A few years ago, the term homeschooling was unheard of in India. It was new to me when in Ireland a few friends mentioned that their children were being homeschooled. I did not understand the concept, but somehow was fascinated by the whole idea of having the freedom to study without having to go to a school. It was then that the seeds were sown for my own children to be homeschooled.
When my children were born, between travelling, shifting countries, working and quitting jobs, homeschooling had taken a backseat. Actually any kind of schooling had taken a backseat. My son stepped into school for the first time after his third birthday! By then we had moved back to India. I was particular about a few things – the school should be close to home, not be very strict, no homework should be given and it should be more playful than concentrating on academics – at this age at least. I found what I thought was the perfect school and put my child there. The school was small, just a five minute walk from home, they hardly gave any homework and they did not complain about him wandering off in the middle of the class or scribbling all over his school work notebook.
We went there for a year and because of our circumstances had to move cities and schools yet again. This time it was a proper big school which had class from Pre-K to Class 5. We had to follow rules. A year later my daughter went to the same school when she turned three. Though she had her best friend and neighbour going to the same school, some how I noticed that she wasn’t too happy to be going to school.
A year later, more changes in personal life and I took the decision to pull them out of school for good. We were travelling a lot and it didn’t suit us to go to a school. The day I took the decision and told my kids I could see they were very happy.
It was tough and is still tough. I have to keep explaining to people that I am not depriving my children of their right to be educated, but am actually enabling them to do better. As one of my friends says “that is when we start lying…”. Sometimes I just give up on explaining and let people imagine what they want.
What is easy though is…. life! Yes, life has been much much easier since we started homeschooling. My now 5 & 7 year olds don’t have to wake up at 6 am and rush through their morning routines, push food into themselves and run out of the door at 8 am. They don’t have to handle dirty toilets at school. They don’t have to eat cold food and snacks during the day. They don’t have to wait till their break to eat their food, they can just eat what they want when they are hungry. They do not have to deal with tons of homework. They don’t have to deal with “Don’t ask too many questions”. They don’t have to deal with punishments. They don’t have to feel bad about spending too little time with the family. They don’t have to sit through classes when they can’t concentrate. This is the bare minimum that comes to my mind right away.
One of the things that triggered off the whole thing was a day when my son came back from school and said he read a book in the library and he wanted to borrow it and bring it home but he wasn’t allowed because he was only in 1st grade. I tried talking to the teachers about it and they said they could not do anything about it. Now at home, I spend a fortune on books. He gets all the books he wants and has plenty of time to read them too.
My children have plenty of time to practice their music, sing and dance and go to the park when they want to.
So when do they study? Homeschooling works differently from family to family and some families even do unschooling. At our home we have a routine set of reading/writing/drawing for a couple of hours a day. It does not matter what they read. They could read books that are for lower or higher classes, they could read Enid Blyton or Sudha Murthy, they can write something related to studies, they can write stories, make up their own riddles and puzzles, draw pictures of cartoons, animals, nature or whatever they feel like. Many a times we just cuddle up together and play games with our different books, finding the flags and capitals of countries, or just games of adding up numbers or something interesting like that. We do a lot of travel and that accounts for our study time too.
On the whole, homeschooling works wonders for us. It is like the flexi work from home option for IT people. A lot gets done and everyone is happy.