Thursday, 25 October 2012

Creative Expression: An Inside-Out Approach

Have you ever noticed that we are 'taking in' so many things as if we are given a series of lectures and never got an opportunity to express outwardly about what we want to communicate. That is how it has been for me until late. I see that there was so much 'taking in' and there were not much opportunities to express myself. Schooling did not allow me to express as much as I always wanted to express. So, when I entered life after schools and when I was going through a difficult phase in my life, I started to blurt too much and over communicated that affected many of my relationships both at work and personal life. While many considered my way of communication as very overwhelming, some of my good friends used to say that I should start expressing myself in writing. When I told them that I am no good at writing and asked the reason why they feel that I could become a good writer, one of the persons told me that I have so much knowledge, thoughts and ideas in my mind which is not expressed but actually suppressed. He added that it could be the reason why I talk too much. It almost seemed like I was exploding rather than expressing. I realized there is so much knowledge and information stored in my mind which I was not able to unleash it out through a medium. I used to sing very well, I could have used that as a medium to express my feelings and who I am. Somehow I did not improve that talent either, for another reason. I felt a strong urge to channelize the knowledge constructed and stored in my mind, through an expressive medium; hence I guess I am blogging here. Since I am very verbal, expressing through speech is something that is very easy for me, though I am learning how to write. The blogger is doing a great bit in helping me to improve my writing skills which I could not focus and improve on during my childhood. Surprisingly, when I started to blog here, there is some kind of peace and inner work going on. I could see myself being much more calmer than I generally used to be. Nowadays, I do not feel the need to talk much and bother people. 

Similarly, in the past, I noticed that my child was struggling with the same challenge. He had much knowledge and information that he wanted to share that was stored in his little head which he could not express through words. An incident that I could never forget in my life is when one day, he was late from his school. At that time, he wasn't talking much since he was a young lad. His van came very late and when I tried to call the van driver, he didn't pick up and I was very worried. At last, when the van came, the driver didn't wait long to explain why they were late since they were in a hurry to drop other children. I enquired my child about the delay. He simply told, "come home, amma'. As soon as he entered home, he took the black board and started drawing something using the chalk and told me, "read and then write". He drew the following picture and I narrated what I understood from the picture. He has represented in his picture, the driver underneath the bus changing the tyres and S watching it. He simply nodded 'yes' and 'no' to all my narrations and when I arrived at one particular narration, he nodded a big 'yes' and wrote down the same in the board.

If you notice the sentence, he could not accept when I said, "Uncle repaired". He was not aware of 'past tense' at that time, and for him every sentence had a "will". So, he nodded a big 'yes' for this sentence, hugged me and he said, "afraid, afraid, me afraid". I was moved into tears how the child used drawing as a medium to express his feelings and what happened. He started to express like this only when I bought this black board and chalks. Later, he started to draw many such pictures in the black board and I got into the habit of narrating it for him and thus he picked up the language and started talking very well. 

That moment, my child taught me a beautiful lesson in my life that everyone has an innate craving to express.  He proved it to me that not knowing a particular skill is no big deal (in his case, it was language skills at that time of his life). He somehow expressed what he wanted to say through another medium, which is 'drawing'. He made me understand how much I am craving to be expressed myself. There is a big gap when we have much going on 'inside' and when it is not expressed 'outside'. I then believed that learning has to be 'inside-out' too. While I believe in 'looking inside' and learning about the 'inner self', I also started to believe that more inner work happens when we express it out in authentic manner through a particular medium. When we don't fully express ourselves this way, then we are not fulfilled, then it becomes more harder to 'look inside'.  Later, after many researches, I understood the importance of creative expression. Creative expression enables us to tell a story about how we feel and enable us to see the world in a new way.

The more we started to practice creative expression through arts, I noticed that we were starting to explore our inner selves. Whatever we expressed, the models or paintings we produced told us a story about the insights that we got. It revealed something about ourselves. Very soon for both me and my child, this kind of expressing ourselves became a regular pattern and we started to use this learning method very often. Not only it helped us to reveal some insights about ourselves, some of our expressions also revealed many other insights related to understanding nature and science. 

So, whenever we 'take in' something, for example, even when we read a story, we always made it a point to express what we learnt and journal insights/learning points and experience through some other medium. Waldorf education specifies seven arts - drama, drawing, movement, modelling, music, painting and speech. They also suggest that after listening to a story, the child should be given opportunity to express themselves in some way. There are many ways to express, for example one can draw a scene from the story, sing a song connected to the story, make models, create a scene and retell stories using puppets etc. At this time, my child expresses mostly through painting, drawing and music and we are slowly moving to express ourselves through drama, movement, modelling and using speech to retell a scene or express feelings related to the story. 

