I went to the Learning Societies UnConference (read Part I – about being brave and breaking out of your comfort zone) to seek answers to some homeschooling questions, to meet people on this journey and to get ideas for other things that I’m seeking in life at the moment.
I’ve found some of the answers and pointers that I wanted, but I have to admit – from all these, I found myself learning more and more about my self and reflecting on who I am, what am I doing etc.
Sharing some of my profound reflections, that I came back with – from LSuC – about children, how they learn, how our own conditioning affect our parenting and much more.
Also, get to know the books that have made a deep impact on me.
In my journey as a parent in the past six years, I’ve learnt one most important and valuable lesson. That – my child, parenting, learning, education, my happiness, my career, my relationships – with others and with myself – all these are not isolated subjects – something that I have to handle each at a time. They are really integrated. And, again and again, I’ve noticed how they all ultimately tie back to me – the person, the parent.
My child is her unique self but, she really is a mirror of me. I am a model to her every living moment. She hears me, observes me, reads my body language, looks deep into my eyes, catches the subtle vibes, feels my unexpressed sadness, gets affected by my anxiety, interprets my body language, glows positively when my eyes express unconditional love.
Most important – she copies my actions alright, but delves deeper and interprets and infers from my body language, intentions and any ‘hidden agenda’. These inferences register in her mind and soul. And, she goes on to become the person – shaped by these experiences and environment.
The person she becomes – she may not have CHOSEN to be. She may not become who she was MEANT to be. Gosh, that sounds like a jarring note to me! She may have been moulded – by MY deliberate or not so deliberate control tools – my words, tone, body language, agenda! And, these are only subtle control tools.
Boy, do I realize how precious childhood is but at the same time, how vulnerable a period it is. And, the child is so helpless when it comes to understanding those adult controls and the impact it can have on his/her inner self.
The controls – subtle and direct – that we think we can exercise upon our children all the time – as if it was a right that we were bestowed with the moment we became a parent – do have a life-changing impact – on them.
Yes, we always knew parenting was a big responsibility and we have been bestowed with immense power. And that’s probably the reason we thought we have all the control buttons over our child.
Well, well…! Power and responsibility go hand in hand, no doubt.
Remember – “with great power comes great responsibility”
But, how did the ‘control’ word make its way into this equation?
In all the sessions that I participated in at LSuC, one thing stood out to me – that in the equation of power and responsibility, the element of ‘control’ throws the equation out of balance.
Be it your child, your own relationships, your environment and even your own self – letting go of your urge to control will lead to peace, love and harmony in the most natural way.
On another note, did you notice that I wrote “participated” in the sentence above and not ‘attended’ because the essence of an un-conference lies in people driving it together by participating back and forth and not just being there to be entertained.
Alright, here are some of my “mental notes” (as I’d mentioned in the Part I of this series) from this whole experience that I’d like to share with you all.
I’ve listed them – under categories – pertaining children, learning, parenting, living, listening! Also, these are not really ‘quote unquotes’ but my own interpretations from what I listened, how I understood and ultimately chose to infer. Very few are perhaps “quotes”.
Also, my intention of sharing is not for you to resonate with each and every point but to perhaps reflect. Not even consider it all good (or bad). I’m sharing these because these nuggets of interactions and my interpretation of them – stood out to ME.
About Children and Learning
(Some of these thoughts, I registered, when listening to Jinan)
1. There’s no play-way method of learning. Play is the only method by which children learn. (quoting Jinan)
2. Let children play with real things and in the real world. There’s no need whatsoever to create an artificial world for them.
3. Don’t pre-decide and bucket what all children essentially want, like, prefer. For exp: Don’t assume that all children get attracted to bright colours and due to that assumption start brightening up their environment with reds and pinks and blues!
4. Jinan also shared – In his time spent with tribal families, he was amazed to see that the adults and parents never ever say ‘NO’ to the kids. And, the children living in that environment rarely lie. Probably, there’s a connection?
5. Also, the tribal families rarely ‘teach’ their kids. And yet, the kids – by age four or so – are more or less independent to do every chore that’s part of a normal adult’s life in the tribal lifestyle.
6. It’s been seen for ages that children learn best when they get to interact with people of different age-groups (this is how it happened in large families in India – in the old days) and backgrounds rather than children of their own age and socio economic backgrounds as it happens in class-rooms across schools.
7. Whether it’s private school, public school, home-school or unschool, choose what works for your child for it’s about him/her and not about any specific ideology
How Children Learn by John Holt (this is my Bible and Gita!)
Understanding How Learning Happens
Jinan shared some intriguing insight, raised questions, challenged assumptions. These points implored me to reflect on my own conditioning due to the regimen-style schooling and being in a society that seeks to control childhood.
