Sunday, March 31, 2019

Homeschooling Answers Many Questions ~ Dare & Explore!


We began homeschooling our children half a decade ago. The Elder one had crossed 13 and the younger one was merely seven years old. I identify with every anxious parent that comes knocking our homeschooling group Active Parenting for I was once there where they are. 

A parent just exploring homeschooling is standing on the Schooling Shore, wanting to breakthrough the rigid school structures, find newer pastures and yet trembles with fear & demands vexatiously: 
"Can I build school at home? After all we are calling it Homeschooling?!?" 

We have come across various types of Explorers. While I respect each one, one cannot escape the unmistakable human follies, eccentricities playing out. 

Here are the few prototypes. Broadly classified we have:

The Smart, Educated and Empirical,
The Confused and Lost,
The "Exploring-Tentatives",
The Business Opportunists, and,
The Made up my mind but support needed ones. 

Most parents smirk down in their elitist sharpness and condescend on the entire school system. They realize that school is not working for them. Yes, for them first. The children, too. That too, that too. They have had scuffles with school authority, changed schools, sometimes changed locations only to realize that the crows are black everywhere! 

When they connect to us, their questions are academic. Very Academic. I will attempt at answering some questions as they have worked out for us over the last five years. The only experience I can share is mine. The only illustration I can give is mine. 

There is a Mantra which any Homeschooling explorer must recite three hundred times a day until it sinks in. If it does not sink, please do not begin this journey for it will be extremely awkward and uncomfortable for you. 

Each Homeschooling journey is unique as every child is unique. We aim for individual development and carving newer paths for all involved. 

Read that again. Deep breath. Again! Till you get it. 



Whether you choose homeschooling or schooling, both paths are okay as long as you accept and decide it together, as a family.

How many hours to study?

This is a schooling territory question. It narrows down studying as an activity to be zeroed in, in a form of timetable. According to this question, only and only if I set aside time for something, I am doing that. Do we set aside time for living? We live round the clock.

As  homeschooling parents, we take an all encompassing scope for the child. We substitute the word 'Studying' with 'Learning'.

In that case my children are forever Learning. You will see my elder son with a book, Ted talk or notes all the time. He is constantly learning. Applying what he learned in mundane situations like his parents arguing. Younger one is constantly learning about animals. He began with Dogs, moved on to rabbits, snakes and other continent animals. Today, he can share an anecdote of any animal. 

When they purchase stuff in a super-market they are learning. When they look over the EMI documents, while father goes about  their bank jobs, they learn. When he had earned a lakh he takes up a course on finances and stocks.

It goes in his memory bank as learning. His money, he cares to multiply it. 

Younger one reads Ruskin Bond and cooks up a story with friends and dogs as plot line, brings it to logical conclusion. His emotional intelligence is in the formation. 

Elder comes across Positive Psychology. He took a course, and got accredited. He created his Clientele. 

Next, he got interested in Hypnosis. He found an institute, funded himself. 

So how many hours they put in is tough to recall. I would say every single minute they both are learning. Sitting with paper, pencil books cannot be really quantified. Now they are sitting, then suddenly a joke catches their interests, a chore requires their attention in the kitchen, a friend calls up. They weave in and put off all they are learning. In that sense, each moment, they are learning.

Who can teach

Self Learning is the Key cornerstone of Home-learning. It takes a lonnnngggggg, really long time for parents to get this. No one can teach anyone. Learning is in-built in a learner. Their readiness, their backgrounds, their resistances, their preferences, their bias all play a role in how they will process the information shared by the teacher. 

That's the reason why some kids manage and grasp the concept introduced and some kids just don't get it. Neither the information shared is at fault nor the learner. Just the right fit. 

If child loves Math, he will devour sums. If child loves poetry, he will pick up the nuances. It is the 'Interested Child' who is required. An observant parent who understands the dynamics of the subject matter at hand and her children's preferences would never compel. We hear this all the time. "She is not hardworking. If she works hard in Math she will excel."

Moot question here is "Does she want to?"

If she does not want to, should that not be explored? 

A teacher would not be able to explore this. Even if she does arrive at the conclusion that child either lacks aptitude or interest, she hardly would let you in for obvious reasons. 

The one who can observe the child can teach. 
The one who can create questions in the child can teach. 
The one who can expose the child in the area of her interest can teach.
There is only Facilitation, never teaching. 

School convinces us that a subject related teacher, accredited with a suitable subject can teach. We have so many of them...

Why are school systems failing then to bring satisfaction to parents and children? 

Is there a teacher who will come home?

This is the most delicate, devastating question. My response will be controversial. Anyway, no one needs to like me. 