Take a look at the work produced by S after he read a story 'The Singing Dinosaurs". It is a story about how the three baby dinosaurs were lost, they started to sing when they were afraid and then at last found their parents. 

Not only he expressed a scene from the story through painting, he learnt some blending techniques using oil pastels. More important, he got an amazing insight that "Sound travels through air" which he has journalled in his picture. Since he got this insight about 'Sound', we also played a game to figure out if sound really travels through air. I asked him to close his eyes and stay in the living room, while I vanished into a room and starting singing in a feeble voice. His job was to follow the sound and find out the exact room where I am in, in the very first attempt every time we repeated the game. He was surprised to experience that sound did travel in air and that helped him to find out where am I. We took turns to find each other, by following the sounds produced and that travelled in the air. We ended up having loads of fun. This kind of playing games to understand science can be so much fun and children naturally learn many concepts through real experience. In this case, our game also involved movement and singing. 

Also, take a look at this art work that represents 'Reflection' which he expressed after reading the famous story 'The Hamster And The Lion'. Art work idea is inspired by Deep Space Sparkle. His understanding of what 'reflection' means, couldn't have made a mark in such deep manner if he had not gotten the opportunity to express in such a brilliant way. 

There is nothing more fulfilling than to be able to express. The ability to express or create something can reflect and nurture children's emotional health. In my case, writing this blog improved my emotional health too. 

So, are you just 'taking in'? Then, it is time to express. In what ways, do you nurture your creative expression?

Enjoy Learning and Sharing

Monday, 22 October 2012

Connecting With The Light

From Darkness To Light
It is a bliss to let go of the sense of urgency to accelerate the growth and development process of my child. When my child wants to sit in front of this light for many hours and just watch this radiating light with keen interest, I realize that he is learning. I muster patience to let go of the common opinion that he has to be completing some worksheets instead. The world will be better place if we could allow our children to slow down, pause to enjoy the birds chirping, connect with the light and the rain drops, listen to the frogs kwaking,  watch the candle melt until it is fully over and get dirty in the mud not just for one block of period but for longer hours. We have to believe that they are deeply learning, growing, healing and transforming. 

I wish the Goddess of Knowledge and Wisdom bestow Her blessings to the entire world. I imagine a world filled with wise and transformed learners of life.

Enjoy Learning and Sharing

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Freedom To Express Learning In Informal Way

I always get confused whether I should let my boy express his learning always in an informal way or I wonder if I should deliver some formal learning instructions too. The little boy always clears all my doubts by asking questions such as, "Can we do some Math Art and have fun today?"  and teaches me that there is always a 'taking in - input' and 'expressing - output' way to how he wants to learn. Sometimes he prefers the 'taking in' part to be facilitated, particularly if it is about Math. I ask him if he would like to do something on his own or if he likes me to facilitate something for him. Answers are always different most times. Recently, he is all obsessed about measuring things. He roams around in the house with the measurement tape measuring the walls, toys and many other objects. He also measures things using interesting and fun measurement tools other than the tape. Take a look at my earlier post Measuring Fun With Jenga blocks

Lately, as usual, he expressed his interest to get involved in Math art. So, I planned a facilitation which is more formal. As far as I understand with whatever research that I have made about formal learning and informal learning, formal learning is nothing about the formality of the learning. It is all about who sets the learning objectives and goals of learning. It is intentional and may involve coaching and mentoring. On the other hand, informal learning is more about self motivation. It is unconsciously incidental and the educator or the learner is not conscious about learning goals and objectives. It is very natural for the learner to do something informally and it happens in a spontaneous manner in the natural world. I have noticed that in our case, there are many formal learning moments which corresponds to more 'taking in' has led to informal 'expression'. And I like this balance. 

When he asked me to facilitate some Math art, I set some learning goals for him related to his favourite recent passion which is 'Measuring'. I discussed with him that that we will do an abstract art work that will relate to learning measuring skills, scissors skills and learning to use rulers and to understand the measurement unit - centimetre. He was excited about the idea. 

I cut a thin strip of coloured construction paper that will span only one part of the sheet's length and pasted it.    

His job was to measure the rest of the area's length in centimetres, and mark the same in the construction paper, cut and paste the other strip of paper to complete the whole row.

We continued to repeat the same until we completed several rows to fill the whole sheet. I pasted the first half and he went on to paste the second half in each row. Simple it might seem, though it needs a lot of patience on the facilitator's part. For an adult, the skills involved in this activity might seem so simple, but for a child learner, there might be skills that they are probably demonstrating it for the first time such as trying to hold a ruler, measuring and marking. They might be improving on skills such as using the scissors and pasting. In our case, it took a full one hour to complete the following abstract art which involved 'Measurement' as a key concept.

