Monday, November 3, 2014

Article : Schooling at Home (published in Spectrum, The Tribune : 2-11-2014

Homeschooling : Parent led, home based education 

"What children need is not new and better curricula but access to more and more of the real world." - John Holt

Schooling routine begins early for children these days, almost as soon as they are out of their cradles. Queues for the admissions outside the prestigious schools of the city keep getting longer every year. Anxious parents find the succour only when they pay a handsome amount as school fees to the school where their children as young as 2 years, are ensured admission. Expectations of parents from schools soar sky high when their ward(s) secure the coveted seat in pre-primary. In the race and competition to provide more, better and early education to the new generation, parents as caregivers do not leave any stone unturned when it comes to preparation, application and payment of fees. Post admission, the education of the child becomes a shared responsibility of teachers as well as parents. Endless routine of rushed mornings, time-bound periods of teaching-studying, homework, assignments, evaluations and much more, ensues. Besides these, many other things come along with schooling - some good while some not that positive. While getting acquainted with a mini-world in a regulated environment of school, a child learns basic nuances of social interaction with peers, elders and the ones who are younger to him/her. The benefits of the same cannot be ignored, however there are parents who are opting out of the grind of the school system. They are passionate enough to take up the challenge of schooling their own children, allowing them to learn as they explore the world themselves.

Self Learning - Swashikshan

Homeschooling is a parallel methodology of imparting education to children. Parents choose to educate their children at home instead of sending them to a traditional public or private school. 'Families may choose to homeschool for a variety of reasons, including dissatisfaction with the educational options available, different religious beliefs or educational philosophies and the belief that children progress better when they learn at the pace that they set for themselves rather than being dictated by external impetus.' The homeschooling movement began in the 1970s when some authors and researchers such as John Holt and Dorothy and Raymond Moore started writing about educational reforms. Homeschooling as an alternative educational option was being suggested by these educational reformists. In Raymond S. Moore's words, "[Homeschooling]…recipe for genius : More of family and less of school, more of parents and less of peers, more creative freedom and less formal lessons." The trend of homeschooling is on the rise all over the world and in India, the Association of Homeschoolers is known by the name Swashikshan. It was formally launched in July, 2012 and is a community which takes pride in celebrating learning and growing without school. While minds of most of us are attuned to only one style of education - the traditional system, there are many other educational philosophies as well. Waldorf, Montessori, Charlotte Mason, classical, interest-led learning, unit study, leadership education - are just a few. Homeschoolers have the flexibility to pick and choose the mix that best suit their children's needs.

Praba Ram along with her husband began homeschooling her two children when they decided to break free from the limiting school experience. They are contented that they 'are able to provide an environment free from teacher triggered pressure and other unnecessary negativities. We also believe family values can be better incorporated and a child's natural learning methods can be nurtured and not squelched.'

When it comes to giving structure to education at home, parents use a good mix of unstructured studies and structured curriculum that follows either NCERT, CBSE or IGSCE. Institutes like National Institute of Open School (NIOS) offer plenty of flexible options to suit the requirements of learners of different streams.

Learning the art to learn
Homeschoolers at home adopt different strategies, some parents choose to give preference to only those subjects in which the child shows more interest while some introduce all subjects regularly encouraging the child to freely make his/her own curriculum. However there are some who do not adhere to any structure whatsoever.  Praba says, 'We determine a schedule around our needs and priorities, set the pace according to the child's unique interest, giving a balance of curricular and non-curricular activities with adequate time outside for them to interact with children in their age-group.' A homeschooling parent Sangeetha when asked - don’t you feel incapable of being the sole education provider, answered - 'I don't teach my children, I teach them to learn themselves. I provide material and expose them to different ways of learning, it is up to them to pick the one that suits them.' After having homeschooled her three children, she is one satisfied parent.

As the community of homeschooling families is growing rapidly, there is plethora of resources, curricula and social networks that are accessible to the desirables. The key objective of adopting the parallel means of education is to personalize and customize the education as per the individual talent and capability of the child and to let the students discover their passion and desire to learn in a conducive environment.  A parent-teacher gets the luxury to make it a reality which is unimaginable in formal school system with class strength of 40 to 60 students. Often homeschoolers say and believe that when you homeschool, all in the family learn rather than one teaching another.

When talking about this alternative form of education, lack of socialization is often mentioned as one major downside of homeschooling. But Dr. Mary Kay Clark, Director of Seton Home Study School for 25 years has an answer for this, 'don't worry about socialization. Wherever people congregate, there is going to be interaction, socialization. Where is it written that it needs to be in schools? ' Nonetheless, homeschoolers make sure that field trips, travel to see the places that one reads about, experiment based learning, play-dates, hobby classes, group outings and many other activities are included in this parent-directed education process.

Customized learning solution
When every individual is unique in so many ways, it is hard to find one method suiting all. If one goes by this logic then homeschooling is a great way which can be tailor made keeping in mind the needs and preferences of the learner. It may seem like an overwhelming proposition for the parents but then 'the only prerequisite of homeschooling is the desire to do so, along with a dedication to the educational process.' The idea of freedom from deadlines and strict time schedules sound very liberating. Moreover, the number of variables which can limit or interfere with the child's desired learning process can be reduced significantly. One gets the freedom from peer pressure, hobbies do not get ignored, family values are not compromised and as parents one can completely take control of the child's education.
 In Mahatma Gandhi's words, 'There is no school equal to a decent home and no teacher equal to a virtuous parent.'

Complete article here

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