Homeschooling is a growing choice of education method among many new parents. There are no precise statistics about how many Indians are doing this but in general Indian homeschooling parents tend to be highly educated and well-travelled people themselves who want their children to think, understand and apply what they learn in their daily lives rather than simply memorize texts for exams and then forget almost everything later.
I am one such parent and quite willing to undergo the social and personal hassles that come with this decision. I have put forth my thought process concerning homeschooling in the form of questions that I frequently face regarding my decision.
1. How did I come to decide that I wanted to homeschool?
A: I was 14 years old when I decided that I wanted to homeschool my own kids in future. I had read an article about American homeschooling families in the Times of India. Most of these families had previously sent their children to school but decided to take them out during their secondary school years because the child didn’t have any time to relax between school, music classes and sports lessons. The parents had come to think that the only time being ‘lost’ was that being spent in school as their ward’s true interests lay elsewhere.
I was immediately drawn to this idea of actually leaving school to dedicate my time to things that I was really interested in and I wanted to give this same freedom to my own children when their time would come. As a teenager, I loved reading encyclopedias with good quality photos (Think DK) and detective novels like Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys. I resented the fact that I didn’t have time to read those because they were considered ‘out-of-syllabus’ and because the content was not going ‘to come in the exam’. Sad life!
2. What about exams and certifications?
A: 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 through the CIE centre of British Council, Kolkata. One can appear for the IGCSE exams as a private candidate from the nearest IGCSE school as well. However, this depends upon the subjects since some require enrollment in school and are not available for private students.
I first learned about the IGCSE exams way back in the school itself because a very close friend’s mother had appeared for her class 12 exam this way. That family was abroad and they had missed the deadline to enrol her in a college for class 12. She appeared for her class 12 exam by enrolling for the IGCSE A level exam through the British Council. Anyway, the nearest government schools cannot deny a child admission to the age-appropriate class.
Some American states require homeschooling parents to inform the local authorities (I think through an affidavit) that they are homeschooling their kids and they are required to mention the resources being used. My information is 10 years old. I think this is fair and I would respect this kind of regulation. We really don’t want parents to keep their kids at home and then not actively teach them anything at all, raising illiterate adults in the name of homeschooling.
3. Why go through all these hassles instead of simply enrolling the child in school?
One person cannot pay attention to 50 or more kids at a time. An Indian friend, who is a school teacher now in France, supported my decision to homeschool saying that one teacher can only manage to properly teach a class of 15 students. In India, the minimum number of students in a class will start at 20 even in the best of schools! I taught French for a year and managed to pay close attention to all my students because I never had more than 18 students in a class! All teachers don’t have this luxury.
All schools inculcate instant gratification in children, especially in the high-scoring kids. You memorize for a few months, you appear for the test, you get high marks and then BAMM! You are declared ‘excellent, hard-working and successful’. Life doesn’t work this way and these kids are being fooled into believing that success comes so easy. It is the ability to delay gratification, among other traits, that decides your chances of having a successful life. Schools simply don’t have time for that. I do.
And what about friends? How do homeschooled kids make friends? All this and a lot more in Part 2. Stay tuned!