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Of late I, have been reading many articles on ‘Homeschooling’ – which term when written like this seems to have acquired the status of legitimacy instead of being wrong spelling. The need for a hyphen is apparently no longer felt. ‘Home’ and ‘School’ are evidently no longer two different places, either geographically, physically or emotionally.

The latest of these articles is below. A very dear friend who homeschools (verb) sent me this article http://read.bi/2iRMo7Ewhich got me motivated to write my own.

My own education was simultaneously in a Madrassa (Jamia IlahiyatNooria) and one of the finest secular schools in India (Hyderabad Public School) and the equivalent of homeschooling with Mohini Rajan and Venkat Rama Reddy (read about it in my book, ‘It’s my Life’, Kindle http://amzn.to/2cAtAJi). Later I graduated in History, Political Science and Urdu and post-graduated in Management (IIMA) and Applied Behavioural Science (ISABS). My father was a medical doctor with a love for literature and poetry which he shared (even imposed) on his children. And a mother who was a poet (among many other things). My childhood and upbringing was not ‘normal’ in any sense of the term. And there I believe lies the trick in making learning effective. It is less to do with the location (home or school) or the child and his or her ability to choose (more on this later) but much more on the quality and variety of input the child receives.

Take this quote from the article: “If Milva McDonald’s girls don’t like the subject, she told Boston Magazine, then they move on to something else.”I wanted them to be in charge of their own education and decide what they were interested in, and not have someone else telling them what to do and what they were good at,” she says.”

To be in charge of making choices one must first be informed about what they are and what they are likely to lead to. Choice can’t be left simply to subjective likes and dislikes. I don’t mean to imply that Milva does or did that. My point is that people can’t make intelligent and productive choices until they understand the consequences of their choice. I am making a point relating to the ‘qualification’ of parents to become homeschool teachers and saying that homeschool teacher education plays a huge role in the quality of homeschooling. For homeschooling to adequately prepare positive and productive citizens of the world, whether or not they go to Harvard, it is essential that the child is exposed to a variety of life experiences, challenges, joys and grief, success and failure, competition and collaboration. It is essential that the child is grounded in his culture, faith and religion and is then exposed to other cultures, faiths and religions which are very different from his own. It is essential that before being exposed to difference and diversity, he has the tools to deal with this experience so that he learns without confusion or anger and is responsive and not reactive.

My specialization as a leadership development expert with a global practice is in helping technical specialists transition into leadership and management roles. What I have noticed with great alarm is the effect of a totally skewed ‘education’ that prepares people with advanced technical knowledge but with an ignorance about the world that would have been alarming at best, were it not for the fact that it is into the hands of such technical experts that we have given over the most dangerous tools and toys that we own. We didn’t stop to ask while training them what the value was of learning about the world that they were going to apply their technology to. As a result of this skew in learning at its most benign level we have the inconvenience of bad design. But at its most malignant level we have weapons of mass destruction which as we speak are being used by the most powerful nation in the world in seven theatres of war, killing millions of people and rendering tens of millions homeless; destroying lives and economies and doing all this without any sanction from their own people and without any reference to democratic process. I bet not a single one of those making life and death decisions about others has read ‘War and Peace’. Ask, ‘What if they had?’

I also have an interest in politics which is the greatest soap opera in the world with consequences that should give us sleepless nights. Shows the value of ignorance, that most of us sleep happily having made choices – actively or passively – which can potentially result in the complete destruction of our world. Choices made by people who don’t understand their consequences are not free from consequences. Ignorant people are still capable of wreaking great havoc as we are perhaps liable to discover in the coming years, having handed over our world to people that most homeschooling parents would never have chosen to mentor their children.

All this is not the fault of homeschooling of course but underlines the importance of schooling the ‘teachers’. Hometeachers (my coinage) must be exposed to a holistic experience of life or at the very least an appreciation of the need for holistic experience. Sadly, with many technologists (who all seem to be clamoring for homeschooling) I have seen an arrogance about their own ignorance about the rest of the world apart from their technology which should have been embarrassing. I have been horrified to hear some of them brush aside facts about natural history, literature, poetry, art and biology as being of no consequence. I would love to become a bionic man but I am not. I live, breathe, love, hurt, laugh and cry. I grow strong and weak. I get sick, feel hungry, need clean water and air. My spirit soars when I hear a song written a hundred years ago, or listen to the recitation of a supernatural book that was sent to earth fifteen hundred years ago.

