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.
Sometimes, she needs an answer, often times, just a listening – without being offered a solution. And yet on certain occasions, she’ll just ask me plain and simple, “you tell me what should I do”. This may or may not be in a difficult situation. It may be as easy peasy as whether to have a sleep-over with a friend or not. A child who is growing up to be fiercely independent, with a mind and heart of her own, does not hesitate to seek my opinion when she feels like and does not feel the need to agree with me most of the times because she knows she can simply be. Very unique from me. She’s already carved out her own identity that looks very little like mine. Now, that’s a big big deal for a girl. It took me years before I could see myself unique from my mother’s image and identity. It took being a mother myself – twice in a span of nearly ten years -before I knew I’m totally different from her, and that there’s nothing wrong with it! On the contrary, it was something to celebrate. I am my own person. For some women that I know, it takes their mother’s passing away before they come to realize their unique identity.
These girls of mine – they can lay bare their hearts and mind in front of me for they know they’ll still be accepted for who they are and loved no matter what.
Things are not done ‘to’ them in our house. Not to my nearly 11 years old. Not to my less than 3 years old.
I would love to meet a teacher who can treat my children this way; who can respect them for who they are. I know no one else can love them the way I will. But respect is critical. For Pari, most classes – be it dance, music, art etc – (with conventional teachers) have not worked beyond a class or two for the simple (but most critical) fact that they think children do not have a mind of their own. Not being used to their condescending, dismissing ways, she’s baffled as to how to ‘be’
The irony is, she’s not courageous enough to tell them, “I won’t take your crap” – the way she tells me when I forget my own true nature. With those bullying, insensitive adults, she’ll still nod her head and tag along but inside of her, she feels stifled and suffocated and out of place. She’s not the one to bow to adults who demand conformation – her soul feels caged but her mind is not bold enough to be her true self and reject such behaviour – the way she feels safe enough to do – with us.
If there’s a space where children can be with adults who are respected because they’re respecting of children – that would be ideal. But if that community I dream of is filled with adults who’re full of schoolish conditioning, are stuffed with ego and an ‘agenda’ to ‘teach’, it won’t work. Not for children who’ve grown up in a different environment where their interests (what they want to learn) are more important than what they ‘must’ learn and where their opinions are valued and they’re trusted to carve out their own unique learning paths.
If not, and it’s tough honestly to find such people, I feel the best place for my child to learn is in my company. Come to think of it, who else will put more effort in making sure she grows to her best possible potential? Who else will derive infinite joy from making her children’s days and moments as joyful, meaningful and fun as can be? Who else will have the time?
We have the time….
…to play cricket and football in the living room after we depart from the dining table…
…to spend the mornings lazily attending to little Sufiana’s soft toys (there are at least 10 of them!) because she wants her father to help them pee and poo and brush their teeth and give them a bath and pretend sadness over their fever or tooth ache and laugh over their jokes.
…to watch Pari practice her guitar. Watch not because I mean to applause or analyse but because I love watching her play with those sincere expressions in the eyes and the growing nimbleness of her fingers.
And then, when her fingers are sore, to watch her press those hardened finger tips.
….to warm that garlic paratha at 12 AM because I know her tummy must be rumbling. And then, express mock exasperation over why she wouldn’t tell me she’s hungry till I ask her! But then, this has now become a ritual of sorts…
The time to be in the moment and interact without hurrying, without being driven by the clock – is that not what we all need to truly unveil ourselves to each other, and to our own selves?