A glimpse into home visits in educational spaces

Lekha, a social worker, had been working with the Lallubhai community for 13 years when the ideation of Khoj (erstwhile Khoj Community School) began, in December, 2016.  Khoj is a Social-Emotional-Learning-(SEL)-integrated educational initiative implemented in partnership with Mumbai’s public schooling system and local communities. The education model of Khoj is experiential and multicultural and incorporates diversity and inclusion practices, gender inclusion practices, narrative ideas and practices, and multilingual instruction.

Lekha says we began with community/home visits everyday as a needs assessment was done to understand if the community would be open to a school model like Khoj; to explain the vision and what would be possible with a school space like Khoj. The response from the community was very encouraging as caregivers started enrolling their children. Lekha continues to work as a social worker as part of the Community Development (CD) team  as she believes that the impact on students when working with the community is the most. In this article we explore the nature, purpose of home visits through conversations with the CD team, teachers and caregivers and the impact of these visits through their experience.

Sita, another member of the CD team who also lives in the the community of our students, says, since her first year of working at Khoj she recognises a learning curve as she has had to navigate her engagement with the community members, from engaging with many on a personal level to then going into a professional capacity; once the caregivers saw her engaging in school events they understood her role with the school.

‘Sharing learning goals and providing opportunities to collaborate enhances accountability across the whole school community’ (Nageswaran). This quote encapsulated the intentions of the team for home visits. Sita adds that these are the objectives of the CD team for the home visits since Khoj began.

1. To build a strong caregiver and school relationship.

2. To communicate progress and information in regard to the students’ learning.

3. To understand and check on the wellbeing of the caregivers.

How is this operationalised?

(1) Develop a Community Map

  1. Collate data of the students enrolled in school; 
  2. Develop a map required to understand and document how far or close students live from school, and how many students are in a given area, building, or basti
  3. Once mapped, the team verifies this information through visits; this map serves as a resource for the rest of the team to use for their individual work.

(2) Community Visits

  • The CD team does at least 2 community visits per week and in each, visit 3-7 homes.  
  • They inform the caregiver in advance or do surprise home visits at times. 
  • Some of the main priorities of the visits are
    • if a particular student is unwell, they reach out to understand/offer any support possible; 
    • if a student’s attendance to school has become a consistent issue, they use the attendance tracker for the caregiver to understand the concern and explain the learning gaps the student will eventually face; 
    • if there are concerns in regard to eating healthy food/accessing enough nutrition, they constantly engage with the caregivers and students to understand the importance of nutrition in the child’s development; they visit post caregiver meetings to get their feedback; 
    • any other cases of emergency.  

(3) Do and don’ts in a community visit 

Below are some of the norms we follow at Khoj to ensure Home visits are done centering the dignity of our students/families in mind. 

  • The caregiver is always consulted with to know the time they are comfortable to have a home visit.
  • The visits are planned between 12pm and 2pm. The team doesn’t visit early in the morning or post lunch when caregivers are most likely asleep.
  • We make sure we build enough rapport while communicating with caregivers so that they are comfortable seeking support. For example, using a language they are comfortable with. 
  • We gently refuse food or meals as caregivers tend to go overboard in hosting the team; we drink a glass of water or a cup of tea if they insist.
  • We are flexible in using the corridor or stairs for the visit as not all caregivers are comfortable inviting us into the home.
  • We don’t go beyond our means to support a caregiver; in instances we aren’t able to support we refer them to another organization or resources. For example, names of medicines and hospitals with financial aids.
  • Sita shares that some students are nervous about home visits. Hence, the main intention of home visits is to give feedback with a strength-based approach and not to complain about any student. When she goes to the community now, a couple of students who meet her always ask her when she is visiting their home next!

Sita says after community visits, she has noticed changes in the relationship with the students at school. She remembers a Senior KG student who was unwell in school and had to be taken home as the caregiver couldn’t make it. The student refused to hold her hand while going home but started engaging with her more after seeing her interact with the caregivers.Sita also observes that home visits help break single stories of the caregiver. One might think the caregiver isn’t involved in the students life but through a home visit the team is able to see other aspects to the caregiver’s life.

She recollects, one of the homes she visited had eight people living in a small room. The CD team sat on the stairs to talk to the caregivers. The caregivers shared,”humko bahut bura lag raha hai ki aap seedhi pe baith ke baat kar rahe hai(we were extremely concerned that we have such a small house, we aren’t able to provide proper space for sitting).” Sita responded,”humko pata hai aise ghar mai rehna kya hota hai, hum bhi rahe hai.. aapko bura maane ki zarurat nahi hai. Ghar mai bahut garmi hoti hogi aap bachon ko kabhi garden mai lekar jao (please don’t worry as we have also lived in similar houses, it helps to take the children out to the garden on hot summer evenings.)”

School management committee (SMC) meeting at school.
School management committee (SMC) meeting at school.

Impact in the classroom 

Caregiver teacher student conference at school

Kavya, a teacher at Khoj, says “I had gone on a home visit to a student’s home who was struggling with attendance. Her mother, the primary earning member, works as a househelp. The father isn’t employed anymore and remains inebriated at home. While enquiring about the wellbeing of the student, the mother shared that the student has been having multiple episodes of rage and has been crying inconsolably at home. She expressed that she wanted to know more about what is going on with her child and requested support from the school. This aspect of the students’ struggle was not visible to me in class. I was immediately able to document this and share it with the school counselor. She continues to receive wellbeing support.”

