Resources for Continuum Learning

How do we set the foundation for lifelong learning?  In the early months and years of life, these five resources will help you practice continuum learning with your little ones.  Follow-Up to Attachment Parenting and Continuum Learning.  Scroll down for summary table of  Resources and Skills Learned.

Woman Breastfeeding Child

Painting: Abhishek Kumar.

1. Breastfeeding
Breastfeeding helps children learn a vital skill that they need all their lives:  how to eat.

Children’s first introduction to the flavors and feelings of food comes through breastfeeding.  As they gradually increase the variety and quantity of the food they eat, nursing serves as a safety net, allowing them freedom to try foods without any obligation to eat a given quantity by a given time.  Breastfeeding babies have time to acquire taste for a healthy variety of foods, while assured nutrition through mother’s diet.  Nursing also provides antibodies that help little ones as they explore the wider world and come into contact with more germs.  A partially weaned, breastfeeding child will often turn into an exclusively-breastfeeding child (ebf) when ill, and may require little or no other medicine to fight the illness. Read the rest of this entry »

Table of Resources for Continuum Learning

Read the full the post here:

Resources for Continuum Learning

Resource

Requirements

What Baby Learns

How Family Benefits

Breastfeeding

Well nourished mother, togetherness of mother and baby.  Can be met in part by expressed breastmilk during hours mother and baby are separate.

The world is a safe place.

How different foods taste

How food makes me feel

How I feel when hungry or full.

When I fall down, fall ill, or am sad, afraid or unsure, I have a home base where I can restore myself.

Mother believes in her body.

Whole family eats happily without stress.

Sling

Sling.  Caring person.

This is how we go about the day, talk, listen, cook, wash, garden, catch the train, etc.

I can observe and explore from a safe place.

I can communicate my needs without shouting.

I can get down and back up whenever I want.

Each member of my family has a different voice, gait, way of doing things.

Parent / carer is able to carry child hands-free.

Family includes child in their activities.

Variety of settings stimulate parent-child interaction.

Nursing Kurta

Nursing Kurta

My mother takes me to interesting places.

I am safe in the world.

Breastfeeding is normal.

I can meet my needs while my mother does various things.

Mother can go anywhere assured that she can breastfeed anytime.  [Can do with any dress, but some find it easier with kurta designed for discreet nursing.]

Elimination Communication

Potty, bowl or toilet area.

Waterproof sheets to protect bed, furniture, etc in early stages.

Simple cloth for baby’s bottom.

My bottom is normally clean and dry.

When I am wet or dirty, my adult will help me promptly.

I can relieve myself in a clean place.

My body works just right!

Feels good to respond to hygiene needs promptly.

See satisfaction when baby relieves himself or herself.

Supports healthy body image.

Enhances communication.

Family Bed

Mat on the floor or firm bed with space for family

I learn to breathe in my sleep by sleeping near breathing adults.

I am safe while sleeping.

I need not shout to be heard.

I can breastfeed while sleeping.

I can express my hopes and dreams, concerns and fears.

Comfort of child nearby.

Can nurse at night without getting out of bed or fully waking.

Chance to hear thoughts that may not come up in the rush of the day.

2013 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 1,600 times in 2013. If it were a cable car, it would take about 27 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

On Being Guided

 O n   B e i n g   G u i d e d

 

 

Let us consider the experience of being guided, and ask ourselves: what does this experience consist in when for instance our course is guided?

 

Imagine the following cases:

 

You are in a playing field with your eyes bandaged, and someone leads you by the hand, sometimes left, sometimes right; you have constantly to be ready for the tug of his hand, and must also take care not to stumble when he gives an unexpected tug.

 

Or again: someone leads you by the hand where you are unwilling to go, by force.

 

Or: you are guided by a partner in a dance; you make yourself as receptive as possible, in order to guess his intention and obey the slightest pressure.

 

Or: someone takes you for a walk; you are having a conversation; you go wherever he does.

 

Or: you walk along a field-track, simply following it.

