A School For Thought

A trait of mine that many of my friends have been amused with is my zeal for planning. I plan for all things, well ahead. My bags and suitcases would be all packed up and ready a good two weeks before a vacation begins. So keeping with my love for planning, I had started planning for Sid’s education when his brain was just beginning to form inside my womb.

A School For Thought - Advantages And Disadvantages Of Unschooling

I had looked up all the information about good schools near my locality, spent a few sleepless nights over which board I should put him in, and debated fiercely with my parents about the right age for him to start going to school. There was a little disappointment in store for me, since there were only limited options for school around where I live, and I am reluctant to let him spend most of his time travelling to a far off school.

The board was an easier choice to make. Both my husband and myself are CBSE products, so needless to say we want Sid to go to CBSE, reasoning that, if in future we decide to move back to our hometown, it would be easier for him to fit into a new school there, without having to change the board.

When I eagerly took my research to my husband, expecting a pat on the back and a praise for my meticulousness, he did not seem to respond too enthusiastically. The creature from Venus that I am, I picked up an argument with him, blaming him for not being interested in his son’s education. And that was when he dropped the bomb.

If I had my way, I would never send him to school,” he said.

“What”! I was flabbergasted. This was something unheard of. Gathering my composure I asked him to explain. And he did, emphasising the need to give the kiddo a free environment, in which the mind will develop. A school, he said, will only suppress his real talents, instead of bringing them out. He would be bogged down by the tests, assignments, projects and homework, with no time for his individual creativity to bloom. He wanted the son to enjoy his childhood to the fullest and learn by experience, not by rote.

I do recognise the fact that schools nowadays are quite stressful for children. I had never attended a tuition throughout my schooling, except during tenth standard, but nowadays even first standard kids are being sent to tuitions. Some schools, in fact, insist that the children be sent to tuitions. And the whole drill of ‘ratta-maro’ education is nothing but a mere waste of time, I knew. But still, “how could he not go to school?”. One needs those grades, marks, and certificates to progress in life.

The argument did not end that night. Though my husband agreed that kiddo will go to a playschool after 2 years of age and later to a CBSE school, the opinion of not sending him to school did keep popping up now and then. I had reconciled myself to the radical ideas that my man sometimes got, but was thankful that he realised that it is not always practical to be radical.

A few months ago my husband had sent me a TED.com talk by Sugata Mitra.  The video was an eye-opener, yes. In it, Sugata Mitra – a pioneer in education, talked about the scenario where when  children are given just the right tools, they have the ability to learn from the world by themselves, just as efficiently as the children who learn from schools. It was all good, yes. But still, the concept of no school didn’t augur so well with me.

Then a couple of days ago, I read an article in a newspaper. It was about a concept called ‘Unschooling’. There are, I discovered, parents as radical and forward thinking as my dear hubby, who have dared to go against the conventional thoughts and pulled their children out of schools, or not sent them to schools at all. They claim that the children do just as well in life as those children who go through the 12-year drill of schooling.

The ‘Unschoolers’ live their life as a perpetual holiday, and learn by the way of having fun. The article carried with it photographs of unschooling families. They were all just like us, not too rich to be able to spoil their children with wealth, and not too poor that they could not afford an education. Still, the children remained at home, and still, they remained happy and intelligent.

Now I was hooked alright. I still do not know what I want for Sid in life, but I know what I don’t want. I don’t want him to go through the education which is a torture. I don’t want him to ‘ratta-marofy’ things he does not understand. I don’t want him to grow into some dummy engineer who has the letters behind his name alright, but does not know to tighten a simple screw. I knew, sending him to school came with the risk of all these things coming true.

In this context, the idea of being able to give him a rich and meaningful childhood, without the stress and strain of schooling seemed tempting. Still, having been brought up through the conventional way of schooling, the concept of unschooling takes time to sink in. However, one thing I am very clear about is – I will not thrust my ideas of education or future on my son, not try to live my dreams through him.

After reading that article, for the first time I discussed the subject seriously with my husband. What would be the pros and cons? How would his future life get affected due to such a decision? What if he grew up and resented the fact that he was not sent to school, and cited that as a reason for failure in life? None of us are knowledgeable or experienced in these matters, so we have decided for now to gather as much information as possible, and talk to a few people involved in education to know their views. Once I have all the information, maybe I will write down another article for Parentous on Unschooling.

Despite all this information gathering that we have now embarked on, my husband and I agree on one thing. We will send Sid to school like other kids, and see how he takes it. If he enjoys, if he thrives in that environment, we will keep at it. But if he doesn’t, if he feels the pressure, and if the stress threatens to strangle his childhood, then we will for sure give unschooling a try. And when we do that, with all the information we are feeding ourselves now, we know we will be making a sensible decision.

