Museum in London
Interview with a Homeschooler

Interview with a Homeschooling Mum -Anagha Honnemadi

Anagha Honnemadi Shetty is a homeschooling mum to her 7 year old son. Anagha and her husband have homeschooled their child from the very beginning. Before the stork visited their house, Anagha used to work as a financial planner in a private firm. But since pregnancy, she became a stay- at-home-mum. Her husband, Shashi Shetty, works in a leading FMCG company in the Finance & Accounts department. They live in Mumbai. They love playing tabletop games, reading outstanding books & traveling. Anagha loves to encourage fellow homeschooling parents and shares a few glimpses of their homeschooling journey on Instagram @ourgharschool.

Were you homeschooled? How was your schooling exp? Why did you choose to homeschool? Did you always want to homeschool? Describe the journey.

I grew up in a small town (Dombivli) on the outskirts of Mumbai. My primary school life was boring until I insisted and begged my father to change my school in 8th standard. My new school gave me a lot of scope to take part in various extracurricular activities, which was absent in my previous school. Also, being the first 10th standard batch of the school meant our teachers thoroughly pampered us. Because of my conditioning, I never gave a thought about which stream to choose for higher education. I chose commerce and eventually decided to be a Chartered Accountant (I didn’t even research what a CA does). Halfway through my course after completing CA Inter and after a long period of introspection, I quit CA forever. It was something I never enjoyed and found burdensome. I had decided then that I will not let that happen to my child/children. However, at that point, I was not aware of homeschooling/home education.

When my son was around 18 months, my husband got an overseas assignment and we accompanied him abroad. It is around that time that I searched for some toddler activities (‘how to keep your toddler busy while traveling/in a hotel’ something like that) and I came across few YouTube videos where home-schooling mothers created these beautiful and simple Montessori inspired activities for their children. It was like a light bulb moment for me. I was blown away by the possibilities of being home with my son and learning alongside him (because thinking of parting away from my cherub and seeing him cry outside the school gate was too painful for me). I discussed this idea with my husband and thankfully, he was on board from day one. I started digging into the rabbit hole of all things homeschooling, came across the ‘Swashikshan’ group on FB, met many homeschoolers in Mumbai upon my return and post that there was no looking back.

2. What do your children think about HS? Have your children ever been to school?

Since my son has always been homeschooled, he thinks it is normal for a child to be home and school is something abnormal. He thinks uniforms are boring. He has a mind of his own and loves the freedom he gets at home. He is thriving at home right now.

3. Does your extended family support you?

They have been silent supporters, must say. There were a few relatives and friends who were quite disturbed initially by our decision, but now they don’t intrude/say much.

4. Best advice you have been given? What was the moment when you were sure you made the right choice?

I feel blessed and grateful to have met/come across the right people at the right time. One such mentor who made my HS voice stronger is Julie Bogart. She is a veteran homeschooler mom of 5 children from USA and runs a company called Bravewriter. Her podcasts and books are worth their value in gold for every parent, homeschooling or not. She once mentioned in her podcast, “There are no educational emergencies”. That stuck with me and calmed me down immensely.

5. Favourite thing about homeschooling?

Freedom! Freedom to think, do and learn what one feels like. Making mistakes is ok in our home. There is no fear of red marks in our books. Only encouraging and loving words. I also love the fact that we get enough time to deep dive into our subject of interests.

6. What is the least fave thing abt HS? What are the challenges? How are you dealing with them?

I am a human being and a schooled one at that. So questions like “Am I doing this right? Will he thrive in this world?” haunt me from time to time. One way I deal with is to pen down my thoughts in my journal. I also read books/articles written for home educating adults or listen to my favourite podcasts. Talking to my fellow homeschooling mom friends helps in tackling my insecurities too.

7. What are some annoying things you hear from other people?

One of the many questions that annoy me to my bones is “But what about exams?” I can understand the feeling behind “But this is a competitive world. How will he cope up in future?” but don’t understand why well-meaning parents want to expose their young kids to exam stress.

