Thursday, May 8, 2014


So for months we had looked at each other, nodded our heads at the school system which was not giving us the satisfaction of inculcating education for our children. Then my husband came up with the whole idea of HOMESCHOOLING. My first internal reaction was a resounding NO!!!!!!!!
I could not think of this as an alternative to our growing woes. To me it was the way to exist .That is what everyone does!!! My children were getting ranks in school .They were the toppers. It was a matter of pride to me and for me in the locality and for the family too.
Was I prepared to give it all up?? Besides I would tease my husband was he willing to let the school ways go?? He was the strict one!!! If we spoke of missing a day he was the first one to object….If the kids refused to get up he was the first one to disapprove ...I was more than happy to skip a day. .call it off after an outing…play hooky on a rainy day…We called him CENSOR BOARD…for he was very particular about the school  books and even would get down to packing their bags .I was relaxed and was ok if they got a remark or two.. mostly they would get for not carrying an art book or paints…well they did not like the session as it was highly boring according to them .He, the father, would frown and fret.
Now can you see what a mass of contradiction we both were .The strict one was willing to explore a completely uncharted territory hitherto and the relaxed one was frozen at the very prospect!!!
I thought we must work at changing the system by taking part in Parent teacher meetings and forums .We must actively get involved in the school by having high level meetings with the authorities and make them see the reason. Surely when they realise their mistake they would mend their ways!!! After all everyone wishes best for the children. I was so wrong. Then came a funny phone call that stopped me in my tracks!!!!
I did a major U turn and gave myself a chance to RETHINK…EVERYTHING THAT I THOUGHT!!!
My elder son is academically bright .He has grown up all his life observing me and his father express our thoughts in verbal form ... letters...articles books…So he was good at making up his own notes and articulating his answers, any subject… for ENGLISH LITERATURE, HISTORY, GEOGRAPHY, HINDI, MARATHI. His grammar was perfect as per the school standards as many concepts he had learned as a part of my coaching class sessions with other grades so he managed to get full marks in almost all grammar papers and literature stood highest however low the score he was the one who topped. So if teacher decided to give 11\25..he would be the one in the class to get it .All teacher could deduct was a part of compulsory cutting [it never made sense to me why they had instructions to compulsory cut marks???!!!!] The foolish reasoning put forward was “to avoid overconfidence”
Coming back to the topic, it was well known that we, parents of Shahen are Teachers of maths and languages. Many kids from other standards would approach him for markings in history and take suggestions for English answers. I got a phone call from his SCHOOL’S ENGLISH TEACHER with an explicit request “I want tuitions for myself as to how to teach English better”. For few seconds, all my coherent being went for a toss. Tuitions as such are looked down and disapproved by school. It is a condemned practice for students though it is a parallel education system. But no one is to openly admit to the benefits of tuition. I was used to a student requesting my services but the very teacher in charge of giving marks to students in a school!!!
Of course I had to be very careful in how I respond. Definitely I could not have entertained such a request as if at all the school authorities would discover it would be perceived as INTERFERENCE. My immediate response was to engage her in some polite conversation and find a decent way to say “no”. I told her it will not go down well for authorities if they were to find out and why she is finding difficult to teach. Then she revealed that she was simply a B.A. in ECONOMICS and her primary subject is not even English. The school principal had enforced this responsibility on her. She was told to refer to Wren and Martin and solve an exercise every day!!! That would improve her English…Wow!!!! She said she tried but there were so many concepts she just could not understand. Even some poems and their interpretations she was unable to do and so she played safe and gave 50 % marks in each answer. That explained so many things …the spelling mistakes and the lack of understanding displayed to essays and compositions….Phew!!!!
After that conversation I had to THINK…hard…What am I sending my kids to????That was my first UNLEARNING .I used to think schools impart knowledge. Now I asked “REALLY”. Who should I take my disappointment to? The teacher??? She was so helpless in front of the management. The Management??? They are not now interested in child development and neither interested in paying high salaries to recruit the right personnel who would do the job. Some major overhauling is required in our educational patterns but can I wait that long???
