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Sunday, December 7, 2014

We Homeschool, Yes. We Homeschool Not.

 continued from-And Announcing...The Next Performance...

                    "Petal plucking and decision making..."

“It’s not that I did not learn anything from schools…I learnt a lot…that is the very reason I home-schooled.”

When dad had told us about the idea of home-schooling…ever since I had known enough about it, I was excited…I talked about it as if I already was a home-schooler…like I needn’t go to school the next day…I had already home-schooled myself in my mind, and in a way I had already manifested the coming six months…it was a beautiful feeling to imagine…no more hectic schedules, no more exams or CCEs or evaluations or orals…no more fighting with teachers for petty marks, no more waking up seven in the morning, no more assemblies, no more awful assignments and homework (all the work at home itself) , no more buses, HODs, no more co-ordinators, no more annual days, no more anything else!!!
But it wasn’t as easy as I thought…it wasn’t a decision of buying a chocolate or taking either a bus or auto to the station. It was a decision to be made by all of us together. A decision that would affect all our lives…a decision that would have a direct impact on our future lives.
So there were apprehensions…tensions…thinking…decompressing….learning…unlearning…thinking…discussing…talking...knowing each other’s opinion...
My opinion was fixed…always…ever since the idea came into conception…at least for us…I wanted to get out of the wretched system…to get the so much of freedom that comes along with it…to do whatever I liked…to learn at my own will…at my own pace…no waiting for a teacher to teach…to reach that chapter…just learn…study…research on anything and everything I find interesting…
Making the decision was far more difficult than actually home-schooling…the shift that would come about…the so many changes…to look at it the other way…no more challenging exams…no more school friends…no more appreciation for topping exams…no more waking up and enjoying the beautiful morning (with closed eyes)…no more…actually I cannot even think about the different things I missed out on…because as I home-school, I see that I am missing really less things and practically nothing at all…I never had friends who I would actually “miss” meeting daily…I had to not worry about exams…I knew how much pain and preparation…so much stress and tension…went along to get marks…those marks…petty marks for which I did not get any felicitation…no appreciation that would actually convince me, with a force so strong that I would actually wish to give more and more exams…to score and make everyone proud…get applause, awards or some sort of appreciating gesture towards me…or anyone else for that matter…I have already described this earlier in the exams article.
Apprehensions are natural while we make any huge decisions. Especially, the ones that challenge convention! Even something as natural and simple as changing a home, needs a lot of decision making and thinking…it cannot be made in a jiffy. And when it comes to changing a school, it’s at least easier…but coming entirely out of a system followed by so many!
But we made the decision of home-schooling… ‘If you can’t change the school, change the school.’ philosophy was not working for us anymore...but then again I had been schooling for eleven years! And my younger brother, too, had been to school for six years!
What apprehensions we had…

