I am Not Responsible for My Children

Just the other day, I was talking about our recent shift to Homeschooling with a close friend. Like most people who are not Homeschoolers themselves, she was in awe of the decision to Homeschool. She said, “But Shilpa, that’s a huge responsibility! How do you manage that?”

My response, “What makes you think I am capable of taking up this responsibility? I am definitely not the right person for this. I am not taking this responsibility because this is not mine to take. It belongs to my children. They are their own responsibility. I am just transferring their rightful responsibility back on them.” There was a silence for a few seconds on both sides of the line. As I said these words out loud, I, myself,  realized that this was indeed much deeper than the way I had just said it.

When I started homeschooling, it was more from the point of view of giving more freedom to my children. Even in those days, I had felt that ensuring their end to end learning and readiness for the future was my responsibility. But as months have slipped by and I have seen my son bloom in all respects, I have slowly let go of my beliefs and started transferring his responsibility onto himself. For example, he decides which classes he wants to keep and which ones he wants to let go. For now he likes Taekwondo and Piano. We just gave up Kumon. He decides which books he wants to do for the day for read/write/math. He decides how much he wants to eat and when he wants to sleep. He decides how much he wants to study and what games he wants to play thereafter.

Like most mothers, in the initial days, I was scared of giving the freedom. I was sure given the choice, my son would never want to study. Given the choice, he would never stay inside the house. Given the choice, he would never sleep. But I was wrong. The more freedom I gave, the more responsible he has become for himself. Likewise with my daughter, even though she is yet to start Homeschooling. Six months into this journey, I see a world of difference in our household. I do lose my logical mind some days and step back into my “Responsible Parenting” shoes. This is when our household resembles a mental asylum with me being the primary patient in need of care.

So why is that we don’t let children be responsible for themselves? Why do we think that children are the parents responsibility? This is essentially because we think that children cannot be responsible on their own. We do not trust our children to take care of themselves. Of course we have a million examples behind us when they were irresponsible and landed in a mess which we had to clean up later. But honestly, don’t we, too, make mistakes all the time? Don’t we get messed up all the time? Now that our parents are too old to look after us, no one cleans up after our mess. We just have to sweep it up ourselves and learn not to make the same mess again. So why don’t we allow our children to fail, make a mess and pick up the mess themselves? What is so wrong about messing up, when it is such a wonderful opportunity to learn. In fact the more we fail early on in life, the more lessons we would have learnt for latter life. Adults, of today, go through mid life crisis at 30 and early old age crisis at 40. Followed by diabetes and blood pressure by 50 and heart attacks at 55. All this because we have not learnt how to deal with failure, even today.

Another parent also confided in me that her children are not capable of taking right decisions. She has no choice but to decide for them. I thought, “Well! that goes for me too! I am not sure I can take right decisions! This is because I am no one to decide what is right. I just know that whatever decision I take, I have the wherewithal in me to see that decision through.” It is only because of the mistakes and learning from my past decisions that I have the confidence to take my next decision. If someone has never had the freedom to make their own life choices, then how can they ever learn to take decisions on their own? How can they take a right decision?

Of course, this rule should not apply to life and death situations and we should definitely step in if we see a child crossing the line into dangerous territories. Just like a lioness would intervene if a predator was out there to get her cubs, we should protect our young ones from life threatening situations. Let us also agree that rolling in sand, climbing trees and zipping down slides do not fall under such situations.

I hope I have stuck a chord with parents who are burdened under the responsibility of parenting. I hope you can, even if it’s just for a day, trust that your child is smart enough to take care of his/her life. While you may not notice the change in her in just one day, if you have been able to create such a day for you and your child, I am sure you have already started your own journey to be free.

