BANGALORE: Does your child hate going to school? Is she stressed out, pressurized and overloaded? Or, are you sick of the conventional schooling system? Simple, don't send them to school. Try homeschooling -- that's what more and more parents in Bangalore are doing.
In cities like Mumbai and Pune, many parents have stopped sending children to regular schools. Instead, they learn by themselves at home or are taught by parents or tutors. There are over 50 such children in Bangalore and there's even an online forum where their parents interact with each other and seek help. All of them have different reasons for choosing this system.
For agriculturist Vivek Kariappa, it was the realization that conventional schooling is biased against the rural system. His children followed no textbooks, but an agriculture-oriented curriculum. They were urged to read, to search for more information, to face problems and solve them.
When his son, who was interested in sports, complained he wasn't getting time to indulge in his passion, Sunil Ruthnaswamy thought of pulling his child out of school last year. "Now, I have time for both. I study three hours a day, which I feel is equal to a day studying at school. I devote three hours each for cricket and rowing and am quite happy," said Joshua Ruthnaswamy, 14.
However, for many, dislike for the conventional system made them opt for homeschooling. Says Amit Mathur, a software professional: "My wife and I were not satisfied with the education we got. We don't trust the present system of schooling. I don't want to see my child growing up without thinking."
There are also children with learning disorders for whom homeschooling is a better option.
HOW IT WORKS
There is no separate syllabus for homeschooling children. Most parents TOI spoke to followed prescribed textbooks. However, some didn't follow textbooks and others designed their own curriculum by referring to syllabi of different boards.
None of them thrust books on their children. "When my child was in first grade, I used to take him to shops and make him understand addition and subtraction. Later, I used textbooks as worksheets. That's how I taught him maths," said a parent, Chetana Keni. Children are encouraged to figure out things by themselves and find pleasure in learning new things.
While most parents help children in the lower classes, they take the help of tutors when they can no longer deal with a subject. "We have a forum. Each parent is good in some subject. For example, I love maths. So, when a child needs assistance in it, I help him out," said Amit Mathur, a software developer.
On reaching Class 10, the child can take the board exam privately by registering with the National Institute of Open Schooling or International General Certificate of Secondary Education. The degree is acceptable across the world.
BACK AT HOME
Most children have a timetable, which is not regimented. They study for a particular number of hours (ranging from 2 to 6 hours), spend time pursuing their area of interest, with friends and then by themselves.
"The biggest advantage is that the timetable is flexible. The child can learn what he wants when he feels like it. He can go as in-depth as he wants. He learns it at his pace, the way he wants. He takes ownership of his learning. The stress on the child is zero," said Aditi Mathur, a strong believer of alternative education methods.
The children are generally happy with what they do. "I get a lot of time in doing what I always wanted to do. I know how to divide time between activities. The only thing is school was much more fun with so many friends around," said Joshua.
TRAINING FOR PARENTS
Experienced homeschoolers say parents should know how to go about teaching their children in the right way. "All parents are not born teachers. Even they need training on teaching methods, and creating a conducive environment, how to instil discipline and so on," said Chetana Keni, who gives such training to parents.
A child's social networking skills is one area of concern. "I won't recommend homeschooling for any child who lives in a flat without good interaction with neighbours," says Chetana. However, some parents say they have made new social circles -- in the neighbourhood, during extra-curricular activities and at home. "The advantage here is they have friends from all age groups, and not just their peer group," observes a parent.
The cost of homeschooling varies on what and how the child learns. "At times, it can be more expensive than sending the child to regular schools. It depends on the child's learning needs. Apart from routine requirements like books, CDs, painting kits, one also needs to pay for extra classes which these days cost not less than Rs 500," said Chetana.
Considering the system our schools are following, homeschooling is a good option. A school is crammed -- be it in curricular or extra-curricular activities. In a family, it's a more relaxed environment and therefore more conducive for learning. Some say the pressure the child faces in school is good. But, in 90% of cases, the pressure doesn't do any good. Homeschooling is good as long as the child doesn't take it easy.
-- M S Thimmappa, clinical psychologist, and former vice-chancellor, Bangalore University
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