6 Jan 2013
Or at least trying to…
I am in my parent’s place in Chennai. The only way I have a signal on my cell phone is to stand at the right hand corner of the hall window and hold my phone towards the sky. Chula observed it and is asking me if my phone is ‘solar’ and if it is powered by the Sun.
As usual it is raining in Chennai. I always manage to drag the rain along with me when I visit Chennai. With the rain comes a overflowing laundry basket and wet clothes. I tied a clothes line inside the house, hung some essentials and switched on the fan. Meija was watching me do this. When it was time for scheduled power cut, the fan stopped and she asked me if she can implement her brain wave to dry the clothes even during power cut. I was curious what she was going to do and ended up ROFL when the child came back with a palm leaf hand fan. I thought it was cute. She thinks I was making fun of her. We have agreed to disagree.
I took a major risk this time, by using wash room without a functional latch, with only Chula standing guard outside the door. MONUMENTAL risk people, so it needs to be recorded here.
Sibling rivalry at its peak: Meija is imitating what ever I do. If I get up she gets up. If I put my hand on my hip, she copies. After observing this for a min, Chula says, ‘Amma, slap yourself R.E.A.L.L.Y hard. Quick amma.’
Getting in to my good books: We are getting ready to go to the beach and I was asking them to change out of their fancy clothes in to something that will be appropriate for beach.
Chula: Meija, I am going to listen to amma. I am not like you. I will wear regular play clothes because I don’t want to get my fancy ones dirty.
Meija: I LISTEN. I know our clothes will get dirty. In fact I was planning on wearing something from the laundry basket, something that is already dirty and needs to be washed anyways. Is it ok amma? Am I right?
Chula: <Thinks a bit how to top this> Amma I am going to wear some ripped clothes. What do you think about this amma?
I was seriously thinking about which wall I must bang my head against.
14 Apr 2012
We are having a kick off for TreasureHouse’s summer reading program on April 15th, 11.00AM.
The kick off is open for all. You don’t need to have a membership.
Deepa Kiran is doing a musical story telling for children. We will have enrollment information, brochures etc for parents to look, read, research and sign up. If you are in Hyderabad the place to be is
Adjacent to ICICI Bank rd#36,
Jubilee Hills, Hyderabad – 5000033
16 Oct 2011
Just wanted to share how my fantasy loving girls come up with logical fantasy. Every fantasy role play they come up with, has a strong rooted reality behind it. They push the limits to see how far they can take reality in to their fantasy and vice versa.
One of the stories I tell them is about the water cycle and how clouds are formed. Last Jan, during pick up time, after school, I noticed that they were narrating this story to their friends. Roughly a week later, few of Mieja’s friends, Meija and Chula were seen discussing the idea of a cloud party, partying in the clouds. It was interesting how they dissected this and came up with a solution for every road block. The whole thing evolved bit by bit over a period of few weeks.
Problem 1: “Clouds are so high. How to get to the clouds?”
Solution: “We will get on a helicopter and go land on the clouds”.
Problem 2: “But the clouds are so light. Look how fluffy they are. That is why they float right? How can the clouds hold the helicopter’s weight? What if we land on the cloud and the helicopter just falls through?”
Solution: “We have to find a small helicopter. Surely a small one will stay on the cloud”.
Problem 3: “How can we all fit in to a small helicopter?”
Solution: “Shrinking portion!! My dad will invent a shrinking portion. We will drink it, become very tiny and get in to the small helicopter and fly to the clouds”.
Having volunteered a dad for shrinking portion, one mom was to make pooris for the party, one dad was to procure a helicopter. My assignment was to pack. Last Jan/Feb, I was busy putting the house for sale, packing stuff for our relocation etc. The only thing the girls saw me do is to pack. So Mieja said, ‘My mother can pack for the party. She is very good at it. In fact she does it all the time!’
