Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Learning on the way

Learning happens all the time and in the most unexpected of places usually. ( I am doing another post on that more in detail) I wonder if this is got to do with learning as being the fabric of  life on earth, while we inhabit this planet as human beings. I love the magic that comes with this kind of learning....when you are always open like a channel, to receive all that the universe has in store, especially for you.

We were driving down the East Coast Road, on a Saturday morning, with a long list of errands to finish off......yes all noted down as a list, carefully tucked away in a corner of my bag....things that we had to do and could not forget. But then, when you make your plan, the Universe makes one that over-rules everything else!

We stopped by at the garage to get the person to check something in our car. While we were waiting by the side of the road, I looked out of the car window to see the most amazing sight! I gleamed and exclaimed " wow!", just like a little child does in wonder. Raghav turned from the front seat and smiled. I asked him to look out of the window. He saw what I had seen and beamed. Both of us opened the doors and got out. We crouched and looked carefully at the little magical world that seemingly faded into oblivion in the hustle of a busy road.

We saw baby caterpillars and their pupae hanging from wide, big leaves, over the wall, on the side of the highway. There was a little ecosystem brewing there in front of our eyes! There were a few baby caterpillars clinging to the leaf as the morning breeze threatened to airlift them. We saw a little spider scurrying along and hiding under the cover of the leaf. We saw some brown and white speckled pupae hanging from the leaves and dancing in the wind, undeterred.

caterpillar by the road side

pupae dancing in the wind
caterpillar and spider sharing the space

Raghav had so many questions, and so did I. We spent the next few minutes chatting about what kind of caterpillar it must be, compared it to the one we saw while shelling peas at home sometime ago, wondered whether it would grow into a butterfly, discussed its life cycle, wondered what leaf and plant that was, if it was feeding on that one; watched how it moved along and stayed undeterred while the breeze blew strong and hard, wondered how it must feel to hear all the blaring noises from the passing traffic....and so much more...

This was learning that came from the busy road-side, not from textbooks and was learning that was timeless and not confined to a defined space....learning that happened in ten minutes that did not need flogging and repetition that numbs one's mind....learning that happens in the most unexpected places and at the most unexpected times, that awakens the inner child in every one of us and draws us unwittingly into its magical realm...where one forgets who one is - the learner or the teacher or both...

Why would we confine learning to a particular time, space or person, when we have the whole Universe to show us the way?

Sunday, September 22, 2013

The Road to Kailash Kher, Kailasa and Kailash Parbat!

We just got back after an incredible show by Kailash Kher ( a Hindi pop-singer) in Chennai! Raghav and we had been counting the days to this one and now it is over :( Had such an awesome time after all the adventure before the show :)

R decided to make a gift for his hero - Kailash Kher at the last minute...amidst all the errands I had to do this morning, he wanted to record a song as a karaoke and put it on a CD to give to KK (in case we got a chance to meet him!)...then we remembered some Lego creations he had done, of Kailash Kher earlier, and a drawing, which he wanted to be made into a slideshow; all to be put together into the CD....and all this was being done at 5pm when the show was at 7:30 and we were more than an hour's drive away!!

They (S & R) thought we were going to miss a good part of the programme, but I trusted my thoughts on this and kept thinking positively about reaching on time, hearing some favourite songs of ours sung by him, and perhaps even getting down to meeting him! Trust me, mind control works and how!

The drive was like a huge soap opera with climax et al....the traffic peaking just before the place, many red signals just when we needed green :)....but we reached on was a nail-biting finish! Whew!

Then, he sang so many many of Raghav's and our favourite songs which we were totally immersed in - heart and soul! Raghav thoroughly enjoyed himself, singing loudly with his hero from his seat! My day was made too when he sang a song by Kabir - 'Naiharwa' and another favourite one - 'Tu Jaane Na'! By then I was almost in tears!

Kailash Kher told us a bit about his life during the show and guess what? He hated school and studies, but loved music....did not like schedules and the discipline that goes with learning music from a guru, and so taught himself music! :) I am somehow beginning to feel that souls that somehow vibe together, know these things about each other at a very deep level....Perhaps that is why R likes Kailash Kher so much! :)

At the end of the show, while S hesitated to go back stage, I goaded him into it for R's sake. There was absolutely no security and we went up on stage to see Naresh and Paresh (lead guitarists) leaving. We were lucky to meet KK's manager though who was very sweet and listened to us patiently. We handed over R's gift to him and asked if he could give it to Kailash Kher somehow. He promised us that he would.

We then had a quick, yummy chaat dinner at "Kailash Parbat" and sang his songs all the way back home - fulfilled and on twelfth heaven! :)

Does this story make you trust synchronicity and your heart just a little more? I hope it does! Because for me it was yet another lesson on trusting the Universe and following one's heart.

Feeling very blessed and grateful! ....The visuals on a DVD I had watched long ago, of a little bird that leaves its young in the freezer (Antarctica) to fly thousands of miles just to get a beak full of food for its young one, is etched in my memory forever...nothing that I do as a mother now, seems as much as what that little bird does for its little one....but that little bird gives me enough inspiration to keep trying.