Now I was ready to go to my husband and ask “Can we actually get our kids out of school and still manage to do a good job? I had thousand apprehensions and yet now I was ready to ruthlessly examine my own ideology “Does finding a school with a certain curriculum amount to Education?” Is school the only campus to receive an education? Did my Masters in psychology degree help me in anyway? What did I get from my institutes?  It evoked in me long delicious hours of soaking myself in books in the library…making notes…understanding depths of a topic…noting debates on various issues…not many teachers that I can vouch for…
The one word here is EXPOSURE …..Can I not provide that to kids?? It was frightening too ...will I be able to offer? I shirked and let go of this dependence on school to get my children information, exposure and in general education…in letting go I took a u turn and decided to change ways ….
Then came a lovely learning experience CONFERENCE AT KHANDALA 2014. Till then I had just offered to change ways yet my years and years of conditioning of this is how we go into financial world and earn money, prevailed.
I recklessly asked questions, shared my fears, interacted with every person who was willing to. The certificate issue too got cleared as some kids were appearing for IGCSE & NIOS exams. For the first time we realised that there were some people who did not even care for school system. All my life I  had come across tense mothers soliciting advice on the right school…books…tuition classes…phonetics….Here I met moms who were not even giving school a thought, they were happy letting their kids just enjoy their childhood. OH YES!!!! Why burden them with bags and marks and competitions??? Why drag them out of their play time to attend school where they are expected to sit a certain way…eat a certain way…draw when told…write when told…stand in line when told…in short grow up to be adults who will do anything after only when they are instructed ,and told to do something…
We, parents, adhere to conformist notions in order to do the best for our children. That day in Khandala… I realised…. I woke up too late to this fact. All those days went past my eyes when my little one hugged me and cried and refused to go in the school and we had two maushis and a teacher dragging him from me…why? Oh why did I allow that????…why did I not think of hugging him back and say nobody will send you somewhere you do not want to go. Is that really discipline to do something against your will? Or is it discipline to do something that you want to do and you have the zeal to arrange everything so that it all turns out beautifully and you come out smiling from the endeavour? Is it truly structure to sit for hours in one position and take out books and listen to someone you know does not know half of what is involved in the topic?
One dear girl very wisely pointed out “If your children are as intelligent as you say, why you want someone else to decide in which grade they should be or what they should read or write or do????”
That kind of philosophy emerges out of free thinking. Here was a girl fearlessly and non-chalantly asking a forty year old something she had never ever figured it mattered. Yes why should someone else decide what they should do? Their intelligence their time their interests…Why meddle?? Why not enjoy their life unfold…Again I took a U- turn...I unlearned about school directing and labelling my kids……
So we turned inwards to check how we had allowed ourselves to get hyper anxious. Why we had bought into all these philosophies which did not add value to our children’s lives? Why had we outsourced this important need of our children?
Because that is what everyone does…there was no other way to exist. Suddenly I saw that indeed there was! We were the primary Educators of our children and can take on the Mantle of exposing them to stuff that will help them grow...think...flourish..
I spend sleepless nights debating and discussing with my inner self, with my better half and asking repeatedly my kids if they were ok with the decisions…Will they miss their friends? School activities? That made me realise how deeply conditioned we are to not flow against the current. We are so deeply taught to go along and do what everyone does and do it better than others…
My major learning or u turn came when I relaxed my guard and say to myself it is ok I do not have to adhere to anyone else’s opinion .Mine is the only one that matters. When I cook or shop for my kids I do not enlist or entertain anybody else intervening then why now??? Why for school???
15th March 2014 was the last day of our formal schooling and instead of enjoying the vacation like usual I agonised ...did I do the right thing?...should we reconsider…to any one walking this path understand that this is a normal way of detaching takes a while to accept your own decisions when they are totally against the accepted norm .I no longer felt the need to criticise or condemn school viciously as again the relaxed me realised they do what they do ..It is your call that makes all the difference .I have stored this reasoning one liner. .PEOPLE DO WHAT THEY DO ...IT IS YOUR CALL THAT MATTERS.