At the end, he evaluated his own art and decided that he needed to fill the gaps by colouring it red. I let him evaluate his creations because evaluation is the highest order of thinking skills and it helps children to assess oneself, paves the way for improvement and further development and growth. As you see that you could also notice some imperfection in the way he has measured and that is just fine with us. I would share with you about my ideas about embracing imperfection and allowing the child to be imperfect, in another post. But for now, I will focus on what I intend to share, more on the balance that we were able to create with both formal and informal learning. 

So, this was some formal learning that we did. As I said earlier, formal learning always and naturally leads to some informal learning that follows up. The very next day, S was so very excited to apply the skills that he learnt. As soon as he woke up, he said he is going to make a bus and jumped into actions. For at least 4 hours,  he was playing and running around, eating, watching his favourite programs in television in between and was also focusing in a very sincere manner to just create this.

The main thing I would like to share here is not about the craft work itself. It is about the application of a new skill that he learnt while creating something new. He has created many craft work other than this and those did not involve using a ruler and measurement skills. In the past, he used to place the paper on top of the cardboard and cut the paper directly. This is the first time he used a ruler to measure the length of the box and cut a paper of similar length. He very carefully measured the length and breadth of the box on all sides  using the ruler, repeated the same on a construction paper, marked carefully and cut a paper of similar dimensions. It clearly seemed to me that his focus was not to create a fantastic good looking bus, but he was more keen on applying his newly learnt skill which is - to use a ruler, measure and mark length in centimetres. So, the main thing that I want to share with you is how a skill learnt in formal set up might naturally lead a learner to apply the same skills in an informal way resulting in a creation which is more self motivated.

Hence, I am curious to find out from you whether you allow the freedom and time for your learner to apply and express the skills learnt, in an informal way? Last but not the least, needless to say, we always love to integrate Math and art. 

Enjoy Learning and Sharing. 

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Colours that revealed an Universe

A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions 
- Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr

Oh well, new experiences have been a way of life for us recently. We are trying everything new. Lately, we have been experimenting with water colouring. We do not know anything about painting, but we just do it. Our favourite has been the wet on wet techniques. 

Here is a quick painting that we created and it was totally unplanned. It all happened within five minutes. We coated the sheet with water as a first step. We chose two colours as the primary colours. I chose purple and blue while S chose red and yellow. I dropped the first colour (purple) on the sheet and I let it flow all over the sheet. Then, I added the blue colour and turned the sheet to all sides. The two colours blended with each other and produced a magic. I used a sponge to blot out the excess water from the sheet. 

I just loved this abstract painting. For some reason, I felt so happy, the vibrant colours reminded me of a saree that I have. Oh, how much I am inspired by colours these days and they bring in so much happiness for me. 

S poured his first colour (red) on the sheet, he turned his sheet on all sides, then slowly added the yellow colour. He watched how the red and yellow blended together to make a baby pink coloured painting. At the end, he decided to use the sponge that I used to make some imprints on his painting. Since the sponge had some left over blue and purple colours on it, his painting had some blue prints on it. He just loved his painting.

When I said, my painting brought me so much happiness, he exclaimed that he could see an universe in his painting. I realized how a quick five minute activity connects body, mind and spirit and helps a child imagine an universe in his art work. His sparkling eyes secretively told me to create more such experiences for us.

So, what are you waiting for? Pick a sheet, pour colours, watch them blend and create happiness for you. It doesn't take much time. 

Enjoy Learning and Sharing. 

Monday, 1 October 2012

Analysing is Good

There is an innate need for a left brain person to analyse. It is a way of learning, they analyse and learn. Analysing is a higher order thinking skills which is very easy and natural for a left brain learner. But many left brain people are demotivated sometimes by comments like, "Don't think too much, you are analysing a lot, take it easy, just do what works for you an what you feel like now." Such comments shut down the learning process that the left brain-er want to pursue. Have you ever caught yourself saying that to your child or any other learner, "Don't think too much", if so then you are probably stopping him/her from learning.

Enjoy Learning and Sharing

An action has a consequence

Guiding a child to be aware if they are inspired by the consequences that they generated through their actions; will help them to make right choices.

Enjoy Learning and Sharing

Friday, 28 September 2012

The Quiet Inner Connection

Pretend play helps a child to imagine, picture and visualize. I noticed that when my son is left alone to imagine and play, he is much more quieter. I sense that there is so much inner work happening. He narrates the story that he is imagining and this includes his own pictures and words. His imagination that is his own makes me feel like he is working very inwardly. He remains so poised, peaceful, happy and joyful. 

One day, he was gathering all his match box size toys that were scattered in many places in our home. We had some left over tapes which I had given it to him and had told that he could use it for his play. So, he chose to play an airport game. 

