Homeschool­ing par­ents pool re­sources, set up cen­tres to en­rich kids’ learn­ing

The Times of India (Mumbai edition) - - TIMES CITY - Vi­nam­rata.Bor­wankar @times­group.com

Mum­bai: As homeschool­ing picks up pace among Mum­baikars with the state re­cently start­ing the Ma­ha­rash­tra State Open School, par­ents are get­ting to­gether to set up cen­tres to share re­sources and give their chil­dren a space to in­ter­act with peers.

One such cen­tre, the Free Bird Learn­ing Cen­tre, was set up in Thane’s Yeoor Hills last year by three homeschool­ing fam­i­lies. “We be­gan homeschool­ing our daugh­ter and re­alised we could share re­sources and be a sup­port for other fam­i­lies do­ing the same. When you are go­ing against the tide, you need the sup­port,” said Thane res­i­dent Bi­nal Joshi.

The cen­tre is open Mon­day to Fri­day be­tween 11am and 4pm and the par­ents bring their chil­dren there as per their con­ve­nience. “In homeschool­ing, chil­dren in­ter­act mostly with their par­ents. So when they learn at a cen­tre, it gives them a chance to in­ter­act with oth­ers and know about other point of views,” Joshi added. Cur­rently, only the three fam­i­lies work out of the rented space, but are hope­ful that more will join in.

Sim­i­larly, seven fam­i­lies who have chil­dren aged be­tween five and eight are in the process of set­ting up a cen­tre in Sion from June. The chil­dren are cur­rently en­rolled in the same school. Poorva Sule, one of the found­ing par­ents at Learn­ers Col­lec­tive Foun­da­tion, said, “We will be­gin homeschool­ing our chil­dren from the next aca­demic year, but we first wanted to build a space for them. Since there is a prob­lem of open space in the city, we plan to take our chil­dren for un­struc­tured play for 30-40 min­utes ev­ery day,” she said. “We will also or­gan­ise field trips to en­able learn­ing on the go and ses­sions by pro­fes­sion­als to ex­pose our chil­dren to ca­reers they would want to con­sider.”

An­other set of home­school­ers, how­ever, are op­posed to the idea of cen­tres that bring struc­ture to a con­cept in­tended to make learn­ing fun. “Homeschool­ing al­lows a child to learn what he is in­ter­ested in, at his own pace and also bond with his par­ents. In case of a cen­tre, it would mean hav­ing to go at a par­tic­u­lar time and do things that oth­ers are do­ing. With cen­tres, there is also a pos­si­bil­ity of the con­cept be­ing com­mer­cial­ized,” said Am­rutha Amdekar, a Shivaji Park res­i­dent who is homeschool­ing her eight-year-old son Agastya.

Par­ents homeschool­ing their chil­dren and those as­pir­ing to home­school chil­dren met at a school on Sun­day at an event or­gan­ised by Sourvv Dutta, a par­ent and film­maker who is work­ing to­wards doc­u­ment­ing homeschool­ing sto­ries. “The idea was to get par­ents to dis­cuss homeschool­ing for­mats so they can pick and work around what suits them best,” he said.

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