Then came a different experience. The need to prove that you did the right thing…so on 1st April ...when the school restarts we too stood at the bookstore to buy books and oh boy!!!! We were in for a different experience…the book store owner refused to entertain us without the school name...we came back at a peaceful time we managed to get few…few he did not have and he still does not have... for us maybe…maybe not…he says schools have tied up with the publisher and so stores do not have books ...he is angry…makes sense [On a humorous note I felt like telling him to tie up with Home-schooling community ...He will have business galore and will never be let down]
Then in the midst of the crowd me and my husband we asked a simple question “Why this hurry? Previously there were tests …deadlines...notes to be made…school had started what??? Now why?? To show whom?? To prove what?? Why this rush in the month of April only? BECAUSE WE ARE CONDITIONED BEINGS.REPETITIVE…HABITUAL CREATURES…
Ok we learned a new lesson. We could buy whenever and start with whatever books we have got. Even if we do not start who will ask us? We literally took a U-turn of our car and did not go in the shop. We did not have any standards to adhere to...we were actually ...really free. Any which ways if they would be in state board school they would be enjoying vacations …so whose yardstick we go by…none...
At home we began with the elder one. English lesson and for the first time “WE READ”. Till now we used to quickly read through and go through the lesson and discuss the probable answers and …he would go and attempt the test the next day. But that day we enjoyed for we read and discussed and understood and connect other stories related to it and importance of “HUMANITY”. That was the topic of the lesson. He clicked on the links given for Robert frost and came to know about Russian wall. ..Berlin wall…AND DISCUSSION VEERED TO COMPOUND WALLS AND WHOA…!!!! We had a blast. The next day he wrote extensive notes from the back of text .Long answers that took almost a day. But he took his time ...sitting in front of television...watching his show…talking with us...taking a break. The answers were cool. Then he asked me a natural question “How many marks test will you give me? “And I wondered at the futility of it all!!! He knew the lesson. Had read it thoroughly, made extensive and expressive notes now where was the need of a 25 marks test??? The proof, if any was required, was there.
As if to validate my musings Shahen’s previous year‘s class teacher whose son was in the same grade as him came home asking about home schooling. She wanted to know what we were doing and why and how…She was shown the book that we maintained ..She quipped that even though her son has given the test he still complains he does not understand the lesson .According to him it was boring.
When lessons only object is marks it is difficult to maintain interest…especially text is the only resource. The children have never picked up a newspaper in life nor done more than gaming on videos. There is a whole world of Google out there that is a resource but between writing and rewriting and mugging the interest factor is lost…We learned there is no need of a formal testing. If my kids so desire we will look into it and devise.
The developmental needs of my kids are different so the younger eight years old is playful yet. He loves maths and can solve pages but gets tired faster. I chose [yes I did. Old conditioning yet hanging on.] That he should learn French .We did basic questions like what is your name…where do you live... how are you …how old are you…He can ask and answer them. He strung few sentences in French on “myself”. Now he went around asking his dad …me …his friends these queries…so when I made him sit a little longer doing writing in French…He looked straight into my eyes and asked “In home learning am I not supposed to do something till I am interested?”
That got me…I have so much to learn and unlearn and learn again…my kids are my teachers. So in May  holidays I have actually taken a sabbatical and promised them we shall not discuss any book ... we will let them do what they want...we will only chill...get up when it suits…sleep when tired…Guess I am happy…happier than happy…rested…at peace…
No activity…no classes... no I need to do something…It is major learning for me to be this way. To not direct my kids no matter where or what…only maybe at two in the night I request that I am sleepy and will appreciate if they sleep…or in the noon…please get up…water will go…are the only directions we give…they bathe when they want…
Every new parent who enters this world I welcome all of you. I will be happy if you find something useful from my musings. I will be happy to share your experiences if anyone does. I request each one to open their journeys so each one who enters this world without school may find a little of their confusions  and a little of their solutions.
Musings continue…

Sonnal Pardiwala