I came to know about the Learning Societies Un-Conference nearly a month back.
Reading the invite (the theme was ‘Healthy Lifestyle and Healthy Communities), I was immediately convinced this is something I totally want to attend.
I was convinced alright, but there were some (actually many) odds that were going to need me to come out of my comfort zone – in a big way!
Read the full story and enjoy the pictures…
First, being in large groups is not my kind of thing. I’m not shy. Not reserved either. But, I’m not an extrovert. 350 people there – how would I remain my true self! My true self actually seeks to connect, learn, have conversations. Not doing that makes me feel stifled and suffocated. But, in big gatherings, I feel lost and so not at peace….
Second, travel was not going to be straight forward and especially – being all alone, since I’ve always traveled with Avie in the last 9 years of marriage! Besides, it was a remote destination. I’d have to take a train and then pool with someone going there for a cab or it would be expensive. Flight was not an option – not in our budget at the moment.
Third, I would have had to leave Pari at my mom’s place. She’s never stayed without me before. Avie was going to be traveling else where.
And yet, I took the plunge. But wait, train tickets were not available. I was in ‘waiting list’ till a day before I had to travel. May be I was not destined to go there. I gave up hope. Even felt somewhat relived in a corner of my heart that I’d not have to get out of my comfort zone.
But, another voice within me dared me to be brave. What, can I not figure out SOME way to get a ticket. If I had the will power, sure I could. Not only that, why couldn’t I take Pari along, too. Okay, it would probably be a little more challenging with her – the travel, stay (I was going to stay in a dorm) and her keeping occupied while I was busy interacting.
I went ahead and contacted a few travel agents for not one but TWO tickets. Told them how important it was for me to travel. And, I got the tickets to the train to Mumbai. And, figured out how to travel from there to the Jhadpoli village.
I’m so glad I chose to be brave. In a long time I’d done something that made me come out of my comfort zone. I’m proud of myself. If I’d succumbed back into my confort zone, I can tell you, I’d have not been kind to myself in my own judgement.
I’m reminded of what Christopher Robin said to Pooh:
“Promise me you will always remember – You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem and smarter than you think”
In fact, now that I know – so many souls at the LSuC have done just that – they have been brave to follow their dreams. And, to do that – they have broken out of their comfort zones. These are the people who have chosen a minimalistic lifestyle, who are passionately involved in their children’s’ learning journey, who have dared to choose the path of homeschooling or unschooling in a society that’s so possessive about the formal schooling system.
Some of these people have been at the helm of their corporate careers and yet have left it all to go back to the land and get their hands dirty in the soil. Some are passionately doing pottery, others have started natural learning centers in the Himalayas, a bunch of them have started the cycle movement, still others have peacefully declared freedom from institutionalized mode of learning by initiating a movement called Swaraj.
This was the kind of community I have always wanted to be a part of – a community of people who care about living intentionally, sustainably and in tune with mother earth.
These people are not profit-driven but focus on giving back to mother nature. They have chosen to opt out of the rat race, are thoughtful about their food choices, they want to know where their food has come from; how it was grown.
The most tangible aspect of it – for me – was that here I was going to have a chance to meet with a bunch of homeschooling/unschooling families from India; a few among those have been on this journey for years now. They have grown-up kids who’ve found their own paths.
We chose this path an year back. And, the journey has been fun, interesting, revealing, truthful. Sometimes mired by self-doubt and second guessing – truth be told! And yet, satisfying and spiritual, I’d have to add.
One large part missing was the real-life interaction with fellow homeschoolers in India. We’re always sharing and communicating through online forums, but the face-to-face part was sorely lacking. So, yes, being at the place meant interacting, sharing, exchanging ideas, finding answers to those burning questions.
But then, besides the homeschooling factor, I had this amazing gut feel that here I would meet people who I could resonate with in many other ways. Including – my deep desire to move away from this city life, to live more in tune with nature, to do organic farming some day, to not be bound by a house, a job or worldly possessions… rather lead a sort-of nomadic life…
Ah…to be a world schooler – learning on the go – literally on the road of life…!
