Why I homeschooled my daughter

Update: This post was written in 2020. As of September 2021, our 8yo daughter is no longer being homeschooled and now goes to a formal, full-time school. I do hope for more innovations in schooling models to find the best of both worlds.

We have a 7yo daughter and we have been homeschooling her till now. However, I don’t consider homeschooling as an optimal choice for most parents. I think a dedicated space for learning in groups, i.e. a school, is very valuable primarily for these reasons:

  • Not every parent is a good teacher.

  • Homeschooling is expensive as it forces at least one parent to compromise on career and life.

Notice the things that I’m not worried about with homeschooling:

  • Lack of socialization: In cities like Bangalore, this was not a problem at all. There’s a large, active homeschoolers community and we used to plenty of socialization - including meetups, field trips, activities and more.

  • Falling behind on traditional curriculum: Again, this has not been the experience as we have plenty of resources. We involved Tanu in our lives (for eg: she often joins me at my workplace, meetups and conferences). She started reading early and has gotten plenty of explosure to basic curriculum material.

We haven’t tried to follow any structured program for her formal learning. Our focus was only on fitness, language and math skills - and a gymnastics class, watching movies, reading books, playing games and puzzles - were more than enough to make good progress.

But as I wrote above, a good school would definitely be better than homeschooling. The reason we opted for homeschooling till now is that we couldn’t find a good school nearby. I will list the qualities I’m looking for in a good school:

  • Age-mixing: A good school should simulate an organic/natural learning environment rather than an artificial scene that resembles a factory or army. People learn more effectively by imitating others who are slightly older and teaching others who are slightly younger. A strict age-based progression misses out on these opportunities - except in the play ground.

  • Subject-mixing (cross-disciplinary learning): In many schools, teachers and classes are focused on specific subjects (such as language, maths, history, science, environment). But this is terrible. Knowledge has to be connected and relevant to be meaningful.

  • Focus on hands-on skills: In India, the elite educated class has historically eschewed hands-on work and manual labour. This has produced a generation - including me - who are high on bookish/intellectual knowledge but often wanting on many life skills. I was influenced a lot by this idea of the competent man:

A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyse a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.

  • High ratio of excellence to engagement: We don’t mind if the school takes 12 hours each day as long as the quality matches up. Similarily, it’s okay if the school is not providing excellence as long as it keeps engagement (# of structured hours) low because as parents, we can make up for it. What IS terrible is a school that takes up a lot of time away (say, with too much homework), but offers poor quality learning experience.

  • Location: For young kids in cities, long commutes seem undesirable. This is why finding the above 4 qualities close enough to my home has been difficult. I have earlier written about why I think remote/online learning for young kids is a bad idea.

I am doubtful that these can be achieved while staying within the confines of board accreditation. However, that is something I’m not worried about. What I’m asking for is not impossible. There are some alternative schools which offer the first 4 qualities, but none of them are close enough to my location.

This is why I’m homeschooling my daughter - for now.

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