India Homeschoolers’ Conference 2013

“Young and old, Sharing space,
Sharing time, Living life.
Free to play, Free to create,
Free to be whoever, They like.”

These were the words that Charlotte, a young homeschooling mother from Panchgani, used in a sentence to express her vision of the first Indian Homeschoolers’ Conference, to be held in Khandala, Maharashtra from Feb 28th to March 4th of 2013. I turned the words into a poem by just placing the words in verses. So Charlotte shared what she wanted to celebrate and I supported her by creating a poem out of the words she wrote!

Celebrate, Share, Support, Create – the four words that so beautifully express what this conference is going to be all about.

Many parents, some 15 or 20 years back decided that they would not send their children to school and then subsequently more such parents chose to follow the same but diverse paths.  Little did they know that they were taking small and significant steps towards the formation of Swashikshan, the homeschooling support group that was launched in 2012, to bring together homeschoolers and unschoolers and all sorts of self learners, to a conference that would celebrate the choices some pioneering parents made and continue to make, to facilitate the learning of their children without school.

Albert Einstein once explained how the stars that we human beings see from planet Earth are just light that travelled many thousand years from stars that might have died in far away galaxies. He went on to further prove that light from many thousand stars that are infants in far away galaxies, have not reached the Earth’s visibility and hence we don’t see them. What we see close is often not what is still alive and when we don’t see something it does not mean that it does not exist.

Many of us are like those stars in far away galaxies. We did not know the existence of other homeschoolers when we chose to home educate our children. We just took intuitive decisions and plunged into the unknown. But over the many years, new and old stars popped up in our skies and slowly we started to have our own Milky Way, dazzling with fresh energy to make a new beginning.

The numbers of homeschooling families have grown considerably over the last 20 years, and I have seen a spurt over the last 6 years since I took the plunge myself. From isolated cases of families in various parts of the country to various homeschooling forums of like-minded parents, who came together to help and support and learn from each other, the journey has been long and yet in some ways, has just begun.

Pune Homeschoolers and Alternate Education India were some of the first online communities discussing and debating alternate education and homeschooling themes. Then the need for more intimate groups arose, where mums and dads could share and talk about issues closer home. Issues that deal with family, spouses, relationships, emotions, feelings, religion, food, socialization, media, TV, video games and much more, started to come up and needed more focused and intimate discussion. That is when the India Homeschoolers Ning Online community was launched.

Through this online portal, smaller groups in various cities started to bond and meet, physically organizing play dates, excursions, holidays, activity groups and much more. Even online, some parents forged deep and lasting friendships while learning and sharing together.

In April 2010 the Government of India brought into effect the Right to Education Act, 2010. This Act created some ambiguity in the hearts and minds of homeschooling families about the legality of learning without school. Many parents felt the need for a national level support group that would futuristically work towards solidarity in case RTE came in the way of homeschooling.

With this objective in mind in 2012, Swashikshan was launched to perhaps bridge the road between mainstream and alternate education. We as a group are still in our formative years and unclear and polarized as to what Swashikshan is meant to do. As members we keep debating on this off and on – everyone freely airing their concerns and fears and hopes and ideas about what Swashiskshan stands for, or what our collective and personal visions are.

Well we are still figuring that one out and having a pretty good time doing so!

In the meantime, all of us felt the need to have a four-day conference to meet each other in person and create a space where families could celebrate and exchange ideas and knowledge and have a lot of fun with the children. We wished to engage in some serious and some fun stuff!

The first conference is always in the imagination of each member till it is manifested at the venue. Many plans are in place and many ideas have been exchanged. Many members have come forward to make this work with great gusto and faith.

Even though we would like to promise that we have more such conferences in the future, we are not making that promise yet.

We are just inviting homeschooling parents to come and make the first one a memorable one to start with. We hope to take it from there.
While discussing what each one’s visions for this first ever conference of homeschoolers in India was, some wrote back to share what they were dreaming of……here are some of those visions…..we do hope many more come forward to share their dreams and co-create the vision for the conference and Swashikshan!

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