Having come back from the LSuC, you would want to know if I found my answers to homescholing/unschooling questions and doubts; did I meet with people that I resonated with; did I learn from their experiences and life journeys?
I would say an emphatic ‘yes’ to all the above. Ever since I’ve come back, I’ve been in a state of lull and storm going on within me simultaneously. If my heart and mind was a sponge, then yes – with the amount of interaction and ideas that it was soaking, it became heavy. But, if my mind was a bird, then all the ideas acted liked feathers and helped it fly lighter and soar higher.
The mornings, afternoons and early evenings at Hide Out – the venue – were filled with interactions – in a circle-time like fashion – under the mango grove. Each mango tree served as a ‘meeting room’. The fallen leaves served as the most natural carpeting for the meeting rooms. If one ever got distracted or meandered you could pick up a dried leaf and scrunch it up between your fingers – an option more effective than the stress balls found on board room tables!
Here’s a video that’ll give you a sense of the place, the environment, the interactions.
While the parents were engaged in the discussions, the kids seemed to be magically occupied with each other. Most did not know each other until that time, and yet, how they played and got along effortlessly, was beyond me!
There were no toys. None at all. There was no one facilitating their play. And yet, they played all day long from 10 AM to 10 PM.
The natural space and elements at Hide Out – made them connect intrinsically.
Evenings reverberated with the strings and beats of guitars and drums and belly dancing. It was amazing how many people there were associated with music in some or the other way. Some had come there from the ‘Kabir Yatra‘, a group of people that walk from village to village singing bhakti songs.
There were healers who incorporated music and singing in a spiritual way. I was part of one such healing session. It was called ‘Shiva and Shakti’. One of the things I really liked about it was singing out your own name. So, what we did was – each person sang out his/her name in a slow and melodious way and the rest of the group would sing that person’s name together in the same melody. It may sound simple but it’s beautiful when you’re in the middle of it.
Food was cooked by way of people volunteering for the community kitchen. Yes, it wasn’t outsourced but was driven by participants themselves. The chopping, kneading, stirring, serving – all of it was volunteer-driven. Each person cleaned his/her owl plate and other dishes. Someone proposed setting up a rinsing station with 4-5 containers with water for different stages of cleaning.rinsing. This was done to reduce wastage of water. People took to it sportingly.
I took a mental note.
Actually, I was taking a lot of mental notes. I was carrying a small diary, alright, in which I was jotting things down. But, to me, it’s the mental notes that go a long way.
Really, when I choose to register something in my head, it means, it’s impacted me in a deep way (sometime negative too….oops!) and hence stays on my mind.
Discussions on homeschooling/Unschooling probably out-numbered all the other discussions. A big reason was a large number of families there are either already homeschooling or considering this option.
But, besides this reason, I observed that almost every person there seemed to share an interest for understanding what’s the best way a child learns. Each had his/her own perspective but people mostly agreed that the child learns best when the learning is driven or guided by themselves and their inherent interest, passion and curiosity.
It was good to see that mostly people resonated with the view that children don’t need instructions. Instructions are damaging to their free spirit. At best, we can suggest or make things accessible to them in a way that they find what they want and pick up from there. But, ‘teaching’ from a position of ‘I know best and you ought to follow me because you’re small and incapable’ is NOT the way how children learn. It’s stressful and humiliating for our children.
I’d like to share with you about children, parenting, living, learning – from the Learning unConference. These notes, I didn’t jot in any diary. These are what I listened and interpreted and made mental notes of.
Will share those interesting, unique, radical nuggets of information and interpetation – in part II of this post, which is coming soon.
Stay tuned :)
Share your thought – anything that’s coming to your mind.
Your “mental notes”.
Let’s come out of our comfort zones to connect. (smile)