Unschooling is quite an extensive topic to pen down, so I have chosen to address the most frequently asked questions that we have faced as parents of Thanvi.
How old is your child?
She will be three this September.
Hope she must be going to pre-school by now?
No, we don’t send her to a school. We are Unschooling her.
What is Unschooling? Why did you choose to Unschool her?
Prabu cluelessly studied Chartered Accountancy. He worked in an Auditing firm and felt it’s not his cup of tea so he quit becoming a Photographer specialising in Architecture, Industry, and Product. Prabu and I had a lot of discussions on education even before we had plans for a baby.
Prabu’s questions/views on education:
Why is there a disconnect between what you learn and what you love to do?
Why should I be 28 years old enough to know what I am passionate about?
Why was I good only in the subjects which were thought by the teachers I like?
Why should everyone know everything?
Why are we jack of all trades and master of none?
If uniqueness is what is appreciated, why are we all measured on the same scale?
Are marks the ultimatum of life? If so why are last benchers and drop outs shine so bright in real life?
Why should kids live the dreams of their parents, don’t they have their own?
Since we are taught bits and pieces of everything, we are not courageous enough to say the word, ‘I don’t know’. We hook up a lot of information and hence half-baked understanding and results.
Nandhini, you scored good marks in school because you are a responsible, obedient and respectful person in nature. Not because you understood everything that was taught.
On graduation day my professor told, ‘Dear students, the world is not the same safe place as college, it’s different, unpredictable and cruel’. Then why didn’t college prepare us for the real world?
Meanwhile, my brother went about to study M.S in school education in the UK as he wanted to build a mainstream school. He came back saying that there shouldn’t be any schools. He briefed me on the facts, researches and reality on how children learn. Nothing was a surprise to me, as I have heard them all through Prabu. This is when the word ‘homeschooling’ officially entered our household. I did a bit of research and found that most of the blogs, websites, curriculum, forums were based in the US and believed that this is possible only if you life in the US. But then when I met my cousin after many years, she mentioned that they are Unschooling their daughter. I got the pulse. I spoke a lot to her, understood their lifestyle and completely believed in Unschooling. By the time we decided on unschooling Thanvi was 1.8 years old. Unschooling is to teach oneself; enquiry based learning.
What are the benefits of Unschooling?
The biggest advantage is time. You never know when she will come up with a question. And all her questions are very important to us. Learning happens 24*7. Learning is fun and exciting to her and not a burden.
How can the child socialise if she is not sent to school?
In school, we choose to socialise with a particular class/range/age people. But in homeschooling, where the whole world is a classroom, she gets to socialise with a spectrum of people. Shopkeepers, sweepers, mason, drivers, librarians, CEO’s, doctors, painters, kids of all ages etc., We find this as the real way of socialising.
What method of teaching do you imply? Do you follow any curriculum?
We do not teach-teach her anything. We never miss answering a single question of hers. For example, one day she became curious about the ambulance, she came up with lots of questions, What is an ambulance? Why does it make noise? Who is inside the ambulance? Where is it going? Why is it white in colour? and so on. I answered her questions with the knowledge that I had. Later, we saw videos of an ambulance, visited an ambulance, talked to an ambulance driver etc., She repeats each question a billion times until she is satisfied with the answer. And I read more about ambulances to answer her questions, during such researches I get to learn a lot of things. She asked me why sirens are playing the same sound and why is it too loud? This is the answer that I found -The Doppler effect is the change in frequency of the wave for an observer moving relative to its source. The shorter the wavelength, the higher the pitch, and vice-versa. And hence, sirens make small repetitive sounds and appear louder as we go nearer. I had to put it in simple words for her to understand. Basically, her questions are our curriculum.
How long are you going to Unschool her?
Until she wants to. Maybe until tomorrow, next month or throughout her school life or even college. A traditional college degree gives you narrow career options. There are lot more careers which do not require any college certificates. College degree were the norms of industrial revolution era. We are living in Information revolution era which requires individuality, out of the box thinking, passion and humanity.
Ok, what if she wants to become a doctor or any professional?
There is no age limit for most of the professional courses. There is a body called NIOS – National institute of open schooling which conducts exams for private candidates and its scores are valid for any university in India and abroad. And training oneself for appearing for a set of exams is not a daunting task.
What if she has no passion or doesn’t acquire that passion within the required age?
All children are highly curious by nature. If not curious they wouldn’t have learnt their mother tongue. When given the freedom of time, space, thoughts, question and information, there is no doubt on the child being highly curious and passionate. We measure the success of our education choice to HAPPINESS. If Thanvi is happy in whatever she wants to do, that is what we believe is the essence of life.
How is a typical day of Thanvi?
Our days are not typical, each day is different. We do road schooling- we are outside the house most hours of a day. We visit grocery stores, museums, parks, libraries, dams, zoos, farms, farm fest, potter, blacksmith, butcher, meet a lot of people etc., When at home we read books, see youtube videos, watch movies, play a lot of games, listen to podcasts etc., A lot of attention is given to meal time and sleep time; it’s the most important activity of all.
You can unschool, because you have a background.
The main motive of our unschooling is to guide her to become self-reliant and independent individual and not to count on any background. All materials in life are not constant.
We are facilitating her to learn herself how to catch a fish and not feed her with a fish.
Is Unschooling costly?
We don’t see education as a separate channel from everyday living. We learn a lot through our surrounding. We see everyone and everything as a resource. We are travel-educating our daughter, we do not see it as an educational expense for her but an experience for each one us in the family.
“The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.” — Saint Augustine
How do friends and family react to your choice?
Thanvi is the answer for all the initial inhibitions. The way she is evolving gives confidence to them.
Hope you must be extremely patient and knowledged, how do you handle?
When bombarded with questions, I love it. I take it as an opportunity to learn. In my experience, most of the tantrums happen when Thanvi is lacking sleep, food and answers. We take immense care in these areas. Yes, initially it was a bit overwhelming until I understood these facts. 1. No emotion is bad – we take it as an opportunity to understand each other more on every ups and downs. 2. Each tantrum is a signal in request of love – after each tantrum, we get to love each other even more. Prabu equally participates in all our explorations so, we all get time to do what we love to do. Our lifestyle change – Organized Minimalism also plays a huge role to focus on our priorities. I am not highly knowledged but highly curious.
Homeschooling : Educate (one’s child) at home instead of sending them to a school.
Unschooling: is an educational method and philosophy that advocates learner-chosen activities as a primary means for learning.
Roadschooling: Rather than teaching what is dictated by textbooks or state curriculum, these parents teach their children based on where the road takes them.