Learning about homeschooling and finding its roots in our Ancient Indian Civilization has been one of the most fulfilling experiences for me. In fact, the quality of education during ancient days was so rich that as a family we’ve been able to adopt some of these methodologies to educate our children at home.
Most of us are ignorant of the roots of our rich Indian heritage in arts, literature and education as a whole. The reason for this is we’ve blindly accepted and followed one way of doing things without stepping out of the box and enquiring whether there are other means of reaching the same goal than what has been followed throughout generations.
It was a shocking realization for us when we found out that we were stuck in the rut and that there was indeed a different path that we could choose to educate our future generation.
“A most wonderful thing we notice in India is that here the forest, not the town is the foundation of all its culture.” – R.N Tagore
For your benefit, I want to set the premise by giving you reasons to believe that home education, in fact, was very much part of our ancient Indian culture.
The Uniqueness of Ancient Indian Education
In ancient India, children followed the occupation of their father, either religious or professional and the training was provided by their father. It was after many decades, two systems of education developed – the Vedic and the Buddhist.
The initialisation of a formal education system was laid down by the Vedas, and education aimed to achieve liberation, giving insight into all affairs of life, teaching men to act wisely and lead them to all-round progress and prosperity. Education was meant to remove obstacles and enable each individual to realise the actual values of life.
And most importantly, education happened at home, either by their fathers or by the gurus (teachers).
The Concept of Gurukula
Of the many agencies of education in ancient Indian, the one that dominated the most was the concept of Gurukula, the other two were Parishad and Sammelan.
As the name indicates, Gurukula was the family of the teacher and his residence where the students used to stay for about 12 years. The institution was built around the family of the teacher. The word gurukula is a combination of Sanskrit words guru, means ‘teacher’ or ‘master’ and kula, means ‘family’ or ‘home’. The relationship between the Guru and Shishyas (Student) was just like that of father and son and the institution lived like one family unit.
In a gurukula, the students living together were considered as equals, irrespective of their social standing. They learnt from the guru and helped the guru in his everyday life, including carrying out of mundane daily household chores.
However, some scholars suggest that the activities at Gurukula were not mundane but were an essential part of education that taught self-discipline among students.
Typically, a guru never accepted any fees from the shishya (student) studying with him as the relationship between a guru and the shishya (student) was considered very sacred.
Referring to Gurukula R.N. Tagore says “A most wonderful thing we notice in India is that here the forest, not the town is the foundation of all its culture.”
The Gurukulas were free from the Government control and influence.
The Gurukula system where the student stayed at the Gurus residence was one of the most important features of ancient Indian education.
Gurukula and Homeschooling
The reason Gurukula was widespread and most active during the Ancient days was that the students got to stay with their teachers at home and they gained not only theoretical knowledge but also acquired practical understanding by observing the Guru.
The Guru showered all love and affection on his Shishya (Student) hence the students grew up in a loving and affectionate environment. Because the students lived with the Guru, the Guru would cater to each student based on their individual capabilities and learning capacities.
The students were free to discuss anything with their Guru, and we see various examples of open discussion between the Guru and his students in the ancient stories.
The Guru was to be the protector of the student in all circumstances and was deeply respected by the student.
Moreover, the Guru was expected to be a role model to his students, he too was required to follow the rules of strict discipline, thinking, and meditation which was prescribed for the students.
Homeschooling can be referred to as a form of modern-day Gurukula where parents take the responsibility to educate their children at home, especially fathers who assume the role of Guru in the child’s life.
At home, children get to grow up in a loving and affectionate environment where the focus is not just to compete and pass exams but to learn practical life skills and values, just like a true Shishya.
Based on every child’s capabilities and learning capacity, parents can prepare study material and teach them using the best tools possible.
Moreover, parents are called to be a role model to their children in all aspects where the children not only learn from books and gain theoretical knowledge but also by observing their parents.
The historic background of homeschooling in India has encouraged us even more and has given the assurity that we on the right track.