Most times, people say that children have short attention spans. But when they are very active in their pretend play, their imagination is so very wild and rich that they go on for long time playing and having fun.  And the depth of focus and concentration the child demonstrates is outstanding. He gained lots of insights and knowledge through this activity that no book or any other words or instructions could have given.

Many times, in the past, I used to jump in to give him ideas on how to even play. Lately, I have made myself distant and I just peacefully observe what he comes up with. What more can bring me happiness when I observe my child making life his own? And when the play is open ended, I notice that creativity just bubbles up in him. 

I do not want to assess whether the pretend play contributed to the child's creativity, intelligence, language development or any other skill. The very simple fact that he was joyously playing and being engaged made me feel happy. Though the activity externally looked very energetic and loud, I could still sense that there was some quiet inner connection happening. 

And, the tapes remained for a week on the floor and he kept playing throughout. Only the vehicles were moved to clean the floor. 
Enjoy Learning and Sharing

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Embracing Nature In An Urban Life

When I was a child, I used to visit my grand father's village. One of my favourite activities after I have my lunch is to grab my friends from the street and go out on a nature expedition. We used to enjoy the street side trees, bushes, hang out and play in the areas around a huge tank in the village. The most favourite activity was to visit a temple near by to collect the cashew nut fruits, gather mangoes and collect all kinds of leaves, stems and barks. We used to collect a lot of almond fruits and crack their shells and eat it. We used to take home loads of natural things that we collected. We also used to pick soft rounded stones, get back home and play a game using those stones that naturally developed our fine motor skills. It was all free play, nobody used to facilitate anything for us. The experiences that helped us connect with nature in the olden days were really very rich and peaceful. We had the freedom to explore, play and interact with nature with very little supervision. 

The lives of children today are very different than it used to be in the olden days. Lately, things have changed and there are very less opportunities for children to connect with nature and experience free play in areas surrounding the nature. These children have less contact with nature and earthly materials. We end up living in areas with manufactured playground equipments designed by adults. Adults think these are appropriate models for children to play. Children's lives have been structured and scheduled by adults. Most adults think that a structured and scheduled class or a sport would help children develop skills that will help them become a successful adult. 

Nowadays, we pay hefty price to have contacts with nature. During one of such trips recently, I was moved into tears when I observed the body language and behaviours of my child when he had the freedom to just 'play' and connect with natural things, mainly in his own way. He was happily running around, imitating animal behaviours, gathering stones and sticks and more. The main point is no instruction was given to him to be a certain way and he was never asked to do certain things. It all happened just naturally and I felt that nature is indeed a teacher. I was amazed by his curiosity and natural inclination to develop a connection with nature.

Though I am not able to recreate such an experience for my child more often, I always wonder how can I give him a chance to explore nature so that he could be aware of the affinity that human beings have with nature. When I look at what is available near by, I would say we are really blessed to live near a beach. Beaches are quite places to connect with nature. Yes, I really mean that, the ones near by our place are quiet ones.

Beaches are heaven and it is indeed a bliss to get our hands and legs wet. We make sure that we visit the beaches more often nowadays since it is one place where we can embrace a bit of nature while living an urban life. It is always so much happiness to watch my child discover the beauty of nature and play in unison with it.

I also feel a very healing sensation to touch and collect shells along with my child.

As the saying goes, 'Nature nurtures creativity", these beautiful shells inspired us to create something out of those. With the Ganesh festival going on, we chose to create a beautiful Ganesha using those shells. Holistic approaches to learning such as this indeed nurtures our body, mind and spirit and it does improve our creative intelligence. And we did experience that and you will agree when you take a look at our 'Shell Art Ganesha'

All we needed to create this beautiful shell art, were only shells collected in the beach and a left over thermocole sheet. The only material for which we spent some money is the small fevicol tube with which we glued the shells.

Creativity is as important in education as literacy and we should treat it with same status - says Sir Ken Robinson and I am glad we were able to unleash creativity, with nature as our teacher to get ourselves soothed and to have our senses put in order. Though we are not able to experience nature in a way we would really wish to, we are happy that we are able to help ourselves with what is available and accessible for us, in an urban life that we have chosen to live. We experience what is available for us and bring a bit of it to our craft table too.

Regular contacts with nature helps children develop ecological literacy, they develop a love towards our planet. Not only that, the wisdom amassed through such experiences are far more useful for them to make wiser choices in their future to save our planet than the content knowledge gathered from books.

What opportunities are available for you to help your children connect with nature in today's urban life? 

Enjoy Learning and Sharing

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Saturday, 15 September 2012

Learning is Contagious

Conclusion of a thought being brainstormed is defined by the learner. Learners can go on constructing knowledge from the previous links and thread and may never stop, thereby making many many connections. Hence some people who are natural or self learners enjoy their method of learning since one period for them is not one hour. Enthusiastic learners keep thinking and analysing, will go on constructing new knowledge and ideas. They will come back and share all those new imaginations, facts and stories etc.. It never ends, learning is contagious.

