Unfortunately, homeschooling is being spoken about only because of Malvika Joshi’s spectacular admission to MIT. Now we are finally questioning this big fuss around schools. From the moment they are born, or even imagined, parents begin to worry about which school is going to endure having their child. We elect nurseries that have good records with posh schools, and we choose pre-nurseries that have good records with the desirable nurseries. Before babies are born, their dream careers roll out before us: our own bucket list being bequeathed to them.
With all the arguments that support the importance of schooling: especially socialisation and acclimatisation, it seems we are thrusting our children out of the homes earlier often than they are ready and allowing ‘others’ to decide what may be in their best interest. Schools--give or take a little--are based on the principle of a survival of the fittest--and we know how hard our children try to “fit in”. What language to speak, clothes to wear, cars to buy, food to eat and even which gods to pray to, are ‘told’ to them. Every child feels ‘bullied’ in some way--stepping out of the home and preparing for life should in an ideal world be thoughtful, slow processes, not rude expulsions.
Of course this is not to argue that homeschooling is either ideal or easy. It is a bit like slow cooking as opposed to fast food. If you have the patience, skill, persistence and confidence to embrace it, there is no comparison. After all how can a large, impersonal anonymous hotel be compared to the contours of home, where the creepers have moulded themselves around you? In an ideal world, parents know the contours of their child--whether they like activity or tranquility, whether they thrive with more stimulation or wilt with it; a sensitive mother has been watching her baby’s levels of tolerance from its birth. While schools work well for children who are well-adjusted, there are vast numbers of children who fade in the background. There are children who never speak aloud, who feel shame about asking for clarifications, who feel overshadowed by their more robust mates. For such children a more protected environment is a necessary acknowledgement of their existence.
Perhaps the question hinges around whether vulnerability and even idiosyncrasy is something to be protected and nurtured or to be put into a straitjacket? Have we thought through the consequences of putting our children in a melting pot? Having all of them become clones of each other: pizzas for breakfast, pokemon go, coaching classes later? Does this assimilation help? Of course--but it is based on a cynical, more dystopic vision of a world where differences are meant to be discarded. Schooling demands a fitting in--uniforms are a metaphor for that. But in an ideal world, the child would want an environment that grows around its own peculiar angles and edges, rather than be brutally forced into a mass-produced drawer.
(Nilofer Kaul is a Delhi-based psychoanalyst and mother of a school-going child. The views expressed are personal.)