 

Ludwig Wittgenstein: On Being Guided  

from Philosophical Investigations, § 72

The Theoretical Minimum

Book Review written for Home Education Magazine
Leonard Susskind and George Hrabovsky
The Theoretical Minimum
New York: Basic Books, 2013
238 pp.

Thanks to various findings such as the long-awaited Higgs Boson, and the award-winning television sitcom “Big Bang Theory,” key concepts in physics have acquired a coolness factor that launches them into the popular imagination with regular frequency. So it is great time for physicists to lecture and write for a public that is eager to understand more about forces, particles, energy, matter, light, dark, time and space. Read the rest of this entry »

Everyday History – Home Education Magazine

Guided by Home Education Magazine editor Barb Lundgren, I expanded my post on “Studying History” into an article. It appeared in Home Education Magazine as “Everyday History” in the March-April 2013 issue. Please subscribe to the magazine or ask your library to order it.  Here it is along with the photos that appeared in the magazine.


“Everyday History,” Home Education Magazine, March-April 2013, pp 22-25.

“Studying history is …. pretty much useless, isn’t it?” my daughter asked, as if it was fairly obvious. “I mean why read about Columbus discovering America, when it isn’t even true?” Read the rest of this entry »

Trails to the Past

Trails to the Past

The ordinary apparatus of historiography … is most at ease when made to operate on those larger phenomena that visibly stick out of the debris of the past…. A critical historiography can make up for this lacuna by bending closer to the ground in order to pick up the traces …” Ranajit Guha 1

Looking at the Ground

One day as my daughter and I sat down in Ponduru, we found in our hands a piece of the ground. It was coming off like puzzle pieces, revealing a layer of moist earth underneath. Someone had laboured to spread this layer on the ground outside their home. Though we knew this, it was so easy pick off, and so hard to resist doing so. What lay beneath? Why had the two layers dried differently? What were they made of and why?

A few neighbours gathered, perhaps amused by our curiosity. They had laid this ground, or ground just like it, adjacent to it. On ground like this they had learned to walk. They thought no more about it than second-generation city-dwellers like ourselves think about the tiles in our house.

Layers of Mud1

Layers of Ground. Ponduru, 2013. Photo: Krishna Yashwanth

But here we were, observing the different properties of the layers of ground. The upper layer was made of cow dung, and we could still see some grass in it. “The cow did not chew properly,” my daughter remarked. Why had they spread the cow dung in front of their home? Fertilizer? Good luck? “Antiseptic,” we heard someone say. How would we know? Could we test these three properties?

Fertilizer, being the most widely known use of cow dung, was also the easiest for us to test, having had some experience with it in our own garden. Last year we collected dung from a local cowherd to make gobbemalu for Sankranti. Afterwards we used these in our garden and saw a marked difference in the growth and flowering of the plants, especially the bougainvillea. We could easily repeat this and even do a controlled experiment using dung in one part of the garden but not the other. How to design a test for good luck? Or antiseptic? How would these tests, and our interpretations of the results, differ?

Feeling the pieces of ground, we saw how the top layer had dried, cracked and curled up at the edges, almost inviting us to pick it up and examine it like a puzzle piece – or like countries and continents. We could make pieces drift apart or come together, as if the moist earth below was the ocean.

Lifting one layer of dirt had sent us far back in time.

What Happened Here?

Sometimes we play a little game. Let’s call it “The History Game.” At home or outside, we look around and ask, what does what we see tell us about what happened here in the last few hours? Or the past few days? What is our evidence for saying so? How reliable is this evidence? Could someone conclude something different from the same evidence? What might possibly make us doubt this evidence? What alternate explanations are there?

We once asked these questions about a round pile of leaves, a few inches high. It was just a few feet outside of our gate. My daughter said, “this pile of leaves has been here for weeks. I have seen it here many times before.” Pointing out the different kinds of leaves, she added, “the leaves have come from near and far trees, because see this kind of leaf did not come from any of these trees.” So we talked about how they might have arrived – by the wind? or did someone sweep them? How long would such a neatly swept pile stay that way? How often do leaves fall? Now did we still think that the same pile of leaves had been there for weeks?

