23 April 2020

Learning is more than what we teach our children

Rajan, with his son Yashas and wife Meera
By Rajan Adhikari

My Son Yashas is 5 years old, and just the other day he solved more than half of a Class-2 workbook. I was amazed at his feat because he has not even started his formal education. 

When Yashas was born, Meera (my wife) and I had unanimously decided that I would continue my job in Shimla while Meera would raise him in our hometown of Mohal, in Kullu. Due to our living situation, both of them used to travel quite frequently- sometimes to spend time with me in Shimla and other times for a vacation to his grandparent’s house. Evidently, his grooming began very early, not in a classroom but by interacting with lots of new people and experiencing new things every day. 

When our son was 2 years old, we noticed how most children are hooked to either the television set or mobile phone. As parents, of a young impressionable child, we did not want our son’s childhood to be dominated by gadgets and we snapped the cord of our cable connection. It’s been three years, we still haven’t turned on the TV. And Yashas enjoys the simpler things in life which after a certain age we all crave for- like sleeping, playing in the fields, spending quality time with his parents, exploring different sounds and objects. 

For the initial years of his life, at least till he turns 6, we have decided to keep Yashas away from formal education. Most parents send their children to school (nursery and pre-nursery) at 2 or 3 years of age. While an external environment like a school or playground is very important for stimulating a child’s mind, I feel, formal education should begin at an appropriate age and we, my wife and I, agree that forced learning is not the path we want to follow- instead, we innovate and let our son learn at his own comfort and pace.

We teach him the basics—alphabets, numbers, pronunciation, at home in an informal setting and he responds quite well to it. One day, we got rubber letters from our neighbor’s house and instead of teaching him ‘A’ for apple, we started saying ‘M’ for Mumma and ‘P’ for Papa. In a few days, he picked up ‘R’ for ‘Rajan Papa’, ‘M’ for ‘Meera Mummy’, ‘T’ for ‘Tara Masi’ all on his own. Gradually, we also taught him ‘a’ is the small brother of ‘A’ and so on. Not only did he catch up quickly, he also started making wonderful stories about the alphabets.

Although we have not yet engaged Yashas with any digital learning applications, in the past few weeks we have been watching children’s movies such as the ‘Lion King’, ‘I am Kalaam’, ‘Frozen’. I realized that films like these not only enhance a child’s imagination but also teaches them valuable life lessons. It’s so fascinating to see his mind grow each day, just the other day he was telling me how we need to ‘put pressure on the wall’ so that we can make more space to play in the room! Even though we don’t have an English-speaking culture at home, watching these films has picked up quite a few words and started using them in his communication. 

I firmly believe that if we let children set their own pace of learning, they excel more than we can imagine. 

(The writer is a State Head at Sampark Foundation. Views expressed are personal.)