All about learning without school!

Panel Discussion at Homeschoolers Meet Goa:
One day was kept as Open House for newbies and those wanting to seek answers to FAQs. The Panel included a mix of parents and young people. Claude Alvares, Rahul Alvares, Avinash Almeida, Ravi Almeida, Shuchita Prakriti, Niom Samson, Jaydeep Deosthale, Hema Jain, Maria Alves Almeida, Nazir from SA, Nithya, and Myself. Nandita Deosthale moderated the session.
The best part of the session was that we had young people in age group of 17 to 23 responding to FAQs from the guests. Listening to these young adults who took questions like:
What about socialisation?
What about routine?
What about social pressures?
They also took questions like:
Does it matter if both parents are in full time jobs?
This question was well answered by those raised by single working mothers.
The collective wisdom reflected that unschooling challenges families and individuals to rethink life choices.
Questions about ‘will children be able to face the Real World, was answered with reflective questions about ‘what is the real world?’ How is School reflective of the Real World?
What about earning money?
Was beautifully responded to by Rahul Alvares, who said, how much wealth is needed for our children? Why cannot we as parents and community support our children to pursue their passions and be themselves under one roof and keep providing for their basic needs if we as parents are already earning money enough for all? Why is there this need in us to make sure our children ‘earn money’ as soon as possible? It was touching when he said if I had a lot of money I would happily let my children fully immerse in their passion and provide a platform for them to contribute in other ways to their lives and the society which is non-monetary.
The young people responded by sharing how they are happy to receive remuneration however ‘small’ for their pursuits of interests as their goals are not to build another home, gather property, and create wealth.
What about social skills?
Was evident from the fact that all these young adults had not gone to school and were sitting in a panel responding to questions from people from all walks of life.
One boy responded by saying his best friend is their housekeeper who he calls Khala and how close he is to her and loves her the most and shares a deep bond with her. So socialisation for children who are unschooled is not limited to a particular social class or section.
How long does it take to homeschool?
I responded by seeking clarity about ‘is the question related to a daily parameter or life long?’ I think most people got the answer in my question.
Nithya did a short presentation on Right to Education Act.
Questions related to exams were answered by the panel on NIOS and IGCSE etc.
I clearly stated that homeschooling is not about keeping the child cooped up in HOME. It is about Learning without School, where the whole world is a learning field.
To a question which was seeking safeguards on the system of home education, my response was that being out of the system means facing the unknown, playing with the unknown and that since its out of the system, there cannot be system controls as that which is open ended cannot have ‘any system proofing’.
Hema Jain, shared how learning without school is about nurturing the heart of the child and the heart of the parent. It is about emotional well being and emotional health.
All in all a very interesting discussion!

UnSchooling Circles at Learning Societies UnConference, Bangalore, 2017

Sharing two summaries of the circles on Unschooling: Ask, Share, Reflect that I hosted and facilitated at Learning Societies UnConference at Bhoomi College, Bangalore.

