This article was written by Umashankari Das pursuing Diploma in Business English Communication for International Professionals and Remote Workers and edited by Koushik Chittella.
This article has been published by Sneha Mahawar.
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Welcome to the world of homeschooling, where education knows no boundaries and every child’s unique potential is unleashed. Homeschooling is an educational choice wherein parents take charge of their child’s learning from the comfort of their homes. In ancient times, education was focused on hunting, pottery making, and communication, unlike today. Later, people began teaching individually to their children; knowledge was passed on from the elders. Thus, education first started for families, then became public. In this article, let us explore the facts and benefits of homeschooling in India, shedding light on why it is an increasingly viable and powerful educational option.
History of homeschooling
The modern homeschool movement began in the 1970s when John Holt, an educational theorist and supporter of school reforms, began arguing that formal schools’ focus on rote learning (a memorisation technique based on repetition) created an oppressive classroom environment designed to make children compliant employees. Holt called for parents to liberate their children from formal education and instead follow a method today known as “unschooling.”
Soon after Holt’s arguments inspired the first homeschoolers, Holt’s friend and educational theorist Raymond Moore added his voice, arguing that early schooling was detrimental to children and that children should be schooled at home until age eight or nine in order to give them a firm educational, psychological, and moral foundation. The actual practice of homeschooling can vary. The spectrum ranges from highly structured forms based on traditional school lessons to more open, free forms such as unschooling, which is a lesson- and curriculum-free implementation of homeschooling.
Homeschooling in the Indian context
Homeschooling was not a concept in modern India until the COVID pandemic. To have faith-based learning and missionaries who came to India to serve the people in remote areas and did not have access to good education for their children. So, the number of families that embarked on this journey in the past has been severely criticised by their family members and the society around them, looking down on them and even making remarks that are derogatory in nature. This was considered a very Western concept and an out of the ordinary concept, which would alienate the children from socialisation. The stigma was that children could only study and get jobs if they went to school, and home was not a place for this activity.
This concept was very alien until 2017, when the rise of homeschoolers was rapid, as the school system in India was failing to cater to all the needs of the students. The concentration on only a few students who can get good scores, marginalising the average students, the exorbitant cost of formal school education, and the need to send the children to tuition even after sending them to good schools have been a few reasons why parents have shifted their focus to homeschooling. Many parents are looking at alternative options for education.
Benefits of homeschooling
In recent years, homeschooling has gained remarkable popularity in India, offering an alternative to traditional schooling tailored to individual needs. The benefit of homeschooling is that the child can receive an education that’s tailored for the development of individual skills with no peer pressure, and it is even away from the rat race of just getting the scores. The scores the child receives are not what the child is; he/she is much more than those scores. The child is not subjected to one curriculum that fits all moulds, and each family can choose which direction they want their children to take as adults. The child has a life beyond reading and writing. They can pursue a hobby that interests them, which might be a natural talent that a parent can know better and help hone those skills.
- Individualised curriculum: This teaching method caters to each child’s learning style, may it be an audio, visual, or kinesthetic learner, and is paced at their own pace without being rushed to be finished in a certain time frame, just to appear for a test. Once the foundation laid is solid, then the learning is fast as the child grows older.
- Safe and supportive environment: The major advantage of homeschooling is the creation of a positive and nurturing learning environment that is free from negative influence from a teacher and bullying from peers, which can leave the child distraught and make it difficult for them to have confidence in themselves. Albert Einstein is a classic example of this type of nurturing at home.
- Active parental involvement: Parents take full responsibility to educate their children and engage in their learning journey actively. The parents are fully aware of what’s happening in their child’s life and can be a positive influence to help them navigate through the struggles of growing up. This also fosters a lifelong bonding relationship, open communication channels, trust, and mutual understanding. Parents can choose the curriculum that they want to give direction to their child’s learning journey and create a meaningful learning experience. Parents can steer their children to be more independent learners in their higher education, foster a love for learning, and achieve their life goals.
Pandemic – a shift in teaching methods
When the pandemic hit, the schools had to change their modus operandi (mode of operation), from students going to a building to study to screens at home, studying from home. This changed the mindset of the parents, that children can actually learn from home and survive! This made the idea of homeschooling a possibility for many parents, and it is still received with concern.
Now, homeschooling for Indian parents is synonymous with online schooling or private tutoring at home, where a teacher is on the other side of the computer and the child is at home/someone who gives them one-on-one tutoring. They do not understand that the concept means that I, as a parent, am responsible for teaching my child and expanding their learning curve. They have the outlook that they are incapable of the task, and the fear of failure and societal pressures keep many from trying.
Homeschooling – a joy or strife
While homeschooling is a joy to many families who opt for it, they are relieved of the pressure to admit their children at a very young age. It gives them the flexibility and calmness needed to nurture the child in early education and learn through life experiences. Schooling need not be so serious and joy killing we can make it lively and foster bonding between the parents and child.
Homeschooling is more about the parent than about the child. The parent needs to have a roadmap that they are going to use to bring up their child. The best part about this is that we can always review the map, and if something doesn’t work, we can always change it and start again. There are no right or wrong paths to education. It’s just a means to help a child become independent and a responsible citizen in the community, not an end goal.
If the parent is not prepared for the task and chooses this as an option as a modern fad, then it can become a strife for them; they might become unfocused due to a lack of structure and very minimal to no support in the country.
Overcoming challenges of homeschooling in India
Since it’s just gaining momentum in India, one major concern is the socialisation of children. The lack of homeschool co-ops available in other countries, support groups for homeschoolers, and the government needing school IDs for students to participate in sporting events are some of the challenges. So, parents should enrol their children in extracurricular activities where they can engage with like-minded people and foster meaningful relationships.
Common concerns include assessment and accreditation too. Our country doesn’t have a homeschool department that can assess the equivalency of education if the parents choose to take a curriculum from a foreign board. The education department is quite unreachable, unresponsive, and not forthcoming with information, which can lead to a delay in academic year losses. It is still unclear if the children who choose a foreign curriculum to homeschool and receive accreditation from the country in which the curriculum has been accredited will be allowed to take standard undergraduate examinations for college/ universities in India. The common route is using the NIOS or CBSE open schooling curriculum for high school grades.
I, as a homeschooling mom for the past 7 years, strongly believe and have experienced that my children are better placed in terms of their concept understanding and retaining information of the past, as it is paced at their speed. They have had opportunities to come up with projects to engage in meaningful and creative ways to support the community by using their talents and skills. Which they were able to achieve as they did not have the pressure of the formal school system. Hence, by thriving socially and having a strong sense of service and compassion towards others, I have been able to overcome these challenges by using private sports programmes.
Hence, homeschooling is an empowering educational option that nurtures individual potential, academic excellence, and holistic development. With the freedom to tailor education to each child’s needs and the active involvement of parents, homeschooling unlocks a world of possibilities. It equips children with the skills, knowledge, and values they need to thrive in an ever-evolving world.
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