I was thirteen when I started homeschooling - that was an eye opening and life changing event for me. The freedom to be able to do as I pleased, to sleep and get up when I wanted to work on my Lego projects for however long I wanted; there was no better feeling like that of having a sense of control over my life.
But gradually, the first inexpressible joy of the freedom lost some of its value. Waking up at eleven o’clock in the morning no longer made me happy, nor did having to spend most of the day studying on my own. It worked out for sometime, studying with my Mom or Dad, but having to learn from a know-it-all got boring extremely quickly. I didn’t want to lose my freedom; I wanted to be able to pursue my hobbies, but I also wanted some company to study with, people with whom I could spend time to come up with answers. School was a definite no in my eyes, and the solution presented itself before long after Pavan Bhaiya visited my house.
A place which practiced discipline, encouraged hobbies and extracurricular activities, a center where kids of similar age with a similar outlook on education could come together and learn in a way different from the regular schools. All of this would eventually yield what we think is the purpose of education, good marks, but it gave me so much more. DLRC, Drive Change Learning and Resource Center. At the time I joined, there were only three other children of my age in ninth. And yet I found myself greatly enjoying being with them. I was now waking up and experiencing the urge to go to the center - something I hadn’t felt since the days of my old, awesome school in bangalore. The center was a house, and perhaps that was what made the place seem so warm and comfortable; it was no where close to a building with well defined rooms consisting of symmetrical benches and dull tube lights.
I feel a big factor for me enjoying DLRC so much was because I had taken the IGCSE board. The board itself was one which didn’t focus on rote learning, but made ways for students and teachers to delve deeper into and truly understand the concepts of science. And being in a place like DLRC which went so out of the way to explore this, only made the joy of learning so much more. Pavan Bhaiya wasn’t just teaching us the laws of physics in the textbook; he was increasing our knowledge of the Physics we used in our day to day lives by looking around and making projects of them. He gave us ideas that I would have never imagined or thought about. He suggested to research about how dogs drink water. This seemed boring to me at first, but when I saw the presentation of the project, I was genuinely surprised for having not known about something so interesting. In Biology we watched interesting videos, made 3D models of the digestive system and read a topic each and explained it to the rest of the class with the facilitator backing us up. When I noted that I was finding the IGCSE Math concepts easy, something that Ajay Uncle had noticed himself, we moved beyond the syllabus and learnt advanced concepts that we didn’t need to, but resulted in us understanding theorems and solving questions with easier methods and more confidence.
Facilitator - we were explicitly told many times that the adults there were not teachers, but facilitators. They weren’t there to control our lives, but to nudge us in the right direction, spur us on to explore and learn more. And by having a peer group, the intensity of this feeling was only amplified.
Starting from the next academic year, more students had joined and my class had gotten bigger, that only meant more interaction and more fun. I get the feeling that homeschooling had dampened my self motivation to mingle with other kids my age and chat with them. At times I still feel it is a good thing to avoid senseless and unethical discussions. However, I realized it was fun to talk about things which seemed boring at first, but were actually fun; whether it was related to studies or movies or arbitrary things related to life. It was then that I considered that I had been missing the prospect of having fun with friends when I had been homeschooling.
The year flew by quickly. I did many things in between; I was able to continue my passion for making models out of Lego and I studied and had fun with friends. Had I joined a regular school, this would most certainly have not been possible; the freedom provided by DLRC when exercised in the right way and in the right amount let me do everything at once.
In the last few months before the board exams, my classmates and I continuously solved past papers. At DLRC, it was even more fun, to sit out with a friend, read out the questions and us orally solving it. I had initially thought solving hordes of papers would have been annoying, but it turned out to be really fun.
I didn’t fully perceive at the time how much I was enjoying learning at DLRC, but now being in a regular CBSE school and a coaching class, everytime I look at the place I’m sitting in or the teacher blabbering in front of me, I can only look back and think “I had so much fun there, if only I could have appreciated those moments more.”
There is one big change I have found in myself that I still find unbelievable. I used to hate English. It was my least favorite subject. I hated writing, learning grammar, and doing everything related to it. But Mona aunty made the subject interesting. It took me time to realize that I was actually having fun writing and submitting assignments. That was partly due to my resistance in accepting that I was having fun. I still had found the grammar part of it boring, but as I continued my newfound passion for writing, I found myself using those concepts more and more and that made me glad that I had bothered to focus in grammar classes. I am no expert in writing, but I am now definitely better. I absolutely love the IGCSE English syllabus. Math used to be my favorite subject, and I was shocked when I realized that English had caught up to it. The awesome assignments, the amazing english exam papers, I never knew I would like the subject so much. Solving the english past papers were fun; they became something I looked forward to doing. The questions and tasks to do were so captivating, I could write about something I passionately believed in and express it without being judged or needing to worry about having a view heavily prejudiced against in the education system. And after leaving DLRC, I continued writing; whether it was articles or short stories - the love and the immense need for me to express what was going on in my mind had been kindled, and I owe that entirely to IGCSE and especially to Mona aunty.
I developed a big interest in Biology because of the syllabus and the way Mona aunty taught us at DLRC, and now I’m pursuing Biology and preparing for medical for that very reason. My experience at DLRC helped me decide what I wanted to do as I had always been confused about what I wanted to do later on.
Leaving DLRC was extremely difficult for me to do. I had to shift to Gujrat and I knew it a year ago. I was dreading for the last day to come. After the exams were over, I seldom visited DLRC. I feel that was largely because I felt sad whenever I came back there, I kept thinking “These are the last few times I am going to be in this place.” and for some reason, that made me stop going. The day before our move, I came to the center to say goodbye to everybody but it turned out I had come a little late and almost everyone had gone. I resolved to come back the next day, but due to all the business of packing I didn’t get the opportunity, so I was unable to say goodbye to my friends and tell them how much I would miss them. But that also made it all easier. I am sure I would have burst into tears if I would have had to go through a farewell. While that now seems dumb and cowardly, not having to say goodbye made the goodbye easier - although it is something that I greatly regret doing now. It was because of how close I felt to the place that having to look at it one last time while thinking “I’m not coming back.” would have been extremely painful. I liked the place and the people in it so much, that it took a long time for the fact to settle in, that I would no longer be seeing DLRC. It is a unique place and one that I will not be able to forget, not that I want to. The place and the people will always reside in my memory. I constantly look back and remember incidents that took place there and the way things used to be, and that always makes me smile.