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About Being Brave and Breaking Out of Your Comfort Zone: Learning Societies Un-Conference 2012 – Part I

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.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ozqd7t3RH_U&feature=related[/youtube]

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 :)

Your turn.

Share your thought – anything that’s coming to your mind.

Your “mental notes”.

Let’s come out of our comfort zones to connect. (smile)

 

{ 30 comments… add one }
  • Swathi March 20, 2012, 11:35 am

    Wow Rashmie what a post !! After reading ur entire post i think the best thing that you did was to take Pari along with you. Will be looking forward for the series of posts on the Learning Societies Un-conference

    • Rashmie March 20, 2012, 1:01 pm

      Swathi,
      Thank you so much for your wonderful first comment :)
      You’re so right – taking Pari along was a beautiful decision – taken on a whim though…!
      Knowing that we can go anywhere we want – the two of us – without depending on the hubby for a break from his office etc is liberating for us as well as for him…
      Also, it was liberating to realize Pari could manage for the most part of the days without me being there for her…Infact I was hardly there for her except during meal times. She bonded so beautifully with kids and even adults there…
      I most likely will publish the second part this Thursday, Swathi. So, come back. I’m always so happy to see you here… :)
      Besides, sending you a mail in sometime on another topic… ;)

  • Prabha March 20, 2012, 1:12 pm

    Rashmie, what a powerful post!!! Yes, it is time to stop being possessive about formal schooling system, get out of the comfort zone, boldly choose to opt out of the rat race. For me, it is so much fun to give up Corporate and get my hands colored, I would say. I could relate every word in your post and I am moved by the way you have expressed yourself. We could not make it and I missed being part of all this fun and unconference. Can’t wait to hear from you more.

    • Rashmie March 21, 2012, 4:22 pm

      Prabha,
      I’ve always felt we’d have so much to talk and chat about if and when we meet in person. I was really hoping to meet to you at the LSuC but I know that you had prior commitment. But, never mind – it seems we might all be a part of an exclusive homeschooling gathering soon. Hopefully! Amen :)
      And thank you for the support here. Means a lot!

  • Swapna March 20, 2012, 2:20 pm

    Really a wonderful post. Reminded me of the rafting trips to Rishikesh where you stay at the banks of ganges without the most basic amenities. Disconnected from the material trappings of the world you feel so much more connected to nature and yourself.

    Although I like the idea of homeschooling I doubt that I have the discipline to do that. Rashmie, can you tell of some ways we can incorporate free learning at home which can be combined with normal schooling. And even if a child is going to the school how do we keep their mind open to unstructured learning. Any resources would be helpful.
    I had sent you an email regarding a different topic but I guess you have not seen it. Will appreciate a reply.

    • Rashmie March 21, 2012, 4:34 pm

      Swapna,
      Your Rishikesh trip sounds so beautiful, pristine and serene. I could almost visualize from your words. Hope to go there soon..

      About combining free learning along side school, I can think of involving your kid in hands-on activities – as per his/her interests – be it in the kitchen, garden, art/craft, clay play. Also, I think field trips are great and provide so many touch points for them to explore and learn without the text book way. Museums, fairs, zoo, planetarium, historical sites, old parts of the city and the streets – like Chandni Chowk! I think kids can learn so much outside the home, away from text books. They don’t even realize they’re learning.

      Also, I think that after a child has spent 6+ hours at school, making him/her do anything more that is desk-based, would drain the spirit. They need to really get away from the desk after spending long hours in school. I think they need to just play to their heart’s content.
      ———–
      Sorry about not replying to your email that you sent over the weekend. Honestly, I’ve been so occupied at the home front. Mom had two cataract surgeries recently. One was today. I’ve barely managed to write this article. It was pending for a while now. I’ll send out a mail to you tomorrow. Good night :)

  • tricia March 20, 2012, 3:31 pm

    Rashmie- the images are breathtaking and I love the materials your daughter is working with in the first pic! You make me want to visit India and learn more about Swaraj! :)

    • Rashmie March 21, 2012, 4:35 pm

      Tricia,
      You made my day. Glad you like the pictures and loved reading about Swaraj. Please come visit us soon :) Hugs!

  • Lainie Liberti March 20, 2012, 3:42 pm

    I am drinking up every word, feasting on every image and super charged! I am so inspired from your experience and equally inspired to contact this amazing group. I want to be involved! Thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing your experience and exposing me to this organization.

    Much, much gratitude.

    • Rashmie March 21, 2012, 4:38 pm

      Lainie,
      What a lovely, lovely surprise to have you hear and read this post and comment. I’d discovered your blog recently and loved it so much I linked it up here :)
      The learning Societies group is amazing. I hope you will visit India one day soon and infact be a part of the Learning un Conference. :) Hope to meet you at the next one…
      Hugs!

  • Amy @WorldschoolAdventures March 20, 2012, 4:53 pm

    My friend Lainie shared this post on FB today and I am so glad she did. This conference sounds so amazing and inspiring. What a beautiful thing to be a part of.

