Homeschooling in India : Part 1
As soon as one becomes a parent a long list of do’s and don’ts follows, be it about breastfeeding, using diapers, nap times, choice of doctors etc. As the child grows, the major concern of each parent is the right choice of school. There are so many options today with millions of play schools and formal schools mushrooming up. It makes the decision easier and hard at the same time. Unfortunately, I had no idea about homeschooling at that time.
Choosing the Best
We all know that education is priority and it is a major task to choose the best for our children. Like most other kids, our daughter began her formal education at a school. My husband and I went through a lot before we decided to switch to home schooling. We lived in Allahabad and the best school for girls there is St. Mary’s. So, like all parents we decided to put our daughter there, but it was not easy. Every year thousands of parents apply and thousands of children take the entry exam but only few get in.
We went through the whole process of getting in the line at 5:00 a.m. for the form and submitting it the same day with all the attested papers. After this initial step, we started preparing our 4 year old for the entrance exam. Now when I look back I laugh because all we did those days was to load her with information. There were English and Hindi poems, names of all family members, numbers, alphabets, names of animals, fruits and vegetables and what not. She was only four and we expected her to cram everything. To my amazement, I was approached by coaching institutes who were coaching 3 and 4 year olds for entrance exams and parents were actually going for it. Anyway, our daughter took the test and passed it. It was like a battle won. We actually celebrated that night
Why School wasn’t the Best Choice for her
Thus began her school journey, getting up early at 5 for the cab and coming back by 3. She would then take some rest and then do her homework before going to bed by 8 to again wake up at 5 the next day. Our whole life seemed to revolve around her school timings. We missed so many events and holidays because we couldn’t get more than 3 days leave from the school. I even had to send my husband alone for some major medical issue to Delhi alone because my daughter had her final exams at the same time. The school didn’t allow leaves or re-examination, and obviously, we didn’t want her to repeat the same class just because of that.
Well, we shifted to Lucknow and needed to get her into a good school in grade 1. So, the same ordeal started again and we were back to square one. We couldn’t get her in any school of our choice and had to settle for a nearby school which wasn’t too bad either. That is when the harassment began.
The admission fees for grade 1 was around Rs 30,000.00 at the time, the uniform cost around Rs 4000, books for Rs 6000 and tuition fees was Rs 9000 for three months. We had no choice but to comply. Then came winter and the time to switch to winter uniforms, however, the uniforms were not available for months at the prescribed stores. We bought her pants of the same color from a different store but she was punished every day at school for not wearing the correct uniform. Although, she was doing great academically, but she had to face a lot of discrimination as the teacher seemed to have her favourites in the class.
She used to come and tell me stories of how the whole class got punished because a couple of students were making noise. She was not happy about the fact that they were not allowed to go out and play during recess because the teacher was afraid that the older kids will knock them down while running. She shared how one of her friends forged her mom’s signature on one of the test papers and how they lied to their teacher about so many different things. She also didn’t understand why the teacher was always in a bad mood and asked them to put their fingers on their lips or keep their heads down on the table whenever she felt like it. There were so many things that she shared with me which were in contrast with the things that I wanted her to learn at school. I started to get worried and tried to deal with it as best as I could but I was not satisfied. I knew that she was starting to get confused about what was right and what was not.
The school wasn’t even providing quality education. There was no scope for creativity. The teacher expected the children to cram up answers and to write it down in the same words. I was shocked to learn that during tests, the teacher would write the answers on the board and ask them to simply copy. When confronted the teacher got upset and gave me lame excuses like your daughter is bright but other children needed help. Instead, as a result of the complaint I made against her, she started being unfair towards my daughter. The principal didn’t offer any solution either, but took his teacher’s side throughout. The teacher’s remarks and corrections in the note books were wrong and there were many other things that were not up to the mark.
Homeschooling to the Rescue
It was around that time that I met an American couple who were homeschooling their four boys. They themselves were homeschooled. I was impressed and naturally curious since it seemed to be the perfect solution to all our problems. So, I started talking to them about homeschooling. They helped me with my concerns regarding effects of homeschooling on social skills, presentation skills, proper education according to her age and fear of her being left behind academically. They gave me books and many links which helped me learn about the wonders of homeschooling. While browsing the internet, I stumbled across a website called Swashikshan- Indian Association for Homeschoolers for Indian homeschooling parents and I was surprised to see millions of parents opting to home school their kids and were happy about it. I joined the group and spoke to many parents about their experiences. They all seemed satisfied. I even spoke to their kids to see what they thought about it and they were very happy and were doing great in studies.
After a long research for about 3 to 4 months my husband and I decided to start homeschooling as an experiment for a year. If not satisfied, we could always put her back in school. She was in grade two when we took her out of school. By the way, her school has not yet given her her TC. The reason being that we had paid the tuition fee for three months, but she attended school for one more day the next month just to say good bye to her friends and teachers . The school wanted us to pay for the upcoming three months for that one day of attendance, but since we didn’t pay, so they didn’t give us the TC.
Our Decision to Homeschool our child wasn’t received too well
We announced our decision to family and friends and no one was happy to hear about it. Our family members are well educated and well settled and they didn’t understand how anyone can get an education without going to school. My brother in law thought that we were short of money and that is why taking her out of school so he even offered to pay for her education for life. My cousin is a teacher in a renowned school in Lucknow and thought that it was a foolish decision. I think she still feels the same, but we were adamant and took her out of school.