Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Natural Learning - Some clarifications and disclaimers

Peace, not comfort. Healthy discomfort, not conflict
Whatever I am writing about the ‘way forward’ is my vision for our children, for our families, for the world. I have a strong critique about many things we are not doing right as parents and as a society. But I also fully acknowledge that we are living in very challenging times, with lots of constraints and pressures. It is not easy to follow even things that we have deep convictions about. For all our critique of the TV (and not having one at home), Rajeev and I resort to suggesting to Isha that she watch ‘Dora’ on the laptop when we absolutely need our space and time and don’t have a baby-sitter! This is a unique challenge that nuclear-family living presents us with. 

It is very easy to start feeling inadequate about ourselves as parents and then feel guilty. Over the past few months, I’ve received many mails from parents who have consistently expressed this feeling. I, as a mother, am no exception to this emotional phenomenon either! My appeal to all of us is to be compassionate towards ourselves and not beat ourselves up. It can be draining and unproductive. Having said that, it is easy to also become complacent and say “Yeah, whatever! I’m sure they’ll turn out fine” feeling too comfortable where we are to look for change. In one line, we need to make peace with what we are and what we have, and not get very comfortable settling down there. We mustn’t let healthy discomfort turn into conflict either! Yes, it is indeed a very fine line that we must walk. What does it take to do that? 

Keep the questions alive in us. Pursue them sincerely one moment at a time. Acknowledge that we did our best in the previous moment. Strive for something better in the next. Continue to have conversations around important questions. Take slow and sure steps that don’t hurt us. Some steps may need to be baby steps and some others, giant leaps. For, someone said “Don’t be afraid to take a big step if one is indicated. You can’t cross a chasm in two small jumps!”

Roadmaps, not blueprints!

These steps, big and small, may be different for each parent, depending on where they are with many things – family situation, financial situation, living context, their own clarity on things, parents’ needs, etc. So, let’s not work on any kind of a blueprint for our lives. Let’s build a vision for ourselves as families and communities. Then, let’s make roadmaps to guide ourselves in our unique journeys. And share our unique journeys with each other, so we can inspire and collaborate with each other in meaningful ways. This is our approach as parents.

Our daughter is only two-and-half years old! This means that our direct experience in parenting is only that old. But both Rajeev and I have been interested in understanding ‘conscious parenting’ and ‘learning’ for over a decade now. We have been actively pursuing our own unlearning and learning through conversations with parents and educators, reading, watching films, reflecting on our own schooling and life experience in general, visiting alternative schools, etc. What I am writing is based on all the ‘Aha! moments’ I have had based on what I’ve been able to assimilate from all these put together!

Yes, Isha is special. Just like every single child on this earth is!
On reading the following stories I have shared about Isha, if you get the idea that she is an unusually super kid who is exceptional, then you might have missed the point completely. We are only sharing a story about what is possible when a child is free and parents are sincerely aspiring to tune in to a process that is very natural. Every child is special and is waiting to express and use her intelligence in her own unique way. It is said that though intelligence is fundamentally one, it can get expressed in as many as seven different forms. 

·        Visual / Spatial – ability to understand and produce images
·        Verbal / Linguistic – ability to use words and language
·        Logical / Mathematical - ability to use reason, logic and numbers
·        Bodily / Kinesthetic - ability to use body movements and handle objects skillfully
·        Musical /  Rhythmic - ability to produce and appreciate music
·        Interpersonal - ability to relate to and understand others
·        Intrapersonal - ability to self-reflect and be aware of one’s inner state of being  

Having become subservient to ‘industrialisation’, our civilization has artificially ended up valuing logical and linguistic abilities over all others, and hence the emphasis on ‘Maths and English’ over the others. If we were to change that and value all forms and expressions of intelligence equally, then we will see that every child is intelligent and special, and capable of the most extraordinary of things! So friends, this is not Isha’s and our special story. We are merely sharing our experiment and experience as honestly as possible to see if it can inspire more such experiments in ‘tuning in’ to something that already exists.

Lastly, I have used 'I' and 'we' interchangeably since my husband and I are largely in sync about our philosophy of learning and living. Of course, with minor differences in opinions about details here and there. With ongoing enriching conversations about fresh insights, new experiences and new questions. :)

Will continue with FAQs in the next post.

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