F A Q s

What is Home Education?
Where can I find a good alternative school for my child? 
Do I need to be a ‘teacher’ to teach my children at home? 
 Where do I start? 
Where do I start? I am new to home-educating. 
How should I teach my child? 
What are the different types of Home Education? 
Why do people choose to Home Educate their children? 
Should I use curricula to teach my children? 
How do I know if my children are learning? 
What about socialization? 
Won't the children suffer from lack of contact with other children? 
Should I test my child? 
Can I home educate an autistic child? 
What subjects should I teach my child? 
Is home-educating legal in India?

Q. What is Home Education?

Home education means educating children at home  (or elsewhere), without sending them to any school. It is taking the entire responsibility for your child’s education. It can enable them to learn in total freedom at their own pace. Home education is also referred to as ‘home schooling’ or ‘homeschooling’ though here, we prefer the term home education. Home education is a way of life. Home education not only provides for learning, but also enables enjoying the process together with the family.
Home education does not fall into a specific pattern or style of learning for all of those engaged in it.  It would be different for different home educating families because of the flexibility it allows,  the pace at which the children concerned are able to learn and the of the many ways it can be practiced depending on the resources and the energies of the parents.
Some famous people who were home-schooled are, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Edison, Florence Nightingale, Agatha Christie, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, John Newton, Albert Einstein. etc.
Svani & Clive


Q: Where can I find a good alternative school for my child?

There is a list of some alternative schools on the alternativeeducationindia website at: 
At the bottom of the page are some links which if followed might produce some more schools. A search of the internet might also be productive. Local enquiries might be more useful. 

We at the website would welcome hearing of more schools, with a view to including them on the list. However, please bear in mind that inclusion on the list is not a recommendation. We are not in a position to do that, and you should always investigate and check out any school yourself, thoroughly, before committing to it.

You might also consider starting your own little school, with other concerned people. Or what might be called a “home-educating co-operative”.

Q. Do I need to be a ‘teacher’ to teach my children at home?

No, you do not need to be a ‘teacher’ to teach your children at home. For elementary and most part of middle school education for various subjects, parents who are high school or less, are capable of teaching their children by themselves. Most home educating parents learn along side of their children when faced with unfamiliar or hard subjects. Children learn together as a family. There are plenty of books or resources like videos and DVDs that are available along with excellent resources on the web, that any hard subject can be learned or mastered together with ease. When still faced with difficulty, one can certainly find a tutor to help out in specific topics or subjects. The home education online communities, is another way to pose questions and get answers for unfamiliar subjects or topics. Home educating groups of families can co-op with other parents and find each others area of strength and do classes and projects on the respective subjects on a weekly or a monthly basis. Children do not need great teachers to teach them. They need caring parents who trust them, have faith in them and who would be willing to spend time with them in finding answers for their questions and who would be willing provide necessary resources to take them to places and enriching activities.

Q: Where do I start? 

I mean it literally. Where do i start? What syllabus do i use? What books do i use? Do i need to ask a school for the same? How? For me it is starting from scratch like all of you have done but i don't know as of now where that begins.

I think scratch is the very best place to start.

There really are no "rules" to home-educating. There are no set procedures laid down. No models. It is a voyage on an uncharted sea, like life, and that is the beauty of it.

You do not need to contact any school about your home-educating - but you might consider some sort of limited involvement with a school, if that seems appropriate, and the school is willing.

In my opinion you do not need a syllabus. In fact I feel you would be better off without one. In a way a syllabus implies a sort of comparison, and it is the comparison/measurement side of schools that people often find so destructive. I do. A syllabus is a sort of "one size fits all" and it may well not fit your child at all well.

Besides, no one needs a syllabus for a 5 year old child. Or older.

You ask "where do I start" but it seems to me you have already started. You mentioned the use of flash cards. Did you make these? I always found the making of educational materials was more educational than using them :-).

Has your child started to count? When the first nine numbers are mastered, try tying straws or sticks into bundles of ten to introduce larger numbers. And later 10 bundles of 10 for hundreds. Etc.

Visit and explore toy/games shops. Or "educational material" shops - but there is no need to spend a lot of money on fancy things; simple material is actually better, leaving more room for the child’s creativity. Children learn well from simple games. There is a card game with pairs of pictures which aids memory and perception. Any games a child can master are useful - having fun is a great natural motivator :-)

Remember, the aim of education is to learn about the world - the real world. Not imaginary worlds created by educational systems. If I may suggest, do not think in terms of what the child "should do", but find what they CAN do, and extend that a little bit, if they are comfortable with that extension.