Exams! Yes…the very thing I wrote against earlier…because I and also my brother were academically doing really well. I was always among the toppers, and usually the first ranker. I was also a part of a number of extra activities and also took part in elocutions, speeches and anchor…so it was difficult for my mother and father, because as parents they thought they are snatching away an important phase of my life.
They would be concerned, since I was a really good student and hopefully, I would have also done really well in the boards. They always believed that whatever talent we had, or whatever good we did, should shine and we should stand out from the crowd…also, they were concerned for our future…the exams held by the board would take me to a good college and then, we could get a set career. However, we weren’t completely aware of all the norms…how would I give the boards without a school? How would I get into mainstream college again, if I am home-schooling…or can I even do it?
The only way to get admission in a college was with a tenth grade board certificate and a school leaving certificate…without which, I wouldn’t be able to get into a college…the question was if I could give a tenth grade exam??? Would home-schooling prevent me from entering college? Yes, and if you are dilly dallying for between whether to home-school or not, these questions shall also pop in your minds…for a secure future…did I say secure?
The recent happenings in Bangalore and maybe many other schools, but being neglected...why? Because the security of the child is not important...because it is more necessary to get rid of the children during transition...and take leave for home?? To let the child fend for himself...If by a tiny chance, ends up being taken away by someone lifted and doesn't return...if the child is given to a stranger who may cause harm...harm to the child's dignity and life...but with great concern and anger I have to admit that these occurrences aren't coincidences but major mistakes and irresponsible attitudes of schools...when schools aren't wanting to take any responsibility for the child being harmed! The School??? The second home, supposedly?? The place where parents send children for a secure future for the child!! But what about the secure present? Are schools taking care about this grave issue of security? Of taking responsibility and care for the child's health, safety and their life? When a child is abused, the school raises their hands...when a child is hurt, the school takes no responsibility. When a child is lost, the school doesn't want to help, or even rectify the situation...make it better…
When I had been hurt in the eye, from the tone of the principal it hardly seemed that anyone was willing to take responsibility or own up that it was a mistake on their part or at least some concern or care in the tone!
Why doesn't anyone want to take the onus for anything that happens at school? Why do authorities want to blame anyone else for this? Even if the school has handed over the bus to a private travel agency, isn’t it the school and its faculties’ duty to take good care and make sure there are no problems and the children are all safe.
And why in the first place is anything like this happening? Why is a child being abused? Why are children handed out to anyone without making sure if the person is the parent?
In my first school, at least there was a system where parents were given ID cards without which children wouldn't be handed out to them...without which parents wouldn't be allowed to take the child home…But in the next school it was more of an auction while children were being handed over back to the parents! Whose child is this? Anyone from the huge crowd would spot their children and take them away...this happened inside the school premises. No checking while the child was inside the school! None either when they would go the security cabin!
And why should they? They have tonnes of important stuff to do! Save humanity maybe? Or something more significant than a child's safety at school! This was the situation during transition! At the time children were leaving for home...but when the child was inside the school, it seemed more dangerous...there was no law or order!
          A typical scenario during the lunch break can be well defined as chaos!! And this was never controlled! Never stopped! Students running up and down the stairs, running about in the corridors! Banging and pushing and jumping and kicking and fighting and falling...!!!

 It is a shameful thing that no one even bothered to get some organization to this organization!
 No one ever looked concerned that any one at any point of time and from anywhere can injure oneself or someone else! Or even the teachers! Well, a student actually banged into a teacher who tumbled and fell flat on her face...even then no one was wanting to figure out a solution for the mayhem caused...the danger during breaks was more than a cage full of tigers... real tigers are pussycats in front of these children left on their own and this destructive scene! So the future of a child going to school shall be really secure…but the secure present???