When you ask a teacher to come home, you say a few things. You express to your child: "I and you both are inadequate so we need another expert to come in and pour in you few concepts.

Second, you give the child a message: Things will be arranged for you. Your time. Your comfort. Your terms. As the teacher comes home, she has limited authority to exert any disciplinary influence or even frown when a given task is not completed or done half heartedly. Mothers jump in to ask the teacher to excuse the laxity. Child gets a beautiful message. 'Mom will bail me out anytime
Let us do nothing. She is just a teacher. She frowns more, we will sack her, get another one.

Welcome to entitlement creation in progeny. Much later when the same entitlement boomerangs on the parents, or the children are truly unable to cope with higher class syllabus, the mistake is dimly realized.

More classes, more money spent. There are classes that promise miracles. In any case the individual has learnt to rely not on self but outside forces to bail out. Mom, dad, money, whining, tantrums and excuses. 

If a child must learn, send them to the Teacher. It is first step to create respect. This person is important enough to go to. Create relationship on personal dynamics not one mitigated by parents.

As a Homeschooling parent we gave the onus of 'You can Teach You'.



My Elder one was interested in public speaking. He wrote scripts, enacted on his YouTube Channel Blogimly. Later, he was interested in Psychology he read avidly on every topic , every book, heard Ted talk on every conceivable topic of his interest, took up classes to add to his knowledge. 

My child is young. She cannot go out on her own. I have no time.

If the child is young, you have decided to homeschool, why do you need to impose a teacher? Why is the time running out? The mommy portals/media, today puts so much pressure on a parent today that they feel obligated to send the child for some classes or hire someone. Freedom is what one aspires for in a homeschooling scenario. If you will resurrect school at home, what is the purpose? The child is still a prisoner to your or the educator's times, whims and personality traits. Where is the scope for the child to truly follow her rhythm and understand life on her terms? We shove books down their throats because we think they should read. We send to classes because we think they must dance or exercise or make friends. 

We think. 
Not the children. 

Then as a parent can you take up the task of Unlearning the school and bring learning in and that too, holistically? 

Be your own teacher. 
Go to the teacher if you must. 
At home, you are only playing 'school, school'. 

What research have you done? 

Am I a parent or a researcher? This again is a school thought as they have large numbers and so must speak trends, statistics, percentiles and percentages. 

Apologies. I have two children. I decided along with my best half to raise them or grow with them differently. All I can tell you is about these two unique individuals. 

One cannot duplicate a homeschooling journey of anyone else. One can observe. Draw parallels and create their own frameworks. Research talks data and conclusions based on groups' behaviour. Homeschooling is a one of a kind journey of each family. For not only children, but parents too transform as a consequence. I got so busy parenting, I forgot to compute details of similar children. For each child has her own song. I enjoyed each one, forgot to classify any numbers. 

What about grade ten/twelve exams? 

It is a natural question and still a weird one, considering the children are just three or four years old sometimes when parents come to us. We are talking a decade (!!!) to public exam. Yet so married to school we are that we covet the certificates while unanimously agreeing that these certificates mean not much in the long run. 

A lot is changing in the Education Scenario world over that systems are changing, paradigms and frameworks are altered to suit the global Citizenry. 

Already the IGCSE and IB Curriculums and exams are widely taken all over the globe. They have an option of accommodating homeschooling students. 

Every state in India has an IGCSE school and an enterprising head who accommodates a home-schooler in various ways. 
  1. They accept home-schooled children as private Candidates. Their centers are offered for exams for a fee. The fee one has to be able to afford per paper would be 5k to 15k INR or more depending on school policy and rules, as of this writing.
  2. The schools in Mumbai, at least the one we know (Rustomjee Cambridge International School) offers hand-holding approach wherein one pays 50% fees. The school maintains the children on their roll call. It also shares time tables, resources, assessments. They may absorb the child to schooling again, should the homeschooling paradigm not work out for the family.
We also have native options. The NIOS board allows any child to give exams at grade 10/12 with wide variety of subject options. They send material home. Everything is on their website. You also could enroll in schools where there are centers for NIOS. The personnel would guide the process. One can give three papers one year, other three the next year. The fees are economical. They are  pretty lax, however, on sending material and instructions. The parents' active stance is required. 

Recently, Maharashtra Board announced its own Open Schooling (MSOSB: Maharashtra State Open School Board) offering Grade five, eight, ten and twelve exams. The curriculum is regular textbooks of SSC board, available over the counter. 

One has to register, however, from grade five if no prior schooling has been undertaken. One needs to have the certificate of grade 5 to avail of grade 8 exam and grade 8 for grade 10. 

