My daughter is four. She has not really been to school yet. Now, that is sacrilegious in India and as parents we have received enough and more flak for making such a choice.
There is no denying that it has been a struggle trying to convince ourselves as to why, let alone trying to convince others. We were always of the opinion that schooling is not necessarily always a good thing, and in this case particularly, we thought, the kid was too young anyway.
Moreover, after many rather disappointing experiences looking at schools we came to the conclusion that our daughter was better off being home for as long as possible. And out of this decision came the idea that we could try home schooling her.
Soon we discovered or should I say, by trial and error, put together a curriculum for her. It was not easy, has never been and even today, we struggle tremendously with whether we are justified, and whether she is progressing as she should for her age and so on…….
That fear has been put to rest time and again and I keep reassuring myself that the English alphabet and numerical skills are not the be all and end all of education for children. There are so many ways to engage a child and I have found out the hard way that there are no shortcuts to a well rounded intellect, sound physical health, emotional intelligence and spiritual well being.
Of course it has not been piece of cake chiefly because as a parent who has to double up as a teacher, I sometimes lack the motivation to keep pace with the program we have set. The other thing is she likes company. The company of other children, that is. So we always wondered if she was missing out on simple childhood fun and socializing with her age group…..
That question remains unresolved but the consolation here is that there is not definite answer to it either.
Let me cut to the chase and say what I started out to: to all parents who are in two minds about sending their kids to school, I say keep them at home for as long as you can. They can be taught a lot - independence, responsibility, creative problem solving, some painting, some math, how to help with household chores and how to be friends with siblings even when they disagree. I think life skills, values, self-esteem and compassion can be taught (or developed, as the case may be) very early in life. And what better school for that than home.
Yoga is an excellent start if you have trouble finding things to do together. There is not much yoga you can teach a four year old, however. But you can get them to run around and enjoy free play, discovery and theatre in your yoga room and while on the mat. They can be made to do simple exercises as well. It’s all about creating the atmosphere and giving it a name. They love that sort of thing. They go for novelty and yoga can be such fun for them – especially if you leave them alone and simply practice yourself. They will imitate and discover.
One simple, utterly enjoyable pranayama that kids aged three and upward can be taught (and especially love) is the bee humming (also called Brahmari). It’s very relaxing and is sure to put them in a playful mood. And what is more, there is a happy buzz all around.
As a parent I have to say, I have discovered a lot myself. Being a mother has made me grow. But being a home-schooling mother has given me innumerable lessons in child rearing. Learning to accept and let go were very hard lessons for me. I still cannot say that I have mastered them. But in the whole scheme of things, it has made me aware of my strengths and weaknesses and given me the space and time to observe and be close to my daughter.
I have no regrets about not sending her to school so far. When its time to, we will, but in the meantime, I hope she internalizes through her intuition that her home is her haven for experiments and progress, that life itself is her best school, that friends and collaborators can be found anywhere and that the search for the Truth is the only test worth undertaking.