These are the questions we asked with relation to the exams…boards…after effects of home-schooling…and how home-schooling, according to our thinking, at that point of time could have affected our future prospects…but then again, another question…that could have come to anyone’s mind…when we tell that a child is home-schooling…
How Does The Child Socialize? How does he make friends of his age? How will he interact with people of his age? Will he become an introvert? Will he not be ever able to talk with people…debate…converse…discuss…speak in front of many people…will the child lose all opportunities to meet and be and talk to children his age???
Yes, all parents are worried about their child’s social life…and how their child is as a person…as a social being…also parents are worried if their child shall miss the opportunity to interact with children of his age…
Apprehension number three… What about all the free time? Will the child do what he did at school? Will he turn insincere? And then the child asks himself…what will I do in the so much of time I shall get? Wouldn’t I get bored?
And then, number four is… lack of competition. Yes…these are some of those questions…
And now to answer them...but before I get into answering…there was one thing that actually was the prime reason for home-schooling…if this organization wouldn’t have existed, I would be doing something like
(a-b)2 = a2-2ab+b2Yeah! This is because without this organization, we wouldn’t have ever known that there were so many home-schooling families…ready to discuss their journeys and their experience of home-schooling with everyone…all those new to home-schooling…all those wanting help and also clear the worries and concerns…Swashikshan
The miracle happened somewhere in October, where we went to meet some families at Sion at Farmer’s Market. Later on in January we met a lot of them at the IHC (Indian Home-schooler’s Conference). We met so many home-schooling families… realizing that so many had opted out of school, some never having sent their children to school, we were relieved to know that it was safe and absolutely fine to home-school…although there would have been many home-schooling families, without Swashikshan, as an organization wouldn’t have brought them together…we would have never home-schooled…to know that many others had taken the same decision we were dilly dallying about…that many others have done the same…broken the conventional cycle and done something different….something unconventional! It is always a relieving feeling!
So kudos to Swashikshan…here’s the site for all “wanting-to-home-school” There are many who are ready to help…interact…and let you know (including me) how home-schooling has been for them…and what are the perks that come along…and some things you may have to let go (it is also important to know that you may miss out on some things).
Exams had been a sort of significant part of my life (then)… the same time it brought along and lot of stress that has already been discussed!
However, the appreciation one gets…if not by the authorities but at least from their peers is hard to let go off…for me, it wasn’t as hard, as it may be for some others…for me, the fact that I wouldn’t have any more hassles with teachers with regards to correction of papers, answers and wrongly corrected things, it felt like a boon to think of being relieved of all of it…but then again, it’s not the same for all!  
Some may not be able to give away the pride and feeling of giving an exam…but one thing is for sure...taking a decision needs research…and also talking to people…I would give my personal opinion here…for anyone who is wanting to home-school, the person should definitely get in touch with other home-schoolers…so that they too share and help in the decision making process…meeting and interacting with the families through Swashikshan, we could take that tough decision.
Hence, we also come to know the mind set and and how home-schooling benefitted so many…how it is done (actually this is a wrong statement. Home-schooling is all about self-learning…and everyone has a unique self…so ‘how it is done’ is personal and based on the individual or family and how they want to go about it…)
Some may want to also explore the different types of home-schooling…Home-schooling is just one term given to a wide array of learning and different life styles. Taking a child out of school is not the only one thing…then there are different things that can be done…one. Home-schooling! That is, just removing the eight hours of schooling (sometimes nine for stupid sport days…add one more for the extra class…don’t go, just add one last for project days…and just one last hour…for...I can’t be that cruel to you!)…although the school hours are removed the child continues with the formal curriculum and syllabus…
Then, there is un-schooling, wherein a child doesn’t go to school…and doesn’t even follow the formal curriculum! If you are a formal schooler it is hard to believe…later on I shall also share those rib tickling experiences…those hilarious moments when we shared with people going to school, that we weren’t…but this ain’t the time…un-schooling means not doing any formal syllabus…but learning and exploring whatever the child likes or is inclined to...
And then of course, each family can choose what and how they want to “learn”…and everyone has different definitions of “learning”. Because that is what home-schooling is all about…deciding on our own and learning without a compulsory or forced structure!
Then, we come to this issue called “Socializing”...supposedly meaning that the child meets children his age…this is sometimes an important matter which makes a parent think, that being away from a crowd, he misses the peer stimulation. The continuous interaction with people which gives the child good communication skills…to avoid the child form being an introvert…here, I feel… “A person if is wanting to converse with someone, he will definitely find someone even in a room of a mere five or six people…but a person not wanting to interact at all, will not even if exposed to a hundred people!!!”

