The Unschooling Life: Born Free

The first of a fortnightly column...

Dharini BhaskarUpdated: Monday, January 16, 2023, 05:21 PM IST
article-image
Representative Image | Pixabay

“Which school does your son go to?”

The voice is unfamiliar. I don't know the woman with a baby in her arms.

Yet hers is a perfectly acceptable question; a query, almost banal in its quality.

One cannot fault her for her presumption — that my four-year-old, now cycling behind  a truck, spends one half of his waking hours in an institution.

“The Free Bird Institute”, I answer.

The young mother looks confused. “Where is that?”

My son does not go to school.

It wasn't meant to be this way.

When I conceived, my dreams were every mother's. They were distinctive in their details, but in all other ways, predictable. I'd work till I delivered, hire help, resume office duty. And when my son enunciated his first word, with a lump in my throat — ah, such a big boy already, but how? — I'd pack him off to school.

I had a school list. I had the phone numbers of principals. I had a satchel to bequeath.

That's when something happened that altered my dreams. My son emerged.

And as I watched him do what so many babies do — clutch my finger, roll over, sit up, crawl, cruise, walk; as I watched him reach for those milestones without my intervention, my dreams started feeling synthetic, almost inert. As though they existed outside of my offspring.

My son was telling me something.

He was telling me that if he had, in the very first year of his life, hoisted himself up, waddled, walked, by observing, mimicking, aligning mind and body; if he had performed these remarkable manoeuvres without a tutor, without formal instruction, without a guidebook or a voice on a device, he was capable of continuing to challenge himself. He was capable of learning — yes, learning — by simply being a part of this world.

Learning wasn't a thing that happened inside a building, under the supervision of a grown-up, within a set of allocated hours.

It was the stuff that happened, kept happening, almost insidiously, without his full knowledge, or my own, as he watched and played, as he dreamt and slept and woke.

And so it began, the process of deschooling myself. The task of tearing down and rebuilding my dreams as a parent. The attempt at trusting my son just enough that I could turn away from a formal educational system and tell him — you're free.

You're free to be whoever you're becoming.

He's free, now, as he cycles. As he studies the truck and its number plate. As he tells me it carries his favourite letter, an A.

This is his life. This is his life without school.

It isn't perfect. It isn't meant to be.

But he is in charge of where he goes.

Dharini Bhaskar is the author of These, Our Bodies, Possessed by Light. She is working on her next novel and can be reached at dharini.b@gmail.com

(If you have a story in and around Mumbai, you have our ears, be a citizen journalist and send us your story here. )

(To receive our E-paper on WhatsApp daily, please click here.  To receive it on Telegram, please click here. We permit sharing of the paper's PDF on WhatsApp and other social media platforms.)

RECENT STORIES

WATCH: UP police orders probe as students in NCC uniforms shout ‘Allah-Hu-Akhbar’ slogans at...

WATCH: UP police orders probe as students in NCC uniforms shout ‘Allah-Hu-Akhbar’ slogans at...

Mumbai: St Xavier's College's classical music festival 'Janfest' set to hit the right notes

Mumbai: St Xavier's College's classical music festival 'Janfest' set to hit the right notes

USA: Andhra Pradesh girl dies after being struck by police patrol car

USA: Andhra Pradesh girl dies after being struck by police patrol car

Maharashtra: MHT CET 2023 launches official website; syllabus, dates, exam details released

Maharashtra: MHT CET 2023 launches official website; syllabus, dates, exam details released

Universities to adopt tourist spots, students to livestream their experience: UGC

Universities to adopt tourist spots, students to livestream their experience: UGC