Rainforest Diorama

8. One or more things that have not worked with you. One or more things that have worked with you.

Planning activities or lessons ahead of time never worked for me. I am a relaxed person at heart. So I get worked up if I cannot meet my deadlines. Hence, for planning/keeping up with the schedule, I felt stressed that I could not check some boxes. Often that led to scolding/yelling but then thanks to Julie (my mentor in Point 4, I started planning from behind. That means I started categorizing activities that my son completed that day under conventional subject names. For e.g. a game of Snakes and Ladders meant a check in the Math box or making lemonade meant a check in the Practical Skills box.

One thing that worked with me hands down is exposing him to rich literature through books. Read Aloud time (where I read to my child) is sacred in our house. From the time my son was 9-10 months old, I started reading him a variety of books, first with board books, gradually moving to Fairy tales, poetry, Panchatantra, Bhagwat katha, Indian stories and tales from other countries, non-fiction books, books in regional languages etc. I then introduced small novels/chapter books a couple of years back. During our travels, we listen to audio books/podcasts of his interest. My son never took to formal reading lessons. When he was 5 years old, I started teaching him to read, but he just didn’t ‘get’ it and ended up in tears. I let it go and took a few months’ break. But to my surprise, in a few months’ time, he started showing interest in knowing the words printed on wrappers, bottle labels, subtitles, hoardings etc., and that was my clue he was ready to learn to read. He learnt to read mostly by sight. I owe this to our reading aloud time.

9. What is your HS style? Has it changed with time?

It has always been eclectic (mix of everything). I started with the Montessori way, slowly gravitating towards Charlotte Mason style and now we do a mix of traditional & Charlotte Mason with a pinch of unit studies in the mix.

10. Does your spouse support and participate in HS?

Totally yes about support! I have complete freedom in the day-to-day planning and execution of the lessons. He gets our son involved in weekly cleaning chores, which is not my forte ;). We also play a lot of table-top games together and love traveling.

11. What does your day look like?

To be very frank, there is no schedule. Mornings are usually slow. He plays with his toys post waking up. I sometimes put an audio book for him to listen to. Post breakfast we do table work like writing and math. Post lunch we do project work or art or science experiment, play board games etc. Twice a week he is involved in a mental math & a GK class. We reserve evenings for playing outside (before covid19 hit us, obviously). I give him some screen time to save my sanity. But the content is monitored thoroughly. Bed time is our read aloud time where we read about 4-5 books every day.

12. Your favourite HS memory so far?

There are many that way, but I would like to mention one of them. In our read aloud, I include stories of famous artists around the world and show him their paintings. Once, we had been to the National Gallery in London with my cousins. My expectations were very low. I thought we would just see a few exhibits which my son is aware of and be done within an hour or so. But to my surprise, not only did he remember some paintings but also the names of the artists. He got so involved in looking at the paintings that my cousins eventually got bored. We spent close to 3-4 hours (we had to cut our visit short) and got home copies of some of our favourite paintings. We enjoyed the visit thoroughly.

12. Anything you wish you could go back and change?

I think we are still new in this journey and making mistakes/facing setbacks is also one way we are learning. Hence I will not want to change anything.

13. Advice for new HSers:

Please don’t bring school to your home. Don’t compare your homeschool or your style to others or those on social media. 

Your child is unique. Don’t fret and compare her/him with other children.

Many parents of children in early elementary age group get worked up over reading/phonics. Reading is a skill just like walking. Some children walk at 10 months, some at 15 and some post that. Similarly, some children are early readers (as early as 3 years or earlier). Some children learn to read at 6 years and some as late as 11-12 years of age or even more.  So please don’t lose sleep over it. Keep reading outstanding books to your child. Even after the child learns to read on his own, read books which are at a level higher to your child’s reading level. You may read anything: Magazine articles, interesting passages from books you are reading, editorials from newspapers etc.

Keep your lessons short.

14. Learnings that you would like to pass on:

Be humble and grounded. Be grateful to the Almighty for this wonderful life.

There is no age limit to learning. Never think it’s too late to learn anything. Also, anyone can be your teacher, even a baby.

Keep a journal and write for yourself.

Author

veena.devadiga@gmail.com

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