Readers of my blog ask me, 'You've written about activities of a young child, alright. What about those of older children?' Here is something written by a friend and parent of two kids (eight-and-half and six years old) Hema Jain about a day in their lives 'learning naturally'.
"As you know, my kids (Abhi 8 1/2 and Aparna almost 6) don't go to school. I don't follow any curriculum either to "educate" them. I let the kids' interest lead the way; I help them a little every once in a while in ways that I can. This approach is called "unschooling". Some of you have had questions for me about what we do at home all day. Here is a recap of what we did all day today (from 8 AM to 8 PM):
- breakfast (cornmeal, milk, nuts, raisins).
The kids chopped the nuts. We enjoyed the breakfast. It was past 9 when we were done with eating and talking.
- music (piano).
Aparna played the piano for maybe 20 min. She tirelessly plays her song over and over again till she is completely satisfied with her own performance. She changes the tempo, transposes the song and explores the music on her own. Abhi was playing the tabla (Indian percussion instrument). He didn't seem to mind sharing the same room as Aparna where she was playing the piano. They seem to be enjoying their music oblivious of the other one's presence. It was almost 10 when they got tired of the music they were making. Abhi wanted to play Monopoly. The kids were happy to set up the game which lasted 15-20 min. I played the piano until then and joined them once they had it set up.
We were playing a usual game. There was a lot of mental arithmetic work, permutations and combinations that were being exercised ("hey Aparna! try to give me $60 using the bills $20, $10 and $5"). All this plus a lot of silliness made each player's turn much longer than usual - I became a kid and enjoyed all that was happening. We had all the time on earth to enjoy the beauty of the moment. All of a sudden, Abhi got this (crazy) idea to take a loan from the bank. I briefly told him that we typically take a loan only when we don't have enough money for a particular thing. He didn't seem to care; he insisted on borrowing money and so I let him be. He wanted to borrow $1000 and wanted to pay an interest of 10%. Not willing live in a world with 10% interest rate, I negotiated it down to 1%. So Abhi calculated how much interest he owed. Then he asked me when we pay interest on our house loan. He moved on to figure out when he should pay his interest in this game; he thought and settled down with "we pay interest every time we cross GO (square 1)". He was so fascinated with the ideas behind loans, interest and paying back that our Monopoly game turned into some kind of banking game (except that it was all real for him). Only at night (while narrating this to Dev) did I realize that my recent trips to the bank had sowed the seeds for the banking game that we played this morning. This was till 1 PM. The game was interrupted by me several times because I was baking bread today and I needed to be in kitchen every 45 min. or so.
- music (vocal).
Aparna was humming a tune. Abhi tried to correct her and said that he could teach her that Raga. It went well for a while, but Abhi being bossy sometimes it didn't last long. This resulted in a fight and tears. They were upset with each other, but they managed to resolve the conflict all by themselves. They were back on track teaching and singing.
- Lunch. I took my afternoon (15 min) nap.
- We went to the park between 3 and 3:45; I did my exercise and they had great fun at the monkey bars.
- music (piano).
Abhi played some of his songs on the piano. I heard him transpose "the lion sleeps tonight", which was entirely spontaneous (the teacher hadn't ask for anything like that).
Aparna loves kneading the dough for roti. She started with water and whole wheat flour and transformed it into a beautiful ball in 10-15 min. It is almost meditative to just watch her do that.
Abhi found a used microscope at a thrift store yesterday for a few dollars. Having spent all of yesterday with the microscope and the only slide it came with, he wanted to look through more slides. But we didn't have any more. While I was cooking our dinner, he took some sticky tape and cut come of his hair and made a slide! He just loved his invention and made more slides - one with sugar and another with salt. He spent the next 40 min. at this.
Both of them absolutely love karate. Thanks to our teacher, Sensei Tony. Abhi took his microscope and his slides to show off to his friends at Karate. I meditated while they were at Karate. It was 7 PM when they got back.
- Dinner, bed-time reading (Aparna) and more microscope time (Abhi) concluded the fun-filled day.
I couldn't ask for anything more in a day. Every day has its own flavor. No two days are ever the same. I have always been able to cook, bake, play music, exercise, meditate, nap with them around. I am grateful for this stress-free life and wouldn't trade it for anything."