Whiter Cloth?

“Plant your words where Profit lies; Whiter cloth takes faster Dyes”: This from the Panchatantra.
Both Sonati and I have been feeling/wondering for a while now about putting up a blog. to “interact” as it were. After all, we do read blogs, visit other sites etc.

Then came Sumana’s article on Home Schooling

Mother knows best – livemint

This made both of us think that we should probably write from our experience.To let people know that this “Home Schooling” is not some elitist or faddist thing. It is actually about being more with our children than most people seem to be nowadays.It is also something that happens to everyone and their children.

Kids are around their parents and they learn/imbibe/whatever.

It is actually the parents’ fear of consequences (“But what about their marks/certificates/chhapas of various sorts?”) rather than a fear that the children will not learn anything which keeps people from home schooling. A little reflection shows that the latter is quite absurd.Children learn like Fish swim.

If one spends time and watches/listens one will be truly amazed at the things children know and can do without any formal instruction. They do not make a big deal of the things they know or can do. The day a child learns to cycle may be a big day; the next day cycling is a given!

We adults need to resolve the confusions in ourselves first. For a start we have to separate the Exam Industry from Learning.

And if you feel that your child has to write an exam, put it to him honestly: “I am scared, so you must write an exam”. The child will take it on and learn to cope with the exam industry. (I speak from experience: tell the kids that exams have nothing to do with learning and they will handle it much better than half truths like exams are necessary to gauge how much you have learnt and so on)

We need to look back at our childhoods, schools, honestly and not through romantic rose tints. What, about those days, were The Good Old Days? Certainly not the monotony of the classroom and the preparing for an exam!


9 Responses to “Whiter Cloth?”


    Dear S and S

    Glad you’ve joined the club! I guess you will put in many more pictures of Thekambattu, chhotus and all.

    Looking forward to it.

    The longer I work in schools, the more I feel that schools should only be optional resource centres for personalized learning. Actually just learning, since all learning IS personalized. Everything else – exams, grades, uniforms, etc…are distractions from the real business of learning. Learning can’t be standardized without killing something in the learner. It’s a tribute to the plasticity of our minds that we can stand such a degree of abuse.

  2. borudeb Says:

    It’s a good idea I think to start your own blog and throw open the possibilities of connecting up widely.

    The core thing in the blog is likely to be the “learning and living; living and learning” view of your lives, and what visitors will get to see.

    Is this what “living in a glass house” could be like?

    Lots of love from us.

  3. Rahul Basu Says:

    I am not so sure, S and S. While exams were a frequent pain, not all classes were bad and some teachers were a lot of fun, and moreover, I have happy memories of all my friends from school. While school may primarily have become an exam oriented business, I would consider myself impoverished if I didn’t have any school memories to fall back on.

    Imagine not having any school friends – isn’t that something that privately educated kids miss out on. Why throw out the baby with the bath water? Or rather why throw out the school along with the exam system?

    Finally, and to be a bit hard headed about it, life does involve exams at least at some point in time and it’s good to be prepared. Though perhaps not the way we seem to be doing it nowadays….

  4. Sunny Meeta Says:

    Firstly,great to have a blog from you guys,its like having your own newspaper with reactions,editorials,columns etc.
    Its equivalent to home-schooling,its home-events !Big newspapers should in the future be built up from blogs and their collective analysis as eduvisionary says about schools being optional resource centres!
    Secondly for us types without our own kids we end up as a “visiting faculty” for families we travel to!
    What can be uploaded are the beautiful drawings of Sonati and Badri,maybe some stories too!
    Your blog can be an exploration of what a family “just ” living in rural India without its big ideological,ecological and civilisational reasons can be.
    Lots of love

  5. sunder and sonati Says:

    Good to have so many comments, at length, coming in. This seems a better way of communication than e-mail.

    We need to figure out various protocols/etiquette as we go along, I guess.

    To respond to one point Rahul made, which does come up often: If one went to school, like all of us did, then of course our fond memories are of school friends: that is one of the things that makes school worthwhile. But No School doesn’t translate into No Friends surely; rather the opposite: More time to make friends.

    I would imagine that there would be even more fond memories, free from the care of tests or teachers.

    Maybe our boys would have fond memories. though, of Uncle Rahul as Visiting Faculty 🙂

  6. russell Says:

    i would agree with s+s where we live in northern nnew south wales aust… there are many home schoolers at least amongst the people i meet and the first astounding thing for me with home school children is their extraordinary ability to comunicate freely and openly ….with any age group
    this would probably seal the most genuine friendships at any time in their lives with any age group

  7. Jan Visser Says:

    As a parent having engaged in home schooling of two of our daughters for some five years, the most striking immediate discovery was how much time is apparently waisted in school. We followed the regular primary school curriculum of our country of origin (The Netherlands) while living in rural Africa and got through with the daily portions of work in only a fraction of the time schools dedicate to the same stuff. This left indeed a tremendous amount of time for socialization in contexts that our children could choose themselves, rather than in the one imposed by the school.

    Moreover, the teaching-learning relationship between parents and children that naturally emerged was two-way from the start, without even thinking about it. It wasn’t any different from how, before home schooling started, we would learn from each other while sitting at the dinner table or being at play with each other.

    And, yes, it couldn’t go on forever. So, late in the primary curriculum our children did go to school and had no problem integrating with the school system, developing exactly the attitude to it that allowed them to look at things like exams as, “Well, that’s what apparently someone has thought you should go through, and in order to make the next step I’ll accept the challenge, but, of course, it has little to do with what was really important to me.”

    Does it mean that all schooling is bad? No. I have personally had some very rewarding schooling experiences (but also some very bad ones) and so have our children. The important issue is one of allowing diversity of learning opportunities to emerge and of nurturing a spirit of flexibility when it comes to taking the best advantage of the conditions of learning that a particular environment presents.

  8. Rahul Basu Says:

    To dispense with schooling altogether
    is what I am objecting to. Home schooling may be fine upto a point. But with due respect, parents (no parent, even the most educated) don’t know everything and it’s useful to have trained teachers imparting knowledge.

    I doubt that one could eventually take up a specialisation like Theoretical Physics or Computer Science without formal training. You might argue that there is no need to take up such professions. True, but that is a decision that the student must take, not the parents on his/her behalf. And then it might be too late to take the appropriate exam to gain admission.
    Or even know how to take an exam successfully. Why always run from competition?


    Rahul, parents don’t need to know everything. What they do need is the ability and imagination to create opportunities for their children to learn by themselves. This is the skill that is latent in most children, and needs to be developed through structured opportunities to learn. Schools are not the only places, or even the best places, for this to happen. Too much time is spent on anxious exam preparation, not on learning how to learn.

    As for Theoretical Physics and Computer Science, most graduate students learn far more by actually DOING it – either individually or collectively with other students – rather than by listening to lectures from their professors. That’s why seminar discussions are so much more important for learning at that level than lectures from professors.

    These are not the romantic views of someone disconnected from education, but a teacher in an “elite” school who has witnessed for twenty years the destructive effects of “industrialized, standardized” schooling, which are only just beginning to be recognized. More recently, there is a growing movement away from this kind of factory schooling that we seem to regard as inevitable, and towards the designing of “learnscapes” – including (but not confined to) more individualized, personalized schools. What I want to stress is that education is not schooling. Learning is an essential characteristic of life.

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