I am not this Body but this Cycle is Mine

I am not this body

I am not my clothes

I am definitely not my shoes

But this cycle is mine so I will keep it clean at any cost, even if it means dirtying my body, clothes, or  shoes

 

After a heavy rain last night, Yog and his cycle got stuck in the middle of a muddy puddle. I was laughing away to glory when Yog tried desperately to keep his cycle clean but did not care that his shoes, clothes, hands and feet were covered in that muck! Immediately after coming home, he tended to his cycle to clean it.

After he was done, I immediately attended to cleaning him. After all, he is my son!

 

Child’s First and Ever Lasting School

What’s common in Embroidery, Carrot and Cheese Salad and Roughly Chopped Carrot and Cucumber Salad?

These are all home projects done by our children without any encouragement/planning/teaching from my side. Embroidery and Carrot Cucumber Salad having been done by 5 year old Yog. Carrot Cheese Salad done by 13 year old Toyna.

You may wonder what prompted them to pick up random things like Embroidery and Salad Making. The simple answer is that they saw these skills being practiced by someone at our home. Since these were being done for a period of time only by adults, our children figured it must be something interesting to do. After all, adults always do interesting things! No one asked them to try eating the salad leave alone try making it themselves.

The fact is that when children see something as part of their household they will naturally tend to try it out. Our children have tried meditation, cycling, trekking,  washing utensils/clothes, baking and even running their own business, just because these skills are part and parcel of our daily routine. On the flip side, my children think it is OK to raise their voice in anger because that is also what they have seen me doing in our household.

This is not a new concept. We are all aware that we have subconsciously adopted most of our own habits, values and rituals directly from our parents. To a large extent, our parenting styles are also pretty much similar to that of our parents. After all, what we have observed or rather experienced for the bulk of our childhood years is going to define the kind of adult we become.

For years, I have struggled to get our children to try out new things. I took them to classes, got them introduced to experts and traveled with them far and wide just to get them the “exposure”. It is only now that I realized the lesson that was always there in front of me. If I want my children to have exposure, it is “me” who first needs to get that exposure in my life. It doesn’t matter how good or bad I am at that thing. If my children see me happy trying to get it right, they are bound to try and do it out of curiosity and self motivation. Since they tried to do it by their own accord, they are more likely to continue pursuing it without needing any nudge from our side. The opposite of this is also true. If you don’t want your child to practice something, try and not do it yourself. For example – driving rashly, smoking, hitting someone or simple things like wasting food/water.

A home is the first and most intensive school that a child will ever go to. If you do not practice what you preach chances are your children will never practice it either. In fact, if you practice what you want your children to learn, you will never need to preach it.

Happy Homeschooling!

 

 

Criminal Child Labor is closer to home than you think

Children who do not score well in exams, spend on an average 7 hours in school. To help them improve academically, school puts extra classes adding another hour of study time.

Parents also want to help so they either teach the child or put tuitions for the child, adding another few hours of study time for the child. On an average, an academically weak child (a child that scores less marks) is studying more than 9 hours in a day. This is more than adult working hours. To top this statistic, here’s another one. These children are not even 10 years old right now.

Don’t we as parents, teachers or the society ever stop to think, why, inspite of so much effort in the same area is the child still weak in that area? Will we ever stop and analyse what are the strengths of the child and how we can help strengthen them further? Will we ever consider that maybe there was something else the child was born to do?

Just by forcing a child to do the same thing over and over again will not make them better at it. Even if it does make them better, it will never make them love the task. Quite the contrary is more likely to happen.

As parents, we need to stop and think why our child is not scoring good marks before we pack them off to another extra class. We need to stop and think, what our child was born to do and are academic scores really needed for that?

To be packed for 9 hours in back to back classes at less than 10 years of age is nothing short of criminal child labour. Anyone who is a party to this process should be tried like a criminal. Stop and think, are you being a party to the crime?

Our Death Plan

Ever since we lost Yog’s grandmother last year to Death, this D word has been omnipresent in our household. While we might want to avoid talking about Death over and over again, Yog is fascinated with it. It wasn’t long before he connected the dots and understood that Mom, Dad and Grandfather are also getting old and might die any day. It was therefore only proper that we have a solid plan for what does Yog need to do in case he loses his Mom, Dad and Grandfather all in one day. This is how our first conversation, in this regard, went.