As they had hashed out all the minor details, come pick up time it was major pain for me. I was met with whines, ‘Ammmmaaa, can we have our cloud party now? Pick up my friends also. We want to go to the clouds.’ It was getting difficult for me to come up with excuses and I also felt bad for the children. So I announced that Mieja’s 5th birthday party will be a cloud party and set to work.
Small, cozy party, at home, for 5 kids – check.
Cloud theme food (white cheddar cheese mac and cheese, popcorn, rainbow fruit kebab) – check.
Entertainment (puppet show with Dottie the clown, she promised something cloud based) – check.
Cloud decoration – check.
The cake part got me worried. Some how I have never been fully happy with any of their birthday day cakes. I usually go to the bakers with multiple pictures, a photoshopped picture I put together, color samples, theme and a story. They nod and decorate as they like. The taste has been good, but appearance wise, none has blown me away. That was until I met Reva.
I told Reva about the cloud party and my requirements. This is what she came up with. See for yourself people. Isn’t she amazing?
Slice in to the cloud and you will find a rainbow.
Children fly to the cloud on a pega-corn. I said winged unicorn and all the five year olds dissed me. “It is a unicorn and a pegasus. Can’t you see that it is a Pegacorn?” I tried arguing why can’t it be a Uni-sus, sadly didn’t take off.
They have their own suitcases, in which they have their party stuff.
Cloud decorations, done by the kids and moi. I tried renting a fog machine, but decide against it at the last minute and did the tissue paper clouds.
Cloud puppet show.
The take away gifts were zipper flowers. No connection what so ever with the cloud party. Just that I have been itching to do it for quite some time! Zipper flower three ways – necklace, bracelet, hairband.
So long folks.
18 Sep 2011
W, P and E … kind of working on it.
H, J, K, L, R, S, U, X, Y, Z to go.
What do I do?
Feel free to throw in ideas.
19 Jul 2011
(1)It is not just iPad, but in general I am against any technology for the 0-9 age group.
(2)I am talking strictly for the 0-9 age group.
Ever since I read this, something has been brewing in my head and now I am fully convinced that technology is sensory deprivation for the 0-9 age group children.
(1)Young children need a warm adult human being to learn.
In 1960’s Harry Harlow, in order to study the human emotion of love, conducted a series of experiments with baby monkeys. He isolated many baby monkeys from their mother. Each of these baby monkeys were placed in a cage. The cage contained a metal mesh, roughly shaped like a mama monkey, with a milk bottle attached to it. And a similar metal mesh wrapped in soft cotton, made plush, but with no nourishment of any sort. After many days of observation, Harlow concluded that all baby monkeys clearly preferred the cloth mother to the wire mother. The baby monkey would stay with the cloth mother running quickly to the wire mother to take a quick sip of milk and run back to the cloth mother. When the cloth monkey was removed from the cage, the baby monkeys became insecure and displayed panic and aggression(screaming, crying etc), over extended period of time some monkeys even died.
This kind of an experiment cannot be conducted on real human beings and the monkeys being very close to us in terms of evolution, this is proof enough for me. Children need a warm, living, talking human being to carry, touch, attend to the needs of the child, use voice with different modulations, exhibit a myriad of emotions, have unprogrammed response in order to nurture the child.
Revolutionizing the way how young children learn, by replacing the human interaction, even if it is only a part, with technology is not my cup of tea.
(2)The first thing that forms in the womb is the brain. Then the human body develops from the center to the extremities. That is growth is from the spinal cord/brain region to the limbs and finally to the digits. When a child is born she does not know that she has hands, legs, fingers and toes. Then over the first three years the child slowly discovers, understands and starts using her extremities.
The brain forming first is by no means an indication that the brain is fully developed at the time of birth. The brain at the time of birth is more like a perfectly planned city without ANY roads. How can one live in this city if there is no way to get from point A to point B? The roads are the neural networks. We need them to transmit electrical signals, to convey information, to access information, to connect something that we learnt long back in order to address the current problem at hand.
