Today’s Tuesday Chat brings you the lovely Sushmita – an expat mother, raising multicultural children by the seaside. She is found juggling between homeschooling, photography and writing all whilst solo parenting most times as her husband travels a fair bit. Sushmita was raised in a busy metropolitan in India, Mumbai where both nature and time was sparse. Now in the UK, she is trying to raise children to become nature loving citizens and enjoying the slower pace of life. ”
Tell us a bit about your family and your child/ children
We are a family of five. My eldest two are my stepchildren, aged 12 (Reuben) and 10 (Irene). Having said that, I have been their mother since they were 4 and 2, so we go a long way back. Our littlest one, Roshan is three years old. My husband works in London and travels a fair bit. I freelance as a photographer, dog walker and a writer. Hence, I am home a lot. So, it is usually me solo-parenting during the week. I also have two dogs,who are our biggest motivators when it comes to getting out and about in the rain and wind, when it is easy to just not bother.
2. What was your main reason for choosing to home educate your children ?
I am assuming you do not want me to point out the things that’s wrong with our education system. We are all aware of those in this community….
My main reason is TIME. I missed spending time with my children. The mornings before school was always spent rushing around, especially after Roshan was born. After school, we barely had 3 to 4 hours window and we had to fit in homework, snack time, bath time, play time, dinner time etc. It always felt like a pressure cooker and for me bedtime couldn’t come earlier. But that feeling was wrong especially given, I had not spent any time with them all day. The pressure was too much and kids were growing up too fast. I did not want to miss out on spending this time together.
3. What does a “typical” home school day look like for your family ?
It changes every few weeks and months depending on the season. We are inspired by the Waldorf’s rhythm system that helps us pace ourselves.
We are creatures of slow-living, so unless we have any prior commitments, we start our mornings slowly.
It is often Roshan and I, who wake up and come downstairs. We let the dogs out, water the plants in the yard and light an incense stick. After that we play or read books together. Then he gets busy playing on his own whilst I cook breakfast.
Then we wake up the other two children and have breakfast together. During breakfast we also read a chapter or two of a book. Then we tidy up and go for a walk. We are often not back until after lunchtime. In the afternoon, we may do some sort of schooling whether it is a project or math. Sometimes the syllabus is self-directed by the kids, sometimes suggested by me and some other times designated by their dad.
The rest of the day is spend doing whatever we fancy. It often involves a lot of reading, cooking or meeting friends.
We easily spend most of the day out especially in the summer because we live by the beach. Summer is our least productive time from the perspective of classical sit down study approach. In summer. I lean more towards unschooling I think.
4) What type of a home educator are you ?
I think it would be so hard to describe or categorise our approach. We have a bespoke approach, slightly instinctual and mutually respectful.
We spend a lot of time outdoors. For the older two, we also split up the month into two. We spend two weeks doing a topic or a project suggest by either me or their dad and we dedicate the other two weeks in topics suggested by the children. We try to incorporate math, history and other subjects alongside the projects.
We do not have agendas for the year or anything like that yet and when we do any work, we try to incorporate the aesthetics of Steiner because my husband is Steiner educated and so we are heavily influenced by the approach though being vegan, Kids and I do not feel comfortable going the whole hog with that approach. All in all I think we do a mix of unschooling and classical with a twist.
5.What do you love the most about home schooling ?
The freedom. I, personally, love the freedom to learn at our own pace, explore at our own time, travel whenever we want for however long we want. I also love to see my three children spend so much time together. Yes, they bicker, oh so much. But because it happens at the comfort of our homes, we all learn a lot from it. Everything is an oppurtunity to teach or learn, if that makes sense.
6. What is your favourite subject to teach and what is your least one ?
I think Nature study is probably the topic we all love to learn together. Nature study somehow encompasses so many subjects including maths, history, geography and more. My least favourite topic to teach are maths and science. I blame my schooling because I never saw joy in these topics. I am trying to not pass the dislike for these topics on to my children but the pressure is real. I struggle!!
7. What do you find challenging when it comes to home schooling your children?
My children went to a mainstream school from year 1 to year 4. That is a long time in any child’s life, right? And because of that there is a lot of unlearning or deschooling to be done. The problem is I don’t know how!! Ha ha
They see no joy in writing, they struggle to concentrate if they have to sit down to ‘study’ and whilst I wouldn’t mind unschooling, there isn’t a community around us to reap the benefits of unschooling. So to strike a balance between letting them be so they can feel joyous about learning and to make sure, they do know their times-tables can be challenging sometimes.
8. How do you deal with unsupportive family , relatives and friends ?
Fortunately, we only have curious spectators and I am always willing to talk. In terms of relatives, I have tried to involve them all in our homeschooling journey one way or the other. For instance, my mother in law is always slightly intrigued by my choices whether it is to go vegan or to home educate. So this year, I have asked her to plan an art unit for the children. So the plan is to go and spend a good long month with her, which she would love whilst letting her take the lead in our home education journey. Sometimes, this is the best way to keep the critics or spectics at bay.
9. Where do you see your home schooling journey in 5 years time ?
I seriously do not know. In 5 years Reuben would be ideally doing A-levels and Irene would be doing her GCSE’s but I have no expectations. I want them to follow their heart. I can tell you what I will be looking forward to though, that is starting our home-schooling journey all over again with the littlest one and this time I would be doing it from scratch. That will be so so exciting!
10. What advice would you give to anyone who wants to start home educating their children ?
Just do it and read to them. Read to them a LOT. You do not have to know everything. You can learn together. Most of all, you get to be together, nurture your relationship and see it grow. You will never look back and think that the time you had together was not worth it. It is so worth it!!