My daughter asked, “Why would anyone want to know the history of a pile of leaves?”

The Lie of the Land

“As it happens,” I warmed to my story, “several years ago, an important question was answered by asking just such questions about a pile of junk in a particular village in the Narmada Valley.” People living in the valley were told by the government that their village was not in the submergence zone of the planned Sardar Sarovar Project, and therefore they were not eligible for rehabilitation. People did not believe this, but who would believe them? It was their word against government records. The indigenous people were unlettered, and spoke Pavri on one side of the river, and Bhilali on the other. Together, they had weathered rains, floods and had observed the changes in the valley as each inch of the dam came up. They had lived there for generations, worked the land with their own hands and honoured the river as their mother. They knew Narmada would rise more than the level forecasted by the Central Water Commission. To challenge the government engineers however, they would need to prove it.

It turned out the location of a particular collection of debris yielded evidence of the level to which the Narmada river had risen during the floods of 1970. It matched levels indicated by people living on the other side of the river. With that piece of data, the people living in the Narmada Valley challenged the government survey records of their villages, that had erroneously resulted in a lower flood level calculation. Accurate land records were crucial in the people’s struggle over land rights and rehabilitation2. To plan for the future it was vital to know the past.

* * * * *

A Critical Discipline

 …. history is a critical discipline, a process of enquiry, a way of knowing about the past, rather than just a collection of facts.

These bold words on the study of history come from the Central Board of Secondary Educationii. But how many students experience history this way, whether in school or out? Are teachers and students encouraged to criticize and enquire? What if the critical enquiry led us to question the very statements presented as “facts” in our history books? Why these facts and not others? Are these facts even facts? What if they are lies?

What if a historian did for Indian History what James Loewen did for American History?  He not only identified lies told and retold in history books but also in museums and monuments across the United States. His two books, Lies My Teacher Told Me and Lies Across America have helped teachers and students seeking to bring out other stories, to challenge the heroic national narrative, and recognize the aspirations of people working against the grain of that narrative, or even crushed in the process. Next door, journalist Raza Rumi has written critically about the textbooks of Pakistan.

Indian history textbooks have undergone an overhaul since I last taught from one twenty years ago, when I found myself explaining and apologizing to students for inaccurate, inconsistent, and injurious statements in every chapter. Today’s NCERT History textbook offers a refreshing approach to the study of history. The book itself acknowledges the limitations in our knowledge and invites the reader to question sources of information and to interpret from diverse perspectives.

And yet.

Are students today asking questions in the class? Or are they waiting for the “Question Answer” sheet to be dictated so that they can prepare for the exam? Can you guess whether the following statements come form a primary or secondary, private or government, elite or international school?

The only questions I heard asked during my classes were about whether the material being covered that day would be on the examiii.”

[Students tend to] focus on recalling the content of the varied materials they read rather than analyzing them as historical evidenceiv.”

The first comes from Thane Richard, a student of St Stephens College, University of Delhi and the second from Victoria Brown, professor of history at Grinnell College in Iowa.

To encourage students to overcome this tendency, Victoria Brown has written a history textbook Going to the Source, that would help students practice history, to think like historians rather than simply read the works of other historians. The Central Board of Secondary Education expresses a similar vision. Here is the introduction to the history syllabus:

The syllabus would help them understand the process through which historians write history, by choosing and assembling different types of evidence, and by reading their sources critically.  They will appreciate how historians follow the trails that lead to the past, and how historical knowledge developsv.

Follow the Trails

Must this approach to history wait until the secondary school or college level?

Reading sources critically involves just the sorts of skills that children exhibit from the time they become verbal. Why? How do you know? Who said? But … What if? Answering these questions requires us to go backwards in time – to explain what came before, and how that is related to this. Children are actually begging for history and answering such questions is our first opportunity to follow the trails that lead to the past.

