Friday, February 25, 2011

What do you do in HSing?

This is the first question that pops up when we reveal that our children don't attend school.  Followed by what curriculum /routine do you follow?

I am a relaxed HSer meaning I take things easy or rather I let the children have the upper hand when it comes to learning. I do believe in structure and a loose routine more so to spend quality time with each other rather than to force learning onto my children. I am strong believer in " create the environment" & the children will pick it up. Ofcourse if they are not ready for it then they will not. In a sense its like drawing our own huge boundaries and then letting the children do what they want to do within those boundaries.

So what is it that we do in HSing? We do a lot of stuff - sing, dance, paint, do arts & crafts, have started to learn  reading &  writing, play math games, read, read, read stories like crazy,do puzzles, build stuff, do household chores like cutting veggies, cleaning vessels, participating in cooking, enact stories , do preschool workbooks, tracing/ coloring/ cutting & pasting, have playdates with other HSing children, talk a lot, ponder a lot, spend a lot of time outdoors doing fun things like treasure hunts, bug hunts etc.. and ofcourse PLAY, PLAY, PLAY, PLAY, PLAY & keep plaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaying..........................Thats one of the things I absolutely love about HSing little children- they get to play a lot. Infact most of the learning my children do is through play. Chellu would never sit down to learn math since she isn't the types to sit down in one place at all. But when math games are played she would jump in immediately.

We do a lot of theme based learning. I take up a theme and then we do a range of activities based on that theme. Starting this year we follow a theme based on each alphabet .So Jan it was A with animals, Feb its B with bugs & balls etc..So each week we do a range of activities on each theme. I follow this book called  The Absolute Best Play Days which lists a variety of things to do on different themes. And many other books based on the Montessori method, learning with nature etc.. And then I weave in a lot of my own stuff based on what I know the kids will enjoy. What we do on a particular day is unto the kids. I only start off the day with an idea of the activities . Sometimes Chellu will pick on the activities very well, sometimes not with so much interest and sometimes she is absolutely disinterested. The whole point is to be flexible, have an open/learning mind and have faith in the child's learning needs/ styles. And it makes a lot of logic to me. If learning is considered an intrinsic need just like eating, sleeping, walking etc..then it will certainly vary according to the day & time.
And why should it be restrcited to the x to y hrs "routine", "discipline" ,"learn this right now " regime? Why should knowledge be categorised into history , maths, science & such boring demarcations? Isn't knowledge just a flow? A continuous flow of experiences ? emotions? facts & what not...So we could be learning any subject anytime ! We read a book on 2 elephants whose ears are shaped like Africa & India and immediately we point to the countries on the map...we could start to talk about thier cultures, the animals that live in that country etc...

So does she know what she ought to know for her age? Well yes for most of it. Much more for some of it and less for some of it. I don't see her glaringly behind any supposed "milestone"....Infact she seems to be racing ahead full-speed when it comes to absorbing all the wonderful stuff that this universe offers to teach her!

How do I know that she is "learning " for sure? That she is remembering /understanding everyting we do?  Well this is where the beauty of real-life learning /application vs. exams comes in. Her understading/remembering is constantly reinforced by "connecting the dots". Since we have a learning mind the entire day & not just during school hours ,  every single /small fact is being absorbed, regurgated on a constant basis. Whenever I take up recurrent themes ( themes that have been done the previous year) she can remember all the details/facts from a year back. Even how we did a certain activity. We will  be visiting some place and she will suddenly remember a detail from a story & connect it to the present environment. And given the umpteen number of stories that we read everyday I think it's quite a feat! I find it hard to keep up with her..The other day we had been to a friend's college and were having lunch. She looked at a short white buliding with a blue door behind us and immediately said" Amma dosen't that building look exactly like the stable that the baby horse lives in ?" This was from a story called "Don't Be Afraid Little One" . And this has happened many many times. I am quite suprised that she even remembers stuff from the HSing routine that we did in NJ in 2009!
Her pictorial memory is fantastic. When driving she will point to shops - what we bought from where and when. Like this is where amma got her make-up from during Anu chitti's wedding, thats where we got the car, this is where appa slipped on his two-wheeler, this is the building where the rangoli competition during Ganpati was held. She even remembered who made which rangoli when no one from our family participated!! When we celebrated Sankranti at home I pointed out the states that celebrate the same and she immediately picked it up. She can point @ 10 states on the Indian map and a few countries on the world map. And this is not from drilling on an everyday basis but through casual conversations / stories/connecting the dots. Chellu remembers conversations, peoples' reactions, the weather at some point of time , what we wore when, what we did when, lines from stories , the type of birthday card she made for which friend, what happened at some playdate and my goodness the list is endless.............................

Even Kunju has started this. The other day Chellu & I were sounding out the L alphabet saying la, la, la lamb  and immediately kunju shouted amma " Mary had a little lamb". We were leaving for the BCL ( British Council Library) and Kunju said "Amma they hit us, shouted at us / shot us! " and I was like " what????"..couldn't understand and then she goes "Amma British!"  During the week of Republic Day we had taken up Indian Independence theme and had enacted the march-past, freedom struggle shouting "karo ya maro ", " British leave the country" etcc... and she was thus connecting that to the British in British Council Library!

One of the things I've noticed in all HSing families is that parents talk a lot/ all the time to their children. The children are involved in al the activities and thus they automatically learn all the time. If I'm taking the kids to the BCL I say lets go to the British Council Library and then the dialougues immediately start. Whats the BCL? Who were the British etc...thus learning is continuously happening 24/7 and because the parent is also involved 24/7 the exchanges between the parent & the child is continous . Rather than my child learns something in school, I don't know what was she thinking then? what was she pondering about then? did the teacher answer her question ? and then did she remember to come home and ask me about the little Q several hours later? And most importantly is this happening in our lives currently that she can learn real-time ?

For many this sounds ideal but too impractical. Well for Shankar & myself the real fun starts when the ideal & the practical start to merge..................;)

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