Enjoy learning and sharing

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Connecting With Yellow In Nature

Yellow is Hope and Happiness

Connecting with nature is something that we are falling in love with since few months now. Today, we chose to go on a nature walk to be friends with anything yellow in nature.

We picked a tiny yellow flower that captured our eyes.

We observed and discussed about leaves that had turned yellow. 

The sight where a stem of a baby bamboo tree that had turned yellow while other stems remained green was very captivating.

Then, we moved on friending something really yellow. We distinguished buds and fully blossomed flowers. We were also able to distinguish the buds that might bloom tomorrow and the other tiny buds that may not bloom tomorrow.

We were overawed to observe one more yellow friend who was fully bloomed and enjoyed a similar flower with some of the petals bloomed while others remained babies as yet.

We didn't skip the leaf that had yellow lines running across it.

We returned back home, enjoyed the evening breeze in our balcony, to capture one more yellow before we said farewell to the yellow in nature, only just for today. 

We know that our journey of connecting with nature will continue with more inspiring colours. If you are new to nature walking, this could be a first step for you. Taking a colour nature walk with your kids and family is the easiest, simplest and an inspiring one. Look for colours in general or a particular colour in nature and explore, connect and be blessed.

Enjoy Learning and Sharing

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Whose Learning Is It Anyway?

A teacher in an International Indian school pointed out to the alphabet 'A' to S who was just over 3 years old and said, "Come on now say A apple". S replied, "A air plane". The teacher said, "No honey, A apple". S keenly gazed at her and said, 'A air plane". The teacher was at the end of the rope. She continued, "Sweet heart, say A A A as in apple". Then, she showed another flash card that had an apple picture in it and tried one more time, "Apple"; now with a bit irritated face. S nodded 'NO', made hand gestures of an air plane flying up in the sky and said 'Zoooom, A air plane". The teacher turned back and looked at me and said, "He is not listening".

Another day, S brought back home a worksheet that he needed to complete. The exercise was to match similar shaped fish in two columns. While I was beside him, I noticed that he looked at the worksheet and suddenly became so very sad. I didn't quiet understand when he started to cry querulously. The next thing he did was to pick a blue coloured crayon and he vigorously coloured the whole background. When he was done, he said, "No water and fish die, now no, they can't die. I put them in water". His eyes twinkled with joy because in his world, he saved the fishes by putting them back in water. He knew that is exactly how fishes could survive life; in water. The moment of realization that my sweet heart was aware of a huge fact about the life and death of a fish, was nothing but a jubilant moment for me. 

The next day I went to the school to pick him up when his teacher stopped by to chat with me. She said, "S has coloured the whole paper with blue. The exercise was just matching the same shaped fishes.". I smiled and exclaimed with sparkles in my eyes, 'He realized that fishes can not live without water and he coloured the whole background blue." The teacher replied in a stern voice, "He needs to follow instructions. He can't do his own things". I was shocked to hear this. I immediately felt that the teacher was not acknowledging what the child wanted to learn naturally. I felt that the child's autonomy was not respected and he was not given the freedom to express what he learnt. Later in his school days, this became a pattern. He was forced to learn and perceive things only according to the instructions provided by the teacher and worksheets. Creativity, critical thinking, freedom to express and think differently, self esteem, independence... the list goes on - everything went in the soup. 

My boy is now 8 years old. We recently visited Kabini, a popular wild life destinations and a river resort area in Karnataka, India. I was overawed when I saw the lush green fields, the humongous banyan trees, widespread sugar cane, turmeric, okra, ragi (finger millet), baby corn and cotton fields in and around Kabini. It was a treat for my eyes. My excitement bubbled up, beamed into my child and I really wanted him to enjoy the same treat. We stopped our vehicle to take a closer look at the fields. S enjoyed all the beauty and said, "Amma, it is so beautiful". Throughout the trip, I insisted my boy to watch the fields and intentionally showed him the plantations so that he could learn how and where crops are grown. I realized that he wasn't much interested in watching the fields.

Later, when we went for a walk near the lake around the resort, S was so fascinated by the 'touch me not' plants and started to play with it. There were plenty of them. We stopped by a place where some men were constructing a building. S wanted to stop and watch the men who were building a brick wall. He keenly observed how they were building a brick wall. Few months back, he wanted to understand - "How people build a brick wall?". He had even watched a You Tube video on that. Now, when he was able to really see some men being in action, he was excited to watch it. There was a huge heap of black stones near by. The stones were so beautiful and shiny. S wanted to pick one and keep it to himself. Three days passed by in a serene way, added fun and play for our little boy. S spent his time walking and marching on the sides of the lake and jumping in the trampoline. S also brought back, a stick of a tree branch that he was playing with. 

