Homeschooling In 2020: A Viable Option Or An Added Responsibility?

From increased screen time to exploring indoor options for kids- parents have left no stone unturned, and one of the latest trends that has caught up big time over the last couple of months is homeschooling. 
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Quick question- What has changed in your lives after the lockdown and quarantine? The list is going to be endless, parents!

From increased screen time to exploring indoor options for kids- parents have left no stone unturned, and parents of younger kids are reportedly turning to another option that has been in vogue for a couple of years already. The art of homeschooling. 

With zero clarity on when schools will reopen to allow kids back in their premises and if things will ever return to normal- parents- mostly of younger kids have resorted to the option of homeschooling that has been prevailing for a long time in the country but has gained a lot more popularity in the last few months. On this #KSPSpecial, we unearth a few common questions and doubts parents have on homeschooling and whether this is the right option for your child. Don't miss our other #KSPSpecials on cyberbullying- why you need to pay more attention and Screentime- just how much is too much. 

Understanding Homeschooling: 

Homeschooling is all about breaking the norms of the usual 8.30-3.30 schooling under fixed premises. It is NOT to be confused with the blended learning that schools have taken up now during the COVID situation where they send in materials, teach through online videos and parents follow up on the rest. This is not that. Here- kids are educated at home, mostly by parents or tutors in some cases and there is no defined curriculum or syllabus that is common to all homeschooled kids.

In simple words- this can be understood as children-led learning where there is nothing imposed to them by means of a rule book or a timetable roster like it is in schools. In most cases- the child decides what they want to learn.

How Do You Know If Homeschooling Is The Right Fit For You? 

Is homeschooling a choice you make suddenly given the change in circumstances? We have already established that sitting with your kids and helping them tide through the online classes doesn't amount to the actual homeschooling method of learning. But how do you know if you are prepared to homeschool your child? For starters- you will have to begin by listening to your child better- understanding their likes, dislikes, interests and what they would want to learn. Meghna Singhee, a homeschooling mom, summarises this beautifully by saying, 

"Can you allow yourself to really enjoy letting go of expectations, of standards? Can you have a conversation with your kid and listen to what makes them happy and trust they'll find a way? Of course there are people who homeschool with timetables and subject hours and all of that but I believe it is in collusion with the children and it is also after you've defined what matters for your family. So you don't school because you could do the curriculum more efficiently and use the remaining time for travel or sports or whatever. Most people homeschool because of the rich benefits they see in their life and not because of the demerits of schooling. We've all been through school and enjoyed it even, but we've chosen differently now because of an idea, a belief that things can be done better, more joyfully or efficiently". 

How does an educator view this scenario? Does branching out from a formal school and taking up your child's learning in your hands sound like something you can do? Swati Popat Vats- President of Podar Education Group has these questions to ask parents who are considering homeschooling as an option.

Has The Lockdown Seen A Surge In Homeschooling?

Not to be confused with the online learning that children across the country experience with most schools going digital, homeschooling has been on as a trend for decades now and is just gaining attention now as a possible alternate option. For sudden- homeschoolers, the transition ought to be safe, guided and well thought of. Early Childhood Association came up with this timely poster after speaking to more than 600 parents to help them understand the difference between traditional homeschooling and the sudden onset of learning at home that people mislabel as 'homeschooling'.

For a formally-schooled child, the "learning at home" experience might be a tad different initially, but for homeschoolers, it is just another day in the office. Sanjeevani Pandit, a homeschooling mom, clarifies this for us- "Honestly speaking, we have had very little difference occur in our lifestyle as an unschooling family. In fact, we have embraced this new space with my boys now choosing to learn different aspects like cooking, cleaning and exploring interpersonal skills."

Misconceptions Surrounding Homeschooling: 

  • Your child might turn out to be an anti-social loner

Nathan Barry- a popular author, blogger and entrepreneur and Founder of ConvertKit, wrote exclusively on his website about how homeschooling helped him build a $100 million business! "The assumption was not only that I couldn’t get a good education, but that I’d also turn out as an antisocial loner" he writes. He explains how with homeschooling the class moves at the pace of the slowest student- which is you!

  • Homeschooling Limits Your Child's Learning

On the contrary, homeschooling helps expand your child's thinking and offers flexible schedules for kids to learn diverse topics of their interest. Sanjeevani explains how it has helped her bond with her child better. "It has contributed to the children really exploring themselves, their surroundings and their environment more deeply or as shallow as they choose. Learning at home gives them an opportunity to make their connections in their own time and pace. That makes for a better learning environment."

Rebecca Manari, a homeschooling mom, based in Goa said this in an earlier write up for the Kidsstoppress- "Children who learn by themselves usually learn for the joy that comes from discovering something new." Read her complete article here. 

  • It Is Not Possible To Take Up Exams If Your Child Is Homeschooled

Natalia Kotian, a homeschooling mom and a KSP Contributor clarifies this in an easy way for our readers. "The child can appear as a private candidate for their class 10 and 12 exams from state board schools, NIOS or for their Cambridge IGCSE exam as a private candidate." Read her complete article here.

