In conversation with

Dolphin Xaxa | Mom of 13 years old son | Teacher, Engineer

In current times, classes have come to our home and parents are getting more involved with children's education. They have got visibility to the teaching methodology of the schools. And, many parents are not satisfied with the way classes are being conducted. Needless to say, virtual classrooms do not help in building social skills, which is an integral part of learning at school. It is no wonder that the many parents have started to think about homeschooling during covid19.

Homeschooling refers to the education of children of age 2yrs to 18 yrs, under the guidance of parents or tutors at home. Homeschooling in India has a tiny presence. Resources are limited and inadequate. Thus, experienced parents are the best source to understand the ecosystem of homeschooling. It was an inspiring conversation with Dolphin, who has been homeschooling her son for the last 10 years.

Dolphin is an Electrical Engineer from NIT Jamshedpur. She had been working with the Indian Oil, when she quit the conventional career to take care of her toddler. Now, she teaches kids with normal and special abilities. Her students make an eclectic mix of children from India, Russia, and UAE.

Q. The concept of homeschooling in India is still in its initial stage. Tell us more about this concept.

Yes! Homeschooling (in India) is indeed in its initial stage of becoming well known but, it is is not a western concept. Grihshiksha has been in practice in India since ancient times which, over a period of time has been taken over by school-based learning system. Along with the homeschooling, we had also stopped practicing our other intellectual heritages such as Vedic mathematics, Ayurveda, and Yoga. In recent times, Yoga has made a place for itself around the world.

In the early 19th century, Britishers introduced us to modern schooling system and this has now become the set norm. However, in recent years, Homeschooling or Grihshiksha has finally started to gain popularity in India.

Q. Please share more from your experience regarding the advantages and challenges of homeschooling.

The purpose of homeschooling is to acquire knowledge (same as schools), but outside the school. Parents should understand both, the advantages and challenges of homeschooling before taking a decision. A great deal of commitment is required from the parents and children for a successful homeschooling experience.

Advantages of Homeschooling:

  • Children redeem their free time in learning new skills, art and craft, reading books, learning how to play musical instruments, various sporting activities along with the class curriculum.
  • Children help their parents with house chores, cooking, gardening, grocery shopping, etc. They gradually become independent and master these life skills. Money management is taught to them from the time they first discover their parent's wallet.
  • They also get to do more picnics, trips to beaches, zoos, and sanctuaries, exploring waterfalls and jungles, bird watching, vegetable mandi and haats, etc.
  • They do basic experiments under your supervision and also the hypothetical ones using imagination, YouTube videos, and other resources.
  • They aim to grow to be good and contributing citizens. Across the world, home-schooled children are known to be sensitive towards all creatures and for keeping their best behavior in the public. It is a myth that they do not socialize.
  • A good amount of money (school fee) is saved, which could be put in a suitable SIP for the future studies of the child.
  • Homeschooling is also a good alternative for children who struggle with learning challenges like ADHD, Dyslexia, Down syndrome, Asperger's syndrome, or any kind of giftedness in terms of superior IQ which puts them on the Autism spectrum.

Challenges / Disadvantages of Homeschooling:

  • If a child is unschooled or is left to be a free thinker without any direction and supervision from parents, then there is a high chance of kids losing focus and he/ she might struggle to find success in life.
  • Home-schoolers usually are good with only one language (This one stands out to be one of the most significant drawbacks). They might have command over their mother tongue but may not be multilingual.
  • They miss extra-curricular competitions like a sports day, elocution or debating competitions, or any other form of art and sports competitions organized by schools. Having said that, it should also be remembered that Rabindra Nath Tagore and Thomas Elva Edison did compete at the world level without spending much quality time in school.
  • They miss having good and bad teacher experiences in the school. Likewise, they may miss having good school friends and rivals at school. They also miss encountering bullies at school, school bus fun, and the canteen fun.

Q. Thank you for the comprehensive pros and cons of homeschooling. As it has covered most of the concerns, it will be helpful for parents. Another important area is the exams. Which board examinations (for both 10th and 12th), a student can take as a full-time home-schooler?

There are various ways a homeschooled kid can appear for board exams.

  • A Student can enroll with few state boards as a private Student for Xth and Xllth
  • A student can enroll with NIOS for Xth and Xllth.
  • You can go back to school affiliated with any board in grades 8th, 9th or 11th. No school should deny admission to a child if they have the ability to learn, as per the right to education granted to all Indian Children.
  • IGCSE (Cambridge Exams) is also one of the options where you could appear as a private student.
    Our son, who is 13 years old now, will appear for the 10th board through NIOS in 2023. Although going to school in 9th grade is also likely, in case we find a good school around. He is quite resolved in his mind to pursue engineering, so he is hoping to join IIT.

Q. With so many options there, parents need not worry about boards. However, there is another big challenge - the scarcity of homeschool-specific learning resources. Please suggest some good resources and sites.

I would suggest parents make or create a personalized and extensive curriculum based on the interests and learning abilities of the child.

Please watch the TED talk of Sugata Mitra 'The hole in the wall'. This was an eye opener to me as the classical teaching method was designed to manufacture clerks, who are expected to follow and execute the orders. This opened my mind to the abilities possessed by a child to taught himself or herself.

