Learning at home

Raunaq Kapoor
Sunday, 18 June 2017

Homeschooling is catching the attention of several parents in India. With schools putting a lot of pressure on academics, sports or cultural activities, children are often forced to take part in them. But if the child is homeschooled, he will have greater freedom to pursue his interests, spend more time with family, have academic help whenever needed, have a lot of room to be creative and so on

With school and college admissions getting tougher and academic demands going up every year, parents are choosing homeschooling where children discover the joys of learning at their own pace, following their creative pursuits

Homeschooling is catching the attention of several parents in India. With schools putting a lot of pressure on academics, sports or cultural activities, children are often forced to take part in them. But if the child is homeschooled, he will have greater freedom to pursue his interests, spend more time with family, have academic help whenever needed, have a lot of room to be creative and so on.  

Priya Chandrasekhar, a parent from Mumbai, started homeschooling her son since the 4th standard. She says, “I chose homeschooling for my son because I, as a parent, found out that the school that my son was attending was putting too much stress on academics. In homeschooling, the child can learn at his own pace. My son will be appearing for the National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS) 10th std Board exam next year. He loved the idea of homeschooling from day one and there was no hesitation on his part. He is enjoying the freedom and taking full responsibility of his studies. The NIOS Board provides the study material via post and my son and I study together. He also loves playing and has friends from all age groups. He is very curious and always asks a lot of questions.”

She has consciously not joined any homeschooling group since she wanted to teach her child on her  own. “Homeschooling groups have a set of academic procedures which have to be followed and since I did not want to follow any academic procedures I did not join any group,” she says.

Laila Alvarez from Bengaluru has never sent both her kids to school because she doesn’t believe at all in the country’s education system. “I teach my kids through the internet and read several novels to them. My kids will appear for the IGCSE exam as external students and I have joined a homeschoolers’ association in the city which helps me keep in touch with the latest developments in homeschooling,” she says.

Laila son’s Nikhail says, “Since I have never been to school I do not know what a school is like. I go to play every evening with friends from my society and I study in the morning via the internet and novels that I read. I don’t miss out on having regular friends in school,” and his younger sister Era adds, “I wake up in the morning, do yoga, play the piano for sometime, then read a few novels after which I study for some time and then take a nap. In the evenings, I go to play with my friends and then come back home and have dinner.”

Pune has several homeschoolers too. City-based Dola Dasgupta, who is the co-founder of Swashikshan (The Indian Association of homeschoolers) and runs an online group where she discusses questions related to homeschooling for parents, says, “Both my son and daughter are being homeschooled. My son never went to school and my daughter left school in kindergarten. I believe children need loads and loads of freedom and space to connect with their innermost creativity and passions. Schools require children to follow a set pattern or curriculum which might not be truly what a child needs to blossom in his or her life’s journey. We do not make examinations our goals or milestones, the children learn what they feel interested in. When the children feel inspired to take the exam they will take up the IGCSE or NIOS exam.”

Bhaskar Mishra, a tution teacher in the city, says, “According to me, it is good for children who find it difficult to adjust with school curriculum. One of homeschooling’s biggest advantages is the flexibility it offers. However, it needs a lot of dedication from parents. One of my students is learning Japanese (advanced level), while another is  preparing for the Trinity exam (piano). Homeschooling gives children a chance to explore other avenues which are not available in regular schools. That said, the concept is still not popular in India.”

How to appear for exams
A parent of a homeschooler can opt for the National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS) which can be taken in 10th or 12th std. The NIOS Board exam is equivalent to  CBSE or State Board. A homeschooler can also opt for the International General Certificate of Education (IGCSE), which is equivalent to 10th std. Cambridge International Examination and the International Baccalaureate are also options for parents of homeschoolers.

Psychological impact of homeschooling
Pune-based child psychologist Chitra Calla says, “The impact of homeschooling is a lot since children who are being homeschooled do not interact with children of their own age so they do not have the ability to make friends later in life. A child of that age needs to interact with other kids so that they have someone to talk to and share their experiences. Since there is no competitive spirit in homeschooling the child may lack the competitive spirit which is provided in schools.”

Homeschooling is legal in India
An affidavit filed by the Union Government on July 18, 2012 filed by the Delhi High Court came as a welcome relief. The seven-page counter-affidavit, submitted on behalf of the Union Government, clearly states there is nothing illegal about homeschooling and the RTE Act does not, in any way, make homeschooling illegal.

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