Three years of homeschooling has answered most of the articulated concerns. In fact, as parents, we're happier than our happiest imagination.
But I just got to know that my mom secretly tries to encourage kids to join a school. Why? She's not even conversant with the subject of education.
She would have been fine if we were to send them to a Vipassana school or an Art of Living School. But no school is a crazy idea. Clearly, she's unable to bear the nonconformity.
Why is it so important to Conform?
Instead of taking a rhetorical view of the question, let us enquire. Conformity has many compelling benefits.
1. It gives me a sense of security and an identity within a social hierarchy.
2. It allows me to move ‘ahead’ instead of bothering about how everyday life has to be lived. Sending children to school, producing a certificate to prove professional ability, paying taxes so that the government fulfils its role, attending parties to fulfil social obligations and personal needs are ways of giving life a default path.
3. It allows me to excuse myself of thinking at a fundamental level. I can draw from thousands of years of experiences and experiments.
At all times, however, there have been people, who found it difficult to conform to all the accepted norms. I refused to conform to a few like the practice of doing a job to provide for my family needs. I refused to depend upon the institutions of education to prepare my children to take on life. I refused to follow the socially accepted norms to say I love you to my friends and loved ones. I find it difficult to conform.
But my mom finds it very difficult to approve of this nonconformity. Why does she find it so difficult? Again, let me enquire, instead of being rhetorical.
She is incapable of thinking fundamentally. For example, she cannot discuss whether participating in a ritual is the only method of praying. In fact, that the ritual is related to praying itself is a novel idea to her. For her, following a ritual is an end in itself. Therefore she thinks that I’ve derailed and as a good mother she must take all the efforts to get me back on track.
She’s constantly hammered by the need to conform. Almost everyone she meets, lives with and is exposed to (on TV and other media) keeps reinforcing the fact that the more a person conforms, the more he is respected.
There is also the fear of uncertainty, especially for the children. Growing up under the care of nonconformist parents increases the risk of the children themselves being nonconformists. Not only does she have to bear with the idea that her son has gone off-track, but her grandchildren may also not bring any cheer from the perspective of social acceptance.
I empathise with her, but the only option I have is to prevent her from influencing my children. I cannot reason with her for the same reasons why she is unable to accept my nonconformity. I know I will end up creating a scene.
Now, let’s move attention to a different problem on the same subject. In the society at large, people who pursue alternative paths are not entirely rejected. In fact, there are various categories outside of mainstream, which have a very strong identity. Leftist politicians, environmentalists, alternate educators, NGOs working for development of tribals, LGBT rights’ activists, organic farmers and many such groups are acknowledged and respected.
Can I consider myself one such entity? Till some time ago, I thought I can. But my experiences forced me to think otherwise. To belong to any such group, I must conform to the respective ideology. The ecology experts disown me when they realise that I do not consider it wrong to draw water from a bore well. I opted for a hand pump on a bore well instead of an open well. But the environmentalist doesn’t approve. He says that deeper ground water belongs to someone else. He isn’t willing to reason. The NGO working for the development of tribals would like me to have a philanthropic view towards tribals. I cannot consider them equals or better off. Tribals are physically, mentally and spiritually stronger than me, they’re just monetarily poor. But my argument isn’t acceptable.
For similar reasons, I’m rejected by almost everybody on the alternate path too. To be accepted, I must conform to their moral, religious or political standards. There is another requirement. I must hate the ones they hate. As a homeschooling parent, I must be anti-schooling. As a natural farmer, I must despise anything chemicals. Every activist wants me to stand up against the establishment if I have to stand on his side. I can either flatter every policy of the ruling political party or condemn every policy. If I don’t hate a Pakistani, I’m not a committed Indian, in fact, I may be tried for treason.
Basically, as a parent, I have two choices if I wish to be socially acceptable. One, I get him to join the race and try to fit him into the perfect cube mould. Two, educate him with certain moral standards, with a strong sense of right and wrong.
Unfortunately for me (and perhaps for my children), both options are unacceptable to me. My nonconformity is not disapproval. But who's willing to discuss?
Boy, I’m in a soup. I refuse to conform to the mainstream and I refuse to conform to the alternate. My children may be in an even difficult position, when they grow up.