Monday, September 16, 2013

Is home schooling viable for Indian Parents?

More than 20 lakhs children in the United States get educated at home, rather than at school. In the town I am living, in Nashik, there is a growing population of parents who are also engaged in home schooling. John Holt is considered as the father of Self-Directed, Home-Based Learning. See his website for more information  on the benefits and other resources of home schooling.India also has an association called Indian Association of Homeschoolers called Swashikshan. They also have online presence here.

Why so many parents favour home-school learning? 

Researchers have discovered three main reasons for avoiding the normal schooling. One, most students - bright, average, or failing ones - lose their zest for learning by the time they reach middle school or high school.  In school, children often are seen to be bored, anxious or both. Other researchers have shown that, with each successive grade, students develop increasingly negative attitudes toward the subjects taught, especially math and science. Two, school students are disconnected with the actual life and the community around them. These students not only lose the opportunity of learning, but they also do not learn the 'skills' to navigate real life problems. And three, the unwanted homework creates a huge problem in the families that further decreases the opportunity of learning for the child.

Parents are not surprised to know that learning is unpleasant in schools. However, most of the parents think of it as bad-tasting medicine, tough to swallow but good for children in the long run. Many of the parents therefore tend to shrug off such findings and tend to put their children in the school as an inevitable hardship of life. But some parents wish to do something to counter these disadvantages. One of the alternative is home schooling.

These parents provide a home environment that facilitates learning, and they help connect their children to community activities from which they learn. Some of these families began this approach long ago and have adult children who are now thriving in higher education and careers.

There are various research reports on the benefits of homeschooling. See these reports here. One of the report is on Indian Village in Kerala. According to these reports, the main benefit of this approach lies in the children’s continued curiosity, creativity and zest  for learning. The above mentioned authors are completing a study of approximately 80 adults who themselves were home schooled in this self-directed way when they were of “school age. Their results are awaited.

However, home schooling parents have to overcome two big handicaps of home schooling, if they want their child to benefit: 

Knowledge of development and education for parents: One is the availability of one competent parent at home. Lot of Content of teaching is available on the internet. With MOOC sites like Khan Academy, EDx ( managed by top universities like Harvard and Berkeley), and Courseera ( another site managed by top universities in the world) , finding content on any subject has become very easy. Here are some books on homeschooling, and videos on home schooling. Indian association also have lot of resources.

But the gap is elsewhere. The parents must understand the fundamental difference between learning versus teaching, appreciate the developmental bottlenecks of growth of child that impact learning, and help the child to negotiate typical learning bottlenecks in, say subjects like Algebra. In other words, a home schooling parent needs to find a person -  good 'educator' and 'developer' - who can help her understand this, and guide her whenever she is stuck. 

Fill the gap of social learning: One of the big gaps in homeschooling is the unavailability of 'social medium' to enhance a child's learning. Researchers know that the learning happens best when it is driven by curiosity and 'social interactions'. Social interactions play a major role in the learning of a child, because a child learns by seeing the difficulties of other child, understand the fine nuances by sometimes helping someone else solve a difficulty, or sometimes getting help from others. Social context is also critical in building interest in non-academic domains such as play, arts and other areas.We have seen, how playing of tabla can help a child develop qualities that are complementary to his talent. Parents have to find active 'social groups' in different areas to help her child. This group need not be just active in non academic domain like arts, but they can also be passionate about some subject like Astronomy or Robotics. 


In other words, if a parent can manage to fill these two gaps, home schooling is definitely a viable option. I know of some parents, who prefer home schooling for a different reason. For instance, one of the parent has a child who has 'queer' mannerisms and therefore finds it difficult to deal socially with friends. I also know a parent who prefers home-schooling because her child is extremely good in 'Arts', something that is not encouraged in a school. Another parent uses homeschooling because she is herself a good teacher. 

Therefore, if you are interested in avoiding school for your child, it is practical, doable and also beneficial for your child. 

1 comment:

  1. Sanjiv Bhamre,

    Thank you for provoking a thought. Isn't it true that the converse also have got soem merits in its arguments?

    The green is (not) always lush on the other side of the river bank.