I armed myself with global degrees which gave me the privilege of accumulating knowledge and exposure over the years. My heart was filled with pride for being able to have achieved what many aspire to do and felt lucky and grateful too.
It should have made me happy and very successful in every aspect of my life, but the result was contrary.
My accolades and degrees surely got me the job and a respectable position in the society and family. It gave me the confidence as a young woman to take on the world and be independent in many aspects, yet something was amiss. The constant churning within me was always seeking for something more.
It was only when my daughter was born the journey of witnessing my inner truth and transformation began. As every parent, I was also concerned and worried about academics and the the school she may join.
However, being an educationist I was aware of the merits and de-merits of the system, and was conscious of it’s impact on children’s growing up years. The two roles pulled me in different directions and led to the search for alternatives within our society; and the best suitable option for us as a family. I discovered novel systems of Waldorf/Homeschooling/Unschooling and started exploring the education world.
I invested my time researching online, talking to people in the community, reading books on such topics and upgraded my understanding on the subject. The term Unschooling baffled me as much as it excited me and I investigated further into the terminology. I started reading profusely about it on the net, joined various Facebook pages of Unschooling/Homeschooling, TED talks, podcasts and many more resources to guide me through. I started finding answers to the dilemmas within me but they also added to the confusion. As parents we are plagued with self-doubt at every step of the journey as we want to give the best to our children.
However, we decided to march along and discussed extensively as a family, living through our fears. We discovered help groups in our vicinity, gained experiences which supported our belief system further.
Now, as an unschooling family we had the freedom to paint our canvas with a riot of colours. But, with freedom comes responsibility and we were very much aware of the same. Rejecting the available academic boards, not sending her to school what were we thinking and what was next?!
Even with the right kind of support there were numerous questions hovering around, not just within us but from the outside. The neighborhood, extended family overwhelmed us with their fears too, which were valid and kept us on our toes. How will we instill discipline if everything revolved around the child, what about her social skills, how will she learn to read/write and the list continues.
Observing our daughter grow and unfold as any other child of her age, helped us settle down with our feelings slowly. It has essentially been a journey through peaks and valleys of reassurances and doubts. During her play dates, the inevitable comparison between children emerged. However, when we saw our daughter know/learn the same concept of colors maybe a month later, our fears resolved.
This is when we realized an important fact of moving forward lay in overcoming our conditioning, and leave the rest to time. Gradually, we have witnessed the immense need from her to learn and know more from her environment. She chooses to read the books at her will and asks us to do the same when she feels, her curating different objects from wooden blocks comes from what she hears/observes in her environment. The varied age group from uncles/aunts, help workers and everyone she comes in contact with forms her source of developing social skills.
Unschooling is a way of life, a space to be! As parents we had to find and create ways to make our daughter’s learning process fun. With the knowledge that a child is born with instincts to learn we guided her journey by providing the essential instruments to learning. We discovered ways for her to acquire life skills without books and an organization.
To give shape to our thoughts I initiated a group of unschoolers (The Tribe) who would meet twice a week and engage in activities which were led by the children themselves. Free play and allowing sensory development through interaction with nature and peers served as a solution to begin with. Travel within the city and beyond gave us wings to fly and connect with families who believed in the same philosophy. We found our larger family in the wider world too.
It is a child centered journey for every family, observing life closely. We believe in developing life long skills and competence to live it through. It does not talk about competing with others but focusing on self accomplishment and confidence. Each family may have their prescribed definition of growth and success and may follow essential steps to accomplish that.
Though, we exist as a minority group across the country, yet it is heartening to see the force grow rapidly. There are several organizations based on principles of democracy, allowing the child to be, make mistakes and learn, follow their passions instead of fitting into a mold for all. Places like Bengaluru, Pune take the lead with initiating such communities with Mumbai and Delhi following suit. In a country like India, which is obsessed with degrees and certificates “An Unschooling Expedition” may appear to be a mirage but a reality for many families like us. We are committed to a holistic growth of our daughter through the journey of Unschooling with the biggest unlearning of letting go of our worries about the future.
As an out of the box approach, it is an effort to savor their innocence for a longer period and see them grow into happy individuals.