Malvika Joshi, a 17-year-old from Mumbai who has been admitted to the famed Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) for a degree programme in science despite being homeschooled that is not completing school. Though she enjoyed school, her parents thought she was not really learning anything in class. Malvika’s mother, Supriya, is among the founders of Swashikshan (Self-teaching) movement which has at least 1,000 homeschooling parents as members.
When did the idea of homeschooling first occur to you?
I was working with a non-governmental organisation (NGO) which helped cancer patients, where I was responsible for teaching and designing a learning programme for cancer-affected children. While many kids dreaded the school routine, the cancer-affected ones, who were undergoing a very painful chemotherapy session in the morning, couldn’t wait for their classes in the evening. Though many of them died, they enjoyed their learning experience. It convinced me that happiness is the most important thing in life.
What convinced you to select homeschooling for your daughters?
Malvika was enjoying academics as well as co-curricular activities, but not learning. I dislike the entire schooling system, where students are forced to get up early and study only certain subjects; play only certain sports and meet peers of a certain age, that too in a controlled atmosphere. It does not match the natural cycle of children.
How did you prepare them for the change from school to homeschooling?
Whenever my daughters complained about things from school, I would ask them why they didn’t just leave school. They would think that I was threatening them, when in fact I was being serious.
Isn’t there a worry that children who are homeschooled will miss out on certain aspects of school teaching?
My daughters, on the contrary, could learn anything, be it marketing or filmmaking. They could take up any sports and developed their social skills by meeting people from all age groups in a more informal setting.
Do you think homeschooling can be an option for children with average intelligence?
All parents can opt for homeschooling regardless of their economic background and intellect of their children. I think the other parents are risking the future of their children by sending them to schools where they don’t learn anything or get degrees which don’t guarantee a decent job.