Monday, June 29, 2009

Life's lessons

Value education begins from home. We all agree on that point. Teaching our children the right values from the time they are young and trying to be a role model ourselves would be the first step.

I remember once my children were playing in the corridor of our apartment and accidentally broke the light fixture of our neighbour. As expected their first instinct was to run home and hide. When they told us as to what had happened we immediately explained to them the need to go and apologise for their action in addition to replacing the light fixture. They were very hesitant saying that they were scared thinking about the consequence and wanted us to speak on their behalf. When it was made clear to them that they had to do it themselves, they mustered enough courage and owned up. The neighbour was very sweet enough to say that these things happen and asked them to be careful while playing.

When they came back they were beaming. I felt that day they had learnt an important lesson in life - to own up. I found the next time they made mistakes they were bold enough to admit.

As part of school curriculum do we need value education classes ? I do not remember having value education classes in my school. But we had value education classes in college while I was teaching. I remember when the timetable was set we used to be very nervous when we were given the task of teaching value education to the students. We would be at a loss as to what we would talk about. Specially to girls whose ages ranged between sixteen to twenty. However since my specialisation was child development when we were given other streams like arts or commerce class students I would just talk on topics that we used to teach under child development like family relations and management. The students then used to find it interesting.

Now I feel the need is more than ever to have value education classes. One such initiative I read is being taken by all the branches of Kendriya Vidyalaya. They have found that these classes are being welcomed by students. Having specialised teachers imparting interesting aspects of growing up in today's world could infact help our children. Imparting this by way of plays, debates, poster making, slogan writing would make it enjoyable and more interesting. Catch them young. As the proverb in kannada goes "gidavagi baggaddu, maravaagi baggite?" Wish all the schools emulate this sooner.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

The definition of childhood

The other day we had gone out on a weekend and while coming back we stopped at the traffic signal. We were looking out when this child caught my eyes sitting on the footpath. Infact I am sure it is a common sight for all of us at the traffic signal. Yes I am talking about little children begging on the streets. This happens right under the nose of the traffic police which is blissfully okay with it.

I saw three children sitting on the pavement. Two of them were around six to eight years old and the third child was maybe about one and a half to two years old. It was sitting along with these older children who were having an animated conversation. The baby had no underwear, was totally dishevelled and filthy sitting on the footpath and then after sometime it got up and started walking away from the other two who were quite oblivious. I was worried thinking that without any adult supervision, it might just walk into the heavy traffic. But the child just walked a couple of paces and stood there looking at people, picked up something from the ground. That was the last glimpse that I had before we started to moved on.

But that child stayed in my thoughts for a long time. What life will it have? We tend to protect our children for a very long time and here children as old as two years are on their own while whoever has got them there is out begging leaving the child alone.

Another comon sight is month old babies being used for begging. I read in the newspapers that these babies are hired for the purpose of begging and that they are also mildly drugged so that they sleep and hence let the adult beg in peace!

Today in the newspaperI read that the begging industry is a thriving business of 10 crore!! What is the government doing about this I wonder. Isn't using little babies for begging a violation of child rights? What about those normal born little children who are physically deformed later so as to qualify for a begging profession? Isn't this child labour in its worst form?

Friday, June 26, 2009

Education system set for winds of change

Today the first headline that I saw was the HRD minister Mr. Kapil Sibal's statement to make the tenth standard board exam optional depending on where the child continues his or her study and to have grading system for higher classes instead of marks.

During our time I remember we used to start having board exams starting with seventh grade followed by tenth grade and then the grand finale - the biggest exam which would decide our future the twelfth grade board exams. As we passed out of sixth standard folks would say 'you will have to study hard now that you are going to seventh grade; and hence will be writing the board exams. That was a big thing for us and getting good grades to get into eighth was therefore imperative.That marked our first milestone welcoming us to the world of competitive world of education.

Later that was replaced with board exam only for tenth and then twelfth standard. Now tenth board would be optional. I read mixed reviews from all quarters. The school managements feel that unless a clear guideline is worked out to assess the child this system might not be of much help. It would then make it difficult to gauge the progress made by each child. The parents on the other hand seem to be against making tenth board optional. They would rather have their children face the board exams.

I do not know what the ideal education system would be. I felt though the board exams were scrapped for the seventh grade we as parents are still seeing to it that the children prepare well for their exams irrespective of it being boards or no boards. Education is taken seriously. The pressure has still not come down for the children. Scores of children are still getting into coaching classes preparing for their IIT and other courses. Some start as early as sixth standard!