And, most importantly, your child will soon come up with ideas of what THEY want to do. Be sure to give them the space to let this happen. Facilitate these things, if you need to.

Have a look at our website: http://www.alternativeeducationindia.net/recommended%20books.htm.

One book that may be very useful to anyone with young children, is:
Teaching Montessori in the Home: The Pre-School Years: -by Elizabeth G Hainstock
I am sure it is available on the internet. It emphasises physical activities. There is a follow up book for older children.

You might also look at http://www.alternativeeducationindia.net/library.htm

Q: Where do I start? I am new to home-educating.

I would suggest you need to start exactly as all parents first facing the challenge of home-educating need to start; you need to drop your fears, your misconceptions, your conclusions, assumptions, etc. All the stuff that has been put into our heads by our own education (or mis-education), and by giving authority to all the so-called experts. Not that one should not be helped by the experience of others. But I find a common source of worry to parents is when they compare their child to what they think other children are doing or are capable of. Or comparing with educational standards set by others - these are quite artificial, and give rise to much fear in the parent and the child.

Then perhaps you can meet your child where you need to meet her, not through a screen of ideas, but seeing her exactly as she is. Observing her as she is, her needs, her interests, her capacities. Through this direct observation you will know "where to start" - you start where she is. You are the best person to know the about your child, much more so than others who are only indirectly involved. You can observe what interests here and what doesn't, you can discover the ways in which in which to present material which she can understand, and the ways she doesn't respond to. I suggest you feel free to experiment, drop what does not work, and use a lot of common sense. Your love for your child will take you a long way.

Q. How should I teach my child?

The different methods of home education will enable you to choose the style and way to teach your child that would work well for your family. No matter what approach you may take, you can be assured that your child will learn faster and better than he or she would, in a regular school set up. Further more, you have the luxury of changing the methods or styles of home education once you know something does not work for your child or your family. That is the beauty of home education. Remember that there is no pre-set ways to follow. You do not have to follow what works for another family or child or match a local school. It is not a one- size- fit- all approach. This is an advantage of home education. Be open, be flexible and be there for your child and best of all, love them. Be prepared to experiment and find the correct fit for your child and family. Be understanding to the fact that your child’s interests may change as he or she grows older and mature and so you should be prepared to accommodate that in your methods and styles of home education.

Q. What are the different types of Home Education?

Unschooling or child-led learning means that you identify the children’s natural curiosities and interests and cater to their interest in order to educate them. This approach is based on John Holt's book, “Instead of Education: Ways to Help People Do Things”, originally published in 1976.  In this work, Holt criticizes the education system stating that, “it is the deepest foundation of the modern and worldwide slave state, in which most people feel themselves to be nothing but producers, consumers, spectators and 'fans'...in all parts of their lives." Holt says that education should be child-led and that the child's natural curiosity should guide and inspire his/her learning.  While Holt opposes the regimented curriculum, he does believe that a parent's response to the child's question will foster better learning.
More information can be found in the following links. 
http://www.unschooling.com/library/faq/index.shtml -Provides information and support to unschoolers.
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/UnschoolingResources/ - This is a yahoo group for unschooling families.
Traditional or School at home is the conventional method of home education. The families that follow this method use a planned schedule, text book materials or curriculums to do assignments, tests, report cards which would mimic the regular schools. Families that follow this method typically purchase the curriculum materials from many of the companies that make the same available to home educators these days or create their own curriculum using materials from the library and on the web.
Classical home education originally started in the Middle Ages. The five tools of learning, known as the Trivium, are reason, record, research, relate, and rhetoric. Younger children begin with the preparing stage, where they learn basic reading, writing, and arithmetic. The grammar stage is next, which emphasizes compositions and collections, and then the dialectic stage, where serious reading, study, and research take place. In the Rhetoric stage the primary focus is on communication. 
http://www.gbt.org/res.html-Wealth of resources on classical home education.

Relaxed" or "Eclectic" style home educators use a mix of different approaches, by using workbooks for math, reading, and spelling, and taking an unschooling approach for the other subjects. The advantage of this method is that the parents cover the subjects thoroughly of all the subjects they feel that are absolutely necessary. This method allows the family to choose textbooks, field trips, and classes based on their needs and interests. 
http://members.aol.com/_ht_a/clayvessel/index.htm - provides more information on eclectic home education.