Here is the video of R singing one of his favourite Kailash Kher songs - "Ujaale Baant Lo" (karaoke style) that we made for him as a gift by putting it on a CD...

Here is a slideshow of some of his Lego creations depicting Kailash Kher on stage and a drawing he made of his dream - to sing with KK on stage some day - about two years ago!

Friday, September 20, 2013

Crazy about cars!

R's latest fetish is cars- all kinds of cars, how they are made, the different models, their history, details about each one - for example, how the brake lights look, the symbols, the shape of the body, and many other details like maximum speeds, etc.

A few days ago, he asked me to suggest something that he could do (from his toy collection), which he hadn't done for a long time. I suggested that he take out his car collection and look at what he had. He jumped up and dashed off! 

Soon, he was all smiles, picking out each little car from the box, inspecting and naming it....and then placing them in little groups according to the companies that made them. He discovered that many of the cars that he has raced with in his latest iPad app Real Racing Challenge - like the Lamborghini, Dodge, Mercedes Benz, Fiat, and even the prized Koenigsegg, were there amongst many toy cars that he owned since he was 2 or 3 years old! Some of them had the symbols of the companies, while for the others, he just gave names depending on how close to the original they looked :)

Then he wanted me to help him make placards for each car that he chose. He Googled the symbol, printed each one out, wrote out the names himself, cut each one out patiently, stuck them on the cardboard and placed them alongside each car. His car showroom took shape slowly in the corridor, as he waited for his father to come home and see his surprise!

We recently bought him a remote controlled Lamborghini car (his dream car!) and now he spends a good part of the day playing with it, talking about it, and admiring it. He even wipes off the dust with his towel (something you would rarely see him do) sometimes! When he gets a little bored playing with it in the same way, he asks me to think up challenges for his car to do. Soon he is busy maneuvering the long, unwieldy car through obstacles (old wooden blocks lined up), making figures of eight, turning it 180 degrees within a narrow stretch of space (that he pretends is the road), without going off the road, reverses all the way around a table from start to finish, accelerates full speed and brings the car to a halt just  before the finish line and many more. Many of these were things that I did while I was learning how to drive a car, many many years ago! I was amazed at the elan and dexterity with which he managed to complete all these challenges.

He also has an astounding memory for some of the facts and figures to do with these cars, that are mentioned in his iPad app. For a kid who keeps saying that he has a 'forgetful mind' most times, this is simply amazing! He will rattle off performance ratings, maximum speeds, time taken to accelerate to 60mph, model number and name etc. from memory, while I am washing dishes or cooking in the kitchen. He will then quiz me on those and rejoice in my goof ups :) He will get me to list out all the cars that he owns after having cleared some levels in the game; or he would ask me to choose a car to race with for him to clear the next level and go ahead.

During the course of one of these conversations, he told me how much a car's speed (in miles per hour) would be in kilometres per hour! He had worked that out based on some comparison that was there for one of the cars, in the app. He then kept asking me questions like how long a car would take to travel a particular distance, given its speed....or how much distance it would cover in a given time, if its speed was a certain number...what was amazing was that he would look at it from so many points of view and permutations at one shot, not waiting to finish and completely understand one, before moving to the other. It was as if each point of view of the problem was helping him in its own unique way to arrive at some understanding of it. Fascinating!

The next thing that he wanted to do was to measure the speed of his new Lamborghini Aventador - remote controlled car and then compare its speed to that of a hand-driven Mercedes Benz Unimog U400 (a huge LEGO model with motor et al) that he had recently built. It was a perfect setting for an experiment and an opportunity to find out what speed is and how it is measured. He set up the experiment, deciding on the start and end-point, how to measure distance and time, organised everything, gave directions to me as to what was my role, and even arrived at an approximate speed, with a bit of help, with all calculations done mentally!

You can see a video that we took (of ourselves doing the experiment together) of it here:

His craze for cars has driven him to explore other paths too on his own. He has watched many videos on Youtube on how many of the top cars are manufactured, found out about their history, and he now also has another app that plays the different engine sounds of the different cars! So he is busy straining his ears to listen and tune in to those special sounds :)

I had not in the wildest of dreams thought that his passion for cars would get him to travel to all these places in such a short time! Uncharted territories are always fun, exciting and mysterious :)

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

A homeschooling survey?!

A little while ago, the bell rang and Raghav rushed to open it. He loves that job! The security of our building was at the door asking if I had completed the survey form that he had given me a few days ago. I answered him in Hindi ( as that is the language he speaks) that the form did not really apply to us as our son does not go to school and that we were homeschooling him. He smiled and said ok, but asked me to fill it up anyway and hand it over.