Yet my fate on this earth, opportunities in life, what happens to my money (taxes), what is given preference over what (medical research over military research) is to be decided by someone who doesn’t know the difference between a Constable that hangs on a wall and another who directs traffic. But the benefit of ignorance is that it saves you from embarrassment. Therefore, such a technologist is happily able to create ‘bug splats’ playing computer games and go home at the end of his or her work shift to sleep with a peaceful conscience. High technology with low humanity is a deadly combination. Ask the bug spalts.

If people with such attitudes about what is important and what is not, homeschool their children, then you can imagine the results. I have read Sir Ken Robinson’s book, ‘Creative Schools: The Grassroots Revolution’ and fully endorse his views. But this as well as all others who I have read, assume that homeschooling parents are somehow adequately prepared to fulfill the hugely complex task that they have chosen to undertake. The importance of education in values, ethics, morals, literature, poetry and humanities has decreased over time and we have learnt to value education on one parameter only. How much money can I make in it? That is why IT engineering is the most popular subject while pure science has no takers. Even though it is pure science that pushes the frontiers of our understanding of the world. But pure science graduates generally have career prospects (high paying jobs wise) going south while IT grads’ careers go north and so everyone and his mouse wants to become a geek and leave seeking knowledge, broaden the horizons of humanity, create uplifters of the spirit and moral alerts to, who?

Human life is too short for one to live it fully, learn from it enough and teach it to others. That is why we have language and books. Books transcend the boundary of death and allow the voice of the author to talk down to generations unborn when the book was written. Generations who have a choice. Read, or painfully learn lessons which had already been learned.

Most homeschooling parents that I have met (granted that may not be a statistically valid sample size) seem to have one overriding concern; to protect their children from the ‘big-bad-world-out-there’, which begins in the state (or private) school. The reality however, and I am sure they realize it even if they don’t want to face it, is that the big-bad-world is not out there but that we are immersed in it. We and our children. So, what must be done is not to simply protect our children from it, but teach them how to cope with it and give them the tools to change it. That is the only way to truly save them and to ensure that the badness ends with them and others don’t have to inherit it and its evil. I submit that to be able to do that, you Mr &Mrs Homeschooling Parent must upgrade your knowledge and skills. You can only give what you have and so the question to ask is, ‘What do I have?’

While you are about it, remember the village. It takes an entire village to bring up a child – as they say. So, what and where is your village? Who live in it? What resources can they bring to the table and why should they? The last part relates to your relationship with them. Why is more important than what because unless the why is answered, the what will remain out of scope. Above all else it comes from holding the absolute and unshakeable belief that everyone in the village is important; critically important. That it is their difference and not their similarity which makes them so valuable and so that diversity must be respected, protected and honored. It is when we learn to accept our own ignorance without blame, accept the diversity of others without judging them according to our own values, hold confidently to our own values (your difference is also equally important and so no need to be apologetic about it); that we will be able to re-create the world into a form that we will not be embarrassed to own as our bequest.

Mirza Yawar Baig is based in Hyderabad, India and is the founder and President of Yawar Baig & Associates; an international leadership consulting organization. He can be reached at yawar@yawarbaig.com www.yawarbaig.com

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  • K SHESHU BABU

    Home is the first school of a child. So, parents are first crucial teachers. The care as well as education at home decides most of a child’s outlook and view of the world. Hence good parenting involves positive secular fundamentals to be taught to a child. This secular positivity helps a child in his schooling as he tries to help other children. A good generation of children depends on good parents. As Aristotle said , child is the father of man . Hence lot depends on homeschooling and then, schools and colleges outside.

  • Homeschooling parents do not need to require upgrading of skills. We can give far more than we have. We direct our children’s education but not necessarily teach it. We can help our children find the resources that they desire to learn and the whole world is their classroom. Please educate yourself on homeschooling before you make sweeping generalizations. You can’t stop a child from learning and you can’t force a child to learn. Homeschoolers are just facilitators of the process. http://www.unschoolingtouniversity.com

  • Mirza, are you talking about religious fundamentalists? My experience with homeschooling families in Massachusetts and from connecting with homeschooling families across the United States is the opposite of your conclusion. They deeply value humanities, science, and the arts. They embrace technology that enhances learning. Homeschooling, at its best, is a holistic experience. The community is the classroom. Family members spend a lot of time together. Children are exposed real life situations because they are living real life instead of being “prepared for it”. These children do not sit all day in artificial learning environments with 25 kids of the same age. Parents are not always the sole teachers–they enlist the “village” which may include: mentors, tutors, homeschool coops, colleges, enrichment programs, online classes, museum, travel, volunteer work, libraries, and numerous other resources. All the essentials you state are needed to “prepare productive citizens of the word” are exactly what homeschooling, by its very nature, can offer children.