  • Once Your Child Is Homeschooled- Shifting To A Regular School Is Impossible

This is another myth that needs to be addressed. Children who are homeschooled can easily migrate to a more formal system of schooling if the need arises and it shouldn't pose a problem. Parents and the teachers must ensure the transition is smooth and easy for the child to get acclimatised. Meghna's son who shifted from homeschooling to a more formal system of schooling puts an end to this popular myth- "This (the transition) was a very easy thing for us because it came from our son. So there was no question of him being forced to wake up or study or whatever because he was curious about school and said he'd like to try it. We were actually very pleased because we wanted him to try all options and choose what works for him. He has friends from all kinds of experiences and he was very clear that he wants to go to a Waldorf place. I have to say we were relieved that he didn't choose a more regular system that may have been tough for us to adjust to."'

  • How Will This Society React To Your Decision?

If you decide to go ahead with homeschooling, be prepared for some eye rolls, raised eyebrows and a barrage of questions. From questioning your abilities to reminding you of the possible "consequences" to even shaming you as a parent, there will be a lot of negative reactions. But isn't that a thing that happens with every one of our parenting decisions too?! Thankfully, over the years, the mindset has changed and people are open to trying new things. Rebecca explains how the society reacted when she decided to venture into homeschooling a couple of years ago for her son- "We get very mixed reactions from people who discover that we homeschool. My son gets quite annoyed with the reactions, and in the beginning, I have often caught him lying to friends that he goes to school! He says that it's too tiring to explain all the time. The reactions I get from people fail to surprise me anymore, as we have been homeschooling for almost 3 years now. Some people are shocked, some are interested in homeschooling too, and some are quick to argue and tell us we're wrong for depriving our children of a 'proper' education"

The Role Of The Parents In Homeschooling: 

In the present day, the role of a parent when their child attends a formal school is crucial with regard to helping out with the assignments, over projects and rehearsing the concepts once again at home. And that of a homeschooling parent is a lot more, we have to agree. Meghna nails it by saying that "homeschooling is more of a lifestyle choice than an education choice". We are sure other homeschooling parents will agree with this.

What Parents Must Remember:

  • If you find yourself as a parent who questions the quality of the current education system and feels that you and your child are better off with your own DIY curriculum than a rigid one, and if you are able to give a dedicated approach to it- homeschooling might just be your option.
  • And with the dawn of the social media era, where everything is available at the click of a button, homeschooling parents say finding the right resources to teach their kids isn't that much of a battle. 
  • Make sure you and your child choose a curriculum before embarking on homeschooling. Go with a clear mindset of what you aim for, while at the same time allowing a lot of flexibility and the options for the child to choose along the way. Refer to the CISCE, CBSE, NIOS or Cambridge International curriculum that are posted online. 
  • Get your facts right and do the groundwork before embarking on a long term decision. Remember- this involves not just your child, but your entire family.

Useful Contacts & Resources For Parents Who Opt For Homeschooling:

Some of the useful contacts/groups to reach out to for help regarding homeschooling in India are: 

Indian Association of Homeschoolers- Swasikshan

EduKraft Homeschooling

The Homeschool Mom 

IXL Learning

Homeschooling India- Facebook Group 

India School For Homeschoolers & Alternative Education- Facebook Group 

When we spoke to Fatema Agarkar, Founder ACE Sports Edu, she shared with us useful resources that we could introduce to our children:

1. #The New York Public Library – you can now download over 300,000 books for free

2. Virtual Museum Tours, Graffiti Tours, nature walk

5. Google Arts & Culture– explore artwork from over 1200 museum in 70 countries online

6. Super Colouring – Over 50,000 free colouring pages for kids

7. Detroit Symphony Orchestra – free video

8. The Metropolitan Opera – every day a different encore presentation from the company’s Live in HD series is being released for free, on-demand streaming beginning at 7:30 p.m EDT for a period of 23 hours

9. JSTOR Materials – available to the public for free

10. New York Broadway musical – 7-day free trial

11. The Top 100 Documentaries We Can Use to Change the World

12. Vancouver aquarium Live Cams

13. NASA's online activities, e-books, podcasts, and other content

 14. Amazon Audible Stories for children struck at home – available for free in 6 languages

15. National Digital Library of India – The Union Ministry of Human Resources is giving an opportunity for the public to utilize the lockdown period for reading. The ministry will give free access to the National Digital Library where over 3,82,00,000 books and periodicals will be available to read. The digital version of the books and magazines can be read using any digital device including smartphones, computer or tablets. 

What's your take on this parents? For those of you who are homeschooling your kids- can't wait to hear your experiences on this topic. Write in to us at contribute@kidsstoppress.com And for others who take the formal route- will you be exploring this option? If yes- why, what inspired you to? If not- why not?! Tell us!

Share your take with us on our Instagram handle- @kidsstoppress and @janani2409. We love to hear what you think!

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