I was intrigued by a recent news item about an Indian American child prodigy, only 11 years old, getting three college degrees in Maths, Science and Foreign language studies from a college in USA. Intrigued by the fact that the boy never went to a school or college but was home schooled by his parents.
That set me thinking about home schooling, an idea which some parents adopt as an alternate education system for their children. Especially when their children are exceptionally talented and are not able to adjust to regular school life or the parents are not happy with the current education system. I understand that across the country there are thousands of kids who undergo homeschooling.
Closer home, a friend`s daughter decided on home schooling her only child, a son who is a bright kid with a fantastic IQ. She took the decision after her experience of providing a formal schooling experience for her son failed. A series of incidents in the school concerning her son made her realize that modern day education system does not provide the warmth, care and the personal touch & love of a teacher to children, especially children with special talents or needs. Taking ownership and responsibility for the quality of education that she chose to give her son; she quit a mainstream education job to embark on a journey in home schooling. She says, “As parents we cannot let fear or the `herd mentality` rule over us. We should allow the children to blossom naturally without the external pressures which a normal education system imposes on them “.
When I asked her about the curriculum that she follows for her son, the answer she gave me floored me . “I don`t teach him anything. He learns whatever he wants to learn, on his own. I only facilitate his learning process. He has a Tablet on which he accesses any information he is seeking on any topic through the `Net. I am available to him to answer any questions he has. I am his best friend.”
It was a tough, life changing decision for her and her husband but she is persisting with the idea for the last five years. As of now the family seems to be happy with the arrangement. And the boy seems to be enjoying the freedom to pursue what he wants.
The one question that people generally ask is whether such homeschooled children will grow up to fit into a world which is intensely competitive and in which there are all kinds of people and all kinds of situations to deal with. In answer my friend`s daughter told me that a fixed time is devoted every day for her son to mix and play with boys & girls of his age group either in the building complex where they live or other friend`s places where children get-together. I also understand that parents of home schooling use technology to form groups to help with socialization. A website devoted to homeschooling (www.homeschooling.in) not only gives very useful tips to parents of Home schooling but also helps them connect with other parents across the world so that they can share their experiences.
Let us not forget that homeschooling as a concept is not new in our country. In the olden days, in the absence of schools nearer home, many children, especially of well to do parents, were given homeschooling by experienced teachers visiting the homes of children to teach. Even today, children of celebrities, due to security reasons, are given home schooling. Our former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and her children and grand children were home schooled up to a point.
For home schooling to be successful one of the parents has to sacrifice his/ her other ambitions to devote full time to the child. In today`s context where it has become common for both parents to work, how many will have the time and patience required for taking the huge responsibility of home schooling a child? Is there proof that such home schooled children do well in life? Will the child be able to integrate into a regular school later, if he or she wants to? There are more questions than answers to the concept. However, in my opinion I feel Home schooling is definitely an excellent alternative to educate children with special needs. It is one sure way of making such children grow into confident and responsible individuals who can stand on their own feet in life.
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