Homeschooling as an urban movement started about three decades ago in the US. Some people who were religious did not like the fact that their children did not get a good religious education. They also did not like the lack of values and peer pressure in American classrooms. Another kind of parent who opted for home education were academicians who felt that there was much more to education than what school provided and felt that they could better teach their children at home. Still another view was that schooling was limiting for children in every way – physically – needing to sit for too many hours during childhood years, mentally – with too much reading, writing and memorizing, psychologically – being stuck with same age, same socio-economic group etc. for years on end. These parents thought of letting their children out in the real world, interacting with all kinds of people, learning from all kinds of situations, exploring the world alongside their children. Some of the latter stopped homeschooling altogether and stopped bothering about curriculum, exams and certification allowing their children complete freedom to follow their hearts to a sustainable future without degrees. These are called unschoolers.
Homeschooling in India
In India, the movement has only just gathered strength in the last three years. Before then there were just a scattering of homeschooling and unschooling families far flung across the country. Unlike schooling which is more or less uniform, homeschooling is extremely diverse. There are on the one hand homeschool families that follow a structure, curriculum, answer tests on and offline, and appear for 10th board examinations. On the other hand there are families who study on the side while spending most of their time on their passions, interests and talents like sports, music, dance, drama, trekking, bicycling etc. And in between these two extremes, there are all kinds of ways to homeschool, tailoring their style according to each parent and child’s interests and capabilities.
Successes and possibilities after school years
There are homeschooled children who score high marks if they so wish and are capable. They have got admission to the best colleges and universities. One of our Pune homeschoolers has completed her MPhil at Oxford, and three have been admitted in to Fergusson College. There are others, especially unschoolers, who feel that certification and exams lead to jobs and professions that are leading the world to disaster. They would rather explore avenues other than the dominant culture, see the ‘real work’ to be done in the world that has nothing to do with college certification, jobs and careers. For example, in the area of food – the growing of chemical free food, distribution without the middle man, healthy preparation, protection of original seeds and even of farmers rights… Shelter – sustainable and aesthetic architecture and engineering and design… Clothing – natural fabric, dyes and fashion… Media – research and propagation of really useful information, positive news… Arts and crafts – revival of traditional arts and crafts and ways of being on the planet… Eco-preneurship… the list goes on.
Certificates or portfolios
Ivy League universities in the US prefer homeschooled children as statistics show that they are less competitive and more co-operative, they make great team mates on projects and take initiative. They are highly motivated as they are doing the course because they are interested in the subject matter, not just the marks and the certificate that will lead to a job. They have created separate admission criteria for homeschoolers based on portfolios of actual work done. Authorities find this more authentic and interesting than a mark sheet that says nothing of value about the student.
People assume that homeschooled children are not socialized, whereas actually they are more socialized being out and about in the world meeting all kinds of people, not just class mates of the same age and income group. Another criticism is that they are not competitive. Competitiveness actually depends on one’s nature. Some children are and some aren’t, whether they go to school or not. My children are very competitive in sports and very co-operative in general!
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