    • Rashmie March 21, 2012, 4:39 pm

      Amy,
      How wonderful to meet you – another world schooler! Thank you for stopping by to connect. I’ll go check your blog….

  • Anu March 21, 2012, 3:29 am

    lovely post, Rashmie!!! makes me wish i had been a part of it too!!!!

    • Rashmie March 21, 2012, 4:40 pm

      You can be a part of it – next year, Anu :)
      Thank you for stopping by :)

  • Sonal Gandhi March 21, 2012, 5:00 am

    Amazing and inspiring!!! Waiting for part II of this post…

    • Rashmie March 21, 2012, 4:42 pm

      Thank you, Sonal for your encouraging words :)
      I was hoping to publish the second part tomorrow but today was a hectic day so couldn’t wrap up that article. I’ll keep it for Friday I guess…

  • ashu March 21, 2012, 5:57 am

    Rashmie ..This is great post.I just loved the way u have mentioned about coming boldly out of ur ur comfort zone and successed in exploring all new world of experience.Although i ‘m not doing home schooling for my kid,but i agree and trying to provide fee thinking and her own space where she can experiment different aspects and enjoy and create her own world.

    Loved the video,lot of fun to see everyone having great experience,would surely love to experience something like this.

    • Rashmie March 21, 2012, 4:43 pm

      Thank you, Ashu, and I love all the natural and creative opportunities you provide to your daughter. :)

  • shalini March 21, 2012, 8:34 am

    Congrats Rashmie :) It certainly gives a sense of pride that we can be independent and on our own.. a couple of my friends attended the LSuC too so I’m glad i get to hear it from. Love the positive glow you give out every time :)

    • Rashmie March 21, 2012, 4:46 pm

      Shalini, you’re right. Even a small step towards being independent gives you a surge of confidence. I’ll keep taking these small, baby steps… :)
      Wow, your friends went there, too? I wonder who they were.. May be someone I interacted with. Send me a mail… :)

  • Ann March 21, 2012, 11:01 pm

    I am so looking forward t part 2! Loved the video – favorite part was the children having a mud-bath! I SO agree with children directing their learning! I think it is great that you set your fears aside – I am the same way about doing things out of my comfort zone. Looking forward to learning more and more from your experience!

    • Rashmie March 23, 2012, 5:16 am

      Ann,
      It’s wonderful that you work your way out of your comfort zone. The feeling one tastes having done that is amazing! Isn’t it!
      Glad you liked the video. The second part is coming soon… :)

  • Deeksha March 23, 2012, 3:43 am

    Since the time you posted the invite on your blog, I was waiting for this post.I was most thrilled to read about “Hideout” .For the first time, I had come across this concept of living and actually read about a couple who was implementing it.The place and the natural environs in the pics are so inviting :)..Whenever I think of travel, which I haven’t been able to do in a long time,all I can think of is visiting countryside, or mountains or lush green places.So, these pictures were a refreshing break.Waiting for the next post now.

    • Rashmie March 23, 2012, 5:20 am

      Deeksha,
      How wonderful that you actually took the time to click and read the invite the first time I posted it here. You’re right about your choice of travel – country side, green environment. I’m the same way. I can think of nothing else but country side, mountains and rural living…
      Thank you for stopping by and sharing your precious feelings, Deeksha. :)

  • Anita Roy March 23, 2012, 6:08 pm

    Thanks Rashmie for your beautiful summary of the conference. It is so invigorating, isn’t it, to meet others who are on that path? I am sorry we didn’t have time in Delhi but I know that your daughter and you will have years of fun together. What better place than India to see all kinds of different ways of living? By the way, it is “belly” dancing, not “belle”, but you probably knew that already! Love, Anita

    • Rashmie @ Mommy Labs March 26, 2012, 5:46 am

      Anita,
      I’m so happy I came to know you and interact with you closely due to, and at the unConference. You’re right about the varied and diverse learning opportunity that India provides due to the virtue of its cultural and geographical diversity! We’re trying to explore all this as much as we can and yet feel that we need to create more time and opportunities out of our busy lives to be able to soak all this… :)
      I corrected ‘belle’. Thanks for pointing it out :)
      Hopefully we can meet soon. Pls do stay in touch.
      Much love – Rashmie

  • pathik shah March 25, 2012, 3:13 am

    please let me know when part II will happen

  • Anita Roy March 26, 2012, 4:45 pm

    @Rashmie @ Mommy Labs – thanks Rashmie… if and when I come to India again I will certainly stay in touch. I will take you up on your offer of staying with you, if that offer still stands…! I am tempted to return to next year’s conference, but I have to weigh my budget considerations.. I also hope to go to Europe next year, and it’s hard to do both, especially timewise.

    • Rashmie April 7, 2012, 8:15 am

      Anita,
      I saw your reply but somehow missed writing back in time. Sorry about it…
      Whenever next you’re in India, I’d LOVE for you to come and stay with us. The offer will always stand, my dear!
      Yeah, I know what you mean by the constraint – of doing both the trips in one year. Europe has been on our to-visit list for a long time now. But then…the budget!

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