Home Schooling: Rethinking Education

Home-schooling helps children to become an independent learner capable of analytical thinking in any setting.

Mother with childChildren have a natural instinct to learn. Left on their own, they can figure out the most formidable problems with their intrinsic intellectual capabilities and creativity. Unfortunately, the stiff environment of a formal school does not allow children the freedom to be themselves. All it does is indoctrinate in them the societal rules of obeying their seniors in the name of discipline. Certainly, a child who needs to use all his senses cannot sit still in a classroom and take lessons, and speak only when asked to.

Almost all parents across the country today agonise about the kind of schools that are prospering in our society. They seem to provide their children with the kind of education which is definitely not preparing them to be the cherished citizens of tomorrow. In fact, the schools of today take away the simple pleasures of a child's life, burdening them with the complicated nature of studies, which can be accomplished only by constant cramming of subject matter, knowing more without understanding and never failing to score well.

All this and more, has led many parents to home-school their kids.

What is home-schooling?

Home-schooling is an expedient means of education that a parent can provide their child without sending them to school. The content of learning is totally controlled by the parent and so is the approach to it. The child gets education at home without having to attend school. Home-schooling is being practised in various countries across the world. In the US, there are more than two million children who have home-schooling.

Why home-school?

With an ever-increasing child-teacher ratio in schools, the best of teachers are unable to give children the kind of attention they can get at the home-school. Children thrive in love and care. Ignore them and they lose interest. No wonder we can hear so many parents wondering, "My child writes everything at home, but does nothing in school." Personal attention and focus on a deeper parent-child bonding are a few of the primary reasons for home-schooling.

Parents these days feel that schools concentrate on teaching the average student. The below average student is left to understand things on their own while the precocious one ends up getting bored. So, why not home-school and cater to the child's needs and focus on the subjects of their liking? This way, the child also gets a chance to progress at their own pace.

Many parents home-school because it offers them the flexibility of changing the content of education without any intervention from an outside source and they can base it on the needs of their family and home-scholar.

Some parents home-school simply because they don't have access to good schools, travel a lot or keep shifting to different stations.

There are yet some who have children facing certain challenges such as autism, dyslexia, ADHD or ADD, which are tackled best by a patient parent.

The legal situation

In India, there are still no laws for or against home-schooling and it is entirely up to the parent to take charge of the curriculum. There are laws which say that parents must send their children to school, but these are to ensure that children are not left illiterate owing to socio-economic factors.

Kids painting

How to home-school

There is no correct way to home-school. As a parent, you are the best judge of your child's needs. So, it is up to you to adopt a method that suits you and your family. Choosing a curriculum may be as easy as picking up a book-set of the class your child should be attending, or as complicated as going through various websites and deciding on material that you could use.

Often, parents go to bookshops and select books that could help them guide their children. There are various kits, CDs and games available in the market, which make learning a lot of fun.

Remember, you are the best judge of your child's abilities and interests. The fact that you want to work with your child, in a direction that focuses on her uniqueness and special needs, is why you are home-schooling. Whatever you do, don't try to re-create a school at home. Also, be ready to change from time to time as your child definitely will.

Some parents like to keep a tutor for their kids for subjects they cannot handle. But, many people like to supervise the "teaching" part themselves with one of the parents staying home with the kid for the purpose.

You don't have to be a trained teacher to home-school. According to research, the formal training of the parent is not a factor in the achievement level of a home-educated student. Certainly, parents who have attended school and college should be able to pass on their knowledge to their children.

While choosing a curriculum, do include your child. It will give her a lot of pleasure as also the confidence to control events and lead.

If, for some unavoidable reasons you are unable to follow a proper curriculum, don't feel guilty, for true home-schooling is made of learning experiences that can't be planned or put on schedule. Life is a wonder for your child, let her discover!

Taking exams

There is actually no need for a home-schooler to take exams every year. Even [NCERT] National Council of Educational Research and Training is against examinations till class X. If, however, you wish to admit your home-schooler to a formal school there is always an entrance test that the school would conduct for an initial assessment.

As for class X and XII, The National Institute of Open Schooling [NIOS] can be directly used to take these exams if you register with them a year in advance.and the certificates issued by them are valid for taking competitive exams. The CBSE, ICSE and most State boards also allow students to appear for these exams privately.

The question of socialisation

With ample time available, parents get more contact time with their kids, which they can utilise for effective communication and better bonding. Exposure to people of different ages can be achieved by taking the child for camps, treks and sending her to classes for dance, music, etc. You wouldn't even feel the pinch on your pocket spending on these if you don't have a school which takes away an appreciable share of your income every month. A home-schooler has to face fewer disturbances in routine which helps her pursue her interests better. Interacting with other home-scholars on the internet can be informative as well as fun for kids.

Home-schoolers' Hall of Fame

  • Alexander Graham Bell
  • Thomas Edison
  • The Wright Brothers
  • Agatha Christie
  • George Bernard Shaw
  • D. H. Lawrence
  • Charles Dickens
  • Mark Twain
  • Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
  • George Washington
  • Abraham Lincoln
  • Venus and Serena Williams
  • Charlie Chaplin

Where does a home-scholar stand in society?

According to the Wikipedia, surveys conducted in the US say that home-schooled graduates are more active and involved in community service activities than their school educated peers; more involved in civic affairs, vote in a higher percentage and are very happy with life.

A child's learning and growth depends largely on the way s/he is treated at his/her learning place. Acceptance of ideas, motivation, encouragement and the love and care that a home-school provides, makes a child self-reliant and helps pave paths for her that the stifling rat race of a class room can never do. The effort that is put in by the parents to motivate their child to learn helps her become an independent learner capable of analytical thinking in any setting.

What does your child miss?

A little bullying, some harassment, a few punishments, a bit of partiality and a lot of verbal abuse are some of the things that your child misses out on. In rare cases, as the present trend goes, they may also miss out on drug abuse and cases of violence.

Despite the advantages, parents are still apprehensive about home-schooling their kids, the reasons being:

  • Lack of awareness about the subject.
  • Misgivings about taking a radical stand.
  • The issue of their child's interaction with other kids.
  • Inadequacy to handle their child's studies.
  • Paucity of time.

Socialisation, or the lack of it, happens to be the biggest deterrent for parents who want to home-school their kids. Children like to interact with kids of their own age and a school provides ample opportunity for that. The lack of friends as also hours of structured work at a home-school may sometimes make kids miss school.

It is not easy to stand up for something that will invite unsolicited opinion from your well wishers. You can draw courage from the fact that all that your child learnt before joining school, came from your efforts. It is also helpful to join an internet group which has like-minded people who can share your problems and tender solutions.

Childhood is the best time in the life of an individual. And, a conventional school fills it with a lot of dull, monotonous and unintelligent tasks. Why not make an effort to give it some sparkle? Why not make a choice today? An informed choice, which can change your child's life forever.

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Priti Salian
Priti Salian is a teacher by profession and a writer by choice. Her interests include yoga, health, parenting and social awareness. She lives in New Delhi.

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