Yes, I believe that social interaction doesn’t depend on the number of people around a person, but is up to what the person wants to do...however, at the same time it is important to have at least some people around…enough to not totally cut off any social communication. However, at school, there are more chances for the child to end up with bad company….which is worse than not having anyone to talk to…(but conversation is always important) so socializing is important and if not sensible, at least unsuitable for the child’s age...also, home-schooling has an additional advantage…parents can be well aware of what interaction children are doing…and be well aware of what is happening in the lives of their children…because they are closer….however, at school what the child does, is learning and going through, there is a gap and the parent shall never know…because if the child is not interactive and doesn’t share or if he hides his feelings…in a way to bridge the gap between social interactions children with other children, the child may end up losing a communication bond and never be able to share what he is going through, with his parents…I saw many of my friends actually preferring to hide most of the things form their parents. They used to talk about things they shouldn’t…according to me at least it was not age appropriate. Anyways, what I mean is that the social exposure at school is not filtered and anyone and everyone can have an influence on the child…sometimes good, sometimes bad…at least at home who and what is having an effect of the child, is known!
Apprehension number three was that the child may vile away time. The first counterview can be, “What the heck does the child anyways do with or within those seemingly uncountable hours…???” Nothing! If filling up notebooks with something one doesn’t understand…reading worthless stuff that is forgotten the next day (the next hour or maybe the next minute, for some…)…by hearting answers that are not of any importance and doing stuff that, logically speaking is inapplicable for the rest of their lives…is called doing “something”, and if you can prove it…I’ll give you that I give to all those who can accomplish such mammoth tasks, that were impossible for even all our superheroes…(yeah…Superman, Spiderman, and even Iron Man…even all the intellectual guys gave up years back…the gift is my Google password and intellectual rights to my blog! A deal, bro?)
So, the child is wasting enough time and energy, and also some skills, confidence and talents at our schools. But then, at home the child, first of all has the time…secondly, the child has no haste at all. To complete assignments, work, schoolwork…hence, gets the time to explore different things…subjects the child is inclined to…likes to do…has the ability to do…at school life skills aren’t taught (not all. Some schools that I may be unaware of. I am just talking about the schools in my vicinity and those I went to and know of.)
The child also has more spare time than any other, since the school hours are cut off from the routine. Even if the child is doing the regular syllabus, he has time to play, write, and do all those things he couldn’t have done if he wouldn’t have home-schooled (also, a HOME-schooler doesn’t need to do any HOME-work…hope you don’t have any questions there???). And if the child even is time-passing in the time it is absolutely up to the child and how the child’s day has been divided. And what is there for the child to do. If there is a continuous stimulus given to the child and has something to do constantly, he never has the slightest chance to waste any sort of time.
And speaking about sincerity, what is sincerity? Obediently writing meaningless answers??? Dutifully doing all homework??? Unquestioningly doing what a teacher at school tells a child to do and not learning by one self??? Is that what sincerity means? Well it can be called dumbness or blindly complying with terms and rules of others. Rather than actually, practically, and logically speaking, I feel it is so stupid. Being sincere to oneself is more significant and necessary than being “sincere” for…a teacher or anyone else for that matter…but the question is that will home-schooling make a child insincere? Sincerity towards what one is doing comes from within. If the child or any person likes and enjoys what he is doing, the sincerity, hard work and dedication comes automatically, from inside!!!
Even its definition is: Sincerity is the virtue of one who speaks and acts truly about his or her own feelings, beliefs, thoughts, and desires.
 Which I feel schools are completely failing to do…maybe (only maybe!) they are trying…but the trying itself… (Really sorry) is not coming sincerely…to bring it down to one sentence…
Attempts of instilling sincerity are not being done with sincerity.
In its true literal, psychological, spiritual definition, sincerity comes from within. A child doesn’t want to study what he has to do at school, from where shall the sincerity come? A child doesn’t like to do what he is doing, how can he become sincere in his work? 
If home-schooling and left to do whatever the child wants to (with some guidelines laid down)…maybe writing, programming, and if studying at his own pace…and if the child likes to do so…than the sincerity is bound to come from inside…
And then, we come to competition. Yes, competition is important. It stimulates the child…makes one strive for better…challenges the child in different ways…learns to face challenges…the competition that one gets at school, is irreplaceable, incomparable, and cannot be achieved at home(nevertheless, if someone wants the competition and challenges to continue for the child even at home, it is easy and can be achieved…there are competitions and contests…most of them require a school but then there are several that don’t…there are online exams and regional tests….and many more, if at all you want to!)…
But honestly speaking, I feel competition is fine, to a certain limit. Unless it destroys friendships, morals, self-esteem, dignity, relationships, childhoods and lives…competition has been infused within us ever since we are born. Humans are competitive beings. There is competition for almost everything. From one’s house to hairdo, from car to cosmetics, even scores in games and likes and dislikes. Competition rules us. It makes us progress and think harder. It makes us do better. But at the same time, somewhere, I feel schools are bringing about the surge of competition to such a level it is ruining friendships and actually causing children to bully others.
Competition at school, for the marks…is a rat race…and what does one do to win a race? Run. Run really hard. And if he loses, what does he do for the next race??? Trying even harder, may be an option. But COMPETITION, to come first in the race and top, the person pushes all those who come in his way. 
When one is at the top of a mountain, shivering with cold, and has just one blanket, the others who couldn’t reach…what do they do to put down that one on the top??? They pull away his only piece of cloth, that blanket that his preventing him from being cold. They think, maybe the person will come down on their level, to be away from the cold….

