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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….

Shouldn’t that be central to every learning and learner and the environment you’re in? Everything else – how fast or slow you’re learning, how efficient you’re getting, do you have the talent for it or not, is the subject popular or not – is less important than having fun.

We learn because we want to and we want to because it’s fun. Alright, there’ll be challenges at times and that can get frustrating – not fun exactly. But, solving those challenges can bring the fun back. And, when the fun’s there, you want to keep learning.

learning fun

 

 

I think school-based learning is temporary and superficial because of the lack of this exact reason. All that they teach or, make mandatory to learn, is not meant for the purpose of enjoying. One MUST learn math and science and grammar and geography and a whole host of other things because that’s the only way to emancipation.

Emancipation? How?

Through this form of learning which is more a chore, a drudgery? Yes, a drudgery. You’ll agree with me when you read the definition of drudgery. In the collins dictionary, for instance, drudgery is explained this way:

You use drudgery to refer to jobs and tasks which are boring or unpleasant but which must be done.
People want to get away from the drudgery of their everyday lives.
Synonyms: labour, grind [informal] , sweat [informal] , hard work

Whoa! I shudder to realize that our society has created a system of learning which is nothing short of drudgery! And, our young learners must be wanting to get away from it! Wanting to get away; but unable to do so. Because they have no choice.

This is what we’ve set them up for – at an age and stage when they are eager to learn, their minds and bodies and spirits wanting to soak up all that’s interesting and appealing to their five senses. They don’t need to be caged up in four walls of a classroom trying to grasp what’s not even relevant to them in that time.

How’re numbers and alphabets meaningful for a child at 2 or 3? What will they miss if not taught to count or if not shown how those alphabets are pronounced and written and read? Those are absolutely vague terms, with no connection to their present reality. Their reality comes from their own lives and the environment around them. So, yes, they will count – on their own, without being taught the ‘concept’. They’ll count because they notice. They notice the many birds and butterflies in the garden, the ripe tomatoes hanging from the plants, they want “not one but two bananas”, they notice the older siblings writing and reading, the parents making grocery list and the books strewn all over the living room. When it’s connected to their reality, they recognize. It’s no more a vague concept. And, learning is natural. No external training or coercion is warranted.

learning fun counting

 

It not just ceases to be vague. It’s suddenly fun. That vague math is now a play and a thing to learn just as the child learned to walk naturally, and talk naturally. And, then comes a time when text is not just mumbo jumbo alien thing, but something interesting and worth exploring. Because, it matters in their current reality. It’s challenging but it’s fun, it makes sense to learn. The time has come.

learning fun exploring books

In this context, John Holt, in his book ‘How children Learn’ says:

It may be true enough that in learning purely physical skills, such as sports … we generally have to learn easy movements before we learn hard ones. That is how the body works. But it is not how the mind works … What makes things easy or hard for our minds has very little to do with how little or how much information they may contain, and everything to do with how interesting they are and, to say it once again, how much sense they make, how connected they seem to reality.   

So, why don’t we wait till the subject matter becomes their reality and they’re able to understand and ready to grasp intuitively? Why do we need to rush to train them into learning an utterly vague concept? What will all that algebra and math and trigonometry and the dates and facts from history do if learned at a stage when they seemed vague to the learner; when they solved no real purpose or fixed any problem that they were facing? What use is all that time and energy spent when it couldn’t be part of their life-long learning experience. Facts and numbers and concepts ingested to be excreted.

Pari, right now, is putting in hours of work into making a small movie. She’s learning the nitty-gritty of shooting, editing, adding music and voice-over, animation, text. She’s learning the art of story telling and bringing it live on screen. What she’s learning – all by herself, by digging up on the internet, by exploring the movie software – is something a teacher couldn’t get a student to do. Not if the student is not interested, never if he/she is not enjoying while doing all this. For, the only way to real learning is to learn for fun, and learn because it solves a problem you’re trying to fix, or a purpose you’re trying to meet.

Oh and now I see Pari’s gotten up from her laptop, her movie work for the day done and she’s taken to the floor. Music playing and she’s dancing to it. In the beginning of the post, I used the word, ‘rehearsing’. Well, I don’t think she’s thinking it that way. She’s not really dancing to practice or to rehearse. She’s dancing because she wants to. She’s enjoying it!

I couldn’t end this article without this breathtaking thought and words from John Holt.

What is lovely about children is that they can make such a production, such a big deal, out of everything, or nothing … All that energy and foolishness, all that curiosity, questions, talk, all those fierce passions, inconsolable sorrows, immoderate joys, seem to many a nuisance to be endured, if not a disease to be cured. To me they are a national asset, a treasure beyond price, more necessary to our health and our very survival than any oil or uranium or name what you will …

learning fun in muddy puddles

PS. The top pic is a watercolour painting by Pari. She now sells her art (originals and prints) on her Etsy shop, Tinker Earth.

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