A persistent “why?” or a sharp “how do you know?” from an upstart toddler makes many an adult cringe. Yet it is this enquiring spirit that blazes the trails to the past by making us remember explanations for customs and procedures we have long taken for granted. Will they withstand the questioning? Or will they have to change? What is history for if not for social change – beginning at home. When we see that potential at home, we gain courage to practice this in the world, to question authority and believe and to have the courage to search for the answers, even as each answer leads to a further question.

It is easy to blame history books and history classes for the dullness of history. But would class be dull if students could talk back? If students could say what came to their minds, without fear of looking dumb or distracting from the lesson? Many teachers recognize the value of the student’s skepticism and offbeat questions but shush them out of pressure to complete the syllabus, even if that very syllabus calls for the encouragement of critical questions.

In fact, it is the refusal to entertain irreverent questions, especially from young people that dullens the sharp inquiring spirit which children express almost as soon as they learn to talk. The National Curriculum Framework textbooks call for that inquiring spirit – in history as well as in science. NCERT Director Krishna Kumar says, “The books are based on the recognition that the children construct knowledge with the help of experience and activities. In every area, from science and maths to social science and language children must be given a space to reflect, ask questions, wonder, and probe sources of knowledge outside the textbookvi 

I have witnessed the potential of freedom from the expectation of giving the right answer. We don’t even realize how much this expectation colours our response to the content of textbooks until we see someone who has not yet absorbed this expectation. A child who is not yet used to the idea that what she is supposed to do in response to a question appearing in a textbook is to “get the right answer” or even answer the given question, may offer a whimsical answer, ask an entirely different question, or find fault with the given question, going off on detours from which s/he may or may not return, sooner or later, to the route mapped in the syllabus. What happens when a child does this? Do we encourage them, listen to them, follow their train of thought? Or do we steer back to the syllabus, and to the (right) answer and on to the next question?

If we do the latter, we will be getting colder and colder on the trails to the past.


1 Guha, Ranajit. ‘Chandra’s Death’. Subaltern Studies V: Writings on South Asian History and Society. Ed. Ranajit Guha. Delhi: Oxford UP, 1987, page 138.  Available online (go to chapter 2).

2 Ravi Kuchimanchi, who helped the villagers expose errors in the government survey records, explains this in “The Height of Inaccuracy,” published in The Hindu, June 17, 2001.

http://www.hindu.com/2001/06/17/stories/13170612.htm

ii Annexure K of the History Syllabus issued by the Central Board of Secondary Education, Ministry of Human Resource Development

http://cbseacademic.in/web_material/Circulars/2012/47_ClassXII/K_History_XII..pdf

iv Victoria Bissell Brown and Timothy J. Shannon, Going to the Source:  The Bedford Reader in American History.  Boston:  St. Martin’s Press, 2004.

vCBSE History Syllabus.

vi“Teaching profession is in a deep crisis.” Interview with Krishna Kumar by Vasantha Surya, Frontline March 1-14 2008  http://www.frontlineonnet.com/fl2505/stories/20080314250509200.htm

Is there a curriculum in this house?

Is there a curriculum in this house?

1. Day in the Life

Kanti wakes up and starts telling the story of her dream to her mother, Shanti.  The story involves some balls rolling down some hills or steps or slides – she can’t really tell and in the dream they sort of morphed into one another.  She closes her eyes again for some time.  Then she jumps up to find some balls and starts rolling them down the steps and then creates a slanted surface with some pillows and rolls the balls at various angles.  She folds her sheets, lays them over the pillows and rolls balls down that too.  Over breakfast their conversation goes to bicycles, gauging the slope of a road by riding your bike (more easily than you can by walking), how to gain momentum to continue riding uphill without pedalling, and how long that will last.  She also tells her father, Ganti, what her friend told her the other day when they rode bicycles together.  The conversation reminds her of another friend and she goes to skype with that friend.  On skype they play a guessing game for a while and then log in to Khan Academy together to show each other their programs.

At lunch she has pulusu and rice in a steel plate and when she spins the plate she observes the pulusu liquid spin to the edge of the plate while the rice and vegetable pieces remain in the middle.  She then spins faster and sees the motion of the vegetable pieces and rice as well.  She puts the rice and vegetables in different parts of the plate and observes the motion when she spins the plate.

