When school comes home

When school comes home

Unconventional learning

When school comes home

When she started first grade, seven-year-old Advita Gaurav would cry every day to go to school. “She was not able to handle the pressure at school though she was the class topper. She was stressed as the teachers would pressure them in class. And by the time she got home, she’d be exhausted due to the long hours,” says her mother, Deepti Gaurav.

After watching their daughter run tears, Deepti and her husband, Sachit decided to pull her out of school and place her in a more relaxed environment — they decided to homeschool Advita. They were initially apprehensive about the decision but, “After connecting with other parents and seeing my daughter’s personality change, we were convinced,” explains Deepti.

Over the years, the conventional form of schooling has taken on a more rigid stance where students, starting from a young age, are drilled to work under large amounts of pressure. While this method is still debatable, many parents in the City have decided to take matters into their own hands by allowing their children to grow at a pace the child chooses. This, they believe, makes a child more secure, confident and independent, and enhances their thinking capabilities.

But this doesn’t mean the child is allowed to run around haphazardly.  As Bhavya and Pradeep, parents of four-year-old Ibbani and two-year-old Aayu, explain, “Homeschooling doesn’t mean we let the kids make their own decision always. It’s important to treat them as equals while providing constant support and guidance. We believe a child should be given enough exposure and time to go through things thoroughly so that they can ultimately make the right choice.”

Sandhya Viswan, who homeschools her kids, Pranavswaroop and Omkar, adds that the parents need to assess the maturity level of a child before letting them make a decision. “We usually discuss things with them and depending on their age and maturity level at the time, and the situation, we take the call.” Respect is the key.

This symbiotic relationship translates to a two-way communication where a child’s voice doesn’t go unheard just because of their age. While this method does raise eyebrows — how can a child, who comes with a blank slate, be expected to make decisions that might affect her or his future — it also allows room for trial and error, where a child is allowed to stumble and pick her/himself up after.

Yogitha Avvaru and Munubabu Annachi, parents of Meghna (six) and Abhiram (one), tried putting their kids in a sort-after international school but, “When we got to know the standards and security there, we thought we can provide a better environment and quality education at home itself. Every kid has the inherent ability to choose what they want, but as parents, we are responsible for understanding their interests and providing them the right environment to nourish their skills,” she says.

And for those parents who might not have the specific skill set to train the child in their area of interest, there are alternative courses and classes. There are also different methods of homeschooling, like ‘unschooling’, which is considered a bit ‘radical’ because it’s often includes unlearning many things. Other methods include the Montessori and Waldorf system of education. And for those who want to take up competitive examinations, they can apply to the CBSE, IGCSE or NIOS boards.

Lincy Inder, who homeschools her daughter Joanna, explains that it’s up to the child to decide what route they want to take when it comes to education. “These days, you don’t need that piece of paper from a school or college to make it big. But if she wants to, we can always download the CBSE, IGCSE or NIOS curriculum two years before and she can take the exams.” This might come as a slight disadvantage to homeschoolers as they wouldn’t be familiar with the curriculum but Lincy adds, “If a person wants something bad enough, they will strive for it.”

Anjali and Kamesh, who homeschool their son Manikya, follow Dr Rudolf Steiner’s Waldorf system. “This helped us understand not just the development and growth process of his physical body, but also his being as a whole — body, soul and spirit. The best part about this is that we developed a relationship of deep faith and trust with each other,” she says.

But these parents still bear the brunt of a society that hasn’t yet fully come to terms with this alternative form of education. Says Kishan Sathyan, “There is a lack of awareness about homeschooling so, when you tell people about it the immediate assumption is that there is something mentally wrong with the child. Another issue is the legalisation of homeschoolers.”

This is when Lincy adds, “Homeschooling allows for just as much socialisation as the conventional form. In Bengaluru, we have a homeschoolers group that meets regularly so the kids get to interact with people of all ages.” All the parents make it clear that homeschooling doesn’t translate to a child being socially handicapped or an introvert.