8. It’s important for us to know how children learn rather than ask how to ‘teach’ children.
9. Knowing happens in and with the real world – as a whole where as teaching breaks the world in to fragments and is compartmentalized as subjects.
10. The act of knowing constitutes originality, autonomy, freedom where as teaching is about control, conditioning, secondhand and psychology.
(The Unschoolers – Urmila Samson, Hema Bharadwaj, Dola Dasgupta, Anita Roy and many more enriched this session)
11. Avoid saying ‘no’ to your kids as much as possible. It’s not easy. It never was. Our conditioning makes us want to control them, but children are as much ‘persons’ as we adults are.
12. We think WE get stressed because of managing kids, their wants, needs etc. Imagine THEIR stress (and humiliation) of being controlled all. the. time. – right from when their day starts to when they go to sleep; and everywhere they are – at home, in schools,in malls, shops (“don’t touch this, this is not for kids, be careful, hurry up, stay away, speak softly, stop whining, stop crying!)
13. When YOU as the parent form the rules and expect the kids to follow, clashes will happen, leading to stress. Give your kids a say. Form the ‘family rules’ together. This makes them own up passionately.
14. YOU are the biggest influence on your child
15. Don’t force your agenda on your child. You may suggest, you may show the options, you may guide – if he/she, seeks – but refrain from getting him/her to give in to your agenda by using emotional baits like – ‘I’ll be the proudest mom in the world if you did this. come to think of how much I love you and what all I do for you. ” I liked the quote Anita Roy used often –
“If you love your agenda let it go, if it is good it will come back to you”
16. And, don’t manipulate your way around to get your agenda to work. Okay, you want your child to learn piano because YOU think it’s beautiful, peaceful, creative, elitist – whatever! But, if your child has no interest, don’t make him/her do so by playing smart games – rewards, your happiness, your sadness, his/her bright future, that he/she can perform at the school/family function; that it’s fun etc. If it’s NOT fun for your child at this point in time, accept that. May be you can ‘suggest’ later. But, only ‘suggest’. Please!
17. This is interesting! As per Jinan, and this stood out to me (wink) – have three or four kids if you can. It provides the most naturally healthy learning environment and dynamics. Because, adult influence is going to be far less than in families that are nucleus and have one or two kids. (point well taken, Jinan. I wish I had spent more time procreating!)
Unconditional Parenting by Alfie Kohn – “Ideas for working with children rather than doing things to them.” I’ve read it myself and highly recommend.
18. Television turns you into a hypnotic state where the viewer switches off completely and is drawn into the world of the idiot box (well, that’s why it’s called that – an idiot box) for it doesn’t enable a two-way communication. Not even a silent one because you go numb.
19. And yet, – watching television is not as bad as we think it to be. It’s the relentless bombardment of ads that make it quite unhealthy. If the same programmes that you kid likes – can be available on CD/DVD (but without the ads) – it can be a win-win option
About living in harmony with nature:
20. Whether it’s farming or gardening, doing less is nature’s way. Most plants in city homes die due to over watering.
21. Doing more is interfering with nature’s rhyme and rhythm. Stop controlling nature. (This philosophy can be applied to Parenting as well. Let go of your instinct to train, control, teach. Let your child be, give time and space. )
22. Slow down, stop hurrying
The One Straw Revolution by Fukuoka: This will revolutionize the way you think about life. Yeah, it’s seen as a book on natural farming but it aplies to all spheres of life including parenting, relationships, career.
About Listening Effectively
(Thank you to Anita Roy for this discussion)
23. Listen with an open mind and heart.
24. Choose the right environment and make sure you’re in the right frame of mind to be able to listen genuinely to the person who’s offered himself to be heard
25. You cannot listen effectively if you are distracted by environment – outside and within you.
26. Which means – your own mental environment is as important as a peaceful outside environment – for listening sincerely.
27. Ask open-ended questions so the person can open up to you to understand his story better and offer a solution – if he/she asks
28. Yes, offer a solution only if asked. Don’t assume that just because the person shared his feelings that he wants your opinion. Sometimes, all people need is to be heard – sincerely. Nothing less. Nothing more.
29. Don’t start plugging your own story saying – ah, this happened to me, too and blah, blah…. By doing this you will be hijacking his story. This was not the idea when you sat with the person to ‘listen’
30. Keep eye contact; mind your body language so the person gets good vibes from you. If you look distracted and uninterested, the person will sense it immediately and will shut up.
31. It’s okay to tell the person ‘no’- gently and with good intention – if you think you cannot handle his/her story because it’s too emotional and disturbing for you
32. Your Thought?
What are you going to reflect on?
How has your own conditioning (your schooling, childhood) influenced your parenting, living and the choices you’ve made?
Share your mind and heart… (smile)