Now that the system is being revamped all eminent educationists, child psychologists, parents and anyone connected with education need to come together to workout a system which will help in bringing about revolutionary and positive changes for our future generation. Today as we stand on the verge of makng historic changes in or education system we need to move with great care and caution. What do you as parents feel about this new changes announced?

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Parents' greatest gift to a child

Today I read in the newspaper a very touching article which I thought I should share with all my fellow parents. A family which is below poverty line made the greatest sacrifice in order to see to it that their daughter could realise her dream.

This little girl hailing from a small unheard of village got hooked onto cycle racing when she got to witness a cycle race while in school. From then on, cycling became her dream and ambition in life. But they were so poor that they could not afford even a second hand cycle.

In order to fulfill his daughter's dream this is what her father did. He borrowed money from the village moneylender and in return signed on to become a bonded labourer for a landlord! Imagine even after sixty two years of independence we are still hearing about these dreaded practices being carried out in free India. What democracy and independence are we talking about when have not been able to give independence to our own citizens?

Well in continuation, he bought a cycle for his daughter from this money. In addition, between him and his wife who is working as a coolie, have tried their best to see to it that all their three children get a good education.

This particular child has since won many cycle race events and is now set to enter the Commonwealth Games. We need to wish them all the best and I really wish there are more parents like them who must have lost on their childhood dreams but are seeing to it that their children achieve their dreams even if it comes at a great cost.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Is it destiny at play?

Following my blog on Dr.Kalam, a few thoughts raced through my mind. There are so many instances where children from a very poor background have succeeded and come up in life despite all odds. Take for example Dr. Kalam a child born into a fishing comunity and by sheer hardwork has reached the height of glory. Same is the case with one of the greatest self made industrialist Dhirubai Ambani.

In another case a boy who was educated by his mother by selling idlis on the roadside went on to complete his IIM from a prestigious institute. We read and get to hear many such real life stories. Many of them have studied in small villages and the have moved on to make it big in life.

In most of these cases they did not have any resources, no financial help, no extra facilities and technological help. Despite all these odds they scaled the heights to achieve their goal.

In contrast here I was worryng about which is a good school for my children, what educational cds can I get for them to enhance their skill ,what classes can I put them into so that they can learn more in order to face the competitive exams and so on and so forth. Mind you all these do not come easy and we end up spending lakhs even as they are in their school years. Imagine the cost that is to be incurred at later stages.

Then I wonder is it really worth it? Haven't children who have come from lesser privileged background, who have passed out from government schools and colleges done well? That makes me wonder - is it destiny at play?

Monday, June 22, 2009

Dr.Kalam - an inspiration for our children

Whenever I happen to see Dr. Abdul Kalam in the newspaper I feel very proud. Here is one personality during our times who has surpassed all boundaries and barriers to promote only one aspect of human development and that is scientific development - which he says is the answer to take India forward. For this to happen each child's mind needs to be ignited (An apt title of Dr.Kalam's book) at a young age. A very simple person to the core like our dear Mahatma Gandhi.

It would be a dream come true to meet this towering personality atleast once in our lifetime. Who could imagine a boy from a fishing community ,who would be up by 4.00 a.m distribute newspapers, and also attend math classes would one day become the President of India? Though we would all have liked him to continue as President forever!

We have many other unsung heroes like Dr.Kalam who have made a difference to this world. Many of their stories are a source of inpiration for all of us. When the talent, intelligence and interest of our children, who could be in a rural, semi-urban or an urban area and on the threshold of their school life, are tapped, we can dream of having many more Kalams who will have the ability to take our great country forward and reach its pinnacle. I hope we along with our younger generation fulfill the vision that Dr.Kalam has for India by 2020.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Yoga for children

Patanjali the founder of yoga wrote extensively all about yoga and its benefits. Somehow in the realms of time, yoga became a thing of past . One would hear about yoga only in passing. Then came Swami Ramdev baba who made yoga popular and with his show being telecast on T.V, it had a wide audience who got hooked onto it and suddenly yoga became the in thing. Then we had a host of celebrity actors who made it even more popular.

Well I have believed in yoga from the past nine years That was when I first learnt it. I found it to be effective. It has helped me through different phases of my life. This kept me active and my body more flexible and had a very soothing effect on my mind.

That was when I thought how much our children could benefit from doing yoga. As it is they undergo so much of stress and mood swings and yoga would be an ideal thing for them. When I was teaching in schools, I would make the little ones do a few of the breathing excercises every day and I found that they used to enjoy doing it. But I never could get my children to do it. I was very happy when I heard that they have yoga classes in their school and now they are quite enjoying it.