Back home, we rested for a day and he started to write about his trip. He needed my help to ask him open ended questions so that he could generate a content. He wrote all about how he played with the 'touch me not' plants, the tree twigs and how he jumped in a trampoline, his experience of visiting the elephant camp and more. He also mentioned that he brought back home a black stone and a stick from a tree branch. But, never he mentioned about the sugar cane, the finger millet and the cotton fields. I wondered how much I insisted that he connect with the lush green fields, but he still could not remember anything about the fields and the plantations. All he could remember while writing were the 'touch me not' plants, the tree stick, the  black stone, the trampoline fun and how he enjoyed walking along the sides of the lake. 

My point is - children learn what they see and live in a way that is pertinent to them. They are very present and conscious about how they perceive the resources around them. They construct knowledge and ideas related to what they are interested about.  They learn something because they are interested in that and not because we ask them to learn. And, they take sincere responsibility for their learning. When an educator allows a child to express what they learn and perceive in a way they see it, children feels acknowledged and their curiosity to learn more deeply, increases. 

A child sees an air plane in an 'A' while a teacher sees an apple. A child can feel that a fish can't survive without water and he pours out compassion with the help of a blue crayon to save those fishes. I look at the lush green fields while he is interested in the black stone, the twig and 'touch me not' plants. The child is perceiving his environment intently, learning what he wants to learn in a consistent manner. But we think, they are not listening to us or not learning what we want them to learn. 

As educators and learning partners of our children, let us stop, pause and ask ourselves this one powerful question, "How many times do we see through the eyes of a child?" There is a world out there with overflowing opportunities where our children learn continuously without any break. And they learn much more than what we want them to learn. Yes, they do learn. All the time. And, they sometimes seek beyond the limits that we set for them. It is only we don't see it. 

And when we see through their eyes, we will surely be able to acknowledge that there is abundance of learning happening in their world. And watch out, it may be more than what we think their capacities are. They may not be interested in learning about the shape of a fish, they may be learning much more than a mere shape - about the very life of a fish. 

Enjoy Learning and Sharing

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Sky Watching - Amazing Fire Rainbow

The land near our apartments is an empty one and it is our window to enjoy the nature, the greens and the blues which will probably be lost once another builder will occupy the land in few years. It has been our  (mine and our son's) usual activity nowadays to take some time, stand in our balcony and enjoy sky watching. Few days back, to our surprise we could see something like a rainbow in the sky. 

When we observed more keenly, we were sure that it wasn't a rainbow. S said in a quiet tone, "Amma, it seems like the fire rainbow that we read about". I remembered having seen a fire rainbow picture and information related to it in National Geographic few months back. Fire Rainbow, the flame like appearance is actually called as the circumhorizontal arc which is an ice halo formed by plate shaped ice crystals in high level cirrus clouds.

I was sure the one that we saw was a fire rainbow. It was amazing to watch such a thing in the sky. I read that fire rainbow is the rarest of all naturally occurring atmospheric wonder. At that moment, I really felt blessed. 

Fire Rainbow captured in Navalur, South Chennai, India

Charlotte Mason says 

"Nature knowledge is the most important for young children. It would be well if we all persons in authority, parents and all who act for parents, could make up our minds that there is no sort of knowledge to be got in these early years so valuable to children as that which they get for themselves of the world they live in. Let them once get in touch with nature and a habit is formed which will be a source of delight through life. We were all meant to be naturalists..." (Vol 1, II Out of Door Life For the Children, p. 61)

Connecting with nature and seeking to learn more about it; has been something that we are busy with, in the recent few months.  Connection with nature has been slipping away from children in this generation.  It is been said that children grow healthier, wiser, more content when they are connected with nature. As a first step to provide my child an experience of the world that he lives in, I started to enjoy the nature myself. I am forming a habit to look in for simple natural things that is around me. I wish to have simple interactions  with nature that is available around me, include and encourage my son to participate in those moments. 

Sky watching can be an effective activity for sensory stimulation. I believe majority of our learning happens through 'Seeing'. Nowadays, I am inspired to create this bond with nature, because the moments when I become one with nature provides me a sense of healing in a sometimes hostile and frightening world. For a young learner, sky watching could be an activity that involves sensory stimulation, but in my case, it is also very holistic since it involves my emotions that requires stimulation to learn to heal myself. 

Needless to say that I have been experiencing these healing powers of incredible nature after I have started to learn with my son. I wish we could create such stimulating learning spaces and opportunities for ourselves that strengthens our connection with nature, make nature education as a part of our daily lives and embrace the wisdom inherent in nature.

Enjoy learning and Sharing. 