I. Unschooling Circles at LSuC Bangalore!
I am back from a very fruitful and fulfilling four days at the Learning Societies UnConference, where over 1000 people came together in Bhoomi College campus to share, express and explore everything ‘Un’.
Daily Circles were anchored by me on Unschooling : Ask, Share, Reflect and the topics that came up were Screen Time, Learning Environment, Discipline, Being Street Smart and much much more. There were many children who also sat in the circle, and also youth who have never been to school, and young people who were questioning institutional learning.
I was happy to have children and young people who responded to queries of the adults. Sharing some reflections:
1. One boy of 11 said on discipline ‘adults think only when you walk on a straight line and don’t talk or look here and there, its discipline’.
2. Another young man said, ‘Discipline is a myth. When one is interested in something one is dedicated to that interest from within’.
3. A mother shared how her son has only been climbing one tree in the campus all the time since they arrived. And how she kept calling him to attend other stuff that she thought would be of value to him only to realize that how much her son was in love with that tree and had actually made that tree his home and how she saw that trees are becoming rare beings on this planet and all the stuff she wanted him to do would probably be around more than trees and she felt humbled to see her son’s love for the tree. That evening there was a concert in the amphitheater and the tree is above the stage, where I noticed as did others, the little boy hugging the branch and watching the show. Now and then he climbed farther up and disappeared into the thicker branches high up 🙂
4. During discussions on how to ‘earn money’, one boy of 14 said he hated school as he wanted to be a video gamer, so he left school and started gaming and now he is developing gaming software and already earning. He is Indian!
5. One young man who grew up on a farm, grew up only with his parents, siblings and farm animals. He did not have other children to ‘socialise’ with. He can farm, he taught himself bike stunts and bike mechanics, he taught himself science. He gets a salary to work on his family’s farm. And he said, ‘I find most college and school going kids boring and shallow’. He was present in all my sessions confidently responding to queries by parents! 🙂
6. There was a young man who is a professional video gamer and goes for tournaments and his brother does commentary for such tournaments.
7. One boy of 16 makes short films and is still learning film making from different mentors. He has been travelling alone on public transports within the country since he was 12 years old. His mother was also in the session and she shared that she never thinks her son is ‘wasting’ his time on the internet and computer. She said, ‘I can see he is working, as learning from internet and using computer is his work.’
8. One boy said in the session on screen time, ‘Adults don’t understand the good things about internet and media, they just focus on the bad things.’
9. A young girl of 16 who never went to school or took any exams applied for a course in Azim Premji University and wrote in the form how she never went to school but has been a self learner and described her journey so far in the column which wanted her 12th grade results. She has been accepted in the University!
10. One parent was concerned about if unschoolers were successful only if they were exceptional, for example getting into MIT etc? But the insights that came up in the sessions were that it’s not that unschoolers are successful only when exceptional but the ‘perception of success’ itself is exceptional for unschoolers.
II.UnSchooling and Discipline:
UnSchooling and Discipline: A glimpse of the insights and sharing during UnSchooling Circles at Learning Societies UnConference, Bangalore;
The burning topic of ‘how to discipline children’ was discussed and shared by many parents, children and young adults.
I started the discussion with asking the participants to share their thoughts and ideas about ‘how discipline looks like to them?’ With a foundation being laid that, all sharing is to be listened as far as possible with non-judgement. With a guideline that no one response is right or wrong, its about sharing and listening to oneself and others.
1. One parent said, ‘To me its about being sensitive to one’s surroundings and not being harmful to oneself and others.’
2. One young man said, ‘Discipline is a myth and therefore it is different for different people. To me its about morals and ethics, its about prioritizing that which is important to me.’
3. One parent said, its about time management for him.
4. One mother who was concerned about her toddler having to hear a NO from her cousins when she wanted their things to play with. She wanted to know how to deal with that. She was wondering if discipline is about sharing.
5. A mother shared how, learning to hear a NO from others and learning to stay in the discomfort of not being able to share is part of the UnSchooling journey. She shared how, respecting the needs of one child to NOT SHARE, is a learning process. The mother with the toddler asked her how can that be made possible. So some of us shared how ‘Go down to the physical level of the toddler and calmly and gently explain to her in simple words how she cannot have that thing as her cousin is not yet ready to share.’ We also shared how, sometimes the toddler will understand and sometime she won’t, but to do this consistently with gentleness and sometimes one might even have to separate the children for a while to let them process their pain.
6. Some other insights where about how a lot of mainstream parenting is about ‘protecting’ children from pain and resentments by imposing rules and discipline, whereas in UnSchooling the process is to support our children to sit with their pain with compassion.
7. One mother with three children, two teenagers and a 10-year old said, she has always felt that the world has divided human beings as adults and children, there is adultism and childism (new words) 😀 instead of looking at needs of each being as being equally important.
8. I shared how for my family, the word discipline does not exist as it is for us about unique needs and working out harmonious solutions to meet those needs.
9. Discipline is about Adult vs Children and that creates a battlefield of needs banging against each other. Whereas when peace and harmony is the goal, then discipline becomes a inner journey.
10. On father shared how, he has stopped making rules and instead faces each situation in the moment and works out with his children and spouse by looking within him and stepping into their shoes. He then works towards cooperation rather than authority.
11. Some parents shared how expressing vulnerably, that it is the Need of the parent that certain things be in certain ways, is important to be conveyed to the children rather than making it about general “shoulds and should nots’. This ensures that children are not made to feel bad about their needs. This process is a life long process and enables children to be sensitive to the needs of other family members/society, without feeling self judgement and also it empowers the children to value themselves and their needs.
12. A parent asked how do unschooled children take care of themselves when out in the world, on streets, in work places? The young man who never went to school and grew up on a farm said, ‘Since my parents always taught me to respect my feelings and trust my instincts, I do not stay in spaces where there is abuse, dominance and aggressive authority’. One parent who has three unschooled children and lives in South Africa said, ‘When children are treated with kindness and affection and trusted for the choices they make, they instinctively do not tolerate any kind of abuse or manipulation.’ One parent said, ‘school is about authority, dominance of one over the other, following the diktat of superiors. Obviously such children will not know the difference between violence and non-violence’. One mum said, why is it a virtue to put up with terrible and abusive bosses. I shared on how, being used to abuse of any kind takes away our discernment in all kinds of relationships for life. We put up with abusive spouses, friends, soul-less work, pesticides, violent politics, everything..