The Waldorf Method is based on the work of Rudolf Steiner. This method stresses the importance of educating the whole child—body, mind, and spirit. In the early grades, the emphasis is on arts and crafts, music and movement, and nature. As the child gets older, they are taught to develop self-awareness and how to reason things out for themselves. In this method there are no standard textbooks used. Instead the children create their own books. The Waldorf method also discourages the use of television and computers because of the belief that they impair health and creativity. 
http://www.rudolfsteinercentre.ca/ - Information on Waldorf Education. 
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/waldorfhomeschoolers/ -Online community for Waldorf home educators.

Unit Studies method uses child’s interest and then ties that interest into subject areas like math, reading, spelling, science, art, and history. For example, if you have a child who is interested in ancient Egypt, you would learn the history of Egypt, read books about Egypt, write stories about Egypt, do art projects about pyramids, and learn about Egyptian artifacts or mapping skills to map out a catacomb or mummify a doll. This can also be accompanied by field trips to the museum that contains Ancient Egypt related materials. The advantage of this method is that it recognizes the fact that people learn best when they are interested in the topic. The disadvantage is that sometimes the unit study can become so long that the child might lose interest even before the study is completed. Also, to create a unit study requires a lot of work and pre-planning by parents. http://www.dummies.com/WileyCDA/DummiesArticle/id-1255.html- This link gives a wonderful detailed explanation of designing unit studies with ease using a little creativity.
Charlotte Mason Method believes that the children deserve to be respected and they learn best from real-life situations. This approach believes that children should be given time to play, create, and be involved in real-life situations from which they can learn. Children take nature walks, visit art museums, and learn geography, history, and literature from books that make these subjects come alive. Children are encouraged to show what they know via narration and discussion and not by tests and scores. 
Books on this method are, 
A Charlotte Mason Education and More Charlotte Mason Education, both by Katherine Levison.http://simplycharlottemason.com/home/ - Web link with tons of information on Charlotte Mason home education.
Montessori Method is also gaining popularity world wide. The Montessori method stresses "errorless learning," where the children learn at their own pace that help them to develop their full potential. The Montessori method emphasizes beauty. This method avoids things of clutter. Wooden tools are preferred over plastic tools, and learning materials are kept well-organized and ready to use for the children. The Montessori method also discourages television and computers, especially for younger children. Mostly Montessori method is used for younger children even though there are materials available for kids of higher ages. http://www.michaelolaf.net/ - this website provides all the resources on Montessori method and the practice of home education using the Montessori method.
DVD or Video Home Education method uses educational movies to learn arts, literature, languages, science, math, world history, biographies etc. This is not to be confused with television watching. This method is based on the fact that a powerful movie can be very inspiring to a child who is interested in learning a subject or topic that can be pretty complex or complicated to understand otherwise. This is especially useful for children to learn about Biology. This especially helps with the lab experiments for Physics, Chemistry and Biology that would be cumbersome and impossible for home educators to get access to otherwise. Also, Courses on social sciences and arts, it is easier to view a DVD or video on the lessons than just reading from a book. http://www.schoolvideos.com/-This has 100% educational videos of free 2 min previews to view the list of selection. They also contain teacher’s materials along with the videos and DVDs. 
Virtual schooling or Internet schooling is based on doing schooling on the internet via the many choices of online schooling that are available. This is a popular choice for families with children who are in middle or high school levels of learning. Anything from math, language, arts to Physics, astronomy etc, is available online for families to take advantage of. 
http://www.aleks.com/ says the following about its online classes. ‘ALEKS is a web-based, artificially intelligent assessment and learning system. ALEKS uses adaptive questioning to quickly and accurately determine exactly what a student knows and doesn't know in a course. ALEKS then instructs the student on the topics she is most ready to learn….’