One can also avail of "Form 17", if your child has minimum grade five certificate and appear as private Candidate for SSC board. 
One can altogether do away with all regular exams and straight take the BPP - Bachelor Preparatory Programme (minimum age 18) from Indira Gandhi National Open University, offering wide range of undergrad courses and post graduate too. Assignments are given, and all material comes by post. 

Shahen is currently studying Psychology (majors) for his graduation. There is a website that is well equipped. There are centers too for collecting assignments. 

So, one has options galore for academic pursuits. When you score appropriate, all institutes would be glad to have you as a student. 

Are they eligible in Foreign Universities? 

It totally depends on the law of the land. There are some countries that accept homeschooling as a valid module some don't. It also depends on each university.

As a Parent, I would advise apply there where there is acceptability. 

If the homeschooling format is understood deeply, one would be less anxious about external acceptance. One would carve a life that is Self-directed especially in further education. Lot of global, online universities now offer certification online. In that case, their rules are relaxed and your ability to pay and invest your time and effort matters more than your background as a homeschooler. 

What about employability? 

Is it honestly possible to answer this question in this fast paced world?

We have employment issues not due to illiteracy or lack of education but due to entitled attitudes and preferences of a person. 

With right attitude, plenty of employability can be generated. With inept attitude, employability will remain an elusive concept.

As a Parent it reflects in your attitude: a need to micro manage your child's life. It comes up with an assumption that I will hand an enriched, well-planned life to my child on a platter. 

Can you really? As an adult, would the person not look for employing himself or herself productively? It behooves on us to trust them to Fend for themselves or do we not want to? 

What is the statistical number of children doing homeschooling in the country?

No such census exists in India. Homeschooling does not have a legal status in India. There is no registered body representing Homeschooling. 

The tribal and rural areas have more forced home-schoolers for lack of school/ funds to pursue schooling. 

Is it Legal?

With Maharashtra Board declaring MSOSB format, it kind of gives a thumbs up, a go ahead to this form of learning. It acknowledges that children may stay away from school due to sports, illness or some condition that cannot be managed at school.

That does give it a happier status of Being Acknowledged

How will my child give Medical /Engineering tests if they homeschool? 

First things first. Does your child want to pursue this or are they parental plans? 

Homeschooling encourages lack of structure and relaxed approach to learning. The learning of medicine or engineering requires rigorous work, adhering to schedules and rules laid out externally. They both are diametrically contrarian formats. 

If you wish they go in the drill, keep them in the race. For adapting to restrictions after tasting freedom will be difficult. 

How will they earn?

They will.

You and I did, not because, rather, despite our degrees.

So many of us are doing way different things than what we originally planned. Life is evolving, things are changing. Let us teach children to change with the times. Let us trust that by the time they reach adulthood, we would have instilled in them through experiences, responsibility and industriousness to carve an abundant life. 

These are some of the questions fielded repeatedly and regularly. 

Are there any institutes that homeschool children? Can you homeschool my child?

This question expresses complete lack of understanding of key feature of homeschooling. Homeschooling implies that a family has decided to grant uninhibited freedom to their children and have opted out of formal set ups. The child is under no obligation to get up to someone else's alarm clocks. Even if you were to send a child to an alternate learning centers, you still are imposing a structure on the child, however loose that might be. It will be external. No matter what we say, it is fooling oneself to think this is homeschooling. You are out of a formal registered school but you and your child is nevertheless in School: Mentally, Physically, Emotionally. 

What we practice is Homeschooling. We don't impose an institute nor worksheets on our children. They have complete autonomy to choose what they want in any given moment. To have that complete faith and trust in your progeny is your Unlearning.



I see many parents are not yet ready for this letting go of complete control. They still feel they need to micro-manage. There is Palpable fear in the dialogue 'If we leave them they will do nothing'. It implies that children have to be streamlined into structures we feel are good for them. We take the whole decision-making away from them. For we think we are right and superior. 

We are senior to them: Yes. We are ahead: Yes. But wiser: No

Allow them to realize it is their life and they must strive to make it productive. 

We faced this dilemma at grade 12 of Shahen. One fine day he simply announced, 'I won't be joining College next year. I will pursue on my own.

It was a time bomb dropped for us at that moment. Here we were thinking we had home-schooled but now he shall have degrees, earn, go for post graduation. 

He plain announced no more College. 

Before we jumped the Gun, we thought together. It is his life. If he wishes to pursue knowledge differently, can we not support him?

A new understanding dawned. We have an independent individual who thinks and knows what is best for him. 