Yog: Mama, what will happen if you, Papa and Thatha die? Who will take care of me?

Mama: By the time, all of us will die, Yog will be a big boy and he can take care of himself. Plus, you will have Akka with you.

Yog (thinking): But Mama, I will need new parents to take care of me. How will I find new parents?

Mama (laughing inside): In that case, Nani will come from Delhi and take you with her. You can stay with Nani. She will take care of you.

Yog: But how will Nani know that you have died and she needs to come to Hyderabad? Will you tell her before you die?

Mama (trying so hard not to laugh out loud): Someone will inform Nani to come to Hyderabad. Till Nani comes, you can go and stay with Sharada Aunty (our loving next door neighbor).

This conversation seemed to satisfy Yog for the time being.

A few days ago after talking about sun, stars, moon, plants and million other topics in this world, Yog came around to death once again.

Yog: Mama, when all of you die, I will go to Delhi to stay with Nani. I will take my password (he means his passport), go to the airport and take a flight to Delhi.

Mama: That’s a good idea.

Yog (all of a sudden choking on a thought that he can barely breathe): But Mama….. , But Mama…

Mama thinking that Yog has finally figured that life will be sad without his mother, father and grandfather. I should assure him that he will be fine.

Yog (continuing): But Mama, I don’t know where you have kept my password.

Mama (laughing under my breath): It’s ok Yog! I have kept it safely. I will show you where it is when we get home.

Yog, once again, is satisfied with the answer and happy to move on to the next topic for the day.

Me laughing internally at his innocence! I pray he always remains so carefree and forward looking in life. As for me, once I have shown Yog where his passport is kept, my job on this planet is done! I can then happily start planning for my next life! (LOL!!!)

Needless to say, I think both Toyna and Yog are blessed to be a part of  a large, loving and close knit family. It doesn’t worry me, even for a second, on what will happen to them if I am no longer there. Thank you dear family for so much love and support! We are all blessed!

A World without Boundaries – Mixing learning, working and playing

As the holiday season is getting over, Mothers all over the world heave a sigh of relief because kids are getting back to school. On the other hand, Homeschooling parents like me are always relaxed because our children never go to school. For us, there is simply no difference between a Monday or a Sunday, holidays, exams or school days. We love learning each day. We love to play each day. We never learn to be judged in an exam.  We simply learn because that is what we like to do. In essence, we have only two spaces in life – one in which we are learning and one in which we are not. In fact, the latter rarely exists because everything that we do has some form of learning for all us. Whether it is baking a cake, taking a stroll or causing accidents with cycles, there is something to be learnt in everything. This is our Homeschooling Life.  It is meant for those who cherish learning and growing constantly.

One of the reasons Homeschooling is not valued is because a lot of parents/caregivers are uncomfortable with having zero boundaries between studying and playing. How can one learn while playing? Is the child assimilating anything if there is no structured sit down learning? If there is no discipline of getting to school at a certain hour and sitting down for classes at length, how will a child cope with office jobs when he grows big? Unless, he is used to following instructions as a child, how will he follow instructions as an adult? How will he ever perform and hold a job?

These are all good and valid questions. But honestly, these questions are just misplaced in time. These questions applied to our parents and to some extent our generation as well. However, the Millennial generation is already changing the way we work. This generation is also called the Internet generation because they work anywhere, everywhere and are connected to work all the time. They check emails before sleeping and answer office calls even while on the potty seat. Even though they are always connected to work, they value work life balance the most. They work hard and party harder. There is a growing clan of Digital Nomads/Travelers who travel the world and work from remote places, simply using the internet technologies.