Saturday, 11 August 2012

Measuring Can Be Fun too

Children love to learn and they are very creative enough to transform their play into a learning experience. Learning need not be confined to worksheets and abstract concepts. When left alone, they could even come up with their own creative idea and invent their own learning method. The only thing that I learnt that I need as an educator is to keep restrain. I had to be patient enough to let ideas blossom naturally by giving time, space, freedom and by providing a loving and non interfering environment for him to unleash his creativity. S loves to play with Jenga blocks. You could believe what I am saying by looking at the pictures. 

One fine day, after playing with the blocks for some time, he was able to figure out that the Jenga blocks could be used as a tool to measure things at home. He measured as many objects as he could using the Jenga blocks and prepared a report that gave details about the length of each object that he measured. It was amazing to read the report he prepared in a quick manner that read "My noddy car is 2 Jenga blocks long. My favourite book is 3 Jenga blocks long. Our centre table is 11 Jenga blocks long..." I noticed that he generally writes slowly but the time he took to prepare this report was too very fast and I could not believe the speed with which he did that.

That leaves me with - Children can develop their own lesson plans. Knowledge and concepts amassed through such self directed learning is huge and lasts for ever because it is actually original. And that is so much fun for them too.

Enjoy learning and sharing.

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Handling Emotional Needs for Learners

Few days back, I was watching some little swimmers acting submarines with their swimming skills in our community swimming pool. It was a wonderful sight to watch them all. When the children were done with their swimming, I had this strange curiosity to approach a bunch of boys and ask them why they were learning to swim. I asked couple of boys and got an immediate reply from one, "My mom wants me to learn swimming". Another replied, "I like to swim in water". Another replied, "I want to become an expert and be a famous swimmer, win lots of medals". I came back home and asked my son, "Why do you want to learn swimming?" The answer came in a lightening speed - "I want to be brave". I was stuck with awe after hearing this authentic, innocent answer which he gave in an effortless manner.  I said, "So, swimming is about being brave for you!!!". He added after a moment, "Yes, swimming is an expression of my bravery".

The whole experience was full of rich lessons for me. Here are some of them that I'd like to share with educators and parents. With parents, schools and educators focusing on academic achievement more and more, recognizing learner's core desire to fulfill their emotional needs is ignored. Emotional achievement is a forgotten area that I'd like to throw light at.

In my son's case, it is not a surprise for me when he expressed his emotional need and its relationship to swimming. The only thing that I was bowled over was his ability to express this to me clearly. I have been observing since many months, in fact almost a year now; that his drive to learn just about anything originated from wanting to nurture his bravery. For example, he was inspired by a boy whose name is 'Veer' and wondered why he was not named as 'Veer'. 'Veer' in Indian language means 'Warrior'. He was always so fond of drawing the Chinese symbol that represented 'Bravery'. That triggered him to learn more about Chinese symbols. He had been learning a lot about warriors from different parts of the world. He was always perfecting his 'Warrior Pose' (Veerasana) in Yoga. The learning opportunities and the content that he chose was to braving himself. His every chosen learning activity was something that would actually make him a bit more valorous. I have been intently observing and journal ling all his behaviors for almost a year now, so that I am able to support him in his learning journey in a way that is relevant and pertinent to him.

I started to wonder that the child who expressed that he wanted to get medals may also have some innate emotional need beneath the desire to achieve. Emotional needs can be a major pre-cursor for achievement in academics and other competitive areas. Educators and parents have always looked at intelligence as one dimensional trait, accessible to evaluation by numbers. On the flip side, creating emotionally sound learning environment and opportunities help learners to improve academic outcomes.   As parents and educators, our job is to tap into this emotional need that is craving to be expressed in every learner and support them to handle such feelings at first place. Unleashing this internal desire of learners can lead educators to bring out the learner's best externally. A point to note here is that our job is to plan differentiated instruction as per the learner's requirement. A child who wants to swim for joy should be given opportunities to enjoy a calm learning experience. A child whose focus is to collect a couple of medals will be willing for more challenges and hard work outs. The child who wants to brave should not be put to shame and the facilitator might want to take careful steps to nurture that value for him. This is not only pertinent to young learners. I was surprised that even adult learners in a Corporate training program that I recently delivered, came up with a lot of emotional needs that needed to be addressed during when I was conducting needs analysis.

Abraham Maslows suggests in his theory that the following needs of a child should be first met before any child could learn.
  • Physiological needs: nutrition, sleep, exercise, health
  • Safety needs: both physical and emotional
  • Love and belonging needs: affection shown to the child, trust of those around him, someone who listens, daily order, a right to privacy, unconditional love
  • Self-esteem needs: someone affirms the child's worth, child is given the opportunity to achieve, to make choices, to be successful, respect of others, respect by others
  • Self-actualization needs: child is developing abilities and strengths, problem-solving skills strengthening, creativity, morality, spontaneity, lack of prejudice, acceptance of facts
Emotional learning and skills related to that such as recognizing and managing one's own emotions can be the best predictors of both academic and life success. What steps can we take to help children to make them understand the nature of biology, emotions and intelligence and their relationship with success as well as happiness? How could you offer differentiated instruction as per the learner's emotional needs?