He gave us three things he wanted to do:

*I will study Psychology
*I will write a book
*I want to become a Public Speaker. 

In that vacations post grade 12 exam, we found Positive Psychology Strength based Coaching. It appealed to him. He accredited and equipped himself with required Coaching. By the time the Academic Year began, he was clear about not joining college. He was already taking online sessions and clients. 

He reads avidly. He is synonymous to Books. The only time he does not have books in his hands is when he is bathing or taking lunch. A book is always on his mind, in his hand. 

Based on his book summaries, he came up with a program 'Shelf Help to Self Help' and pitched it to all schools in the vicinity. Rustomjee Cambridge International School has adopted his program and he has already given half a dozen seminar there.

He organised his independent Seminar on 'Positive Psychology'. 
He is fulfilling his own dream of speaking in Public and that too for a transformational purpose. 

He developed interest in Hypnosis as I kept discussing it avidly. We found an institute and actually attended together as a Mom Son Duo. We offered a Self Hypnosis Workshop together. 

If you want your children to develop a zeal for Learning, you as a parent need to be modelling the same love for learning. Learning never stops, is my message to my kids and to everyone. Unless you propagate it, how would kids who are observing you do the same?

An environment of Learning begins at home, flourishes at home. 

I guess the only Goal that remains now is writing a book. He will get there soon. 

Had I tied him to learning centers, group tendencies, this individuality would not have a chance to emerge. 

An innate trust to follow your path rather than huddle up is what brings forth true leaders. 

Leaders chart paths. 

My second dude has totally lived up the homeschooling spirit as he opted out post grade two. 

He reads but mostly Geronimo Stilton, Wimpy Kid, occasionally Ruskin Bond. He says Ruskin Bond fills him up and he needs days to digest his stories. 

Mostly, he is an audio visual person. He joins in any class he finds interesting in our tuition class. He walks away when he is bored. 
Recently he gave a grade ten paper of English n scored 76/100.
That is the Academic part. 

He is an excellent actor, works in practically all Blogimly short films. He is also a Playback Theatre enthusiast. He trains his seniors in class for annual days, farewell or Teacher's Day fests. 
He is a Canine Lover. He wishes to care for them. Recently he embarked on research on Canines. His Instagram and Facebook pages show his depth of knowledge with the Canines. 

His love for animals has taken him into researching all kinds of animals in all continents. Talking to him increases my General knowledge now. 

He adopted a stray Canine and trains him sensitively. He even learned to knead dough, roll and bake chapattis to feed him. 

His parenting instinct has begun rooting in. 

Again, if I tie his autonomy to teachers coming home or he going to teachers, his creativity would not get a chance. 

Occasionally, he takes up two days workshops if something interests him but mostly he is the master of all he surveys.

There are not many animation movies left that I and Shahaan have not seen. We love watching movies of all genres, era and subjects. He dreams galore  and loves life. His spirit is untainted.
Free, enterprising and living up his life.

Socialisation

We break out into muffled giggles when this word is directed at us. 
We never faced this issue for various reasons. 

*We remain super busy and occupied. As a family we are up to one project or another. We are either making a film, planning a workshop, reading a book or watching movies or planning a vacation somewhere. 

*Making friends is a responsibility of each person. We do not believe in artificially creating circumstances and creating friends for our children. It is essentially their own intuitive process. As Shahen quotes 'Maybe I don't have a big  group of friends but the ones I have are the ones I have bonded with and I enjoy spending time with them.' He has his fair share of friends online and offline. While he is focused on a topic of research or study at hand, he finds socialization a distraction. 

*The younger dude has his gang and he is the leader and the peace maker. His play routine is fixed and a few nano-seconds' absence has hordes of kids pressing the doorbell sharply. 

*They both complete each other. They are best pals and love each other's company. When they are together, they are oblivious to the whole world. They are forever up to some mischief or project. 

We believe the best way to learn something is to do the thing. Each concept we want to imbibe as a family we strive to do it together, dividing roles. Becoming main cast to supporting cast for each other. We are our children's best friends. Micro-managing their lives and searching friends for them robs them of choice and self investment in be-friending another being. 

Can working parents manage homeschooling?

Ironically, this question is never asked when managing children with their schooling and allied activities. Somewhere, it feels it is a duty one must carry without questioning. Homeschooling, however, brings forth this question. Before we answer this, let us take a tour at school chores. 

Drag them out of bed with pleas, threats, yells. 

Bathe, dress, pack tiffins. Making tiffins is an ordeal at times for school insists on sabji, roti; every day under the garb of "nutritious food". 

Drop them to school by our own vehicle or by school bus. If missed, hell turns over. 

