Time to put your child into school and wondering which one works best? We have all been there as parents; weighing the pros and cons of schools and school boards — the distance, the quality, the peer group, the teachers, and so on. Schooling or rather selecting a school these days is fraught with stress. Parents have favorites, they hedge their bets and apply in more than one, and then wait for the nail-biting finish!
Is choosing and getting into a school stressful?
Yes, ask any young parent, and you will realize that ensuring that your child gets the right education is the highest priority for everyone. Families have relocated just for schooling. Many parents will choose to live closer to school rather than their workplace so that it is convenient for their children’s’ education. Choosing a school might be as crucial as getting the right job. In fact, it may be essential to getting the right job, as good schools encourage you to discover your talent, hone it, and get you ready for life and work.
Why is good schooling important?
Good schooling is synonymous with getting a good foundation for a happy and stable life.
- Your child learns their basic three ‘R’s. Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic.
- They get disciplined as school starts at a regular time, has regular hours, and adds a rhythm to a child’s life.
- Children learn social skills. Dealing with peer groups, making new friends, sharing lunches, and playtime teaches children the social dynamics and how to behave in public.
- They are learning to deal with authority. The principal, teachers, senior students, monitors, etc. are all authority figures similar to your boss, owner of a business, senior partners, etc. How you deal with them is important and a skill you learn in schools.
- Work ethic. Doing the homework, finishing assignments, keeping your books updated are all part of the work ethic. School is a miniature work environment in that sense.
How can you ensure your child gets the best education/ schooling?
The traditional route most of us followed is still one of the ways you can ensure your child gets a good education.
You scrutinize schools where you live, research them starting with what the website or school brochure says, ask around and then maybe pay a visit. Sometimes if you happen to be in the same town as you were in your childhood, you just choose the school that you have been a student of.
However, there is no one size fits all way to educate everyone, and as parents, we also look at what our children are best suited for. At times kids display a special leaning towards something, or we know that their personality is best suited to one thing or another. A large school with crowded classrooms may not suit a shy, reserved child. A school with minimal sports facilities may not suit someone who revels and grows with physical activity. Academics may be the focus of some; music may be of interest to another.
So you look at what is available and make the best choice.
Some parents, however, may decide to take matters in their own hands. There is a growing awareness and curiosity on homeschooling, and many parents are looking at this as an option.
What is homeschooling?
Homeschooling/ Unschooling / Open schooling are all terms on the same continuum that do not require the child to go to a school. Homeschooled children are mostly at home, learning from their parents or in some cases tutors, at their own pace. Some may have a set syllabus, a set time for studies, and a routine that mimics a regular day at school for a child. The only difference may be the lack of a school building and commute. Other parents may opt for a looser style with no set curriculum but base it on how the child evolves and expresses interest. Some may be reading stories and watching videos, while others just get the textbooks of a particular level and teach from that.
Unschooling also connotes a free atmosphere where there is often no pressure to get to any particular milestone at a set time. Parents provide exposure, planned and unplanned, and let the child learns from it. They answer questions and offer choices.
With open schooling, kids can take exams and get more regular grading through a system of open schools that require no attendance at any school. The reading writing and arithmetic have to be at a particular level, and you can get a certificate to that effect when you take a standard test.
What are the benefits of homeschooling?
One on one time with the child. Busy lives filled with school commutes and homework and playtime leave little time for meandering conversations and companionable silences. Homeschooling gives the parent and child a lot of time together, which suits many parents very well.
Tailoring learning for the child. School curricula are based on what a child must know, on average, at a certain age. They are not tailored for any particular talent or the lack of it. Maybe your child learns best with story books. A future musician or painter may not develop the way he would in a more artistic and an environment that leaves them free to explore what they excel at.
Less stressful for some. Not everyone performs well under the stress of exams and tests. Homeschooling relieves kids of that stress.
Builds confidence. Shy and reserved children bloom from the attention they are getting from their parents and educators. They grow in confidence and self-esteem that helps them later on as well.
Helps focus on strengths. Parents know the strengths of their children. If athletics is what your child excels at, they need to have a chunk of their time focused on that. This is possible through homeschooling.
What are the cons of homeschooling?
May lack the well-rounded approach of schools. Since schools cater to many students, they take into account what works best for children at a particular stage. There is a bit of everything with music classes alongside sewing or cooking classes and exposure to sports as well.
May not provide enough exposure to outside authority figures. With just the parents being the primary educators, it may not be easy to provide exposure to other authority role models.
May be stressful for parents. Being the only one responsible for structuring and executing the education of your child may not be easy for the parent. You have to read to them and also get them to sleep. Teach them music as well as sports.
May not provide social exposure. Critics of homeschooling cite this as the main reason for not recommending homeschooling. However, proponents argue the opposite stressing that the child can be exposed to all sorts of social interactions as he is with his caregivers in their daily interactions.
So like everything else, while there are no absolute answers, homeschooling is a personal choice and depends on the parents and the child. If you wish to explore this path, it must be well researched. Often it calls for self-motivation and the ability to walk on paths not trodden on by others. You are the best judge of what suits you and your child. Weigh your options carefully and make the right choices. Happy parenting!