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Thursday, Oct 17, 2019

What parents in Maharashtra think of homeschools?

The option is gaining popularity with parents in Maharashtra after the success of homeschooled students like Mandlik and Malvika Joshi, who in 2016 was awarded a scholarship from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) despite not having taken any board exams

mumbai Updated: Dec 26, 2018 00:17 IST
Ankita Bhatkhande
Ankita Bhatkhande
Hindustan Times
Hemali Gada (left) who took her daughter Dhwani (right) out of school at Class 6 and homeschooled her ever since.
Hemali Gada (left) who took her daughter Dhwani (right) out of school at Class 6 and homeschooled her ever since.(HT PHOTO)
         

Anuradha Mandlik’s memories of learning maths don’t include textbooks or class tests. Instead, she remembers going to a playground and her father using that space to explain how land is measured. In 2002, Mandlik’s father Ajit decided to take her out of school and homeschool her. Fifteen years later, Mandlik made history when she became possibly the first student in Maharashtra to have passed board exams without attending school.

Homeschooling means teaching a child at home instead of enrolling them in school. The option is gaining popularity with parents in Maharashtra after the success of homeschooled students like Mandlik and Malvika Joshi, who in 2016 was awarded a scholarship from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) despite not having taken any board exams.

As per current regulations, students must pass at least Class V to appear for board exams as a private candidate. In 2017, Maharashtra’s education department announced an open schooling system, which is expected to be in place by June 2019.

This would allow students appear for Class V, VIII, X and XII exams even if they have not attended school.

“Once the state starts open schooling, more parents are likely to opt for homeschooling as it would allow students to appear for periodic exams without going to school,” said Jayant Jain, president of Forum for Fairness in Education, a city-based organisation that has identified parents with homeschooling experience who can mentor others interested in educating their children at home.

“When I took the step, most people were not convinced about the concept as they thought that not sending their children to school would mean missing out on a lot of things, from academic growth to socialisation. But if you see my daughter now, she is way smarter than most students her age,” said Ajit Mandlik.

While there are teaching kits available online, support groups like Swashikshan, a pan-Indian community of homeschoolers, are also becoming important resources. In high demand are those who have successfully homeschooled their children.

Joshi’s mother Supriya said, “I used to get 15-20 calls a day from parents across the country. They were all interested in knowing my story and wanted to know if they too can take the step. While I do answer all such queries even now, I often caution parents that homeschooling does not have a set formula. What worked for me might not work for everyone.”

Psychiatrist Dr Sagar Mundada said it’s important to plan this transition.

“Right now, parents who are successfully doing it, are really spending a lot of time in planning it well. But if this becomes a mass trend, not all parents can ensure that the child gets exposed to all round development. One needs to understand that a school teaches a child a lot more than academics,” he said.

“Many parents often follow the syllabus of a particular board, which turns out to be a big mistake. The whole idea behind homeschooling is to eliminate the structures of knowledge,” said Hemali Gada, a Malad-based entrepreneur who took her daughter Dhwani out of school at Class VI and has been homeschooling her ever since. Dhwani said in school the teachers only taught what was there in the textbook but homeschooling offers more flexibility.

One concern with homeschooling is that a child may become isolated from their age group. Experienced homeschoolers encourage parents to get their children to participate in activities like sports and music to help them develop a circle of friends. “My daughter used to go to a music class since she was very young. We would often take her to various sporting events across the city and she had friends in the neighbourhood. Hence, she never really felt that she was alone,” said Ajit.

Another worry is that homeschooled students may struggle to transition to a formal education system later.

For Mandlik, who now studies in Class XII at SNDT College in Churchgate, this didn’t pose a problem.

“Even though I didn’t go to school, through my friends I knew what the school atmosphere is. That helped me cope with the changes that happened as I entered college.”

She said that she was only nervous about exams. “As a homeschooled student, I was not used to facing exams. But after the first exam went well, my anxiety went away.”

Dhwani thinks homeschooling is giving her a more well-rounded education.

“When I used to go to school, students would only talk about studies or related things and lacked a worldview. A few months into homeschooling, I met a lot of children my age who might not be ‘academically brilliant’ but who could talk about books, art, culture etc,” Dhwani said.

First Published: Dec 26, 2018 00:17 IST

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