CHENNAI: This is that time of the year when parents spend hours outside schools to get admission for their children for the next academic year. Before you go through the same grind, consider this new option. What is homeschooling? There are no extra classes, uniforms, one-size-fits-all syllabus or back-to-back model tests. Rather, the kids are given an option to sketch out their own schedule and choose their subjects. Parents are the teachers here and sometimes tutors are appointed.
Beyond the conventional
Even before her son Aniruddha was born, Janhavi Rohit and her husband decided to homeschool him. “We wanted our kid to have a childhood. People send their kids to playschool way too early and it was depressing. Now my son is six-and - half-years-old and I have no regrets in teaching him at home,” says Janhavi, a journalist. Initially, Janhavi was apprehensive about teaching her son at home, especially when her neighbours raised a concern about his social skills. “I teach him lessons based on concepts. It is a combination of CBSE, State board and ICSE syllabus.
Illustration: Suvajit Dey
There are online websites to guide you on how to take your kids through worksheets to make sure that they are on the same level. I sent him for football coaching last year and exposed him to summer camps because basics get strengthened during this age,” she explains. Morning sessions are taken care by Janhavi and evening by her husband who teaches him Maths, Sanskrit, and Mahabharat. They plan to give him a holistic environment despite the limitations.
And then there are kids who are happy to be schooled at home. Rishabh Hattikudur was homeschooled until class 10. “I lived in an apartment complex where all of us went to the same school and our parents knew each other. And all of us quit together at the same time and decided to learn from home. I was lucky because we were all from different ages but studied together and each one made sure that nobody lagged behind.” He resumed formal education for class 11 and 12. Rishab’s relatives thought he would be an introvert, but he turned out to be quite the opposite. Homeschooling helped him learn at his own pace and also gave him time to pursue his passion for sketching and portrait making. He continued to graduate in industrial designing and now is a graphic designer.
Parents like Nanditha Sreekumar ensured that their son Manav’s dream of becoming a tennis player never faded. “For tournaments, he has to travel a lot. So when he misses school, teachers never really gave him a compensatory class. He used to hate Science and Maths because of this but now he has taken them as one of his core subjects. Now he goes to a tuition centre and plays tennis,” shares Nanditha who is a homemaker.
They are not different
“People are afraid to take chances. What if the kid loses interest? What if he does not have a backup? I think parents must identify their kid’s talent. Homeschooling is not just for special kids,” explains Nanditha. On the other hand, kids like Anjana Kanakanalla did not have an easy time after homeschooling, for a year. “I took a break in between to study on my own because I couldn’t perform well in Maths. After graduating, all of us received the same certificate. But mine had ‘private’ in the place of my educational organisation,” she says. She struggled to get admission for her class 11, as most principals and teachers were skeptical about her capabilities.
Taking it to another level
Vidya Shankar started Cascade Montessori Resource Centre in Besant Nagar, seven years back, to bring parents together with an idea that they can contribute proactively for their children when they function as a group. In the beginning, it was exhausting because of one-on-one sessions. Soon, it turned into a dynamic experiment when people pooled in resources to create a learning space. “I have brought in 24-25 parents in eight years. Nobody knows about the functioning of this kind of structured society and its norms. We function as a resource centre and bring their expertise to table. Everything here is decided based on inputs from parents including the fee structure. The rigor is set by the children and we don’t apply pressure, or force them,” she says.
But, questions continue to arise in the minds of parents. “We’ve trained children up to 12 years of age. I also have students who have completed their class 10 and 12, and they are doing well in life. But parents are doubtful about the functioning of open education in advanced classes. We’ve tried to break their notions by teaching them Montessori primary courses,” she says. There are parents who have taken up the job or rather the task as teachers, some are language guides, some are administrators, finance managers and some are a part of the admission committee and there is a core governing committee for the whole school. This is the first ever educational society to come together in terms of formal .
● Renowned poet Rabindranath Tagore was homeschooled.
● Malavika Joshi from Mumbai who made into MIT two years back was homeschooled since age 12.
● City-based pianist Lydian Nadaswaram, a child prodigy was also homeschooled
The National Institute of Open Schooling does not have age criteria. Kids can take up exams at any age. There is also a concept called partial schooling where a kid can attend classes according to his time table and learn the rest from home.