As she fumbles through her alphabet, converting ‘LMNOP’ to ‘LLLOP’, I take a deep breath. I could explain it to her again, but judging by the mischievous look in her eye, she will stick to her version till something else catches her attention. And I wonder – how would this individual focus fare in a class with 20 other children and one stern teacher?
That’s the question I see in the eyes of most parents around me, when they talk about the schools there children go to or the wishlist they have carefully put together, ahead of the big admission frenzy. School education is no easy fare and even for the mums who choose to take a sabbatical and steer their young ones through these early years; it seems like the only choice.
Or is it?
The case for homeschooling:
Taking matters into your own hands is an option that most of us don’t realise we have. We rarely see it happening; parents hurry to send their children to school as soon as they are able to walk straight and begin talking. The younger they are, the better their chances to crack the bigger educational brands. And then? We help with homework till they are old enough for tuition, occupying the third rung over how they shape their future.
That’s not a comforting idea, considering cut-throat competition and reports of the serious gaps in overall education, in batch after batch of the public school system. Few parents are prominently choosing to stand against this tide, by adopting the homeschooling approach. And while my little one has begun her schooling, I am still conflicted over which would be a better situation for her.
Homeschooling In India:
Traditionally, you can choose to believe that homeschooling has been around for generations. Girls weren’t sent to schools over a century ago; but taught by their mothers. Even progressive and rich households chose to work with tutors, rather than send their wards to school, reasoning the one-on-one approach to be better. Formal school education, as it exists today, is a British handover, which found detractors in the form of Rabindranath Tagore (and his approach – Shanti Niketan) and Mahatma Gandhi.
Even today, about 500-1000 children are homeschooled, with the parent deciding the syllabus, streams and the pace which they want their children to maintain. These parents then merge their children towards mainstream education, by letting them apply for their Class X examinations through the IGSE or the Open School system.
Legally, the position is dicey, with the with the Right to Education Act of 2009 explicitly asking for compulsory school attendance. A couple from Kerala are currently in hot water because of this, as the NGO Childline used the clause to register a case against them, for not sending their daughter to school.
Weighing it in:
First things first. Homeschooling is not an easy road. It requires a huge amount of patience, time and effort from parents as well as children. The parents go through a gruelling routine in first learning how to be an educator and then lighting the path for their children.
It’s also a test of faith. Your faith — in yourself, in your decision and in your child. It demands a singular focus as you channel yourself to become their school, their educator, their classmate, examiner and counsellor – all in one.
The scrutiny also pours in on a daily basis – from family, loved ones, relatives, neighbours and the society in large. They say, how can you play with the future of your child? And leave you in doubt; or as happened in the case mentioned above – in court.
Still – if you can resist the flow, it could be the best possible decision you could take for your child. Homeschooled children get the individual focus and attention that we sometimes are not able to give; you could help them navigate a much more positive and fulfilling route towards the wide road of life ahead. In fact, parents of children with special needs as well as prodigies have often taken the homeschooling path.
I know my heart desires to do the same, even though it would depend upon how my little one responds to conventional schooling. What about you?