the best way I could describe the situation arising due to that one senseless word “COMPETITION”…Even the synonyms of competition  are rivalry, race, struggle and war!!!  
And I know how it operates…
A friend of mine was quite a good student…and I joined the school that very year. Due to increasing portion and more of competition, two to three people would have to share the first ranker’s position. Somewhere, he was afraid I would take his position. He began teasing me. Began putting me down and kept telling me all sort of things he knew would make me feel…well, at least not what would make me feel great.
 Instead of keeping the competition healthy and enjoying and letting me enjoy our marks, he began insulting…for which I kept ignoring him (in a way it made me happy…finally, I was making someone insecure!).  HE did it to many others. But when we talk about competition it makes some people so anxious that they actually lose control.
Then, I had a friend who came up to me and told that in so-and-so game he was in the fifth level. Earlier, in front of some others he had told that he was in level eight. Surprised, I asked him and he told me not tell it to anyone else and especially one particular boy who actually was in a higher level than he was in. Wow! So now the competition from school creeps into the child in such a manner that the child is not even wanting to lose or be behind or under anyone even if it is for a petty little game!!!  
 So, I believe actually competition sometimes is good but in other times, it may cause a lot of problems. This is because children are taught to compete but not how to compete. How to handle peer pressure and that someone else can also do better than them…children are just lined up and told to compete and not actually develop a skill of competing fairly and maintaining healthy competition. Sometimes competition goes to such an extent it may harm.
Also, competition and the grading system also create a division between children. Good! Bad! That’s all.
Schools and students themselves cease to realise that the children want to actually tear down their competitors rather than accepting and trying to garner their own skills! This psychology is working against us and all students…of pitting the children in a ground full of bulls. Each bull wants to come out on the top and like eccentrics they push and dash and hit in order to come out. And at school, competition is natural…but not monitored or understood well…
If other aspects that I have described, are changed by the school, and if at all there is a better system (at this pace, probably in 3014) the children can be taught to compete in a healthy manner, accepting mistakes and taking failure in their stride, than from this point of view school wouldn’t be a place as bad as I look at from my viewpoint now!!! [Even the BFG cannot make you dream about it, let alone make it happen!]
So, these apprehensions were resolved. We learnt and unlearned, questioned and then finally too this decision to home-school.
Quite sometimes it would happen that mom or dad would say, “We’ve decided you have to go to school from next year.” At some points I and my brother had already proclaimed, if not to ours but to ourselves that we shall home-school…at such points these decision (that were actually not decisions but apprehensions) would burst our balloon of joy and hope!  Then at times it would be like all of us had decided to not Home-school and finally it was the last day of school…truly the last final exam….after coming back the joy we would share could have been of the following things but what we came to know just blew our minds and we began dancing…these were the things that made us happy that day:
The academic year was finally over!
Last day of exams! That day, we would play with our friends for a really long time and enjoy a lot!
The paper had gone really well and I was hoping full marks.
But what we were told and shown… “You are home-schooling from today!!! Here’s the school’s leaving certificate!! Amazing….undescribable…to describe this moment I can break all barriers of English grammar and spellinh! Loveli! Unimaginably scrummdidlyumtious! Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!!! Ms word can go take a jump and underline all these words but I can’t actually weave the moment with words…
That was all the decision making…I once again thank Swashikshan for being a part of this life changing decision and all those families who helped us in the process. Shared your knowledge…and most importantly thanks mom and dad for understanding and now giving us this wonderful life we are existing in…thank you SCHOOL…because
“It’s not that I did not learn anything from schools…I learnt a lot…that is the very reason I home-schooled.”

From The Same Series...

                  All Assembled, Now The Suffer Begins...          English Vinglish 

                                                    apprehension-ed by Shahen Pardiwala
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