Maharashtra-based June Mendez shares her learnings of homeschooling her three kids. Currently pursuing successful careers, her grown-up children thank their mother for being prudent in this decision.
June Mendez used to be a teacher until 2010. A mother to three children, June and her husband decided on homeschooling their kids – a decision that changed their lives.
“Yes, I was a teacher but physics, chemistry, biology and mathematics was not my forte. I was an English teacher,” begins June, who is often told that ‘homeschooling came easy’ to her since she was a teacher.
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June took this decision when her eldest daughter, C’estlavie was in Class 6, her son Zeus was in Class 5 and the youngest, a daughter, Tenzin was in Class 2. “My reasons for homeschooling them was not because they were not doing well in school or having any trouble coping. I was looking at giving them access to wholesome education and experiences,” says June to The Better India.
Even though June was a teacher herself, the idea of homeschooling was not one she came up with.
She says, “I had studied in a boarding school and the experiences I gathered there remain special to me. So, I wasn’t convinced of homeschooling the children and not allowing them to experience those moments.” It was June’s husband who mooted the idea when their eldest daughter was just starting pre-school. She adds, “I was dead against the idea at the time as I didn’t think I was well equipped to take on such a huge responsibility.”
June started noticing how her older daughter and son were soon caught up in the desire to excel, without learning along the way. “I was watching my three children metamorphose into clones. I felt that they were slowly losing their individuality and that was something I did not want for them,” says June. The joy in learning started to dwindle and the children were merely performing tasks to tick the boxes. “They spent so much time in school and at home doing school work, that they didn’t have enough time for themselves to enjoy things they were passionate about and discover new passions without a deadline or a schedule.”
‘I didn’t want my children to fall into the same rut.’
“Along with the children being pulled into the rat race, I found myself also falling into that trap as a parent. I felt myself becoming a typical pushy parent wanting my children to be first in class, finish their work in time, etc.” Wanting to break free from this rut, June says that the opportunity to home school presented itself as an ideal solution.
June also speaks about how she often found her youngest, then in Class 2, staying up until late trying to finish her homework and then having to wake up as early as 5 am to complete it. “I didn’t think a student of Class 2 should take on so much stress,” she adds. June was clear that this cycle needed to stop.
With each child being in a different Class June says that it wasn’t easy but it was most certainly an interesting experience. “We have all grown up together in this process. My biggest learning was to slow down, listen to the children and tune into what would work for them individually,” she says. While June’s husband helped the children explore their creativity and taught them the inherent values of setting goals, from June they learnt to understand their strengths and weaknesses and adapt their learning styles to what suited them.
This process of homeschooling came with its challenges and highlighting some, June says, “At the start, I was so consumed with wanting to do things right that I almost ended up doing everything wrong by devising my own system. I had timetables and schedules for everything — a well-planned syllabus that I had to complete and it was only when my husband pointed out that I was running a parallel school at home that I realised I was giving them the same experience they were getting at their school.”
After the initial few hiccups, June says that she saw how well each child adapted to the new way of learning. From playing various musical instruments to exploring their artistic side by painting and spending time reading, June believes that her children flourished.
Learning With The Children
While C’estlavie and Zeus are just one year apart and had a lot in common, June says that for Tenzin initially, it was a slight problem. “She did miss having some friends around and that was when I introduced her to books and pen-pals. Both of which she took to very well. She made friends with people from all across the world and that helped her see things in a very different light,” says June.
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Just like all other school-going children, June also had her own set of rules for the children. This included a fixed bedtime and a fair amount of discipline that was part of their growing up years. “There was a structure to what we would do. We did not have an hourly break-up of the day but broadly knew what would be covered on any given day. We learnt a lot by watching documentaries and even with hands-on experiments. ‘Learning from doing’ was our motto,” says June.
In moments of frustration, June says that she would escape into her room and stay there until she felt calm. “I would make it abundantly clear to my children to stay away from me for a while. That would usually help me feel better. It is important to acknowledge all these feelings that one might face during this process,” she says.
Today, at 23 years of age, C’estlavie is working with the art department on a movie set. Having spent six years being homeschooled she says, “It was the best thing that happened to me. A lot of who I am and the choices I have made in life have stemmed from the experience of being homeschooled.” C’estlavie says that while she did feel a sense of nervousness when she went into the exam hall to give her board examination, she never let that overpower her. “We were given the freedom to explore and learn whatever and however we thought it right. That trust that mom placed in me did wonders,” she adds.
Zeus on the other hand graduated as a gold medallist from Jindal Global University where he studied International Relations. As a proud mother, June adds, “In his second year at University he co-authored a book titled ‘Crafting a National Security Strategy for India’ with his professor.”
Tenzin is currently evaluating several interests that lie ahead of her.
“Children will bloom if given the space to,” asserts June.
June’s Tips For Parents Considering Homeschooling:
1. Believe in the step you’ve taken – It won’t be all smooth sailing but it does work out in the end.
2. Allow your children to explore as many avenues as possible – They will eventually figure out the path ahead. If not, you as parents will realise their strengths that will allow you to give them a better direction.
3. Don’t stress about exams or curriculum – Allow learning to be fun. Teach your children to be independent learners and success will follow.
4. Don’t be afraid to set boundaries – Children do need a firm hand sometimes. However, don’t overdo it. If you are going to set boundaries, stay firm and lead by example. It’s also okay to reward them occasionally but teach your kids to earn these rewards.
5. Most importantly, let go of preconceived notions – Every child is unique so what works for one family may not work the same with another. Your journey is your own.
(Edited by Yoshita Rao)