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When we started unschooling Pari at 5 yrs and a few months, hardly ever did we fathom that questioning this one aspect – education – of the standard mainstream society would lead us into questioning another and then another and yet another as we would go on deschooling (slowly setting ourselves free from the school-ish way of thinking and acting), discovering and evolving ourselves, our core values, our way of being.

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Have You Experienced Such Wild, Wild Joy?

Universe Stories

Unschooling unfolds so many moments, experiences, lessons and episodes all through the day that if I could, I’d be writing down each one of those – the good, the bad, the glorious. Can’t help but notice and ponder over, churn and jot down those tiny stories in my mind’s notepad. And then, sometimes, a story rings so powerful in its simplicity and clarity that the writing flows unhindered.
 
One such story staged itself so beautifully yesterday evening that I was nudged to write it down late into the night.
Pari came back home from her dance workshop tired, sweating profusely and with a splitting headache. She looked distraught. It was a terribly hot and humid day here in Goa and she’d left home bang in the heat of the day – around 2:45 pm, on a bike, to come back home about 5:30. She came and sat at the dinner table. Avie offered her chilled Kombucha (a fermented, pro-biotic drink that we make at home), which she took. I suggested her to take a bath, but she wasn’t in a mood for it. I reminded her to take her socks off so she’ll feel air in her feet. She said no. “I want to rehearse in some time. Need to keep them on.”

Well! And, she retreated into her room upstairs.

Her dance workshops – thrice a day for two hours each – are quite intensive. But, she enjoys. I say that not because she says so. Actually, she doesn’t say as much. I see.

So, she went into her room. And, Avie and I went out for some grocery shopping. When we came back, she cheerfully opened the door, her socks still on. She said she’d been practicing now and then. A while later, she enters our study room and asked us to come out and see their performance – hers and her little cousin sister, Sarah’s (she’s 7, lives in the same complex).

With music playing on the laptop, Sarah and Pari perform their duet. Sarah playing out the steps from her own dance class, while Pari from hers. Pari was tuned to her body and drawing out energy from deep within. She looked determined and confident and immersed in those moments. Sarah didn’t care how she looked when playing out the moves she’d learned. All she knew was that she was playing – and she was glad to be a play-dance partner to Pari. They both were having fun. Pure fun.

And, to watch them enjoy themselves was sheer fun and joy for us too!

Having fun while you’re learning. Actually, just having fun. What’s the need to be ‘aware’ that you’re learning this and that. The learner may not be aware but, it’ll help if the parents (or educators) are aware that their children are learning, no matter what….

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sourdough breads Sujit Sumitran Goa

When a master bread maker – the ‘bread whisperer’ – offers to barter his artisanal sourdough bread, you cannot not pay heed. More so, when this alchemist (oops, baker) lives literally 5 minutes away on your scooter. And, especially, when he sounds like a jolly good fellow with some jolly good wit and humour, as crackling and crusty as his loaves.

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True Learning

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Four kids had gathered in the evening in my house, as they usually do. Their ages – 2.5, 3.3, 6.5 and 8.4. They were exploring ways to play and interact. The 6.5 year old Sarah suggested that they make a train. She wanted a few cardboard boxes. A few! Whoa! I did have some, but they were all being used for storage and organizing. I didn’t have the energy to empty. I had recently undergone a corn removal surgery on my right foot, and still limping from it. I managed to get one cardboard box and suggested if they’d like to decorate it.

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Our home has been in the middle of a storm for the past few months. Hold on. Not a storm storm. But, a creative, DIY-ish, artsy and craftsy and gardening, experimenting ‘storm’, if you don’t mind my calling it that way. :-)

At the end of 2015 and beginning of 2016 as we moved houses, we found ourselves caught by a creative surge – to make, create, decorate, garden like there’s no tomorrow, and that surge continues to this day.

Sharing our art journey after a long time. Sharing some stories and pictures from the past few months of deep immersion into the well (or the sea) that the world of art is….

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I have beautiful memories of how we celebrated Diwali in my family when I was a child and growing up. The aroma of food, the colours of rangolis, the textures of flowers – marigold, lilies, lotus, jasmine; the light and fragrance from the rows of clay lamps we call ‘Diya’, are all so so prominent in my heart that I can’t help but keep reminiscing over those pretty pictures around Diwali time – year after year…and keep narrating those tales to my children and hubby and go over all over again with my brother!

Yet, in the last few years, I’ve yearned to create some new family traditions and refashion some of the old ones that we as a family resonate will with; that will tell OUR story reflecting what we value at this stage in life, what fascinates us, what’s fun for us and what’ll create strong memories for our children down the lane…

This Diwali, an idea sprung in my heart with such spontaneity that I almost felt it was my inner voice – my heart and soul speaking in unison.

