Due to COVID-19, all the educational institutions are now closed. Of course, teachers are conducting online classes in virtual platforms like Zoom, Facebook, Google Meet and so on. The reopening of educational institutions is still an unsolved matter. It all depends on Mr. COVID. Even if schools reopen and maintain safety measures, parents of small children will still be anxious about their children’s health. These uncertainties and risk factors made many parents, including me, decide to homeschool their school goingtoddlers.
It is always said that parents are the primary and first teachers of any child. However, the concept of homeschooling has not been so popular in our country. Here in Bangladesh, mostly two common viewpoints are found: one, children get education from traditional and established institutions and, two; they do not receive any education at all. Since the idea of homeschooling is unknown to many, especially people residing in rural areas, many children are even deprived of primary education which is one of the five basic rights of every citizen of the country.In many developed countries like US, Canada and UK, homeschooling is a progressive movement. Many parents willingly choose to homeschool their children for various reasons including dissatisfaction with the traditional school curriculum and competitive educational system, communal and religious disharmony and children’s static progress. The homeschooling movement was emerged in the 1970s when authors and researchers like John Holt and Raymond Moore started writing on educational reform. They claimed that homeschooling could be an alternative educational option.
Homeschooling is very flexible. Both teacher (parent) and student (child) can choose their own pace and own comfortable place. There is no special requirement for homeschooling. In many countries, states provide specific requirements and qualifications for a parent who wishes to homeschool his/her own child. According to John Holt, the most important thing parents need to have while homeschooling their children is to like them and enjoy their company, their passion and foolishness. Sometimes children ask absurd questions and wish to hear convincing answers from their parents. Parents need to keep patience while answering all these newly invented questions of their toddlers. Curiosity helps children develop their multidimensional personalities.
During this pandemic, many parents have decided not to send their children to school as it may spike health hazards. For example, I enrolled my son to a school this year. He attended regular classes for the first two months. Then, due to the lockdown, he had to remain indoors and do online classes. One day, suddenly his teacher asked all the kids of playgroup to write from A to P. He did not learn it from his school. I told his teacher. She replied, “It’s okay if he cannot write. We take extra care of the “weak students”. Her comment devastated me from inside. I decided not to send him to school in 2020. But, his progress should not be compromised. On this note, I decided to withdraw his admission from that particular school and start homeschooling him. Now, my son is doing great. We have fixed our homeschooling schedule.
So, that’s the ultimate benefit of homeschooling a toddler. The family can choose their own timetable and curriculum. It is important to check and double check the national curriculum of the country so that the child does not fall behind collective progress. However, the best part is, even when homeschoolers follow national curriculum, they still can focus on the specialty of their children. Some children are curious about the history of human evolution, some prefer to know everything about the dinosaurs, some children have hidden artist in them and some finds art in cooking elements. Every single child is different. Their cognitive ability and psychological needs are also different.
It is right that our parents and their parents have been homeschooling their children for a long time. They have been assisting to make children understand the contents which are already provided to them by the institution. So, the subtle difference lies here. Homeschooling neither imposes traditional method of education nor force children to cope with the pace of any school. Rather, a parent is free to choose any educational system to educate his or her child. In his best-selling book The Element, Ken Robinson writes that “the key to educational transformation is not to standardize education, but to personalize it, to build achievement on discovering the individual talents of each child, to put students in an environment where they want to learn and where they can naturally discover their true passions”. Homeschooling can provide this learner friendly environment. There are more benefits of homeschooling. The bond between parents and their children becomes stronger. Parents sometimes feel some sorts of pressure of performing the role of a teacher. However, it is to remember that parents are the ultimate caregivers. They can easily demonstrate to their children that education is fun. Sometimes, in a class of 20 or 30 students at a school, teachers often find it difficult to focus on each and every student. The difficult concepts remain unsolved. In this case, homeschooling allows the parents extra time to make their children understand and master a concept. It is all about one-to-one schooling session.
Homeschooling lets parents enjoy their freedom to teach every subject at home. From religious knowledge to survival skills—children can learn all these lessons and values from their parents. The matter of indoctrination can thus be tackled in homeschooling. Another great thing about homeschooling is that there is no traditional grading system. Still, children’s educational progress can be tracked and rewarded too. Parents can give them incentives for their upgrading performance. If they fail to understand a lesson, there is always a room to take a break and then resume with full energy.There are a few disadvantages too. Homeschooling can sometimes be hectic for working parents. Continuous scheduling and rescheduling can be messy. A parent needs to set proper time and mood to teach their toddlers. It gets difficult to remain patient and calm when children ask millions and billions of W/H questions. Homeschooling is costly sometimes. Parents need to buy books and other materials to get an education friendly environment at home. The younger siblings are distractions. It gets difficult to teach one and manage others to stay active in their own levels. Homeschooled kids are less likely to have a big friend circle. Sometimes, they may find it extremely challenging to cope with traditional method. They can be homeschooled, but need to return to their institution for at least their formal certificates. Parents can provide motivation. They cannot issue any certificate. Therefore, homeschooling do not have a long period. The students will have to get admitted to schools where they can learn more and make friends as well as acquire knowledge and certificates for future. The job markets demand certificates and license.
To conclude, for toddlers and young adults, homeschooling is a great lifestyle. They can learn ABC and cake recipe at the same time. My children now sing their nursery rhymes and bake chocolate cakes every other day. My happiness and weight—both are on the rise! When I conduct online classes, my offline homeschooled kids run to me and show me their artworks and alphabets. For now, I enjoy homeschooling. It is sometimes stressful, but mostly rewarding.
The writer is a Lecturer, Department of English Language and Literature, Premier University Chittagong