After we shut the door, Raghav asked me what he had said. I explained it all to him - that it was a survey that wanted to find out information that would help the builders and management of the building complex we lived in, decide on what kind of school people would like here ( they are planning to start a school in our building complex).  He turned around immediately and said this:
" Why should they do a survey only on people who want a school here? They should do a survey on who are all the people who don't want to go to school also! Maybe there will be people who want to go to school and those who don't, like me! "

Friday, September 13, 2013

DIY (Do-It-Yourself) Challenge

We were taking out the DIY Science kits that we had bought at the Science festival that we had gone to recently and were opening them to try and build a model today. Raghav was excited about building his own working model of a windmill with a real motor et al. However,  his excitement was short lived when he found out that there were no instruction booklets in any of the boxes.

"They must have forgotten to pack them in the boxes!" was his first remark.

"How will we build it then?", he exclaimed, and then came up with this:

"Ah! I know...that is why there are no instructions...because it is called Do-it-yourself!"

"...and also says challenge on the box" (Motor Motion Challenge was the name of one of the kits)...."So that is why there are no instructions....we have to figure it all out ourselves!", he
said :)

I now wish I had not told him that we could Google the name of the website given on the box  and find the instructions there....Ah! And yes, life sure would be so much more exciting and challenging without a dictionary :)

Monday, September 9, 2013

Is it ever too early for "The Talk"?

We hardly had anything left to do after the Science Festival at Bangalore, for which we had gone all the way, from Chennai.

We spent two days at the festival and also met up with some dear homeschooling friends and their kids. We had finished saying our goodbyes to one friend and her family, who were leaving India soon.

We had been to the Porsche showroom down the road from where we were staying, just so that Raghav could see a Porsche car up close and even get to sit inside it, at the wheel!

We had also spoken to my cousin, who wanted to and agreed to drive back to Chennai with us.

I was also a bit uncomfortable to leave a day later, as I would have to sit in the car for so many hours when I had just got my periods, and the flow was usually heavy after the first day. I too wanted to leave earlier than planned.

And so we talked to Raghav too and changed our plans to leave for Chennai a day early. Raghav had initially agreed, but all of a sudden changed his mind and insisted we leave a day later, as we had originally planned. Nothing that we said convinced him to go with the changed plan. I was in a fix and anxious.

While I was lost in my thoughts, wondering how to make Raghav understand, I heard my husband explaining to Raghav all over again as to why we wanted to leave. Among many of the reasons, he  mentioned that I was "not well" and so wanted to go back home soon.

Raghav, who was all the while lying down and playing on his iPad, suddenly sat up, closed his iPad and looked worried. "Why? What happened to amma? She looks ok. Why do you say she is not well?" he asked with concern. My husband and I looked at each other. We were not prepared to answer this. I don't think anyone can be completely prepared to answer any question, especially the ones that kids ask....because of the way they ask and the timing - they usually catch you unawares :)

My husband started: ".... you know, it is a woman's will know when you grow up a little more..." I could see Raghav's eyes light up. He was curious about the little mystery cloud that was gathering in front of his eyes. Obviously he wanted to know more, and right now!

I suddenly found myself and the words. I was no longer my old self, trying to "deal with" or "convince" him about things in a wishy washy way, or saying "I don't know" when I was actually feeling that I did not know how to explain to him. I was my new, aware self - I wanted to be completely honest and true to myself and him. I wanted to answer that question. I wanted to look at my son, and his feelings and thoughts with respect and love; not out of fear and distrust. I did not ask myself if this was indeed too early for "the talk". When did age become a criterion for learning anything, I wondered?

Just as my thoughts about these thoughts changed, I realised that everything around me changed too. My husband did not interrupt or try to steer the conversation away into something more manageable. I did not feel hesitant or queasy to answer his question....and the answer came in its own time, in its own way - softly and surely.

I told Raghav how I bleed every month. I told him what happens inside my body at that time, why we see blood, what we do about it, what it means when girls / women get their periods, how I feel in my body at that time, what I need to do and why etc. He listened with rapt attention in silence.

He immediately agreed to leave the same day. There were just no more questions from him after that. The mystery cloud had lifted and moved away on its own.

A few days later, while I was hanging clothes out to dry and chatting with him about genetic modification, genes etc., he asked me how babies are formed and born. So I explained how the sperm and ovum meet to form an egg that grows in the uterus into a baby, and he in a very matter-of-fact manner said: "...yes....I know happens when they mate..." He then told me how he had read in a book about animals mating, how each zebra's stripes are unique, how some things get passed on through our genes and so on. He had processed all that information in his own unique way, that I did not know of or hadn't understood.

Learning, I feel is so much like the is cannot see it happen, but you can feel it in your gut and can feel it when it moves or makes things move.....just like the wind....when it moves your heart and soul to timeless spaces and little niches that you tucked away safe, somewhere deep inside....

So then, is it ever too early for "The Talk"? Or anything else for that matter?

When every moment is cherished for all its worth, when every question that comes up is seen as food for thought and a stepping stone to explore forgotten pathways, then learning becomes a joyous celebration of the human spirit, that is timeless and ageless...