It’s about the day before Diwali which we call as ‘Roop Chaudas’. Roop meaning beauty and chaudas is the 14th day of Krishna Paksha in the Hindu calendar month of Kartik.

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unschooling mindfulness being in the moment
The most fundamental and spiritual and heart-melting aspect of unschooling (to me) is my interactions with my children. As their mother and friend and guide and mentor, I’m tuned to their mind, body and soul (the soul – that’s a big one for me!). What is it that they delight in, what is it that they find interesting, what frustrates them, what drains them, what inspires them – I strive to be mindful and aware. I pay heed to their being. I respect their space, their time, their opinion.

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natural learning following children's cues

In response to my article, “How Learning Happens Without School”, a reader/mom asked this:

“What about kids whose parents (like me) are not passionate about anything? I don’t expect of my kid too but I really want to give this kind of environment to her. I know you and your daughter are talented…”

The reader (am not mentioning her name) asked this in reaction to my writing that as part of providing a rich environment to my kids, I follow my own passions and keep my learning alive. Following my own ideas and interests may or may not serve as inspiration to them; I follow them anyway because that’s what feeds my own curiosity and creativity, and offers a rich environment to them and makes them see how much fun it is to dive yourself into your interests. Interest-based learning, anyone?!

Now, to answer the reader’s question:

You may not be passionate about anything, but you can be curious about something. Your curiosity will fuel your desire to learn something new. And, it may (or not) rub off on your children.

So, yes, you may not have passions. You may not be particularly talented at one or more things.

But, it’ll help if you’re open to learning yourself. You’ll make a rocking team if you kindle your curiosity – your natural state of learning. For, your children are inherently curious and will be curious about one thing or another. You just need to follow their cues.

And, feed THEIR curiosity, while feeding your own.

And, how exactly do you feed their curiosity and support their learning?

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unschooling natural learning without school

As you all know, Pari does not go to school. It’s been roughly 5+ years that we’re unschooling her. She’ll be 11 on November 30. And Sufiana, who’ll be three on November 2, does not go to any preschool or playschool either. So, yes, we’re homeschooling our children. Actually, unschooling. Because, homeschooling is often (not always and not exclusively) about doing school-like subject studies at home; about following a curriculum and maintaining a structure or a schedule at home. Whereas unschooling means breaking free from the trappings of school. The traps being – learning from a curriculum, following fixed hours, categorizing learning into subjects – science, math, biology, history, geography; testing and grading; sticking to schoolish habits, expectations, fears and terminology.

What is unschooling? If you’d ask me to define it, there’s no one way to explain unschooling. For, unschooling is not a parenting ‘technique’, unschooling is not a learning ‘formula’, definitely not a modus operandi for ‘education’. As I’ve come to understand, education starts with an end date. Unschooling is life-long learning.

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celebrate her wholeness let her feel her feelings

Sufiana was mad at me. She was raging with anger; hot tears flowed down her cheeks. In between sobs, she was yelling her heart out, “badmaash (naughty) mamma…kyon badmaasha kara (why did you do such a bad thing). I was standing there sheepish and sorry for the hurt and resulting anger I’d (unwittingly) caused to her. I kneeled down at her height and sincerely and gently told her, “I’m sorry baby, I forgot that you don’t want me to wipe your body and wrap the towel around you. I thought you were feeling cold. Sorry Sufiana. I’ll remember this next time, okay?” I said the same thing, using different but simple words, a couple of times.

She’d let me know before in no uncertain terms that she would like to wipe herself dry after every bath and then wrap the towel around herself; that I should not do it at any cost. Basically, this less than 3 years old is an eager natural learner. She loves being in charge of her everyday chores (so much fun for her!) like brushing her teeth, bathing, applying coconut oil over her body, grooming her hair. But, that noon, when she ran out of the bathroom with her body dripping wet, the fan was blowing full speed outside and the cold breeze due to the monsoon rains added an element of cold that we aren’t used to here in Goa. I rushed to wrap a towel around her, without thinking how upset she gets when I or my hubby ever do that. To make matters worse for her, I laughed light-heartedly as if meaning, “yay, I caught you and beat you to it”. Now, that was hilariously stupid on my part, I sincerely feel. And, well, she wasn’t humoured one bit.

Hence, the angry expression over not being listened to, of not showing regard for what and how she wants, of undermining her opinion.

So, yes, I was sorry for her hurt. And that’s an understatement. It’s heart-wrenching for a mother to see pain in those sparkly, trusting eyes. I was feeling for her and was trying hard to hold the space for her – I wasn’t intervening in her cry, wasn’t stopping her from yelling.

Yet, I could not help but feel awe-struck by the immeasurable beauty in that scene….

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