Get them back from school. 

Arrange for lunch. 

Arrange for tuitions. Schools are never sufficient. 

Look over school homework, tuition homework precariously balance the school bags, day routines, extra-curricular activities. 

Then there are sports day, annual day and preceding practice, exhibitions, field trips, picnics, exams, preparations, birthday invites and gifts, stationery items, Whatsapp group for homework and stuff. As a working parent you manage all that. 

As homeschooling family, too, we face tasks. They will be home now. We are the "in-sources" of Education for them. We don't have deadlines now but we have children constantly expecting us to fill in their waking hours. Expose them to right opportunities and experiences. Let them choose what they want so they whine less. School work, they defy, for they feel it is not what they wish to do and so the duels and tantrums. 

As a Parent, then, tasks face us both the departments. In school we streamline as per other forces dictum. For homeschooling we have more autonomy in that area. 

We have to choose and adapt to whichever style calls to us.

Schooling or Homeschooling, both require every parent's complete investment. School may absolve dad's role at times as mostly moms can manage. They get exhausted, but they manage. 

When homeschooling, the absence will be Palpable and potent. 

However there are single parents raising children in both the Schooling and Homeschooling arena with success. 

It is the parents ' vision for their life that counts. 

What do I do with children full day?

This is a question asked by a parent who has jumped the gun and into Homeschooling, without really planning carefully about their lives. Connect to home-schoolers, read up blogs by other homeschooling parents, draw parallels for yourself. Talk about your fears, anxieties and hopes for future with each other. Understand that a little anxiety will be always part of the process. As parents we are always made to feel we aren't doing enough. So, when you are taking a decision of this proportion,  it does involve some cardio pulmonary distress, so to speak (figuratively). Accept it. We still feel it. 

Once you have comprehended homeschooling you will have a vision as to what you would like to incorporate or let go. I recommend few months of no academics. This will give you time to adapt, enjoy the freedom and take a higher view of inclinations. You don't have to do something every moment with your child. They will figure out something on their own. They will have their routines and you as a parent too can pick up new skills. Learn things together, Grow together. Internet is abuzz with knowledge. Take your pick. Rest a lot. Relax too. Work on your paths. What works for you will become apparent if you stop to listen to yourself. 

Where do I register?

Homeschooling is not given a legal status yet in India. There is no presiding body for it. Yes, quacks have opened shops to cash in the insecurities of parents just leaving the school shores. They take advantage of your fear of your child's future. The familiar landscape of exam, worksheet routine keeps you feeling safe. It is not needed. 

To the self-proclaimed experts all I say, you will be your own downfall. Each parent who becomes confident on this path will see through your con. Your children too will grow up under the not so healthy influence. Do shift your attention to parenting your own progeny in an authentic way. Meet the needs of this force in a naturally supportive way but cashing on their anxieties is not recommended. Each parent falling into their con-game is also an adult. Choose maturely. 

As a homeschooling parent, I feel we embark on a journey which begins on a 'Schooling Shore'. Our boat enters the vast ocean, at first we tremble, shake a bit, then we move with confidence as we find our bearings and speed. 

We slowly leave the schooling shore and find that we need new rules to survive and thrive. We come upon our own island. We begin to live and flourish. If we don't adapt we may get back to schooling shore. Mostly we enjoy the freedom, independence and thrill of being on our own. No two journeys can be compared. All are unique. Every symphony has different strains. Every musical note, equally melodious. 

Homeschooling is a way of life that can uplift the entire family with its freedom of choice and endeavor. Give the Universe a new song. Expand its scope with your child and you creating something completely new to it. 

-By Sonnal Pardiwala

9 comments:

  1. Good Day Sonnal, I would greatly like to engage you further on the topic above. Its is a very insightful piece. I am an education consultant in the homeschool area and would like to have a discussion with you around the growing homeschool trends across India, especially primary school age learners.
    My email address is nicholas@cambrilearn.com
    whatsapp +27793923513

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  2. This assures me and pacifies my apprehensions. Thank you so much for being so true

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  3. You are so so much echoing me. Thanks for writing such a transparent piece. More power to you. Hari Om.

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  4. Very beautifully written. Reading this assures me that I am not crazy on having embarked this path.
    Thank you

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  5. Excellent comprehensive article. I am a "Business Opportunist" on home schooling concept but not a conventional one as the business ( Prosperity) is only 1/5th of the 5 Ps of Sustainable Development. I am working on integrating Sustainability concepts in Home Schooling.The world is in dire straits as the climate change is endangering the very existence of humans on Earth. We need to incorporate sustainability in learning process. Thanks once again for highly useful article.

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