Why did I choose to homeschool?
The answer is simple, and personal. I love my child, and couldn’t bear to see her fall apart in our education system. And, there were those wise words, supposedly credited to Albert Einstein, which hung in my mind like a pair of wet jeans that just won’t dry.
“If you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”
How then, could I let things be the way they were? I had to change it up.
For her, for me, for the world!
That was when I took my then 7-year-old (now 12) out of the education system. At that point I was married, and didn’t know where this journey was going to take us.
There was no looking back. We took some time to settle down. Lots of fun and games, hugs and cuddles. And a month later, my kid was the happiest she had ever been. I realized what a big difference I had made to her life. She was joyous and beaming and full of fun and creativity. Gone were those long drawn faces and stress headaches, stomach pain manifestations.. all flown away..
And it stayed that way, even today 5 years down the line, currently as a single parent. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Convincing family was a different ball game, though. Eventually I called in a truce and just agreed to disagree. I was on my own. I won’t lie. There were days when I wondered if it was all worth it. And the answer is, Yes, it was. My child was blossoming right in front of my eyes. I was maturing as well. Learning to accept that life happens, whether or not your kid is in school.
We started out with her old curriculum, trying to cope up and learn the same stuff but in new ways. Some of it worked, some didn’t. So we chucked out what didn’t work and focused on what brought us joy. We did Math, science and English. Science, over here, indicates everything from physics to chemistry, to biology and geography… everything about the natural and elementary world is included in my term “Science”.
Our most preferred learning method was through fun and activities. We also went out frequently. We attended science events, plays, nature themed activities and had play dates. Age was never a constraint. My daughter got along with the young and old alike. I was learning so much about her and about myself.
Then, we discovered travel. It opened up a whole new avenue of learning for us. We hiked, travelled, camped. I showed my daughter that life was way bigger than her classroom and every adventure mattered. There was always learning in every experience. We travelled to learn, to explore, and to test our limits. I called it travelschooling.
But eventually this love for freedom made us even more rebellious towards the system and we stopped learning formally altogether. This was a new phase, where we explored unschooling. You see, I am a pretty traditional parent. Growing up in a very traditional household, all I knew was to study hard and get good grades. But, with my experience as a homeschooling mom, I couldn’t connect any of those dots. They just weren’t there in my kid. She was cut from a different cloth. It took me almost 3 years to accept this fact. However, once I accepted the situation, life got easier again and unschooling became the norm in my home.
But, as the saying goes, it got worse before it got better. I am a musically inclined person and my daughter had an aptitude for it. She learned the violin through an instructor and I was teaching her the piano at home. We had invested time, energy and effort. But when we began unschooling and I realized that we were going nowhere but downhill, I offered her a choice. I asked her if she would like to “STOP”, secretly hoping that all my efforts would not go to vain. But yes, stop she did, and did it with a bang. I couldn’t do anything but accept her decision. It was tough on me. It really upset me for a bit. But eventually things eased out, and I learned the precious lesson of acceptance. It is at this point that I would like to make this statement ”We are here to be there for them as much as we are here to learn from them. “If I told you that this journey has been an easy one, that would be a lie. You will be tested, churned and turned upside down. But if you look at it as a learning experience then you stand a chance to come out of it alive and with your sanity. At least, that is what happened in my experience.
My daughter, it seems, lacks empathy towards humankind, but is a natural animal whisperer. In our home we have nature in abundance. So learning about nature and the cycle of life came spontaneously. We had birds nesting, butterflies emerging from cocoons, worms, caterpillars, beetles, Insects of all kinds. There was planting and composting, birding activities, Naturalist trainings, firefly expeditions, and of course pet adoptions..
Our house was always teeming with life. And lessons were always being learnt. This was the beauty of learning outside the classroom. There were challenges, but they were getting few and far in between. We were truly enjoying our experiences. What people said or didn’t, eventually faded away. It became our lifestyle and it was worth every effort put into it.
We are still on this journey. And things will change. There is always impermanence in life. We may join a community of learners in the future. This would give us more exposure and valuable insights on life. There are beautiful communities out there.
I have realized that living life in this manner is the best way to be. Especially, if you, or your child are not happy with school life. It is a personal choice but if you can afford the time and have bucket loads of patience, scattered with a lot of meditation and time outs, give homeschooling a fair chance. That is, only if you are considering it. And if you have gotten this far, then I’m sure you are.
My advice to you is, to trust your gut. It never lies. Don’t be too bothered by what others say. Their lives are their business and no one will ever understand your situation better than you. The homeschooling world is filled with warm, helpful and grounded individuals. It takes a lot of courage to stand apart. So we can understand your state of mind. Reach out if you need help. But always make up your own mind based on your life situation. At the end of the day, you are looking to bring up a child who you hope will live life to the fullest and strive to be the best version of themselves. Whatever, that may be.
I’d like to end this write up with these words, “Don’t limit a child to learning, for he was born in another time.” – Rabindranath Tagore. A gentle reminder to me, and for you all, that children are little human beings. They are in no way less than us. We are just facilitators mentoring them on their journey here. All we can do is to be there, in as human, a way as possible!