Kavya says at the end of each home visit she poses a question to caregivers about the support they expect from school. She learnt that half of the caregivers observed that their children needed more support and dialogue in regards to consuming proper quantities of food and water. She was able to bring this into SEL sessions as a check-in activity post consulting with the counselor. The students tracked their meals and water consumption everyday for almost 2 months. At the end of every week they reflected on how far they have come from when they started. The students who struggle most came to share their difficulty or check in post completing their meal with their friends or her.

Kavya says she was also alerted about instances of bullying in class during a home visit; a caregiver shared that her child R was bullied by M in class. There are times that in the hustle-bustle of school day, these micro moments get missed out. During home visits, teachers gain deeper insights from what gets shared by students at home. This ensured that Kavya, in partnership with the school counselor, responded to this matter adequately. She, through discussions and insights from her supervisor, went on to need-based visits to M’s home too to gain contextual understanding of what’s going on because of which he potentially seeks power through acts of bullying. The visit offered her an understanding of M’s routine. He took her around the community to show where he plays, his friends and who he feels threatened by. She also understood that M hardly gets any attention at home, as caregivers have to give more attention to his sibling with disability. This offered a more nuanced contextual reality of this young person. Kavya, in partnership with the school team could develop actions to support him in school in the best possible way. The work of the team has created a space of trust that he shares if he has trouble navigating difficult moments in class and takes accountability for his actions.

What do caregivers think about these visits?

Caregivers and CD team meeting

We asked our caregivers.”What becomes possible through these home visits?”

Here are some responses from them:

  • “hum ko acha lagta hai aur apnapan lagta hai didi, aap log apne jaisa lagte hain. Aap log jab aate hain hamare bachon ki jankari milta hai aur unke saath kis mamle mai dhyan dena hai woh pata chalta hai didi”(we are so happy and feel connected when you visit us, when you share concerns and support that our students need.). 
  • The caregiver team has always supported me mentally and emotionally, their check in calls during the pandemic and distribution of rations and pads really helped”. 
  • “Humne Jo rishta banaya hai usse bahut Khushi hoti hai aur acha lagta hai. Humko pata chalta hai ki bachon ko bahut care karte ho. Kabhi bhi aake aapse baat khulke karne mai dar nahi lagta hai aur safe feel hota hai. Humare bachon ki koshish aur unke changes dekh pa rahe hai.” (the bond that we have made with each other, makes me very happy. We realized that you all care about our children, I always feel safe to reach out to you all, and your observations regarding students’ overall development help us see the changes in our child)
  • ” jabaap example ke sath samajh pate ho humko bahut madad hota hai aur pata chal tha ki hamare bachon ke sath kaise kaam karna hai”. (I have been able to support and understand the situation better when you explain through examples from the community.)
  • “Humko samajh aya ki nahi maar ne se aur baat karne mai bhi bachon mai badlav aa sakta hai”. (I realised that speaking to my child helps more than corporal punishment does.) 
  • “Muje bahut acha lagta hai ki bachon aur parents ko barabar care milta hai. Bachon ke liye emergency hua tho tension nhi hai kyuki hum ko pata hai ki aap support karenge”. (I feel very humbled with the care and love I see for students and caregivers, we know our children will be taken care of in an emergency) 
  • “Aapne jab bola ki aap kabhi bhi bachon ki padhai ke bare mai teacher ko pooch sakte hai aur yeh hamara haq hai, uske baad mai teacher ko jo bhi sawal hai pooch payi hu’ (I am able to ask teachers question without any inhibition as a CD team member explained it was within my rights to know about my child’s progress.)

From our exploration of the work of the teams’ and community members at Khoj, we believe it deeply impacts the relationships and learning of students and families. Here is a heartwarming anecdote by Sita and Mala on their visit to Gaikwad Nagar. “We had gone to the community to visit Alisha, we couldn’t find her home though her father had given directions. When we spotted her she ran away from us into the public toilet. After spending some time trying to talk to her she eventually took us to her home. She saw us interact with her mother.The next time we went to the same community to visit another student, Alisha ran and hugged us tightly and said “tum hamare ghar aaye the na! Tum aaj bhi hamare ghar aao”. We assured her we would come by once the visit is done and requested her to guide her teacher through the community when she comes to visit.’

About the Authors:

Lekha Menon: Lekha’s journey with the community began as a teacher from Akanksha foundation, joined Apnishala in 2017 as a Social worker, she has a masters degree in Social worker from TISS. Her teacher’s role in the same community, gave her insights on the need for partnership with the caregivers, which was so well aligned with Apnishala’s vision, it also gave her the space to learn more about SEL and its impact in the community in her personal life and the lives of the students and their families .

Sita D: Prior to 2017 Sita worked as a support staff at packaging businesses. Post that she started work in school spaces; It took her time to feel a connection (Lagav hua) with the space and students. She observes that she has seen a change in herself w.r.t  learning, being self aware and in her relationship skills since. She loves watching Marthai films and stories on youtube and loves to sing songs as she goes about everyday work.

Kavya R: Kavya is a primary school teacher at Khoj. She holds a Master’s degree in Education from Azim Premji University; she is an aspiring educator with interests in SEL, experiential and alternative pedagogies. She has spent time working with rural and marginalized communities in different parts of India. She has a special love for cooking and birding. She also enjoys a bit of travel and adventure! She aims to bring about fun and meaningful educational experiences for children.


  1. 6 Benefits of a Connected School Community By Kay Nageswaran.
  2. The Importance of School and Community Collaboration. Source – New leaders for tomorrow’s school

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