Madhavi Tanikella, who heads learning and development at Tally Solutions, Bengaluru, opted for homeschooling after seeing her kids spend long hours in front of the laptop during the pandemic. "Facing the computer screen all day and then spending hours to complete assignments took the joy out of the education process," she explains. So, she opted for the Wolsey Hall Oxford learning system, a 128-year-old system used by students in over 120 countries that provides resources and learning material to support self-paced and self-planned learning. Student progress managers also oversee the child's progress and provide the necessary feedback.
When the pandemic forced schools to go online, parents, despite their reservations, were left with no choice but to make their children attend online classes. However, some parents believed that the quality of education was compromised in this model, while others felt the fee was too high too. Another common complaint was that parents had to involve themselves to a greater extent in their child's education as they struggled to grapple with the new normal.
When in-person school came back, many parents chose not to send their children back to school. Instead, they opted for homeschooling using options like 21K, a leading online-only school in India. Divya Tantry, a homemaker in Bengaluru and a parent of a 13-year-old and a 10-year-old, is one of them. She says that she made this decision because of the "poor educational quality in their regular school vis-a-vis the fees being charged." She also felt that the transition was easier as 21K, which offers Indian, American, and IGCSE was online from the get-go. Also, it leaves her kids more time to pursue extracurricular activities of their interest, as the online classes from the virtual school run for only up to four hours a day.
The choice between regular schooling and homeschooling may depend on a lot of factors like cost, availability of infrastructure, parent's availability/preparedness and child's personality. It also means that parents must spend more time with their children to meet education targets.
Sandra Noble, a student counsellor with Bangalore International School, must agree. For homeschooling to be successful, the parent needs to have the time, interest and patience, she says, adding that the advantage is that it allows for a lot of bonding time. "But it requires a lot of dedication and passion from the parent to help the child wade through these new waters," she adds. Tanikella, for instance, says that it took her children a while to adapt, adding that there was a bit of an initial struggle, especially for her younger child. "But she got used to this new routine in about five months. Soon, she developed a sense of ownership by making her own study plan," says Tanikella, who believes that her kids developed life skills of independence, planning, accountability, and self-direction as she "stepped back and let them organise and plan".
But yes, be prepared to deal with raised eyebrows and the disapproval of your peers. Many homeschooled parents get judged for pulling their kids out of traditional schools, points out Tanikella. Part of the reason is simply the lack of awareness. Not many are cognizant of the fact that homeschooled students in India can take the exit exams for Grade 10 or Grade 12 as private candidates from the National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS). They can also register with accredited institutions if an international curriculum like IGCSE is their choice.
However, a huge social angle to education gets missed out if a child is schooled at home. Caroline Diane Ross, Principal of Springfields International School in Hyderabad firmly believes homeschooling is not very effective as it only caters to the cognitive domain without emphasising the development of the social domain. "Students learn more when they are engaged with other learners. It broadens their perspective and improves interpersonal skills," she adds.
So, is there a happy middle ground at all? Sandra thinks so. She notes that parents tend to move their children from homeschooling to regular schooling as they reach the higher classes because of the competitive nature of college admission requirements. "Children are resilient; if guided correctly, they will thrive in any given environment. The child's adaptability depends on how the child has been homeschooled and the personality of the child itself," she says, adding that there are pros and cons to homeschooling and regular schooling. "We can just hope that the education system is revamped so that the students reap the benefits of both the systems."
Barkha Shah is a Bengaluru-based writer and digital marketing strategist.