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We are in the middle of a pandemic on a scale that humankind has not witnessed in over a century. In times like these is when we realize that we sapiens, the “wise ones” did not expect things to spiral out of control, our weakness as a species have been exposed. However, what is clear is that our species will do whatever it takes to survive through strict affirmative action from the authorities and hopefully stringent collaboration on our part as citizens. With the lock down now in full force and with a lot of schools shut, many parents feel the challenge of how they can ensure their child continues to get a quality, enriching education despite the closure of many schools.

In our webinar this week, we discussed what to do with our children during these times of isolation and quarantine. Our guest speakers were Archana and Maitreyee Gehlot, a mother-daughter pair that have co-founded Asmakam, a platform for cultivating creativity and promoting self-learning. Their discussion with Dr. Rakesh Godhwani Founder of SoME was an enlightening insight into the world of homeschooling, self-learning and unlearning.

Demystifying Homeschooling

Mrs. Archana Gehlot talked about her decision to homeschool her daughter, Maitreyee and her son, Atri, after moving back from the US. It was a decision that may have seemed unusual to some, but it sparked a discussion about the myths behind homeschooling, unschooling and self learning in the 21st century. Homeschooling especially seems to get a bad rap, at least in India due to several reasons- some individual and many because of its stigma in society- it is harder to land a job without a legitimate degree, that social exclusion is higher amongst learners who do not go to school, and that the homeschoolers end up wasting a lot of time and dont really learn anything due to lack of mentor ship.

“I’ve never let my school interfere with my education”- Mark Twain

However, this is not always the case, especially if you speak to Maitreyee who was home schooled and also has had the experience of being in a formal education setting. She was in grade 8th when she made the shift and admits that when she first started homeschooling, she was reading a lot of books, listening to music and watching TV, but eventually she got bored and started looking for productive things to do. She did not waste much time and became intrinsically motivated as a result of being given the freedom to do what she wanted. She took up teaching English at a government school as a teenager which exposed her to many different types problems that learners faced and helped her to realize her passion for teaching children. She also said that her exposure to different types of people helped her develop a world view different from her peers at a very young age, and that she never felt her social life was lacking. 

Letting your mind wander

One thing that is an obvious advantage, is the amount of time you have in your hand which allows one to explore interests beyond their home environment. Building a unique skill set requires often being pushed outside your comfort zone, and when you’re home schooled, the ability to focus on specific things is improved due to a self-regulated schedule. It is also easier for children to find pleasure in doing what their minds naturally would like to do. TV and mindless gaming seem like addictions because regular schooling does not excite their attention long enough to motivate them to learn to excel.

Sea of resources

Some of the very common tools and resources that homeschoolers would swear-by are online self-learning tools, such as Khan Academy, Udemy, Coursera and Ed X along with several thousand MOOC’s already available for free on the internet. All of these platforms provide a large amount of courses to learn anything from basic mathematics to real-world skills like coding and graphic design. Mrs. Gehlot also talked about giving children a wide berth, encouraging them and allowing them to explore various fields at their own pace. There is no set rule that a child has to be reading by the age of 3, in fact Einstein did not even speak till the age of 4. The purpose of education is to figure a purpose for yourself, focus more on how to learn and discovering more about themselves through practice. A significant number of parents would ask “how do I make my child read more?” And to this Mrs. Archana suggests to first lead by example and read in front of their kids. Another tip would be to leave books in places you frequent like coffee tables and dining tables rather than inside a pretty bookshelf. Similarly If you want your child to move on the path of self learning you must first equip them with the tools for self learning, and then lead the way by example.

Common fears

However, there are still fears that many parents have about homeschooling their child, and these are justified especially because there is little information about how one would be able to get a job or a university-level education coming from an unconventional education background. Today, barring a few almost all degrees have lost their sheen when it comes to hiring, while focus has shifted to looking for talent which has real world experience. The National Institute of Open Schooling is a route very few people in India are even aware about.Through this program one can take their high school exams and become eligible for university admissions and pretty much be at the same level as any other student who has come from the regular schooling system. NIOS is very well-reputed in India and many students take that route to go to college.

School of Meaningful Experiences is an organization where teenagers, young adults and working professional come to improve their confidence and communication  based on our SIX Cs curriculum- confidence, creativity, curiosity, communication, collaboration and competence. We conduct online webinars hosted by our founder every Sunday at 5 PM, join us on our next webinar where we have three special teenagers with us who will speak about “What do the teens want their parents to know?”. Kindly click on this link to register for our webinars and reach out to us at [email protected] with your suggestions of topics you would like us to discuss on our webinars. Join our Facebook community and stay connected with what we are doing.