She reads a book and later enacts some of the scenes of the book using some beads (pretending they are the characters).  Afterwards she makes some things out of clay and pretends that she is running a shop.  She makes some clay money as well.  She keeps accounts, tracks expenses and profits as well.  Some objects cost more because they use a lot of clay, some because they require more skill.  Some are made of clay plus other things like toothpicks or cardboard pieces.

In the bathroom she watches the water dripping from the tap into a mug and overflowing into a bucket and observes the ripples as they fall.  Because the mug is tilted the ripples are not circular but in an oval shape.  She recognizes the focal points.  She observes the periodic nature of the overflow from the mug to the bucket.

“Kanti!” her friends calling at the window shake her from her thoughts. “Coming!” she shouts back in reply. She quickly finishes her bath and gets ready to go out to play.  Outside she and her friends decide what game(s) to play using an elaborate decision making process.  They then play the various games until every one has to go home.

Ganti asks her if she wants to go to the store.  She says, “can we take the long cut?”  “Okay,” he says as they go out.  Rather than walk on the main road, she walks across the open lot behind their neighbourhood, around some drainage pipes that she can climb, and through a cluster of houses that have come up near a construction site.  She plays with some dogs along the way.  On the way back it starts raining and she knows where on the open lot the puddles would start to form and goes there to splash and also to look for earthworms.  She can not find any worms and so plans to come back the next day.

When she gets back home her shoes and clothes are thoroughly muddy and she stops first at the bathroom to change and dry off.  She asks her dad not to scrape the mud from her shoes but to leave them to dry like that so that she can walk with heavy shoes and then chisel the dried mud off with a rock, as she had done once before.

She and her mom start making rolls. She plays with the dough for a long time, which is useful because it needs to be kneaded.  Otherwise it will not rise.  “Why?”  she asks.  Shanti explains that kneading the dough combines different proteins to make gluten which makes the dough stretchy.   They place the dough in a bowl, cover with a damp cloth and leave it to rise.  After dinner they punch down the dough and form it into rolls.  These will now rise again for an hour and then bake for half an hour.  But now they are so tired that no one wants to stay up and bake them after an hour much less eat them when they are done.  They decide to make them the next morning, and to prevent premature rising, they put the entire tray of rolls in the fridge.

Her dad tells her a story of Akbar and Birbal.  She interrupts frequently, leading to a number of tangential conversations, but always coming back to the story, until they fall asleep.


In the course of the day a variety of questions have come up – about fluid flow, physical forces, economics, properties of materials, biochemical reactions, emperors, worms, and so on. These questions will remain and help to sort out other experiences and data that Kanti comes across, and in turn she will have further questions.   To prepare for the next time she and Kanti will talk about gluten, Shanti has looked up some information about how it gets activated in the kneading process and is ready to show its molecular structure using paper clips.  Is this conversation about gluten child-led?  Adult-led?  Led by the desire for bread?  Kanti plans to go back to the ground the next day to search for earthworms.  Had she not gone the previous day with Ganti, she might not have made this plan.  If she lived in a house where getting muddy was frowned upon, it would be less likely to happen.  Or more likely – depending on how risk-averse (or frown-averse) Kanti was.

This path, wondering, pondering, meandering as it may be, comes from within.  Suggestions, expectations, requirements and other stimuli come from the outside world but the way one receives and responds to them comes from within. Though the specific things Kanti says and does cannot be predicted in advance, they are influenced by whatever she and those around her have said and done before.  Underlying it all is an intricate fabric.


2. Is there a curriculum in this house?

I ask this question with an echo.  An echo that, like every echo, echoes another.

This echoes Stanley Fish:  “Is there a text in this class?”

“Is there a text in this class?” is a question posed by a student to a teacher who then reported this question to Stanley Fish, who then shared the story in the opening paragraph of his essay titled, “Is there a Text in this Class?”  It is published in a book of essays, under the title, Is There a Text in this Class? The Authority of Interpretive Communities (Harvard, 1980).