Many schools have introduced yoga in their curriculum and I wish and hope all the rest will follow in their footsteps. Children right from playgroup can be introduced to this as their bodies are more flexible and their minds are still in the process of blooming. Having a healthy future generation would be a fitting tribute to the great Patanjali.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Studies without textbooks?

Today I read this interesting article in the paper that in California the school children have been asked to throw away their textbooks to help the state avoid bankruptcy! This statement was given by the Governor of the state, none other than Mr. Arnold Schwarzenegger. Instead the children will now go 'Digital'.

This statement really took me by surprise. All along from generations, ever since paper was invented (though our grandparents where using slate and chalk) we have been using textbooks. Now suddenly a world without one was a totally new idea to me.

Then another picture flashed across my mind. My children and all the other school going children walking with straight back minus the loads of books on their already bent backs.What a relief!
Imagine the scene where the children go with one digital notebook to the classroom and the teacher can just ask them to open a particular subject and so and so page and it will be just a click away. It's bye bye to heavy books. We might also in the bargain be contributing towards a green world too with less paper around.

But then another thought assailed me that in this process we will be so very dependant on gadgets. But somehow I do not feel like saying bye to all my good old books, the books that took me on a flight of fantasy, that musty smell of the much thumbed book that I grew up on. Do you?

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

School Homework Management

Finally schools have reopened. Mothers who were anxiously waiting for the school to reopen are heaving a sigh of relief and we all know why! But once the school starts the next worry that all parents (read that as mothers) have is the homework that needs to be completed everyday.

I have seen many a mother trying various ways and means to get their children to complete the day to day homework. This is an uphill task. Imagine a four year old child being given 2-3 pages of homework everday which she needs to complete . Added to the woes are the projects the child comes back home with. Finally we all know it is the parents' work which will be assessed and not what the child has done. Many a working parent tells me that it is a tedious task for them to balance between household chores and the kids' homework/project work once they get back home. Infact they say that their job at office is easier than their kids' homework and projects!

How do we as parents then manage and cope with this arduous task of getting our children to complete their homework? Each school has its own set system of curriculum. Some schools give loads of homework while some give very less. But whatever the amount of homework , we as parents need to help the child to complete the homework or the project work on time. It is also important for us parents to make them see the task as 'their own' such that the children feel instinctively responsible for timely completion of homework.

There are a few things which we did as parents which we believe worked for us. The idea was to make the whole process easy for ourselves as well as the child.
1. It is said that a child has enormous amount of appetite for absorbing information. Thus, the child's mind should be made to be engaged in what we call as 'exploring'. It would be a good idea to try and make the child independent while she is doing her homework. It works if one gives precise instructions and allow the child to then complete the homework on her own. Of course, it is required that one is around keeping an eye to ensure that the child does not go overboard wth her independence. :-) For example when the child is small they are asked to write using a four ruled book . It would be a good idea to draw the lines on a slate and guide them to write within the lines with chalk. Later they can be asked to write in their book.

Gradually increase the time that you are away as the child gets older. However always give them the assurance that you are always there when they need help from you.

2. Most of the parents have this common complaint that their child never sits in one place and so they find it difficult to get them to complete their homework. One thing we must remember is that they are small and their attention span will also be very short. The best thing to do would be to ask them to complete four to five lines. Give them a short break and then do the next couple of lines. This might take a longer time but atleast you wil get the work done without too much of a fuss.

However during this break avoiding T.V watching would be advisable as it would be difficult to get them back into the homework mood. Rather talk to them, have some fun time and then ask them to get back to their work. This way they will gradually learn to sit for a longer period of time.

3. Praise the children generously for completing the smallest of target that you set for them. See the glow on their face. Next time they will be doing things on their own. Do not on any account bribe your child with chocolates or promises of buying things if they complete their homework as it will undermine the importance of learning. Praise is the best bribe which we parents have to use right form the beginning. However a word of caution - do not go overboard on your praise - it has to be dished out judiciously.

4. Once the child starts doing her homework on her own, it would be a good practice to check her work once she completes it. Sometimes there might be mistakes and the child might not be willing to accept it. Does not matter. Allow the child to make mistakes as they learn better that way. Things need not be perfect. As parents, we must make the child responsible for her own actions.
These are just a few guidelines that I have given based on my personal experience and from my interactions with other parents. At the end of the day one must remember that each child is unique. Each child has her own way of doing things. Some children might do their work if the mothers are sitting with them while others might like to do it on their own. You as a parent will be the best judge.