இயற்கை முறைக் கல்வி

Sunday, November 20, 2011

When there is no holiday, everyone is teacher, everything is resource and everywhere is school!


Isha is turning two and a half. And the question that I get asked (that parents exchange among each other) in various one-on-one meetings and gatherings is 'Which school are you putting your child into?' I tell them 'Isha is not going to go to any school.' While some parents are quite shocked that there is such an option in the first place, there are others who ask me 'Are you going to homeschool her?' I tell them 'Yes and No, depending on what you mean by ‘homeschooling’!' There are elderly people (grandparents of kids who come to the park) who go off on a long lecture telling me why I am doing the wrong thing, and on and on...' Here is an FAQ where I have attempted to answer questions that we as parents get asked often.

Why won't you send Isha to school?

1. Children have an inherent intelligence and ability to learn with much joy. Schools don't respect this and treat them as empty containers that contain little or no knowledge, which need to be filled using instructions and information.

2. Children learn things with tremendous curiosity, joy and focus, when they have a context for them at that point in their lives. Schools thrust information usually with no context or relevance for the child, making 'learning' an unnecessarily painful struggle or a superficially intellectual exercise. It all begins and ends with what she can and can't memorise and remember.

3. Children are beautiful souls that are born into this world to be respected, nurtured and helped to function at their highest potential. They need help to be able to listen to and follow their own calling and fulfill their unique purpose in life. Schools put all children through standardised training and churn out people who all think and act similarly. If you give some crayons and paper and ask a bunch of ten-year old children to draw something, they are very likely to all draw either a house, a mountain with a sun-peeping out, an Indian flag, a flowering pot, or a tree. If you tell them to draw something other than all these, they are very likely to say ‘I don’t know how to draw anything else!’ This is how our schools rob our children of their innate creativity and confidence.

I know many young people who have landed themselves comfortable IT jobs who wonder 'Oh my, how did I get here?' Our home regularly hosts such people who wonder what to do with their lives, trying to find their own paths that are more meaningful and nourishing for themselves. Most importantly, a path that is their own!

4. The world around us is a beautifully woven web of relationships - between people, places, animals and things. It is one big ‘school’, if you want to call it that, the child can have an endless go at learning so much. Schools keep children within four walls (four compound walls, if you include the PT period) and tell them all they need to learn is there and can be found in text books!

5. Whether children or adults, we all learn in a beautiful natural rhythm. We get interested in something when it has some relevance or context for us in our lives, or when it presents answers to some question that has been gnawing at us from our insides. Or simply because there is an unknown place inside of ourselves that is drawing us to it for reasons our small minds may not be able to grasp.

When we get naturally interested in something, we then get curious. We then slowly warm up to it, immerse in it (experience, information, exploration, etc), stay there soaking it up with all our being – five senses and beyond. Then follows a quiet do-nothing time when we are actually assimilating everything we have experienced. This period is important for that is when we are seeing for ourselves what deeply resonates with us and what doesn’t. We take in what does and reject what doesn’t. This has been my own learning cycle, as I’m learning to slowly recover it. Learning this way about one subject can go on anywhere from hours to months! ­

Schools fragment learning into 45-minute blocks, when none of this can happen, making learning a very inefficient process. It is like constantly being given something to eat (for a period of 8 hours) without allowing any time for the body to digest the first food and to become hungry for the next, gagging all the way! Even the most nutritious and tastiest food cannot be assimilated or enjoyed in this way.

What if Isha grows up and then turns around asking you ‘Why didn’t you send me to school like other parents?’
Well, for one none of the grown up children of parents (who I know) who have made this choice ask such a question. A few have asked to go to school briefly, and stopped going in a matter of days! Like a friend (father of two girls who don’t go to school) often says when he gets asked this question, ‘Do you think a wild tiger cub that grew up in a forest, would one day turn around and ask her mom tigress why she never grew up in a cage?’  

Will she be able to join college / a professional programme if she wants to?
Yes. If she chooses to. India has a way for kids to write the ‘National Open School’ exam which can open the doorway even to IIT. You can read about the 14-year old boy who never went to school, who took this exam, was an IIT-JEE topper (All India Rank #33) and is now a student at IIT-Delhi.

How can you ‘choose’ for your child? Isn’t it like imposing your preferences and ideals on her?
­­Isn’t sending your child to school a choice you are making too? Just because everyone else makes that choice does not make it any less of a choice. By sending children to school, parents are deciding how 8 hours (+ homework and study time) is spent by their children. Actually, it is school-going children who have no choice in how they spend their time!

If you are a vegetarian, aren’t you choosing ‘vegetarianism’ for your child? If you are non-vegetarian, are you not making that same choice for your child? Everything we do for (and with) our children is a choice we are making for them, consciously or unconsciously. As parents, we are all making choices for them which we think will serve their interest and welfare in the best possible way, within our means. Ours is one such choice.

Research has shown that children who have grown up eating and developing a taste for healthy unprocessed food are very unlikely to get addicted to junk food. In this case, would we say that we made choices for our children that made them dislike junk food, which is actually ‘so tasty’? In the same way, children who have grown up experiencing a healthy relationship with the world and with the process of learning, are very unlikely to dislike learning anything or to be want to be forced to learn anything when they grow up!

Are you going to homeschool Isha?
Yes, if homeschooling means exposing Isha to various learning environments (including libraries and books) outside the institution called ‘school’.
No, if it means having a strict syllabus which will tell her she needs to cover this and that in Physics and Geography, made to pass this grade and that. 

Won’t children lose out on social skills if you keep them at home?
Yes, it is very important for children to play and learn with other children. And it is sad that the only place that we can all think of for such coming together of children is school. But if we are more and more parents making this choice, we can work together on creating more nourishing and creative spaces when kids can come together!

