We are starting this series called Homeschooling in India – Real stories from real parents. The first parent who is sharing her homeschooling journey is Mrs. Smitha Prabhakaran who is homeschooling her daughter who is in high school. We asked her a few questions and here are the answers from this homeschooling mom in India –
When did you start homeschooling for your kids?
I am homeschooling my daughter since May 2018 after she completed 9th grade in school. My son goes to school.
What led to this decision of homeschooling your kids?
I had home-schooled both my kids for one year in elementary school when we were travelling quite a bit. At that time our permanent home was in the US. It worked out pretty well, my kids and I enjoyed the experience, the flexibility and the close bond that we created. But once we settled back in our home, we decided to send them back to traditional school and they enjoyed it.
In 2015, we moved to India, and we put both our kids in a very friendly, open international school in Bangalore. Even though my daughter is hard working, organized and a motivated student, she did not enjoy school. I could see that school was making her anxious, she was not getting enough sleep, and she was not getting much out of her school experience due to teacher attrition and maybe the communication gaps between the teachers and her. I could sense that she was slowly getting demotivated.
The last straw was when she got yet another new teacher, who continuously blamed the previous teacher and the students in the class, instead of helping the students fill the gap. Let’s just say that some teachers should have never become teachers. Teaching is a noble profession, and there is no place for hostility there.
Also, read what is wrong with Indian education system?
What are the differences between conventional schooling and homeschooling according to you?
There are pros and cons to both. Homeschooling provides my daughter the flexibility to pursue her passion for art and studying what she wants to study when she wants to. Being 15, I have given her the freedom to make her own schedule. Since she is a highly organized person, she follows it very well. I am her accountability partner because let’s face it, she is still a child and needs to be supervised. So the freedom itself comes with its own cons, it will be very easy to fall off track if there is no accountability.
In conventional schooling, even though every student has to move at the pace of other students and the options of subject selection depend majorly on the school, the school and teachers partner with parents to keep the student on track, and it’s a shared responsibility. She also has enough time to focus on her ideologies like women empowerment and education for all. She seems to have more time in hand, which she can use to study outside her curriculum, for entertainment, to travel or simply to take a nap.
Your daughter is in 10th and is studying according to US curriculum. Can you explain to parents how to go about it?
Since the US is very pro-homeschooling, there are many online schools/curricula that we can buy and follow from anywhere in the world. You need not study as per your grade or age level. My daughter is taking a college level class this year, and doing well in it, probably she will take more of those next year depending on her interest. The material is mostly online with some books which we can buy here in India and some that they ship from the US.
What are the struggles in India for parents who want to home-school? And did you face any problems initially?
The major struggle I face is lack of good libraries which is something we miss as a family. All of us are voracious readers and now we spend a huge amount of money buying books. Good public libraries are important for communities, especially for homeschooling families. We have not yet switched to e-reading, but I guess we soon will have to. India has become open to homeschooling as well. At least as compared to when I did this last time, I do not get many raised eyebrows and people seem interested and ask questions about how we go about it. Lack of some resources in India is another struggle, it’s been difficult to find lab equipment, but so far she has been creative and been able to find alternatives.
Share the tips and tricks to keep them focused while studying at home.
For the first few weeks, we made the weekly schedule together on Sundays, incorporating enough time for studies, her other activities like art, teen clubs, community service, reading, watching TV and ‘do nothing’ time with enough breaks. Breaks are really important. After many trials and errors, now we kind of know what works and what does not, so she makes her own schedule. We track the progress together, and she rewards herself if she is on track at the end of the week. She also uses apps that helps her stay on course, and music to help her focus. She mostly studies at her desk but sometimes uses other rooms when she needs a change. Now that she has a full course load with various interesting subjects and activities, I don’t see her using other rooms, I guess the subjects itself keep her focused and motivated.
One major concern which parents have regarding homeschooling is the social interaction with other kids. How do you take care of that aspect while homeschooling?
Since she went to school until last year, she still meets up and talks to her friends from school. She has also started a teen club in the community which focuses on public speaking. She volunteers at an NGO called Avasar, where she interacts with other girls while teaching them English. I don’t think parents need to worry too much about social interaction in India, kids can make friends in the neighborhood, in their activities classes, and there are homeschooling meet-up groups.
Any other suggestions for parents who are planning to homeschool but are skeptical.
We were skeptical too at first, so we chose to try it out over the summer break. We chose three subjects at first and set the schedule. She enjoyed studying at home, and I believe it made her feel powerful and nervous at the same time, to take control of her own studies. When it worked out well, her confidence and motivation improved, and we decided to try for one school year. It’s been going great so far, so we will probably continue until the end of high school.
Thanks a lot, Smitha for sharing your experiences with other parents. I am sure it will be helpful for parents who are confused about the whole process of homeschooling in India
If you are a homeschooling mom or know any homeschooling moms in India, please get in touch with us. We will share your story to help other parents.