Before answering this question for Isha and kids, that I know, who don’t go to school, let us take a look at what kids who do go to school do in the name of socializing. There are two perceived spaces of socializing. Let’s look at them both separately.
1. With / when being watched by adults in authority
Socialising in this context means “learning to please and conform”. School is an excellent ground to train to “behave properly” even when we feel furious inside about something, and to “say appropriate things” even if we feel very differently inside. For instance, even when we are feeling crappy and furious inside, we get trained to stand up, smile and wish our teacher ‘good morning’. Even when we feel no gratitude in our hearts, we get trained to say ‘Thank you!’ In the name of learning to socialize, we train to lead such unauthentic lives. So much so that over time, we become so disconnected from what we really feel inside, and instead constantly wonder / think in our heads about what we “should” be feeling; about what is the ‘appropriate’ thing to feel. That is why so many of us have grown into such conflicted, fragmented and resentful beings. We have one idea of “what we should be doing or saying” but our behaviour does not match that idea! And we blame ourselves for “being bad” or “not trying hard enough”.
2. With peers of the same age
First of all, kids in most mainstream schools are expected to NOT talk. Kids who stay quiet and listen to the teacher get ‘good kid’ labels. So, whenever they do manage to talk, it is made to feel like some kind of ‘cheating’ of the school rules. Even during the breaks, kids talk fearfully and carefully. There is always an air of anxiety in the school environment about whether they are speaking softly enough, appropriately enough AND IN ENGLISH (oh yes, there are schools that charge a fine when they find kids speaking in their native language!). A school is a place where one could get caught anytime for anything! At least this is what I went through in the school that I went to. Now, what about schools that aren’t so bad? Where they actually allow and even encourage children to talk to each other?
In today’s homogenized urban world, where most people aspire to become more modern and richer than they already are, here’s what most kids I’ve repeatedly seen talk about. (From conversations that I’ve been overhearing during bus and train rides, in public places, functions, parties, on FB and so on.)
Boys talk about gizmos, sports and girls. Girls talk about clothes, film stars, movies, how they cheated a teacher and boys. The elite among these talk about birthday parties, vacations, their dad’s cars and phones, the line of conversation being whose was more expensive and fancier than whose.
All kids talk about how they flouted some rule at home or at school, cheated either their parents or their teachers. Basically, all their energy gets expended in talking about consuming something ‘cooler’ or celebrating a sense of triumph (in some insignificant ways!) over those in authority. A friend of mine, who neither has a car nor celebrates birthday parties in the cake-cutting way (both out of choice), was forced to pull her 10-year old daughter out of school because she got teased for being traditional, doing kolam in front of her house every morning, and for her dad not owning a car! The girl didn’t have much to talk to her peers about, because most conversations centered around consumption, entertainment, a lack of respect for adults, none of which she could really relate to!
When kids of the same age are put together to ‘socialise’ for hours on end day after day, it becomes easier for the market to influence their decisions and tastes around consumption of junk food, toys, gizmos, clothes, etc. Mainstream media finds it convenient to control and manipulate the choices of different age-groups of boys and girls because they are grouped together in schools and colleges. One of them buys something that is considered ‘fashionable’, the rest of them aspire to buy. And that’s exactly what the market wants!!
So, in short, I really think kids get conditioned to ‘behave appropriately’, ‘please authority’, ‘lose their original thinking to fit into peer-groups’ all in the name of socializing. I can now talk about what I see some children, who I see don’t go to school, do.
First of all, homeschooling does not mean “schooling at home” or “studying from home” like many people imagine it to be. We go to a lot of places, interact with people in various contexts, of different age-groups. Isha likes to connect to and interact with everyone from infants to old people. Of course she loves to be with kids her age. But definitely not for eight hours every day for five days every week, in a cotrolled environment! Some days she’d say “I want to spend the day with thatha-patti”. Some days she’d say “I want to be with my friends…..” (She has friends from different age-groups and she chooses different friends on different days.) Some days, she’d say “I want to play with …… pappa (baby)”. Some days she’d say “I don’t want to meet anyone today!”