If you do the Math, the Millennial generation is easily 20 -30 years ahead of our children’s generation. If they have already started to erase boundaries between work and fun, our children will definitely not be tied behind desks for doing their jobs. Roughly, 30% of the jobs in the today’s world are held by freelancers. This trend will only increase in the coming years. This means that in all probability, our children will be their own boss, choosing the skills they want to pursue and how many hours (including which hours) they want to work. In this context, does it really matter if they learn to sit down in one place long enough or get ready at a certain hour each day? Does it matter, if they learn all the subjects at the same pace? Does it matter if they don’t like math or science or history? What should matter is whether they know what they love to do; whether they are getting enough time in doing/learning what they love to do; whether they have the passion and energy to complete the work that they have chosen to take up.

Through homeschooling, I am building an ecosystem in which my child can constantly work on what he loves to do in a way that he never feels that he is actually “working” or “studying”. Homeschooling has also given me the opportunity to “work” on what I like best – children. When I “work” with tens of children coaching, mentoring and teaching them I am learning more than I have ever learnt. At the same time, I am enjoying “working” more than I have ever enjoyed before.

In the end, I will just say that times are changing rapidly. It is time that we shed age old notions about learning and working and embrace the changes happening around us. Our children will be happier and wealthier if we as parents are open to a larger set of options including alternate forms for education, alternate forms of earning and alternate forms of living.

References:

Key skill for millennials is preparedness to move across industries and roles 
Our world is changing at 10x speed: How to prepare and be the change!

 

Bees Don’t Give us Honey

Yog (eating lunch): Mama, what do bees eat?

Mama: Bees eat honey

Yog: No Mama, Bees make honey for us. They don’t eat honey

Mama: No Yog, Bees make honey for themselves. We take the honey from them

Yog (thoughtful): So bees sell honey to us. What honey is left, they eat it?

Mama (laughing internally): No Yog! Bees don’t sell honey to us! We steal honey from the bees

Yog (shocked and adamant now): No Mama! That is not right! Bees give the honey to us. We don’t steal it from them

Mama: Where did you learn that Bees give honey to us?

Yog: My school book said, “Bees give us honey”. That is correct. We don’t steal honey from the bees.

Me silently connecting the dots. Yog is right. All school books tell us that Cows give us milk, Bees give us honey or Hens give us eggs. No book bothers to state the fact that all the above animals are reared by humans just like objects so that we can then acquire their produce. This is yet another gap I see in the way we are taught. Such education makes us subconsciously believe that these animals exist just to service us. We slowly start to believe that everything on this planet was created to serve the human race.  It is no wonder that human never even stop once, to contemplate why we are misusing the resources on the planet.

Creating education syllabus is serious responsibility. When children learn such things in school, they create a subliminal network where humans are considered superior to all other forms of life. Even within humans, some forms intuitively start to consider themselves superior to other forms like men vs. women, fair skin vs dark skin, western countries vs. eastern countries.

Short sighted curriculum influence the complete thought process of multiple generations and how they behave in the society. The impact of such errors will be seen on generations to come. We cannot include sentences like “Cows give us milk” in a science book and then include “We should take care of animals” in a moral science book. It is time we educate our children to understand the larger ecosystem of our planet and not just the human ecosystem. Even if, we as parents, cannot directly influence the school curriculum, we can definitely control the conversations that we have with our child.

Homeschooling Topic – Problem Solving

Yog figured out by himself that sometimes just switching off and then switching on an electronic device (in this case his battery car) resolves the functional issues.
 
For me, this is one of the most commonly used problem solving technique in the modern world. Works on gadgets, people, homeworks, projects, and even relationships…
 
Just reset the system and start from scratch again. Works 90% of the time.
 
#homeschoolinglife #problemsolving

Homeschooling Topic – Weather

Yog: Mama, Winter is coming.When will it snow in Hyderabad ?

Mama: It only snows in regions which are far from the equator or are very high up from the ground. I am sorry but it doesn’t snow in Hyderabad.

Yog: Why?

