Home is where the school is

Syed Zafar Mehdi

All of ten, Defence Colony-based Tanvi Ahuja can eloquently quote Kipling and Oscar Wilde, solve mind-boggling arithmetic equations and conduct tricky chemistry experiments in her kitchen. And she has never been to school. Tanvi is one among hundreds of children whose parents chose home-schooling over formal schooling as the best form of education for their child.

For Tanvi’s parents, Rajesh and Sonali Ahuja, home-schooling was a decision that grew out of across-the-board denunciation of a consumerist lifestyle and a belief formal schooling is irrelevant to people’s lives. We look at how home is becoming the de-facto school for new-age kids, who are increasingly opting for alternative means of education.

Alternative to formal education

Fed up with the flawed education system in this country and driven by the urge to provide their children with alternative means of education, large number of Indian families are leaving behind the classroom and choosing home-schooling.

These children seem to know much more than kids their age? Their parents say it is because they don’t go to school. These are children who thrive in a world without syllabi, strict schedules, back-breaking school bags and no-nonsense teachers. “The current education system is more about stress, pressure and rote learning, and less about knowledge and learning,” rues Manav Goel of Hauz Khas Enclave, whose 12-year old “home-schooled” son Ronit can beat any kid of his age at the game of cricket as well as in solving any arithmetic equation. “In view of high cost of education and risky transportation these days, I feel it will be preferable to bring up our children at home so that we can give lot of inspiration. Morally and intellectually also we can bring him up better,” says Goel, who is in a government service.

“If all the benefits of a school — peer interaction, structured learning and coping with change — and parents’ sufficient attention is given to a home-schooled child, it can work. In the west, home-schooling is not a new phenomenon and many parents opt for it. In India it is slowly picking up in the metros,” says Dr. Dherandra Kumar, a psychologist.

“An extremely overwhelming avenue home-schooling opens up for scholars is to get a jump start to college. So while others slog for four long years in high schools, home-schoolers can probably even graduate from college by that time.

Syllabi or no syllabi

Home-schooling in India does not require any registration, recognition or regulation by any authority, but most home-schooling parents either opt for the ICSE or CBSE curriculum or go for the respective state board syllabi. Some others opt for none.

Unlike many home-schooling families who insist on a stipulated number of study hours and follow at least the ghost of a formal syllabus, Mansi and Akaash Verma of Green Park do not believe in “structuring” their 9-year-old daughter Jiya’s education. “Following a rigid curriculum only puts undue pressure on the child, so the whole point of not sending her to school is lost,” says Akaash, a banker. While some like Vermas don’t follow textbooks, majority of home-schooling parents adhere to prescribed syllabi for their children.

Happy child, healthy child

“Ronit’s schedule at school badly affected his eating habits,” says Goel. “He would leave early in the morning even without having breakfast, wouldn’t even eat from the tiffin. Consequently he would return exhausted and hungry. It was hurting as this is the age to take care of child’s nutrition,” says Goel. In class IInd, they took away Ronit from school. He has never been sent back.

When Tanvee, 13, and Tanishq, 8, told their new friends, about not going to any school, they stood shell-shocked. “My friends at swimming class initially did not believe me. But when later they also fell in line. All my friends hate going to school now,”’ grins little Tanvee. She is an artist and a kathak dancer besides having participated in national level golf and swimming championships. The teenager feels learning at home provides the best conditions as it also helps hone extra curricular skills. For husband and wife duo, spiritual healer Naved and astrologer Chhavi Zahoor, taking off the beaten track was hard. “There were protests within the family. Friends called us ‘weird’. But Naved and I knew that sending kids to school was a waste of time because children in school only parrot theories that do not help them in life or their jobs,” says Chhavi.

Experts feel home-schooling is possible only with full involvement of both parents and the extended family. Parents, who tutor their children at home, make up for their lack of formal training with an excellent understanding of their children’s rhythms. Akash’s daughter Jiya is comfortable sitting on the floor and study. “The biggest plus is that the schedule is flexible. The child can learn at his convenience and as per his likes. He learns at his own pace, due to which stress on child is zero,” says Sonali Ahuja.

Future for “Home-schoolers”

The idea of parents who choose not to send their wards to school is at odds with a country obsessed with formal schooling. One of the potent arguments against the wisdom of schooling child at home is not availing a school-leaving certificate. Plus, homeschooling parents have to deal with unsolicited opinions from family and friends. But that doesn’t dampen the spirit of these parents. “Homeschooling has become so mainstream now that socialisation is just not an issue,” says Ranjan Kumar of South Extension, a father of two.

With the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act, which stipulates eight years of formal education for all children, parents are in quandary whether the Act has any scope for this mode of education. As per experts, the RTE Act defines what a school is but does not delineate further.

 (First published in Hindustan Times)

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Food review: Evergreen

Syed Zafar Mehdi

If you are sauntering around in search of quality South Indian food, this is the place to be. Located in the heart of South Delhi, Evergreen offers the perfect opportunity to escape the hustle and bustle of city and discover the multitude of unique dining experiences under a single roof.

It started as a confectionery shop of traditional Indian sweets, but soon North and South Indian snacks and main courses were added to the fare. It’s all-time favourites include Samosa Chaat, Creamy Ras Malai and hot Chhole Bhature.

South Indian delicacy Paneer Dosa, stuffed with sautéed cottage cheese and capsicum is the pick here. Navrattan Biryani, a Mughlai dish prepared from nine different vegetables and fruit and nuts, is delectable. Rice Pulao, a marvellous blend of exotic spices is a rice lover’s delight. Mushroom Fried Rice, a popular Chinese dish is also delicious. A bite of special Evergreen Pizza is must.

Traditional Indian desserts like Gulabjamun, Rasmalai, and Gajar ka halwa, Kulfi Faluda, a Mughlai-Iranian dessert are worth trying.

Evergreen is just the ideal eatery for those looking for scrumptious meal at moderate rates.

Cost for two: 200-500

Address: S-29/30 Green Park Main Market