A number of parents in Hyderabad are turning to homeschooling in an attempt to give their children a well-rounded learning experience as per the standard education system.

It is a typical morning at Zaira Batool’s home. Her husband has left for work and their three children are already at school. Except in this case, school is in the family’s living room. While 12-year-old Amyra is peering into her microscope and jotting down notes, seven-year-olds Mariyum and Anjum are practicing the painting and crafting. After practice, they’ll work on reading and spelling with their mother.

Come evening at the other end of Hyderabad, Shilpi Sharma is on a nature walk with her four-year-old son Rahul. He stops to pick up fallen leaves, points out a bird in a tree, and identifies traffic signs. Once home, he’ll practise letter writing with his mother, followed by music appreciation with his father, Sunil Sharma.

Welcome to the world of ‘homeschooling’.

Chosen by a number of families over regular schooling, a major benefit of homeschooling is the flexibility and freedom it brings. For Rahul, schooling takes place in the evening — he’s more inclined to learn then — which makes homeschooling ideal for his parents. “My son has a lot of energy which he needs to expend before he’s able to sit down and work on an activity,” says Shilpi, the co-founder of Edu-Project Store, an online store for children’s products. During the day, she sends Rahul to a playschool near their home to play with other kids and burn energy. She stresses that all academic learning happens only at home. Shilpi also has an eight-month-old daughter, whom she plans to homeschool.

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Curriculum customised
Zoya Khan, on the other hand, never intended to homeschool her five-year-old son Ziyaan. “I wanted to put my child in a Montessori school. Their method of ‘follow the child’ appealed to me.” But when Zoya’s husband had an accident and was confined to bed rest for months, she decided to homeschool due to financial constraints and so the family could spend time together. “I did a lot of research, joined Montessori and homeschooling groups online, and spoke to other parents to come up with a curriculum for Ziyaan.” Zoya bought pre-loved teaching tools and replicated Montessori activities at home to teach her son.

Things are better now and Ziyaan could join a formal school, but homeschooling has worked so well for them that she continues with it. “We do a blend of Montessori and regular school syllabus,” says Zoya, who works from home as a headhunter and has a crocheting business as well. “I want to make sure Ziyaan is on par with other kids his age who go to regular school. But part of our homeschooling curriculum also involves Ziyaan doing household chores. He especially loves helping in the kitchen, whether it’s chopping vegetables or measuring ingredients.”

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Zaira Batool, who holds a Masters in Physics and was a college lecturer, started by homeschooling her younger two. She was able to give them more time and attention than they would get in a regular school environment. Her oldest, Amayra, had attended regular school for a few years but wanted to be homeschooled so she would have enough time to pursue her interests in computer programming and music.

Amayra and her siblings currently follow the CBSE syllabus. However, private candidates aren’t eligible to sit for the board exam, so Zaira Batool plans to shift them to IGCSE, recognised by educational institutions in India and abroad. “We don’t want to move away from formal education, but we want a balance. The children now have time to practice music, play chess and basketball, and learn archery, among other things.”

There is no set way to homeschool. Parents can combine syllabi, hire tutors for specialised subjects, and put their child in group extra-curricular activities where they can interact with their peers and socialise—each homeschooling situation is unique. However, there are online resources and communities for parents who homeschool in India, where they can share experiences and find support.

The process of homeschooling is not always easy. There is a lot of research and preparation involved in teaching, especially as the child gets older. “I prepare a year ahead,” says Zaira Batool. “I look through the syllabus, study it thoroughly, find interesting methods to get the concepts across and only then start teaching.”

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For Shilpi and Zoya, who have younger kids, the focus is on social skills and making sure their children meet developmental milestones. Ultimately, they feel homeschooling allows children to be themselves, do away with labels, and have a more holistic education. “Schooling for Rahul at the moment is about inculcating certain values in him,” says Shilpi. “Teaching him to respect all people, learning to do household chores, and igniting an interest to learn so that it happens organically.”

Entry to board exams
ICSE, CBSE and most state boards don’t allow private candidates to sit for their exams. Most parents who homeschool opt for the National Institute of Open Schooling, an autonomous institute under the HRD ministry.

Another option is the Cambridge exams that can be taken by private candidates—namely the IGCSE (Class X), and Cambridge ‘AS’ and ‘A’ levels (Classes XI and XII). These exam results are recognised by institutions in India and internationally. To find out more about homeschooling, check out Swashikshan- Indian Association of Homeschoolers (www.homeschoolers.in). #KhabarLive

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A senior journalist having 25 years of experience in national and international publications and media houses across the globe in various positions. A multi-lingual personality with desk multi-tasking skills. He belongs to Hyderabad in India. Ahssanuddin's work is driven by his desire to create clarity, connection, and a shared sense of purpose through the power of the written word. His background as an writer informs his approach to writing. Years of analyzing text and building news means that adapting to a reporting voice, tone, and unique needs comes as second nature.