Yamini is a software professional turned work-at-home-mom. Amidst her domestic responsibilities and a very demanding 2.5 year old son, she snatches time to write academic papers, freelance content, fiction and poetry. Her stories and poetry have been published in various online literary magazines and anthologies by Penguin Books and Cyberwit Publications. Yamini voices her thoughts now and then at http://myexpressionsandme.blogspot.in/. She can be reached at http://www.facebook.com/YaminiVijendranAuthor.

  • Alternate is schooling is very close to my heart Yamini and I have read a lot about it in the past…long before I was married and had a son! Long ago I did a television show on the concept of ‘When school is fun’. So while homeschooling and unschooling was an integral part, so was the new models of teaching. The idea is to inculcate a healthy environment where learning is not a chore and is naturally encouraged. As part of my research I was part of a Yahoo group on Alt-Ed in India. The number of members astounded me!! So if you are interested in knowing more about it, you could join the group. Rashmie Jaju homeschools her daughter Pari and all their adventures are up on her website http://www.mommy-labs.com/about/ – Also look up http://www.bhavyalearning.org/ a tiny centre in Bangalore that changed my concept about a school. 🙂

    • Yamini Vijendran

      Wow Thanks Ritu. Let me check these out.

  • First things first. You pack two weeks before a vacation. Are you for real !?! 😉 am forever rushing back to pick something up that I should have packed!! . Even after I reach the airport! Phew, you are awesome!

    On another note, unschooling is a real option. Its been on our mind as well. There are people that I have met who are on that journey. Let me know if you need to talk to someone on this. With technology changing the world we live in why must education be left behind!?!

  • You like it or not, the moment you put them to school they get branded … They continuously struggle to fit into something they might not like or interested in .. But I am seeing a growing awareness of unschooling … Hope someday it becomes a norm …

  • Niranjan

    The schools today are not the same as school which i went(1990), the teachers today are not same, The teachers that i had were composed and wanted to teach out of passion, Today the scenario is different, Education is all about IIM, IIT, MBBS, and other things, I don’t say these are wrong but seriously there is a life beyond certificate and degrees.

    I am not sure from where we adopted this system of education (might be british), Previously hundereds of years ago there was no certificates or degrees, it’s was all about guru,shishya and how education can be used as tool to transform society.

    Seriously i some times wonder , and i still don’t get it, why the heck an student after working hard and joining IIT (whatever stream) then goes on to join IIM, what’s the point of Joining a premier Engineering institute if you wanted to do IIM. I personally think that’s BS.

    Today look out all we see rectangular tall buildings that’s it, visit the Temple of rameshwaram or gujarath’s somnath temple, They were not built by Engineers with certificates.

    @kavi arasu, dude the planning starts from the day the tickets are booked (2 months before).

    • Yamini Vijendran

      @Niranjan – Thanks my dear husband 🙂

  • Learning without school is not a new concept though still not main stream. I first learned about it in the first bond movie Dr. No where Ursula Andress talks about it. The school system may have 100 flaws but the alternatives are yet to be proven consistently over long run. It takes real pioneers to experiment with them, I don’t think I will be able to join that group for my kids.

    The other challenge is at some stage when you want to become part of main stream the adaptation for that will be very painful, as I have seen in a few cases. All the best to the bold ones who are willing to try new things.

  • Dr Gauri Kekre

    I think something must be seriously wrong with our current education system. I too, have felt this way on innumerable occasions, but I followed the herd on that count. My daughter goes to a school. And though I encourage her to follow what she loves to do best, drawing and coloring, it takes a lot of effort to not scold her for not doing her homework on time. I had decided when she was born, to let her be free, and never pressurize her for getting better grades than she can get without much stress. I find it difficult though, too. Unschooling, is a term I am reading for the first time here. Thanks for enlightening me on that count 🙂

  • I don’t know where you live yamini. In bangalore i know of a school called Genie kids run by ratnesh and aditi mathur( indira nagar). You can visit their site http://www.geniekids.com they are in this line for more than 10 years. I had subscribed to their posts when my children were young and many of their tips helped me while parenting.

    All waldorf schools in bangalore, chennai or hyderabad don’t follow the examination pattern. Other is the rishi valley foundation which again belives in the blossoming of children with no pressure on competing.

    That said. most CBSE schools don’t pressurize kids. Infact, my children went to one and did’nt feel the pressure. I have already written about the same ideas in a similar post here in parentous. Can’t find the link.

    I do agree with you, children learn better when they go in search of knowledge but in school they have peers to turn to which will help them to socialize. At home school, the children may not get a chance to socialize. – my views.:) Wishing Sid a good school.

    Hi-fi on your planning trait , even i plan llike you and my husband checks his things only on the way to the airport:)