This is a bit dated..as I had written this many months ago..many things have changed along the way..but still thought of sharing, if anyone keen on knowing more about unschooling!
Honouring the needs of my children.
In being with my children I see myself as the facilitator of their learning journey and NOT a teacher. My task is to honour their learning needs and not force anything that I think is important for me only…That does not mean I don’t gently suggest..but if I sense too much disinterest I back off…
This whole process of facilitation happens for us silently and quietly. There is no pattern or structure. Some things are not visible also. When people come home they see us all doing or not doing, they wonder. I am somewhere, Ishaan is upto something or just lounging on the couch looking up at the ceiling, Gourika is scribbling something in one of her innumerable diaries! Apparently it is all noisy or silent…no visible learning seems to be happening. Or just watching TV the whole day!!!
But I know how much we are learning. Only I know that and my children and those who genuinely are interested in us. I see learning opportunities in each and every whim or fancy of my children.
Gourika was once very much interested in Hannah Montana. It is an American TV show about a teenage girl. She has a brother and they have been raised by their single Dad. She is a pop icon. I used to make it a point to watch it with her. Just to see what fascinates her in the show.
I found the show very absorbing. The relationship among the two kids and their single dad, the siblings relating to each other, Hannah/Mylie juggling two lives that of a regular school kid and a pop star, her daily trials in wanting what regular kids want and yet always having to be aware of her larger task as a role model for other teenagers…Her heart breaks, her struggle to be real with her best friend despite her larger than picture lifestyle…
I was amazed how much one could learn. But this could not happen till I saw only ‘American fashion and way of life and that is harmful to my Indian way of life’…At every step in my learning journey with my children, I have been forced to rethink my prejudices and conditioning…
Through the eyes of Gourika I was able to see beneath, and through the fear that Indians have about the ‘American propaganda’. I saw human beings trying to make a living, trying to love and accept, a single dad trying to be both a mom and dad to his two kids…I think it is awesome. Today when Gourika meets other single parents and their children she is mature and understands that, this too is a way of life for many…By following my daughter’s needs and interest I was able to throw away many of my prejudices about foreign culture and way of life.
Her interest in fashion and style also stems from Hannah Montana. She is long over with this show, but her keen eye for fashion and style has stayed with her. Even today she watches movies and shows primarily for the style and fashion that the characters or stars of that movie or show wear.
She also picked up interest in dance and music from this show. I have always supported her all the way. I kept track of the show timings, got her CDs or DVDs of music and films on Hannah. I bought her books and comics…and other merchandise too. It is also worth mentioning here that there have been long stretches in our journey where I was short on finances and could not afford many things for them…But surprisingly and pleasantly I held the intent close to my heart and they came in the form of gifts from friends and relatives!
Initially I helped Gourika to view music and dance shows on You Tube. She would browse for hours, sometimes dancing and singing along. She also learnt to copy the lyrics and write them in her diary.
Ishaan has always been interested in Trains of all kinds. I have spent hours and hours drawing and colouring trains for him. He picked up so much knowledge about trains just by looking at pictures and me drawing them out for him. He asked questions and I answered to the best of my ability. When I did not know, I looked it up with him on the Net or in books. We went to libraries and got books, movies, documentaries that had trains in them. At one point in time when Ishaan was about three years old, the Hindi film Sholay would be playing the whole time at our home. Because of the steam train shots and also the horse chase. He loved both trains and horses at that time.
I allowed him to watch Sholay over and over again. One day he got tired of it and wanted to know more about trains through other means…So we started exploring other means. We took train trips of all kinds. He asked me about the fuel types, track types, and much more. We often make trips to the Rail Museum in Delhi, that has an amazing collection of old Steam engines and locomotives from the British era also independent India.
From steam engines to steam boats to ships, and sail boats and explorations of the world….It is a fascinating journey of connecting the dots…If as a parent one is simply watchful and observant…your child will show you the way you need to take in helping her or him in their learning…
When parents ask me, how involved does a parent need to be to unschool. I always say only that much that your child asks you to be. One does not need to be superbly educated with degrees to show off for being an unschooling parent. But one does need to be genuinely interested in one’s children and their needs….The rest will manifest in magical ways.