You can read the article online here or download a copy of it from teacherweb.

“Is there a text in this class?”

Here is how Stanley Fish encountered and in turn posed this question:

On the first day of the new semester a colleague at Johns Hopkins University was approached by a student who, as it turned out, had just taken a course from me.  She put to him what I think you would agree is a perfectly straightforward question:  “Is there a text in this class?”  Responding with a confidence so perfect that he was unaware of it (although in telling the story, he refers to this moment as ” walking into the trap”), my colleague said, “Yes; it’s the Norton Anthology of Literature,” whereupon the trap (set not by the student but by the infinite capacity of language for being appropriated) was sprung:  “No, no,”  she sad, “I mean in this class do we believe in poems and things, or is it just us?”

– Stanley Fish, “Is There a Text in This Class?” in Is There a Text in this Class? The Authority of Interpretive Communities (Cambridge: Harvard, 1980), p. 305.

The question “is it just us?” refers to the idea that the reader is part of the text, and that the meaning of the text comes from the experience of reading, and is not a fixed and finished product of writing.

But is there such a thing as “just us?” Are we not in turn formed by our interactions with everything around us, including the text before us?  Rather than conclude that a text has no meaning, Fish proposes that we find that meaning in the interplay between reader and text.

“Meaning is an event, something that happens, not on the page, where we are accustomed to look for it, but in the interaction between the flow of print (or sound) and the actively mediating consciousness of a reader-hearer.”

– Stanley Fish, Surprised by Sin: The Reader in Paradise Lost, (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1971), p. x.

And so it is for curriculum.

Curriculum is determined not by the external sources (where we are accustomed to look for it) but by the interaction between the flow of external sources and the actively mediating consciousness of the living learner.

Curriculum is not just that thing that schools and traditional homeschoolers use. Curriculum is a path of thought inherent to everyone who thinks. Like a river charts a course by flowing, and explorers blaze trails by walking, we pursue ideas by thinking, in communication with the sea of ideas that surrounds us.

Nor is free thinking and self-directed learning only (or necessarily) practiced by those who are not in school or not “following a curriculum.” Even those using a rigidly prescribed curriculum must actively mediate in order to draw meaning from it, within the social context in which it is embedded.


What it would it be not to follow a curriculum?
To follow whim?
What is whim?  Does it come from nothing?  What is nothing?  Is there (ever) nothing?  Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”
Is there such a thing as “no path?”
Was Kanti walking where there is no path when she rejected the main road in favour of the open lot and through the neighbourhood?  Let us look at the factors that influenced her decision:
  • open lot route was interesting – pipes to climb, puddles to splash,etc
  • road was same old route, hence boring
These are just facts about the two routes.  These alone might not determine her preference each time.  What influenced her decision that particular day?
  • had time to take the “long cut”
  • had taken it before and hence knew about it
  • wanted to feel the mud on her shoes
  • dogs
  • vehicle traffic on the main road
  • position of sun, which way the wind blew
  • other factors we don’t know
Her path was as much influenced by the existence of the main road, which she found unattractive, perhaps because it was too neat, orderly, paved and fixed, as by any particular feature of the open lot and winding alley paths.
Though the path may not be there on the ground, the path is there in the mind, and that directs one’s footsteps on the ground.  Every time we take a step, there is something behind our step, leading us to take this step and not some other step.  And one step leads to another.
Writing in Mud

Khandala and the Yule-tide Spirit

Article sent to Swashikshan, March 2013.

Khandala and the Yule-tide Spirit

"Does one desire the yule-tide spirit, sir?"
"Certainly one does. I am all for it."
– P.G. Wodehouse, The Inimitable Jeeves

We were looking forward to the India Homeschoolers’ Conference from even before it was proposed, wishing and hoping that there could be a time and place for all of us to be together for days. I signed up to help with Activities Planning and my daughter helped me help. Together we pored over spreadsheets trying to put all the activities that various people proposed into the time slots, without crowding the schedule too much nor leaving anyone out. And not to forget free time!

