Before I get into the details of homeschooling, and how and why we do it, here is a brief explanation of the days that led us to this path. The problems we were facing during this time were only temporary, but after we took the step and began homeschooling, we discovered numerous benefits of homeschooling that we never thought of before.
He had just begun the first standard, and his teacher had been driving us up the wall. My son is quite the bookworm and reads a lot. He used to come home everyday and tell us that his teacher can’t spell. She didn’t read or pronounce words correctly and she often changed words in his books that were spelled correctly, to what (she thought) was the right spelling. Another complaint was that she used to pinch and slap the children if they talked in class. Being about 8 and a half months pregnant at the time, and having to ‘unteach’ all that the teacher was teaching, AND having to go to his school every day to correct his teacher’s spellings and discipline methods, was just a wee bit more than I could handle.
These weren’t the only problems. My son was bright and creative. Sometimes, I saw him come up with an interesting way to do his work. But then he would always say “It’s ok. Maybe the teacher won’t like it.” At that tender age, he was already seeing a need to be exactly like everybody else.
He was afraid of doing things his way even though these bright ideas were coming to him. This scared me. The need to conform and fit in, just to be like everyone else, is something I find very wrong. His reading skills were far ahead of the class, but he was forced to reread easy lessons just because the rest of the class was doing it. His drawings were better than any of my pathetic attempts at art, but he ‘had to’ draw the same old boring house with chimney, or mountains with sunset like everybody else did.
This carried on for a few weeks, and a week after my baby was born, I suddenly got the heartbreaking news that my 80 year old father had cancer. I packed my bags at once, and with my newborn baby, took an exhausting 14 hour bus journey from Goa to Bangalore to take care of my father. It was the first time I had been away from my son, and even with all the stress of having to care for a newborn with gastroesophageal reflux and my father as he underwent chemotherapy, I still couldn’t stop thinking of my son left behind in Goa, and the horror of a teacher that he had to put up with each day. Not to mention the dreadful principal who didn’t seem to care that her teachers were far from competent.
One day, having a bit of time on my hands, I decided to look up homeschooling and I hit the jackpot. I discovered an amazing book online called ‘The Teenage Liberation Handbook‘ by Grace Lewellyn. The book was exactly what I needed to make me take the leap of faith into the world of homeschooling. If you have a teen, buy them this book, but BE WARNED It will convince them that they do not need school any more. And if they read the book well, be warned again There’s even a chapter on how to convince parents that you don’t need school! (I used that chapter when it was time to convince my husband!)
Once I was done with the book, I phoned my husband. I was all pumped up and must’ve sounded like a crazy person, but he patiently listened to every word. He said he’ll think about it.
Soon after, when I was back in Goa, the first thing we did was what the book suggested: Meet with parents who have already been homeschooling.
Related: The Conundrum Called Education
I Googled ‘homeschooling in Goa’, snooped around a bit, and I discovered a wonderful couple and their two teenage children who lived not far from our home. When I called them they happily welcomed us for a visit, and we went to their house. They were a wonderful family united, passionate, intelligent, loving, friendly, generous, and fun. The children had been taken out of school when they were 8 and 10, and they learned informally at home. They never took exams, though they continued to go to school after-school hours and play sports like basketball and football with their friends. They didn’t follow any specific religion, and encouraged their children to participate in all religious functions just the same. Their daughter wanted to do social work and worked as a volunteer with deaf and blind children. Their son was studying computers and was also into photography. Both the children also used to rescue snakes, as volunteer work, and they even took the trouble to show us their most recent catch a Russell’s Viper which they were keeping in a jar in their house until they could release it back into its natural habitat!
We spent about an hour with them that day, munching on Marie biscuits and sipping tea. We discussed the schools nowadays, different teaching methods, and talked about what children really need. It was a great day. The next morning, we marched into the principal’s office and asked for our son’s name to be removed from the register. That was the best thing we ever did for him.
You do need to have lots of free time on your hands.You don’t necessarily need to turn into a teacher. A parent is already a teacher anyway! You only need to set an example. Show your child that learning things is awesome. Trust that learning is happening all the time. Show them that you don’t always need to sit down and study from books. When you want to learn something, you just look it up, don’t you? You don’t sit down frantically reading it over and over again while rocking back and forth.
Take long walks with your child, in parks or fields, even on the street, observing and explaining nature and its processes. Doing this pleasantly everyday, you could easily cover school’s ten years of science in about one year. Sure, the child won’t remember every little detail, but there’s no exams!
When you see your child get obsessed with something, drop everything and jump into their world to hear all about it. The next day, if they don’t care about it anymore, that’s fine. Just let them find a new passion all on their own, and be ready to do it all over again. One fine day, they will find something that will last.