  • M.S.P.Rao

    Whenever I read about Homeschooling, I always had my reservations regarding the effect of depriving a child a mini soceity around him to play, share, learn, interact with children of his age from both sexes in a regular school, which cannot be provided at Home, the families becoming more and more nuclear, with minimal interaction even with neighbors, Community unimaginable in Indian urban context, I do not deny negative influence on the child in the school soceity / culture. As a child I loved school and playing with other children ( of course in 60s). Then one should realise the humongous effect of inputs to the child from smart phones / internet, super imposed globalisation in Indian soceity. In this scenario the influence of parents with regard to inculcating ( not forcing but by personal example ) values ( secular, moral, humane, democratic etc) on the child is very much doubtful. So I feel more humane and interesting schooling with “good” teachers can never be replaced by Homeschooling. Despite being friendly with the child, it sees an authority somewhere in the Parents, but shares so many things with the other children / friends. As a parent of 66yrs age with so much experiment / open mind with our child all through my life, this is my experience and feeling.

  • Somewhat sad to read this, as a home educator for many years of my son’s life. Here in Scotland, we call it Home Education, not homeschool. The reason being that it is not a replication of school, though some parents do follow a curriculum. Education, for everyone is absolutely crucial. I don’t know about in the states, but we as parents are actually the ones responsible for our childrens education. Legally responsible for ensuring that an education of any kind, caters to the ‘age, aptitude and ability’ of our children. Education is compulsory, school is not. Shhh.

    One size does not fit all. Children learn in their own unique way and each has unique abilities. If a child has a learning difficulty, or autism, school can create many problems, not solve them. School works for some, but not everyone.

    Home education was a necessity for us, because our son with Aspergers was unable to cope with school. I won’t go into the details of why, but it was just hell for him. Once he came out of school aged 12, (never a day too late) he thrived. Starting with science, and art, he then went onto language, type design and letterpress printing, film, animation etc. He found his own interests and has excelled in some. He loved groups, drama and writing as well as meeting other home educated childrene. One thing I will say, that my son has often had to educate his friend who has been to a fee paying school, on the basics of science. My son now studies computer science, but it is by no means his only interest. He taught himself Japanese, and Japanese type design. Not everyone can do that, but, he would not have done those things had he been at school as a teenager.

    I learned so much with home education, about subjects I had not encountered before in any significant way, and about the learning process, what inspires and what drives the passion in learning. As Ken Robinson says, children are natural learners. To have a well rounded, thoughtful, dedicated, innovative young man, is a pleasure. Spending quality time, learning together, meeting a variety of people who were also home educating, in a safe, non competitive environment is a boon. Learning from each other, and learning from other parents. each had their different style of home educating and shared ideas, and information.

    We talked about politics, economics, and the environment often, my son is well aware of what is happening around this planet, and how things are not as they should be. I cannot cushion the blows of reality in that respect, much as I would like to. Home educated children are by and large, hugeky ware of the world, how humans tick, what is good and what is not, what is wrong and what is right.

    Morals and philosophy happy naturally, and are if learned at all, are by example, usually parents, but peers and the communities in whicb we live.

    What is school for? Who decides what information to feed the children? Should children sit for hours and hours with little exercise? Should 1000s of children be placed in one institution (high school) and be expected to not come to blows, ie bullying? My older son was seriously bullied and later found to have autism, ( he has dyslexia and dyspraxia) he has not recovered from that negative, blaming,(the teachers called him lazy) destructive and damaging experience. I wish I had home educated him, but at the same time, he is far less motivated, perhaps that would have been helped by not going to school and having a terrible time, I don’t know.

    We need thinkers, people who have knowledge and people who can be innovative to ensure that this world is a safe and successful one for future generations.
    We often hear that young people, just out of college are kacking in basic skills, and can’t think outside the box, their knowledge base and experience is narrowed.

    This article is a negative bash at parents it seems. Yes some parents are not good at providing, in many ways for their children. Some are content to hand their children over to the state to be fed information, (I know, some thrive at school and that I applaud) but for those who choose a different path, and an alternative way of learning about this whole, big, fascinating wide world, we should support them.

    As long as children are allowed a broad and varied education, with as much contact with others, and in their communities, then we have to accept that education comes in many colours, that one size fits all is no appropriate and that children are natural learners.

    Education is crucial. How that education is delivered is crucial to all aspects of how children learn, and how they become responsible, well rounded, caring, thoughtful adults.
    With the internet, and the huge resource at our fingertips, school can and should be taken into the 21st century. Sitting at a desk, staring at a board, being fed information for 6 or more hours of the day, is not in my opinion, always a good thing.

    Home education, not homeschool, we can always do things differently, and not just accept being told how to live and learn by the powers that be.

    Sorry if any typos, in a hurry!

    Happy New year all.