Enjoy learning and sharing

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Musings on Doing, Being and Living Consciously

Lately, I have been very lethargic. May be because I am just unwinding and de-stressing after a long awaited event that happened in our family. While I say that "I am destressing", I notice that I am not doing anything to de-stress; the body has naturally been doing the unwinding job by being so lethargic and making me sleep more than I usually do. Believe me or not, sleeping is one of the difficult tasks for me on earth. I am so surprised how I am sleeping so much nowadays. It could be that my body naturally needs that much rest. Anyways, I am letting it be and allowing what so ever is happening.

Sometimes, we tend to forget that we really are tired and when we sit down to relax, we notice that the body automatically wanting to unwind. I notice this in moms and more in working moms or working from home moms. If we are not conscious, we are never aware how much stress our body goes through. Rest is so important for mothers (whether working outside home or not). I have generally noticed that mothers have this pattern of over committing. I am not talking about the habit of over committing to others. I am talking about over committing to oneself. The impact of such over commitment is generally not noticed and life moves on.

Recently, my husband shared a thought provoking quote with me.  He said the quote is from some movie that he does not remember and the quote goes like this, "Your ego writes checks that your body can not cash" . I would rather add, it is not just ego, even when passion takes more room, that is when balance is out of place. The balance that I am talking about is wanting to always do more rather than simply just being and letting things take its course.

"Many of us are so tied up with the identity of what we are doing rather than focusing on who we are being. ‘Doing’ is focused more on achievements measured by external standards. ‘Doing’ is more directed and intentional. But what is allowing these external achievements with an authentic quality is the ‘being’. ‘Being’ immerses us in the flow of life. It is about allowing it to happen, letting go, and accepting what is there. ‘Being’ orientations values the person and not the achievement. It is inward, placing greatest emphasis on rewards that are intrinsically meaningful to the person." 
--------------- Coaching for Self Awareness - The role of coaching in helping you identify who we are (2009) by Prabha Sathyanarayanan (Ref: Co-Active Coaching: New Skills for Coaching People Toward Success in Work and, Life by Laura Whitworth)

So, we don't need to come up with a list of skill sets to manage oneself during burn outs or explore ideas to de-stress. Just being in the moment immerses us in the flow of life. It can relax us and not allow us to participate in the race that forces us to achieve or die. It is simple. This is what I got to say. The only thing we might choose to do in such situations when we notice that we are either getting unrealistic with our goals and thereby experiencing burn outs due to over commitment is


There is this book that I have come across. It is a book that was a part of the prescribed curriculum when I was getting trained in Co Active coaching at CTI, The Coaches Institute, California. The book is Taming your Gremlin by Richard D Carson. There are many things that I learnt from this book but one simple yet powerful thing that I learnt from this book is TO SIMPLY NOTICE. Simple two words, but believe me, they are really very powerful words.  The first step to live consciously is to simply notice. Simply noticing ourselves unleashes many insights on who we are being and what we are doing at the moment. It increases self awareness, thereby we start to think in an emotionally intelligent manner to find out whether what we are experiencing at the moment is valuable, meaningful and purposeful for us.

For learners, letting go of any kind of  attachment, simply being in the moment, enjoying the process, not stressed out to run a race and not wanting to reach somewhere ; all of these can be a very liberating moment. This kind of an experience can really make children develop a positive attitude towards learning rather than asking them to commit to finish writing with in 10 minutes and finish reading with in 16 minutes or asking them to solve 13 addition problems with in the next half hour. I see that many schools and parents are creating a competitive environment where in lot of pressure is being put on children forcing them to achieve with in limited time. Now, let us stop and ask ourselves this question - Are adults over committing on their behalf, setting unrealistic goals for THEM?  This is something to think about. While setting realistic goals are necessary, putting such pressure on children can kill creativity.

LEARNING BY BEING is equally important as LEARNING BY DOING. The need of the hour is BALANCE. Encouraging children to be conscious of who they are being, what they are learning, what is happening around them or with them, helping them to notice their emotions etc can help them to become joyful learners. I intentionally take this approach while I create a learning environment for DS.

So, let us take a moment to simply notice, live consciously and learn to BE in the moment. It is a wonderful medicine to all stress, burn out and over commitment that we get sucked into. And, let us not set unrealistic goals for our children either. I invite hands to join me to take a stand to let our children enjoy the process of just BEING. Let us all live a conscious, meaningful and purposeful life.

Enjoy learning and sharing.