At last the day came. When we arrived our daughter surprised herself by climbing up and hanging down from the rope ladders tied to the beams of the roof over the porch area. Later Ravi told me that she had told him, "This place has the yule-tide spirit. It makes me spring and jump." As we strolled around we saw all of the lovely artwork that people had already made in the dazzling Art Corner set up in an open area overlooking the hills. Since coming back from the conference I have seen the many photos that different people took of the Art Room but none captures its busy, bustling brilliance. Even if you threw paint on a canvas (and believe me we did!) it became something you would want to put up and look at. Going strong throughout the conference, the Art Room continued to churn out dozens of new objets d’art every few hours.

Soon it was time to gather in the main hall, get an introduction to the sessions for the morning and disperse accordingly. I led a little theatre workshop, which turned out quite fun – even though we had a group ranging from age 5-15, meeting for the first time, and speaking many different languages. For our first exercise, we introduced ourselves in a language other than our first language. We went on from there and soon the hour was up and we proceeded to the Mela. Kids and grownups had all kinds of stuff spread out and we just went from stall to stall trying things out, looking, tasting, wearing the various products on display. Looking back I think we should have had this on all three days, especially so that the kids who had stalls would have some more time to look at other stalls.

Over the three days, we had various planned and unplanned discussions about learning, playing, society, family bonding and even farming. Every night we gathered outside for song and dance or both. As well as storytelling, puppet show and other cultural sharing. Of course we sang "Ati Kya Khandala," led by an actual Bollywood actor. Amidst it all there was a scavenger hunt, some outdoor sports and games, and even a visit to Tungarli for a refreshing swim and short hike. Many kids found treasures, in the form of shiny rocks that were scattered around the rocky path from the pond back to the woods leading up the hill.

Apart from discussions related to homeschooling and parent, child and family relations, we also had opportunities to play with dough, make movies, learn to knit, make Arvind Gupta "Toys from Trash" and even explore particle physics. Near Hema’s amazing Art corner, (another) Hema and Ranu set up a handwork station and Sejal, Megh & Ashna sat and made / demonstrated Arvind Gupta Toys for a few hours each day. On Sunday morning, with a small group of kids and a handful of parents, Ravi eased into the topic of Particles in our Universe. Questions went all over the place and it was fun to see how he brought all of them into the flow of the talk. Rather than wow the children with the vastness of the universe or the infinitesimal smallness of the particles, Ravi lingered on the question of how do you know? He asked the children to suggest explanations for the movement of the curtains in the room. To the window flocked the children, checking for causes of this motion. Ravi encouraged them to come up with any number of explanations, as well as ways to test these. Though few children attended, many interesting questions came up, and continued even after the session.

One of the central spaces at the Villa was a large porch on which we had hung up a couple of swings and this proved to be the most popular place for kids and adults alike. Kids used to keep swinging late into the night. Surrounding the area were long benches and parents would gather around and chat while their kids played late into the night.

Monday morning came and it was hard to say goodbye to this rich environment swarming with interesting people and so much open space to roam, hide, seek and breathe.

While we are all waiting for the next conference, we can look at the reports and recordings from different sessions that are gradually coming out. I have started writing about the session on Attachment Parenting and Continuum Learning. Of course one never knows what thread from the conference will get picked up where – on the last day someone happened to ask me about the menstrual cup and when I mentioned that momentary conversation on a note I wrote in India Homeschoolers (After the conference), I got more correspondence about that than anything else. Often we feel too shy to talk about certain things … staying together for a few days helped bring about a sense of confidence, empowering us to share and ask questions we have no one else to ask. And to spring and jump.

Conference Experience

I met a man whose children were not going to school.  This scene is coming into my dream every night since we got back from the conference.
Was it all a dream?  Let me write it down before I forget.

On the morning of March 1, a bear came into the chapel at St Mary’s Villa and greeted all who came to the India Homeschoolers’ Conference.  Read the rest of this entry »

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