to study till late in the evening, post dinner. ” Homeschooling is about ‘self directed learning’. My son finished 11th grade maths by the time he was 13. Didn’t touch science and English till later. He could not read or write till he was 8. But that did not slow down his learning.”

Sangita also adds ” Not once have my children been asked to furnish their academic documents when they went for job interviews.”.
All her kids work in creative writing field, being copy writers and copy director, in reputed corporate organizations. Currently her son handles the corporate communication department of 21 digital agency.

Key findings for Aspiring Homeschooling Moms:

Homeschooling isn’t for everybody. You need to be strong-willed, committed , aware and patient.

Do your groundwork. Choose a curriculum and a syllabus and stick to it. You can also make your own syllabus by combining multiple methodologies.

Be confident of yourself as that is directly proportional to your child’s confidence level and his overall healthy growth and development.

Be ready for societal judgment and prepare ways to handle the same.

You need patience. Sangita’s son couldn’t read or write till 8 years. But she didn’t lose her calm. Can you be keep that level calm? Be honest with yourself.

Homeschooling is possible by working parents too but it requires stringent planning. Chetnaa is doing it successfully. However, you need to make an informed decision and only then take the plunge.

I am a little confused about homeschooling children with special needs because the parents themselves have to go through their individual emotional turmoil. So under such circumstances, the idea of homeschooling is debatable. However, if you don’t want a mainstream school for your child, how about parented sessions specially for children with special needs?

So, if you choose to start home schooling, remember , even if your kids want to join a mainstream school tomorrow, they should be fully ready for it and if they never want to attend school or college, you should be totally cool about it. Always, give choice to your children, if they want to join mainstream school or not, so that later on they don’t feel they were forced into homeschooling.

Homeschooling is not an easy job. There will be challenges in your way. Take your partner and family into confidence as that will definitely save a lot of turbulence in the long run.

If you have any experience about homeschooling, please share your views.

(By: The Latte Mom)

Homeschooling in India: Some Busted Myths and Key Findings

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