(a story related to this dead butterfly on the beach is on Pari’s blog)
I’ve often written about the Learning Connections we make in (and, due to) our unschooling life. But, rarely have I written about the unique human connections (lets call it UHC) we make in our unschooling life and all that we do as part of it. Yes, the unique human connections – you may call it ‘socializing’ – that we make when we go on nature walks, when traveling out of town, on railways stations, when sending post-cards and letters, when walking into neighbours’ homes to surprise them with Diwali/Birthday sweets, when cycling on the beach, when stopping by to chat with the fruit/vegetable vendor, when visiting Grandparents’ farmhouse. And, when blogging – and connecting with all YOU beautiful, thinking and thoughtful people around the world.
But then, I’ll write more about UHC in another article. I’m bringing it up here today as a context to the main article that you’ll read in a bit. And, the main article is not written by me! Woohoo! Now, that’s a BIG change here at Mommy Labs, isn’t it? It’s by a reader of my blog. Her name is Sunita Halasz.
So, just quickly going back to what I was saying – about blogging and making those unique human connections – getting to know folks around the world and interacting with them (you all!) has been the most beautiful reward of blogging. I’ve felt this over and over again in all these five years or so that I’ve been writing this blog. And now, Pari shares this feeling. I feel this blog has enriched me with friends and acquaintances all over the globe. Friends, who I would truly want to meet, when I’m in their location (town/country).
And, one amongst them is Sunita Halasz. Whenever Sunita comments on my blog articles, I find myself drawn into her perspective, the way she writes and ruminates, the ways that we resonate with each other.
In one such comments, replying to my article ‘How Reading Aloud With/To Your Child Can be the Best Moments in Mothering and Learning‘, Sunita wrote:
“Yes, many times an encounter with a passage in a book has led to an entirely new realm of extended exploration in our family’s shared life; usually it is a topic that we came across together that was never on our “agenda,” but fell into our laps and changed the course of our lives. I think that’s how life is supposed to be whether it is something you read in a book, or a foreign coin you find on the street that changes the way you look at the history of the world (that happened to us!), or the advice of a beloved mentor that you continually re-interpret in new ways the longer you live (that’s happening too!). My kids are still only just the age of Pari, but, just as you’ve written about her observations, I love to see how these hidden gems of life shine out to them, and their interpretations and connections are as deep and exciting as anything my “adult” mind can do.”
The mention of that “foreign coin” and how it made her family re-look at the history of the world – well, it intrigued me. I wrote to her if she’d be willing to share that story on my blog. She was delighted.
And, here we are. The article that you’ll read from here on is Sunita’s story about her homeschooling life, the learning connections they make, and how life reveals such learning moments to her family – in all its interesting twists and turns.
Over to Sunita Halasz
We live in a very small town of 5,400 in far northern New York State amongst mountains, vast forests, 11,111 lakes and ponds (it’s really been counted!), and very little ethnic diversity (I am half Indian and half Indiana-ian and I am generally regarded as an exotic import). One day we were walking in our small neighborhood and found an Israeli coin on the road. The kids were so curious about its imagery and shape and heft and where was this Israel place? This led to a discussion of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Judaism, World War II, the rise of Communism in Eastern Europe, the Cold War, and the fall of the Berlin Wall. The exploration of these topics went on for months, and still the kids make connections to what they learned from finding that coin.
This is one reason that we, like Rashmie’s family, are mostly unschoolers – because the curriculum of life is so rich and to ignore it by superimposing an artificial learning path seems to negate the beauty.
I used to be part of a comedy improvisational theater group. It was so much fun, but it was also the best yoga for the mind! One of the key concepts in Improv is that the stories that get spun out on stage are most engaging when they show relationships between people. And in real life, as we know, the best kind of relationships have a back-and-forth give-and-take, not a constant negating of one or both of the people in the relationship. In Improv, we practice this with an exercise that you can even do with kids! It’s called “Yes, And…” and the point of the exercise is to always build on what the other person has said to you by beginning your sentence with “Yes, And…” So, for example, even if the sun is shining bright and the first person starts off with the comment, “Wow, it’s really raining out there today!”, you must answer, “YES, AND I can’t wait to go out and use the rain to give my elephant a bath.” And the first person might answer, “YES, AND your elephant is so dirty that people have started moving out of our village from the stench”, and so forth! The story can go anywhere, but the two people in the relationship will always go there together because they are always validating each other. If anyone forgets to say “Yes, And” then a new player moves into position and starts up a new challenge. I mention this game because we have to “Yes, And…” our life even when life throws us a curve ball.
When you say “Yes, And” to life, then you can also say “Yes, And” to your own reactions to the surprises of life. Every thought and every reaction can then be viewed as valid, even if sometimes these thoughts and reactions are not the most mature way to behave! If you see life as a long path of learning, then mistakes, bad choices, and successes are necessary moments along the larger learning path.
My husband was recently diagnosed with a “cavernoma”, which is a bleeding vein on the brain. He went through the brain surgery few weeks back. The prognosis was excellent, the location of the cavernoma was on the very tip of his right temporal lobe so the doctors said there would be no effect to language or movement centers of the brain, and it should all go very well (and it did). Nonetheless, with this diagnosis, I had been angry, sad, sacred, normal, thankful, meditative, happy, tired, and more! If I view each of these states as valid, then I can allow myself to explore each emotion like I am trying on clothes at a store. Some clothes feel tight, loose, aren’t my style, while other clothes feel perfect, and my style and shape will change as my body metamorphoses through life. By allowing these reactions to life’s unexpected events to be tested and observed, you give yourself the freedom to find what fits you best for that moment, instead of judging yourself for having “failed” reactions. So, all emotions are valid, though I think with experience and the freedom to express ourselves through ranges of other emotions we all will find that a meditative mindset is the easiest way to take on the roller coaster of life.
This is the same with children and learning – every mistake they make is valid, whether it’s because they are still figuring it out, or they have some totally new insight and way of seeing something that no one has ever thought of before. Each mistake or thought or reaction is a valid step on the path.
With regards to my husband’s brain surgery and how it has been for the children – because we homeschool, they have been a part of the experience every step of the way and they have been part of the stress, the acceptance, the worries, the thankfulness, a wish to be alone sometimes, and ultimately our togetherness.
When I see that my husband’s brain surgery is exactly like the foreign coin that we found on the street – an unexpected boon that will lead to lifelong learning and new connections being made – then I am ready to go for it with him and with the kids! As my mind was changing to this way of thinking, I happened to click on one link to Pari’s blog in one of Rashmie’s posts. Pari is such a fun writer! I read a number of the posts and loved the one where she talks about Rashmie singing Mahamrityunjaya Mantra to Sufiana. This was another unexpected boon (thank you, Pari!) and I started singing this as well and it gives me great joy!
When we embrace life no matter what (unconditional love for the life that’s been given to us) we give ourselves the freedom and confidence to explore the entire universe, whether we are adult or child. It is vast and unending and we carry it in our hands every day.
About the Guest Author:
Sunita lives with her husband and two sons in the Adirondack Mountains of far-northern New York State where they spend their homeschooling days climbing mountains and cross-country skiing and trying to figure out how to get a solar-cooker hot at their latitude.
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