HOMESCHOOLING: The role of the parent is to facilitate, not to teach. INTERVIEW with Sreedhar Subramaniam

Sreedhar Subramaniam is originally from Malaysia. Together with his wife they did and now continue to do homeschooling with their 4 children. We offer below an interview on this topic, conducted by Christian Moldova.

Christian Moldova: What motivated you to start homeschooling with your children?

Sreedhar Subramaniam: In 2000 I was involved in an MIT (Massachusetts Technologies) project, where I worked as a consultant. Being there, I realized that the most important thing for a person is to learn how to learn. If you know your information assimilation skills, then you will be able to learn anything. I told myself then that this is what my children need to do. They do not have to know everything, because technologies are developing rapidly and are constantly changing. Around the same time, a friend of mine started homeschooling with their children. I found the idea interesting and, after putting things together, I thought that if I could teach my children at home, then I would be able to invest the necessary knowledge in them so that they could know how to learn. Another thing I was attracted to is that I will be able to build a beautiful character in my children, which I consider very important. That’s why today, when I talk about education, I often tell parents that they have to do 5 things well when they choose homeschooling. The first three are reading, writing and arithmetic. They are the basis. The fourth is to discover the child’s abilities and the fifth is to build a character of integrity. So, if you want to do homeschooling correctly and be successful, you have to do these 5 things well. By the age of 10-11, he already has a good character, is responsible, punctual, can easily adapt to change and has good writing, reading and memorization skills.

Christian Moldova: How old were your children then?

Sreedhar Subramaniam: The eldest daughter was 9 years old, the second boy was 7 years old, and the third – 5 years old. We started homeschooling with them simultaneously. The fourth child came later and joined the other 3. After 7 years of homeschooling we moved with the family to New Zealand. And because we wanted our children to adapt more easily to the new context, we enrolled three of them in a public school.

Christian Moldova: And how was the adaptation process in the new school?

Sreedhar Subramaniam: Oh, very good. All 3 have different personalities. The eldest is very sociable and in a short time has become a leader in various fields: she leads musical groups, is a choir conductor and has high academic performance. The second child is more shy, but he also has leadership skills. In the last year of high school he was appointed Prefect (a kind of class leader). This role involves additional responsibilities, such as organizing various events, supervising students, etc.

There were 15 Prefects in this school and he was one of them. The third, when he went to school, was 12 years old. He was very sociable. He did very well and, like his older brother, became Prefect in his senior year of high school. He was the best student in the whole school, and now he studies very well at the University and is the first (of the three) who started working.

Christian Moldova: What curriculum did you use for homeschooling?

 Sreedhar Subramaniam: With the first 3 I used 3 different curricula, from different organizations. Because I wanted it to be something with a Christian base, two of these curricula were from Christian organizations, and the third was neutral. Each had its strengths. One curriculum was from the Advanced Training Institute, it was good for building biblical integrity. The second curriculum was from Bob Jones University (BJU Press). It has materials for homeschooling and is very good for science and knowledge of English. For mathematics I used Saxon Mathematics. Another curriculum was from the Christ Centric Institute. This is for young children, so that they can learn to read, write, memorize, all in English.

But, with the fourth child, who turns 13, we decided not to combine different curricula, but to do 100% BJU Press.

Christian Moldova: Is it necessary to have pedagogical knowledge in order to do homeschooling?

Sreedhar Subramaniam: You have to learn the basics how to teach others. Two things are necessary for parents. The first is not to worry too much. It is not necessary to know the discipline, you need to know how to build a good character in the child, to guide him through the learning process. Your role is to be a coach (facilitator), not a teacher. The curriculum is so well thought out that you DO NOT NEED pedagogical skills. You just have to know the 5 things I listed above. All parents can teach their children, in the first 4 years, how to read, how to write, how to memorize, how to calculate. It’s simple. You don’t teach him chemistry or biology, or physics. So any parent can do this – lay a strong foundation in reading, writing, etc. Learning skills is an easy process. You just have to teach them how to ask good questions, how to find answers on their own, to cultivate a kind of curiosity in them. And you don’t need the internet to do that. The problem with the internet is that it shows you how to do a certain thing, but it doesn’t teach you how to find out how to do it. The child must discover the answers to all the questions, but the role of the parent is not to provide answers, but to continue to ask questions. And then, throughout life, the child will do the same, because his parents taught him this.

Christian Moldova: How do you assess children’s knowledge? Do they have regular exams?

Sreedhar Subramaniam: There is an evaluation process in home education. However, there are many tools to test your knowledge, social skills, to see where your child is in relation to others, but this is not a mandatory requirement. I don’t think a final test at the end of the year is better than the one you do every day in every lesson. The children do different projects, exercises, practical tests, etc. This is a good assessment.

Christian Moldova: Many parents are concerned about the issue of socialization. How did you solve this problem in your family?

Sreedhar Subramaniam: The children spent a lot of time with us. And instead of being placed in a small classroom, much of their class was outside or in the kitchen, working with adults. We chose to be with them at home, always encouraging them, congratulating them, building a good character in them. And so, they were never afraid to talk to people or had inferiority complexes. If they want to have a conversation with you, they will have a conversation with you, even if you are 60 years old. For them, age is not an obstacle.

Christian Moldova: What extracurricular activities have you organized?

Sreedhar Subramaniam: Two of my boys really like football and they went to the football club. My daughter likes to sew and she went to a club where she could do that. All my kids love art because my wife is a designer.

Christian Moldova: Were you ever asked by your children why they didn’t study in a public school? Have you had such conversations? How did you approach them?

Sreedhar Subramaniam: Oh, yes! Of course! But because they did homeschooling from an early age, this was not a problem, because they had not yet formed close ties with their friends. It was not a big problem for them to be out of school. But once they came to public school, they began to build relationships with others. It is good to do homeschooling when they are small, then this would not be a problem. Of course, they enjoy a lot of freedom, to be at home, to be with their parents. There’s no reason for them to want anything else. But I think it will be another story if he starts homeschooling at the age of 13 or 14. It would be very difficult, because they have already built good relationships with friends. This happened to our son. After homeschooling, I sent him to a public school and he didn’t like it, because he preferred the flexibility that existed at home. At home he starts at 9:00 in the morning and at 13:00 he finishes with all the lessons, because he doesn’t waste time, he doesn’t have homework. Sometimes we tell him that if he finishes a certain exercise, he will have more free time later. Otherwise, he will have to stay at school for a very long time. He gets there at 7:30 and doesn’t finish until 14:30. In homeschooling, learning lasts only 4 hours. While at public school, after classes there is also homework. The reason why so much time is spent in public school is that the teacher has to pay attention to each student. While at home, you have only one student and at the age of 11-12 they are already learning on their own, having their own speed. And they focus better, and develop a good character. And they can finish the exercises much faster.

Christian Moldova: Thank you!

Translated by Ina Croitoru