For this, you will have to create a learning environment in the house surrounded with books and essential gadgets, to arouse sufficient interest in her or him to learn by him/herself. Hence, while preparing the curriculum, make sure you equip the child with the following skills.

  • Calculating and solving arithmetic problems.
  • Speaking, reading, and writing in two languages is a must. Adding a 3rd or more would be wonderful. Poetry is a fantastic way to get command over the language along with building a rich vocabulary.
  • Nature study (enhancing their knowledge about animals, birds, and microorganisms around them) and practicing organic gardening.
  • Basic Sciences, anatomy of living things, diseases, and the knowledge of nutrition and exercise can be beneficial.
  • Few forms of art like Drawing, Sketching, Painting, Origami, Quilling, Drama, etc.
  • Must learn at least one sport (Badminton, Skating, Football, Swimming, anything that is loved by the child).
  • At least one musical instruments (music is helpful in keeping the child away from gadgets and TV).
  • Finally, daily reading of newspaper under your supervision and covering full Social Science using current events or events that happened in the past.

Q. As there are limited resources available about homeschooling, planning and building the curriculum require a huge effort. How did you design the curriculum?

I took inspiration from Charlotte Masson, Susanna Wesley, Sarojini Naidu, Rabindra Nath Tagore and Sugata Mitra. However, to create my curriculum, I started with CISCE (ICSE) syllabus and customized it to my child's learning style. I tailored a curriculum for my son and ensured to include his interests - music (Piano, Guitar, and Violin) and nature study. Also, I took some assistance from professional musicians to train my son in areas where he lacked.

I haven't come across a good or complete, or a time-tested homeschooling curriculum that synchronizes well with the Indian education system. Thus, I do look forward to create one in the future. Many parents use US-based curriculums like Sonlight or curriculums prescribed by the boards conducting GCSE in the UK. Also, here are the popular one:

Q. Missing social interaction is the biggest concern of the parents. In a school, kids interact with a lot of peers, seniors and juniors, and for a long duration (6-9 hours). It helps them in building important social skills. How to compensate for that in homeschooling?

As long as they get a chance to play with children in the neighborhood, they might not develop any socializing issues. Although they would always be asked - 'Which school do you go to?'
In this unprecedented time, the pandemic has taken away organized schooling from all the children of the world. And gone are the days when you were helped by peers, seniors, or juniors. The cut-throat competition and degradation of family values have resulted in the manufacturing of bullies rather than buddies. Most of the children are busy updating their status on Instagram rather than functioning as a community.

Find an active community in the neighborhood, friend circle, relatives or in religious circle where physical interaction is most likely to happen. Goa has a bog homeschool group where parents interact and keep each other posted. Try to find one in your city, it is very helpful.

You have 10 years of experience in homeschooling, which is very rare in India. Tell us, when and how it started? Tell us more about your journey as a parent of homeschooled kid.

My son is mildly Dyslexic. He was born with a blue lower body (cyanosed), in my eighth month. On his discharge from the neonatal ICU, we were told that the lack of Oxygen in the early hours of his birth would impact his ability to talk, walk and learn new things. We finally started to observe all of these when he turned 2.5 years old. At that age, he could hardly speak Mumma and Papa. I left my job to take care of him, and we moved to Goa when he turned five. I decided to do homeschooling for him as most of the teachers in India at that time were not rightly equipped or trained to impart education to dyslexic kids.

I experimented with various techniques to teach him alphabets and numbers. Beaches of Goa were a blessing. The wet sand was his first giant slate. It took me two years to teach him to read English and only a few minutes to table up to 12. I would say, learning differently was his strength.

Still, he could not do borrowing or carryovers in solving sums because he felt emotional to reduce a number by cutting it. He used to say, 'I love my one digit number, please don't cut it.' Yes, dyslexic kids look at things differently, and that is their strength. Hence, I took help of Vedic Maths to teach him subtraction, multiplication and calculating square roots.

At the age of 8, we took professional help to confirm his dyslexia. A certified psychologist screened him. In the test, he was able to do the non-verbal IQ test in 30 minutes and the verbal IQ test in less than one hour (regular school-going kids take more than 2 hours to complete each verbal and nonverbal test). But this estimated IQ of his did put him on the high functioning Autism spectrum and his Dyslexia got confirmed.

Over the years, he started to learn everything by himself. His reading skills, interpretation, and learning by himself are just incredible. He learned how to play Piano, Guitar, and now a violin all by himself. He learns mathematics on his own and solves problems in his own style. I am happy to see him enjoy his childhood. He bakes a pizza for his friends, makes Shikanji on a hot summer day, and administers first aid to his playmates. What else is needed to define socializing?

Q. Your insights will be really helpful for the parents, who are exploring homeschooling. Any message, that you would like to share with them?
At present, every parent in the world is homeschooling in some way or the other. So why not indulge fully!! Virtues, Values, and Valor are taught at home and not in school.

Write to Dolphin for guidance in building homeschooling curriculum for your child.

What's next...

Read an article to get insights of homeschooling as a concept -