After an experience of over 30 years in the field of “Early Childhood Education”, I took this responsibility of guiding a group of “Homeschoolers” in their academic path.
It was a small group of 5 to 6 kids between the age group of 6 to 10 years, each one at a different milestone in the area of reading writing and arithmetic.
The concept of “Homeschooling” was still new to the society and I had not met or interacted with such group of parents or students.
Having headed the biggest preschool in Pune with more than 2500 children, I thought this would be an easy task.
Within few days after I started working with the kids, I realised the difference between running a factory and setting up a “Designer Boutique”.
Although all the parents here belonged to the conventional schooling pattern of rote learning method, they had realised the drawbacks in it.
The large number of students per class, the ratio of teacher and student , the extended hours of sitting in one place , the constant peer pressure, examination terrors, loads of home assignments and projects seemed futile to face day-to-day challenges in later career life at working places.
The UnSchool preschool at Baner was born around three years back by such like-minded parents under the leadership of young dynamic visionary Mr. Sanket Baralay.
He wanted to offer an alternative to such parents who would together have the independence of choosing the curricula by putting the child’s need, pace and personality first.
Each child is unique in strengths and weaknesses and has varied interest and personalities. These parents of UnSchool had raised their children in such a stressfree, open atmosphere where the choice of learning was left open to the child. A child was free to learn a particular skill when he or she is mentally willing and ready for that skill and not because the physical age suggests for the achievement for that skill.
This autonomy to design an individualised curriculum was totally new to teachers. Yet it was indeed appealing and challenging. So our journey began together in July 2019. Parents, teachers and children together started planning over projects and activities.
Belonging to the homeschooling background the kids had a great bonding, excellent confidence level, were well informed in various fields of their interest and were good at general knowledge. They were vibrant, energetic and not used to routine of reading and writing.
We therefore decided to have projects that could arouse their interest and attract them to us.
To name few; The Big Bang theory, different kinds of rocks and minerals, the planet Earth, phases of Moon, journey of water from rivers to tap, India state by state , major rivers of the world, evolution of mankind from Stone Age to Roman era, inventions that changed the world. These were few topics which were covered in the past year.
Exposing children to their surroundings is a major part of our planning. Field trips were planned every Thursday. At least 25 places were visited in in the last year. To name few were Parvathi, Shanivaar Wada, Gliders club, Mushroom Centre, Honeybee centre, Paper factory, Terrace garden, Science centre, Tarangan, various treks.
Globally related questions like air and water pollution, greenhouse effects, plastic-garbage patches in the ocean and other environmental issues are discussed whenever related topic is being covered. New inventions , discoveries, important events and important news are discussed as a routine during morning prayer time.
Creating social awareness through school projects like making by Bio-enzyme, Ayurvedic soap, Eco bricks have been implemented.
UnSchool is therefore perfect combination of homeschooling and traditional schooling.
We have the flexibility of planning our own curriculum. At the same time small mixed group of different age group teaches them the valuable lessons of teamwork, cooperation and conflict resolution, diplomacy, caring , waiting for younger ones and other social skills.
As long as children are getting the required learning experiences such community schools can be considered as a better alternative to formal school education .The ideal teacher student ratio builts a greater bonding which is not possible in the formal schooling.
Flexibility to tailor a study program is available here if a student shows particular interest, strength or passion for a specific subject.
We at UnSchool are therefore developing and designing curricula that would produce unique designer wear, each tailor made to the needs of a particular child.
With a totally futuristic approach, we believe that schools today should produce entrepreneurs for tomorrow, who would generate jobs rather than just produce workers.
Automization in the coming near future, when our children would start their career, would need innovators and critical thinkers who would have answers for the problems for their generation and we at UnSchool have already taken one step towards it.