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Posted at: May 7, 2017, 2:15 AM; last updated: May 7, 2017, 2:15 AM (IST)

When school comes home

Homeschooling is fraught with challenges, including financial ones

Swati Rai

Parenting in today’s times has become doubly harder, what with the pressures of keeping up with the Joneses in everything, including schooling options. Most parents choose traditional forms of schooling for the child, despite it being accused of rote learning, following a fixed pattern, promoting herd mentality and fostering unnatural competition to name a few. In such a situation, what’s the alternative with the parents and the child?

The alternatives

In the present scenario, where there’s mass mushrooming of ‘International’, ‘Global’ and ‘World’ schools, education seems becoming a business. But it wasn’t so traditionally.

For centuries, educators and thinkers have stressed on the need for creating a home environment to provide the best form of education to a child. Be it Gandhi’s experimental Tolstoy Farm or Tagore’s Shantiniketan, Waldorf Education or J Krishnamurthy’s educational philosophy — all of them have underlined the need to educate the child in a natural setting, arouse his curiosity and have a multi-disciplinary approach to learning.

Speaking of how alternative education differs from the mainstream one, Kalpana Pathak, the author of Breaking the Mould, Alternative Schooling in India, says, “Learner autonomy, self-controlled learning, self-discipline and learning the essential life skills are essential to this philosophy. There are no restrictions whatsoever on a child’s growth. There is no rigid pattern that you need to follow to study. In some alternate schools, students can walk into any class and sit through the lectures.”

For some, a better option lies in homeschooling, which is at a nascent stage despite the concept being around for several years.

The real learning centre

Is this setting a natural progression to parenting? How practical is it? Pune-based Urmila Samson, who is co-founder of Swashikshan, Association of Indian Homeschoolers, educated her kids at home. Talking about her experience, she says homeschooling is a personal choice. The USP of homeschooling, according to her, is the diversity of syllabi, time management and interests that it offers. The whole family, she says, has to be involved in to take the children through the process.

Talking about the more practical aspects, she says, “Though there are other boards available too, the preferred board for homeschooling is the NIOS (National Institute of Open Schooling) and the British system of IGCSE. For her, the biggest advantage has been the freedom to follow the curriculum at one’s own pace. But she throws a caveat, “It works only if you are self-disciplined.”

Delhi-based parents Sandeep and Saloni Srivastav had to give in to their daughter’s refusal to go to school when she was in Class VI. They admit they had no choice but to teach her at home. However, not many around us do so. Srivastav draws a distinction between parents who homeschool their children and those who don’t. “Parents who homeschool their kids listen to them more than the regular ones. Homeschooling parents are happily and ready to ‘compromise’ typical professional growth for the sake of their children. They also must have a lot of love and understanding between them,” he shares.

The drawbacks

Being candid about the future, Sandeep says, “Homeschooling is not for the masses. It is elitist, expensive and immersive. However, it’s the future for all those who care or wish to make a big difference in their children’s lives.” And it comes with its share of challenges of the anxiety of facing the ‘real’ world post completion, absence of peer group in a class dynamics and the ability to handle stress and exposure to co-curricular activities. But then, as they say, to each his own.

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