We all went to school. Haven't we all turned out fine?
This is a tricky question to answer! I don't want to judge how fine each of us turned out. But the point is, if we had grown up learning a little less stressfully, a little more joyfully, being encouraged a little bit more to be creative, respected a little bit more, don't you think we'd have been finer than we are?


Are there other parents making such a choice?
Slowly but surely, the tribe is growing. You can see indiahomeschoolers.ning.com


Do you have the support of your family?
Isha is blessed with grandparents (on both sides) who work with us so beautifully as one team! When we talked about this choice with Rajeev's parents, his mother in fact said 'What a relief it is to know that you don't have to get stressed, waking up a sleepy child every morning, stuffing her mouth with food and send her to school!' My father-in-law in fact enthusiastically joined the Indian Homeschoolers Online network!

******

Rajeev and I are working to co-create a network of parents in Chennai who think similarly. If you would like to be part of the network, we’d be thrilled to welcome you. If you have more questions, we’re both always available to answer them for you. Its true that we don’t have all the answers. But we feel so right about this decision that we feel confident that answers will unfold as we walk the path. In any case, you are most welcome to join us in this journey.

Please write to us at

20 comments:

Preethi said...

Lovely to see fresh, bold thinking on parenting as well - congrats to you 3 for taking this step. I am confident all 3 of you will be better off for having taken this step!

Shunya Mukammal said...

Amen!I already know your daughter will grow up liberated. Thanks for sharing your story so wonderfully.will love to come and share games we play when we come to Chennai, done that ones with Pune group. Wishing all the best!
Agyatmitra
(www.hereweplay.blogspot.com)

Mandar Shinde said...

Great points, nicely put.

Forget about sending to school or not, I'm impressed by your confidence and clarity of thoughts! I feel confusion of parents affects growth of kids badly.

Thanks for sharing and wish you all the best!

Archana Chari said...

Wonderful thoughts. I am so happy for Isha. Though I come from a mother who would have appreciated home schooling, esp for my brother who was squeezed by regular schools - the lack of family support drives it very very hard. Love your confidence, so much! Good luck.

mugdha said...

amazing read :) worth a share with all those who have similar questions and doubts !
im in chennai intending to work with children and art using co-operative process..would love to get in touch !! im at rangmaati.weebly.com

Sangeetha Sriram said...

Thanks all of you for your wishes and encouragement. Over the past few weeks, I have connected with three other parents who have made similar decisions for similar reasons. Synergy is building even as I write this. Would love to keep sharing our journey together as we go.
@ Shunya, yes please let us know when you are visiting Chennai. Would love to meet up.
@ Mughda, this sounds great! Please send me your phone number to sriram.sangeetha@gmail.com Would love to talk to you.

Pradnya said...

It should become infectious..gives much chance for parent-child interactions too.Home Guruschooling..Bravo

Pradnya
Hyderabad

Pradnya said...

Let the infection of homeschooling grow.
Gurus shishya paramapara will be nurtured at home
Pradnya
Hyderabad

sD said...

It feels happy to read your post. Lot of things I have thought about has been reflected here!!

I always feel the kids in this generation are missing a lot of fun that I enjoyed during my days. Even the most simple, vacation after each examination; going to thaatha, paati house and playing endlessly... When I have my kid, I will make sure he enjoys every bit of what I got. I want my kid to grow up as a good person than topping in class/school.

Hope Isha loves what you have decided for her. Enjoy.

Abhi Kalyan said...

my heart aches and eyes are filled with tears .
what have we done by building schools?
It would have been lovely to have been breed naturally then within walls.
to learn the lemon from the plant.

Prabha said...

Wow! Harsha and I were discussing this topic a few days back with our friends - parents of young children. We discussed exactly most of the questions that you have written about... interesting. The topic started when someone in the group wondered what a 'risk' it was that another friend had taken. He has made the choice to put his daughter through 'Samskruti' under Jaggi Vasudev's guidance - this is different from the school they have in campus, and can't be called a 'school', more like a growing-up environment for kids. And the discussion went on... :)

Amar said...

I think its a wonderful idea and you have taken a great step!Would love to do so,if I had the guts!

My only concern is the lack of oppurtunity for the kid to meet people of their age outside the school environment.Kids nowadays have no friends outside school,not even in their own apartment blocks.

However,I too feel we will be able to impart knowledge to the kid in a far more enjoyable manner!

yAtri said...

Hi Sangeetha,
It was nice to read your article. It answered a few questions which I could not ask you when we met.

Cheers,
Mithun

Anand Menon said...

Nice one....surely though provoking..as for me i am one of them who chickened out of the option...

feedback unrelated to this piece..might be a good idea to add the "follow on RSS" widget...useful for the many who use readers and are not on blogspot...

Anand Menon said...

@ Amar agree with you...am on a similar boat.....

Shaji.k said...

Hope more parents are persuaded to join in this noble endeavour to restore to children the freedom and creativity that schools rob them of.

Ram said...

Sangeethaji - We will want to learn more. Give us a calendar time to discuss :)

mari muthu said...

i am father of 3 years old daughter. i have decided to home school my daughter. i need to visit some parents like you to make things easy for myself..kindly contact me

Sangeetha Sriram said...

Mr. Muthu, please send me your email id. We will invite you to our regular meeting of homeschooling families in Chennai. Where do you live?

vidya said...

Sangeetha,really impressed with your clarity about homeschooling.I have a few doubts before pulling out my 2nd son who is in grade 1 from school,would you be able to clarify them.i am put up in tambaram.how can i contact you.my mail id is vidyarajaram_79@rediffmail.com.