Expand your horizon, and keep learning with your child. If you limit yourself, your child’s world is limited too.
Together, Google every question they stump you with, and delight in the answers. THIS is how they will come to love learning.
With younger children, talk talk talk… Talk all the time, and about everything that crosses your mind. This will expand their world. When they get interested in something, they will pelt you with questions, and be sure you answer every one!
Now, our days are very different from what they were three years ago. We used to wake up to the sound of alarm clocks and dart around the house looking for missing socks or books like ants running about in search of food! Now we all wake up at leisure. Some days it’s at 6. Other days it is 9.
Only 20 minutes of formal lessons each day. The rest of the day is spent in learning too, but that learning happens on his own. He is learning to play the guitar on his own, from Youtube.
No more do we sit down to homework in the evenings. Our tea time is dragged out every evening, and we chat, play, draw, discuss the happenings of the world. Every evening, my son waits for his friends to return from school and they all play until sunset. All this happens in a very leisurely way. In our opinion, it is just the way family life should be. The stress of homework, exams, and other insignificant worries that schools pile on us is no more in our lives. There’s no yelling, studying, struggling with homework, rushing with breakfast, worrying about marks…
Whenever we feel like it, we get in touch with other home schoolers and we have picnics as often as once a month sometimes more! These picnics often turn into little projects for all the children to work on together. The kids in the group range from a few months to 20 years old! They all get together and the older and younger ones all interact together just the same. The last meet we hadturned into a movie making project which was thrilling for all the children.
Soon after I began homeschooling, I bought a lot of school textbooks for class one. I thought I would be teaching him just the way school does. But then I realised there was no point in homeschooling if I was going to create a ‘school at home’. I still continue to buy textbooks at the start of every year, but now I do it differently. I search high and low for the most interesting and unusual books, which are not necessarily school textbooks. I don’t go by the grade or the age of my son, but just by whatever fascinates him. Our home is full of National Geographic books, and books on philosophy written for children simply because that’s what he loves. We buy lots of second hand books, Childcraft books, and kid’s magazines. I don’t ‘make him study’. He does everything himself. As and when he feels like it. If you want to go about homeschooling in a more traditional way, there are many ways you could.
You could just get someone to give you their child’s old books for you to use. This way, you will know that your child is learning exactly what the schools are teaching. You could also go textbook shopping yourself. Sapna Bookstore has a large section for school textbooks and you could creatively and freely create a curriculum for your child with your best finds.
There are also plenty of options on the wonderful world wide web. Just Google and get youranswer to anything. There’s unschooling, Charlotte Mason Homeschooling, Waldorf Homeschooling, Montessori Homeschooling… and plenty more. Just take your pick!
Sometimes, my son wants to take a test or exam online, and he does, just for fun. We do not see any real need for regular tests or exams. Our plan is to allow our son to answer the Std 10 exam by the National Institute of Open Schooling when he is 14 or 15.
Another (though expensive) alternative open to homeschoolers is to answer the IGCSE exams as an independent candidate. We will do this solely for the purpose of having a certification that qualifies him to participate in mainstream pre-university or university if and when he sees the need.
Teach Your Own-John Holt
Totto Chan-Tetsuko Kuroyanagi
The Teenage Liberation Handbook-Grace Lewellyn
Escape From Childhood– John Holt
Instead of Education-John Holt
Home-schooling for Excellence-David and Mikki Colfax
Real Lives-Grace Lewellyn
Guerrilla Learning-Grace Lewellyn
Dumbing us Down-John Taylor Gatto
What Color is Your Parachute for Teens– Carol Christen
The Artist’s Way for Parents- Julia Cameron
A cool website on raising ‘free-range’ children
A massive collection of amazing FREE e-books in English, Hindi and Marathi
A great site for home-schooling the Montessori way
http://multiworldindia.org/…/uploads/2010/04/10-teenlib1.pdf (The Teenage Liberation Handbook)
http://www.arvindguptatoys.com/arvindgup…/helplearnmaths.pdf (Help Your Child Learn Maths)
http://www.arvindguptatoys.com/arvindgupta/conconcept.pdf (The Continuum Concept)
http://www.users.humboldt.edu/…/27806948-Dumbing-Us-Down (Dumbing Us Down)
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About the author
Rebecca Manari is a teacher and a children’s author, who made Goa her home ten years ago. She has worked in the field of early childhood and primary school education for over eight years and now teaches a middle-school class of ten very smart and spirited children She lives on the beach with her husband and two children who do not attend school, but prefer to learn at home at leisure.