Q. Why do people choose to Home Educate their children?

Home Education is a popular choice of education in many countries, including USA, Canada, UK and New Zealand.  The major reasons for people to choose to home educate their children  are  that  they are dissatisfied with the school choices, academic achievement, concerns about their children’s spiritual and character development, facing bullying and other pressures at school, and generally seeing the limitations and inadequacies of conventional education.
Svani & Clive

Q. Should I use curricula to teach my children?

A (1) It is up to you to decide whether to use or not to use curricula. If you choose to use curricula, you can buy them from your local book stores or text book vendors. If your child learns best by natural curiosity based learning of questioning and exploring, then let the child learn in that way and create your own lesson plans and curricula based on your child’s interests. You can answer your child’s questions, find books for them to read or for you to read together with them or find ways to do field trips based on their interests.
A (2) Although they might seem the easiest option for the parent, curricula represent a sort of limitation on learning. They say “this must be learnt, and not that”, but a child’s interest is not so easily confined. And there is the danger that they invite comparison of the child, between what the child should know, and what he/she actually does know.
Curricula are not designed with your particular child in view, but are intended to teach what is considered necessary to grasp a particular area of knowledge. If it is intended to rejoin the school system at a later date, or to take external examinations, then curricula may be necessary in certain subjects.

Q. How do I know if my children are learning?

Children are always learning. Just like you discover your child was learning as a baby, you would discover that your children are also learning by observing, interacting and just by spending time with your children.
http://www.naturalchild.com/jan_hunt/evaluation.html -This article by the psychologist Jan Hunt expressed beautifully of how a child learns at home and there is no way to stop their learning.

Q. What about socialization?

This is based on what ‘socialization’ means to you. If socialization means interacting with other people and be able to communicate and live harmoniously in a community, then home educating does a better job of raising your children to do so than regular schools. Studies show that home educated children are better socialized than the school going children. Home educated children model behaviours of good parenting, wonderful family values and learn lessons from real life living. Also, they get the opportunity to interact with various age groups in the community in real life everyday situations. If you are wondering how home educated children will learn to be tolerant, get along well with others, share, wait for their turns, respect differences and such, home educating is the perfect way to learn all the above, even better than regular schools. Here is why. In regular schools the children are grouped on the basis of common age and the ‘socialization’ that happens in a classroom or school is not the true depiction of the real world. Your child’s modelling of behaviour would be based on his or her age peers, which is not always good model. The socialization that happens in the schools is in the playgrounds with supervision (or lack of supervision), in a controlled environment, which is rarely a depiction of real life socialization. In real world, people are of different ages, different backgrounds and different walks of life. What better way can there be to prepare to the children to the outside world than home education?
http://learninfreedom.org/socialization.html-This article talks more on socialization and home education.
http://www.nhen.org/newhser/default.asp?id=292- “The truth about Home schooling”, also talks more on socialization and home education.
For an article on home-education and Socialisation by Vineeta, click here.

Q: Won't the children suffer from lack of contact with other children?

The most common question Home-educating parents hear. It is rather ironic, as it is not uncommon that the basic reason parents turn to educating at home is that their children are suffering FROM contact with other children (and adults), in that free for all jungle that is often the school environment.

But there are many steps we can take, to ensure children have the opportunity for social contact. I will describe my own experiences in this area. However, this was mostly in New Zealand.
Home educating two children was a help, although the age gap of 6 years minimized this effect. And by the time we started, the children already had a set of friends, as we had been living in a community situation previously. But we moved to another home, so this social contact was limited to holidays and the occasional weekend.
Outside activities provided another circle of acquaintances – my son did martial arts, and volunteer work with horse riding for disabled children. My daughter also took this up, and she did gymnastics three evenings a week, providing more friends. She did drama with another group. I think there are many activities available in towns generally: Hobbies, sports, hiking, nature pursuits etc. You might be surprised to discover what is going on in after school hours. And if there isn’t the activity your child wants, try to start it.
Then there was an established group of home-educators in the area, an organization of over 100 families is fact. (Actually this was not so very significant in our lives, as the motives for home-educating of a great many of those families were vastly different from mine). This perhaps is something that home educators in India have to work on- forming local groups where possible. Even two families getting together can be very significant (see our data base at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/alt-ed-india/database for help with this). Parents should not be afraid of advertising themselves, and perhaps when they have the confidence giving public talks about what they are doing. This could encourage others to consider the home-educating option. And perhaps eventually lead to the formation of very small informal schools.
To return to my children. Actually they did attend school, for short periods, and to limited extents. They both attended Centre for Learning near Bangalore for one term when I was teaching there. My daughter took a few special classes at a nearby Steiner school for two years - this was because of her mother's interest, I should add. But I feel these brief encounters with schools were very positive. Admittedly they were very special schools, including being very small. It was interesting to observe the ease with which they fitted 
into school life. But they were happy enough to return to home-educating.
I think it is important to add that all not all children need to socialize. In fact there may be times in their life when NOT to engage in socialization is important and indeed necessary for them, in ways perhaps we do not understand. So I suggest that parents do not be anxious if their children show no inclination to mix with others.
So I hope this helps a little. Each situation is different of course. But I would like to say to newly started home-educators, do not be anxious about what you think might go wrong; do not imagine all sorts of problems occurring. When you perceive a real need for the children, you can tackle that challenge, together with your children. It is all part of learning. Do not try to look too far ahead. And I do believe if we tackle home-educating with intelligence, and with patience things have a way of working out. As is true for all aspects of life

