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Sunday, September 30, 2007

Home Schooling [October Poll]

For a while, before Ana came into our lives, I was quite fascinated with the concept of home schooling. With a freshly earned Master's in Science Education, I was green and gung-ho about being a noble teacher for the rest of my life.

But, over the years I have had the time think a lot more, and, of course, Life happened. Somewhere along my several years of dabbling in higher education, I realized how ingrained it is that many students are led to believe that "Those Who Can Do, Those Who Can't Teach"! And, so, I stepped away from teaching, despite knowing what a wonderful career my mom has had as a teacher.

To this day, when I walk along with her in our city when I visit her, we invariably run into some strapping lad/lass walking hurriedly, frantically waving to catch our attention and greet my mom with a "Hello Ma'm! Do you remember me?!", hoping she would immediately connect the acne-faced, precocious 11th or 12th grader to the confident young person standing in front of her, beaming, exuding success!

Strangely enough, 95% of the time, my mom actually remembers the name, the "batch", the whole class and even a few special incidents associated with that person.

Why I liked homeschooling?
  • Flexibility: regarding curriculum, time-schedule, and assignments
  • Tailoring: if I see my child inclined more towards one area, it gives me a chance to give individual attention and foster that trait better
  • Safety: Not much peer pressure, no negative and bad influences to fall trap to easily and get distracted from educational goals
  • Family Life: rather than revolve around the demands of school timing, homework and exams, getting educated revolves around the family needs and family priorities, and if there are siblings being home schooled as well, all the better, they can learn from each other without pressure
  • Positive Attitude: learning could potentially become a joyful discovery rather than a chore and a stress-generator: children don't have to wake up an hour early to get ready and commute to school, don't have to deal with bullies and punishment, don't have to endure boredom that becomes part of school life sometimes
  • Immediate Access to the Teacher: Instead of competing with 25-30 others and hoping to get the teacher's attention to clarify questions and help individual learning, home schooling gives immediate and unlimited access to the teacher without any associated fears that arise due to potential humiliation or spurning

I admire parents who have dedicated their lives, invested time and energy to equip themselves, and be responsible for their child's education. There is minimal disruptions and wasted time/effort in home schooling as there is no commuting time, recess, breaks between classes. Also, learning can happen at the student's pace - need not be slowed down or hurried as a part of 25-30 diversely equipped class mates. Another big advantage is to provide real-world examples and plan field trips which become difficult for a teacher of 25-30 students to organize and manage.

On the other hand, after much thinking, deliberating, reading up (and being shaken a bit by a documentary I watched last night which fueled my discomfort and prompted this post), I am convinced that the advantages of social schooling far outweigh the disadvantages that come up time and again.

Why I don't like homeschooling?
  • Social Skills: whatever said and done, children need to be with peers for at least part of each day, preferably in a diverse group to help them understand how the world works and how best to get adjusted to it
  • Potential Indoctrination: Being the only adult my children will interact with if I home schooled them, I am terrified that I will inadvertently and unavoidably disseminate my ideologies as the only right one and subconsciously discourage free thinking
  • Lack of Expertise: Can I truly claim to have mastery over all areas of academics to guide my children through the learning process without fumbling around? Why not leave it to the experts (like my mom) who have dedicated their lives to constantly gaining knowledge in their field and training themselves in effective ways to help children discover the knowledge and themselves in the process?
  • My Personal Limitations: I may not be able to afford the resources for effective teaching/learning, and I may find out that Patience and Stamina are not my strong traits
  • Developing Special Skills: Leadership skills, Negotiating and Mediating skills, Management facilitation skills and such are better identified and allowed to blossom when doing group projects among peers in a social school setting

Anyway, over the years, I have come to appreciate the advantages of formal schooling away from home. Being a product of it myself, and not having experienced home schooling much, I have had this discussion with many colleagues and class mates over the years so I can get a variety of view points.

And, that is exactly one reason I don't like home schooling: no matter how hard I try, I cannot expose my children to a wide array of views by keeping them at home and directing their education, because "Education" is not just acquiring knowledge that has already been accumulated, it involves social skills, critical thinking, knowledge processing, creative expression, reasoning, analyzing, inferring and adapting to environment. Plus much more that I am not able to succinctly convey here...

Socrates argued that education is about drawing out what was already within the student. I remember reading that the word education comes from the Latin e-ducere meaning "to lead out."

One of the early facts that struck me while working on my Master's in Science Education was that the dictionary meaning of the word Education adds little to what is believed to be Education and what Educators strive for. A few quotes gleaned from browsing around:

The central task of education is to implant a will and facility for learning; it should produce not learned but learning people. The truly human society is a learning society, where grandparents, parents, and children are students together. ~Eric Hoffer

No one has yet realized the wealth of sympathy, the kindness and generosity hidden in the soul of a child. The effort of every true education should be to unlock that treasure. ~Emma Goldman

The aim of education should be to teach us rather how to think, than what to think — rather to improve our minds, so as to enable us to think for ourselves, than to load the memory with the thoughts of other men. ~Bill Beattie

So, dear readers, this is a prelude to my October Poll: If you are already home schooling your children, or planning to, please let me know by answering the poll question on the right side bar.

Poll Results:

September 2007 Poll & Results

p.s: As for me, my personal choice is not to home school as I feel inadequate and unsure about success, plus I strongly feel home schooling is not a viable option given my current circumstances in life... I do believe in supplementing school education at home and not leave all the burden/responsibility on school teachers. My parents, my brother and even sometimes my cousins and friends helped me learn many things that I didn't quite understand from classroom sessions, so, I am sure Ana will survive social schooling just fine...

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At 4:05 PM, Blogger utbtkids said...

Have you heard about parent participation schools? Limited number of children to give personal attention to the kids, enough number of kids to give social stimulation, low fees, flexible curriculum, nutritious meals. Of course there are limitations, the key is to find one in the area where you live and most importantly finding like minded parents to work with :)

At 1:19 AM, Blogger Poppins said...

Wow, that was a very useful post.. Unfortunately the very concept of home schooling is alien to India, but it was good to know nevertheless..

At 2:59 AM, Blogger Nisha said...

I've fantasized about giving homeschooling to my kids. But its not practical here in India, at least right now. So my son goes to a social school.

At 1:28 AM, Blogger ranjani.sathish said...

Hi Sheela
This was a very good post and I enjoyed reading it ! I agree with your points for social schooling ...a lot of life skills are acquired when they meet and interact with their peers. Now that my son is going to school, each day he comes up with a different situation which makes me think and help him to handle it.

At 9:48 AM, Blogger Choxbox said...

Good Lord. You have a Masters in Science Education?!!!


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