Mama: Because Hyderabad is near to the equator and it does not have any mountains as well.

Yog thinking about the facts at hand for some time: Are the mountains growing?

Mama: Yes, the mountains are growing slowly.

Yog: Then after the mountains grow, will there be snow in Hyderabad?

Mama: No Yog! The mountains are growing but not in Hyderabad. I don’t think there will be snow in Hyderabad anytime soon.

Yog: Why winter is coming?

Mama: Because the earth is going away from the sun and it’s axis are tilting.

Yog: If earth’s axis are turning then will there be snow in Hyderabad?

Mama silent. I really don’t know when will there be snow in Hyderabad. If anyone knows, please tell me the answer.

Some of you might be wondering what is the point of recording these small conversations with Yog. Yes, these conversations are definitely adorable and I would love to record how beautifully his small mind deciphered the big world around him. But more importantly, I record these conversations to remind myself and others that Learning is not at all constrained to books and school. Yog is learning ever second he is awake and maybe sometimes in his sleep as well. His intrinsic curiosity makes him understand about Carbon Dioxide and Equator even before his mouth can pronounce these words correctly. He calls “Gravity” as “Grabity” and “Carbon Dioxide” as “Carbo Oxide”. But it doesn’t matter. What matters is that he is processing what is around him.

Every mom thinks her child is a genius, but honestly I don’t think Yog is a genius. I think he just loves science. He just loves it so much that he is willing to read and talk about it night and day. But this does not necessarily mean he loves painting and dancing as much. He has his own interests and when these interests are fueled his learning goes rocket speed.

Looking at him learning, I sincerely regret not homeschooling my daughter when she was this age. I was an ignorant parent and I pushed her into the same education system that was probably never meant for her. If I had taken more time to answer her questions, fuel her interests, listen more intently to her desires, given her freedom to choose her path, we would be in a different place all together.

I share my experiences in my blog, sincerely hoping that some of the readers see the sense in not pushing their child through the standard education system. I completely understand that Homeschooling is not an option for everyone. Even if your child goes to a regular school, allow them the freedom to do what they want to do at least after school hours. Focus on their interests even if you think there is no career path in that area. Answer as many questions as you can, and find answers for those that you can’t. Search on Google or speak to other parents or connect to experts to answer your child’s curiosity. Whatever you do, please never ever ask your child to stop asking questions. The day we stop them from asking questions, the day we tell them that it is not right to learn.

So yes, I hope you now understand how desperate I am to try and find out When it will snow in Hyderabad. 😊

#HomeschoolingLife #Weather #SnowinHyderabad

Homeschooling Topic – Photosynthesis

Yog collected lots of twigs and used Popsicle sticks in the park today. He brought all of them to the car as well.

I casually asked – Yog, what will you do with all this?

Yog: I will burn them.

Me (shocked): You know we should not burn things. It causes pollution

Yog: No Mama! When I burn these, Carbon dioxide will come out. All the plants at our home are hungry. They need to eat carbon dioxide as their food. I am going to make food for them by burning these.

Me silent for a moment. It takes time for my aged mind to process such arguments.

Me coming up with my argument – There is enough carbon dioxide in the air already. We don’t need to make more of it by burning things.

Yog: Mama, but see there are so many plants. They are all dying because there are not getting food. We need to make more carbon dioxide for them.

Me stretching my minds ability – Yog, there are so many humans in this world. We are constantly taking in oxygen and breathing out carbon dioxide, night and day. Don’t worry we are making enough carbon dioxide for the plants to eat.

Yog nodded in silence, his plan for burning the twigs disappearing in front of his eyes. I heaved a sigh of relief. I had won this argument, today. But God only knows, how many more I can win in the coming days. Most days I feel my imagination and knowledge stretched to the limit answering his questions or justifying things to him. I have never used Google so much before in my life. Needless to say, I think I am learning more in the process, than I am teaching him. :d

 

Parenting Stories (and more) from the desk of an imperfect parent