The other day, I was chatting with an acquaintance about this and that when he said something really remarkable: his wife and he were homeschooling their three children—two sons and a daughter! Given the horrendous time I had at school (such a waste of many precious years, almost half a century ago), this news came as a very pleasant surprise!
Homeschooling is becoming an increasingly popular option for parents, not just in the West but in countries like India too. Many people are becoming disenchanted with ‘mainstream’ schooling—for various reasons, including skyrocketing school fees, aggressive competition, rote-learning, culturally alienating curricula and last, but certainly not the least, lack of sufficient focus on ethics, spiritual values and character-building.
Homeschooling can have several advantages that are making it an increasingly attractive choice for many. For families where one of the spouses (often, the wife) feels compelled to seek employment outside the home simply in order to supplement the primary bread-earner’s income and help meet children’s astronomically high school fees, homeschooling can come as a great blessing. If their children are being homeschooled, the spouse need not feel forced to take up paid work outside and face the drudgery it may involve. Instead, he/she can remain at home and spend quality time with the children, helping them with their studies. Not only can this relieve these parents of the burden of having to slog at a job simply in order to foot their children’s school bills, teaching their children (instead of having a school teacher to handle this responsibility) can help foster closer and more nourishing parent-children relationships. Homeschooling can enable parents to become more closely involved in their children’s lives, instead of expecting school-teachers to bear a major share of the responsibility for how their children turn out to be.
For families unable or unwilling to cough up huge sums of money for fees (and other charges) levied by supposedly ‘good’ schools, homeschooling can be a great relief. Homeschooling can be immensely cheaper than ‘mainstream’ schooling, a great money saver.
Homeschooling can be a great bonus for children, too. It can be potentially more conducive to the child’s inner growth than the ‘mainstream’ schools that are often characterized by aggressive competition, authoritarianism, control, hierarchy and lack of adequate concern for morals and spiritual values. Children who are homeschooling may be in a much better position to follow their dreams. They may be able to choose from a greater variety of subjects to study, instead of being confined to a relatively narrow range of subjects offered in many ‘mainstream’ schools. A child who is homeschooling might be able to choose to study supposedly completely unrelated subjects such as Home Science, Biology, Accountancy, Painting and Sociology, a combination that is impossible to have in most regular schools. Studying at home, learning can also be much more flexible in terms of time. The pace of learning can be calibrated by parents along with their children instead of being dictated by schools. Learning can thus become a more relaxed process, instead of something to be rushed through. If parents who choose to home school their children are innovative and creative, they can help them cover the prescribed curriculum in a much more enjoyable way than is often the case in ‘regular’ schools, where fear of teachers’ reprimands or of failure in exams can sometimes create havoc with children’s lives.
That said, the proportion of parents who choose to homeschool their children still remains small—which is why when my acquaintance mentioned to me that his children were homeschooling I was surprised (although pleasantly, of course!). One reason for this could be that institutionalised ‘mainstream’ schooling has now become so pervasive that many people have come to believe that it is as normal and necessary as, say, marrying or even eating or breathing! (To realise how misplaced this assumption is we need only to remember that starting with the advent of human beings on this planet till say just half a dozen or so generations ago, possibly the overwhelming majority of the world’s population had never stepped into a school or had even heard of the concept!) Some people may appreciate how much better homeschooling can potentially be for their children than institutionalised ‘regular’ school but yet be unwilling to homeschool their children for fear that not going to conventional schools, they may turn out to be misfits. This is a concern proponents of homeschooling need to address. The best way to do so is to get parents who are homeschooling their children and their children themselves to share with others their experiences of it.
In India, the National Institute of Open Schooling is a good resource for parents who wish to homeschool their children. For details, see their website: www.nios.ac.in