Q. Should I test my child?

A(1) It depends on what and why you want to test. You do not have to test to know that your child is learning. But if you are testing to accommodate him in certain class or school or college, you may very well do so based on those needs. Some home educating families like to test their child if the child is interested in being tested. You could download tests online or order tests from some companies to administer the tests.
 A(2) There may be a downside to testing. In fact it is this question of a child being compared, graded, measured against other children that leads many parents to withdraw their child from school.
The issue seems to be; is the child (and perhaps the parent) clear that it is only a particular skill that is being tested; to see if some area of knowledge have been assimilated?  Or; is there identification with that skill/knowledge going on, so that the child feels that HE is being tested? Ie, the child himself, how the child sees himself?
One might say that if the result of the test is positive, then the child will feel good, but that is just the other side of the coin of feeling bad because they get a bad result. The two sides cannot be separated, and both sides condition the child.
I feel the whole of issue of measuring, comparing, a child must be looked at very carefully. If a child is measured in one area, that sense of being measured may condition a child’s whole perception of his life. Measurement of a child, of any human being, can be very destructive; it is a form of violence. Is it not degrading for a child to be measured? We can see in ourselves that comparison of ourselves leads to much unhappiness.

Q. Can I home educate an autistic child?

You can absolutely home educate your special children at home. In my experience, for families dealing with special issues like yourself, I find it works best when the children are home educated rather than being as part of any other 'school' situations. I am not even sure if there are schools that are capable of handling such issues in India. I trust you have already explored the sites on Indian Autism information on the web. Please take the time to go through the following links as they offer a wealth of information and I trust that they will benefit your family hugely. 

http://homeschooling.about.com/od/specautism/Special_Needs_Autism.htm - talks about autism issues and offers insights to help the families to home educate their children with special needs.

http://homeschooling.gomilpitas.com/weblinks/autism.htm- talks again about autism and support.

Please consider becoming a member on these lists as there is a TON of support and resources available that would reassure you that you are not alone in this journey. Also many of these parents are going through similar situations that you will be able to relate to, and be able to offer you suggestions and help based on their own experiences. You can discuss your concerns, curriculum, or even vent your frustrations and you will receive tons of support. There are parents from all over the globe in some of these lists.
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/aut-home-fam/ - online community for families that home educate autistic kids.

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/ASLearningAtHome/- online community for home educating special children.

Q. What subjects should I teach my child?

A(1) Let us remember that the natural world does not divide itself up into separate subjects – it is what it is, whole and complete. So to categorise learning into subjects is limited and will condition the child’s mind in various ways. Is there an approach to education that does not limit in this way? - that seems an important question. Perhaps to specialize into particular subjects is necessary for older children, when they may wish to take examinations and are thinking of particular careers. But younger child may be happier with an approach that naturally blends reading, writing, art, science, craft, mathematics, geography, history into an integrated wholeness of learning. 
A(2) It is your choice as to what subjects you want to teach your child. It also depends on the interests of your child. Some families like to follow some loose structure for learning certain subjects weekly and do more rigorous mathematics everyday. But some may choose to do the Reading, Writing and Arithmetic, the three R’s, rigorously every day. And you could do sciences, arts, history and geography based on your child’s interests. For example, if your child is interested in nature, animals and plants, then you can let him or her explore the same with hands on learning like gardening, or raising a pet or just watching his or her backyard. That combined with some interesting reading from the library books, would cover a wide area of subject of Biology without having to follow a dry text book. You can do field trips to local farms or garden centres or zoo or invite a friend or local specialist to give a talk on the respective subject. You could also press leaves and flowers or do painting or drawing together as part of Arts and learn about the growth of plants and animals in your state or city as part of geography.

Q. Is home-educating legal in India?
A. Basically it seems home-education is not illegal in India. But RTE has opened this question up, and there are petitions before the High Court. Watch this space!