As the child grows so does her experience. The child discovers she has hands. This is an experience. She writes this in to her brain and forms certain neural networks. The child discovers that her hands have some use, say pick up things. This is an experience. The already formed neural network is expanded or rewritten based on this new information. In a capsule, the brain is shaped and molded by the number of varied experiences a child has.
Using tech gizmo to learn her ABC or play with also an experience. But it is a one track experience, touch the screen, the next letter will be played, push this button the light will blink, pull the cord the siren will sound etc. There is no variation in the experience and there is neither scope for expansion of the network that is already formed nor any kind of rewriting of neural network that happens. Such learning is detrimental to the growing brain.
In very simple words, ‘THE MORE YOUR CHILD MOVES, THE MORE SHE LEARNS’. The way to a child’s brain is through unstructured gross motor movement and some simple fine motor movement.
(3)A machine is one size fits all and does not cater to children with difficulties perceiving certain patterns. Even a mild pattern perception problem, say for example your child is left handed instead of right handed, is not accounted for in many gizmos.
Having worked in a conventional school with traditional teaching methods, for a few months, I have seen first hand how a left hand child perceives the written letter differently. First of all we are talking about four year old children who do not get the very concept that letter is a symbolical representation of sound. Secondly we do not wait for the child’s hand muscles to develop, we expect them to write what is shown to them. Problems if any are addressed by repetition. This learning by rote rather than understanding can only go so far.
Where as children who are allowed to experience the symbol through body movements do much better. It is kind of an early intervention program, that acts on the weaker areas of the brain and strengthens it.
(4)The tech toys do not come cheap. Depending on the level of sophistication they leave a significant dent in your purse. As a generalization most of us have two children in a family. Do you buy two tech toys which means shelling out double the amount of money or do you buy one and expect the children to share?
If one truly believes that she is buying a tech toy to her child because she wants her child to learn, then by stipulating an usage time she insinuates that learning happens only during a specific time.
Okay the sharing business aside, parents expect children to sit at a place and play/learn with the gizmo without damaging the gizmo. The child cannot open the gizmo, shake it, see what makes all this sound and movement to happen. Very fair expectation from the parent considering the price of the gizmo. You are teaching this child to merely enjoy the outcome, not to bother about how the whole shebang happens. Would you rather give your child a fish a day or teach your child to fish?
Young children need to see cause and effect and must also see that a varied cause makes a different effect. When you pour dry sand, this is how it falls. When you pour wet sand this is what happens. When you pour dry sand through a funnel, how does it fall? These are the simple and the most enriching experiences young children need.
(5)I am certainly worried about the radiation levels children are exposed to. Staring at a screen is very unnatural for the eyes. Again the brain develops in accordance to the signals it receives and a child exposed to TV/Kindle/iPad/iPhone grows up with a brain that is wired to see close by objects, looses interest in things that do not come with a sound and dance effect.
(6)I recently attended a lecture by Roland Steinemann and what he said was very interesting to me. While discussing what is the motivation of a child to learn, to go to school, he said that the till age 5 the main motivation for a child to learn is is the innate skill of every human being to imitate. Then till age 9/10 children learn because they love the teacher. After 10 is the stage where they learn for satisfying their curiosity.
Going by this logic, tech toys with programmed responses, which just throw information in your face, are much suitable for the 10+ age group.
(7)I have also heard the argument that this is the age of tech and if children are not introduced early on, they will loose out. Going by this argument Zuckerberg must have grown up with social networking and Larry Page must have grown up with search engines. All a child needs is unlimited imagination, curiosity to know and analyze things, determination and will to follow through.
For your further reading pleasure
16 Jun 2011
Again it was R who said, ‘Well…Meija is leaving school too. She needs to be recognized and it needs to be a separate ceremony. This child cannot be in her sister’s shadow all the time.’ We were never expecting this and were super thrilled, most of all Mieja was very excited. She chirped to all who cared to listen that she was going to have a circle goodbye ceremony. We decided on a small ceremony in circle where the children sang a small song, the teachers talked about the significance of the song and the children shared their views on friendship.
Getting to say proper goodbye, however painful it is, is an absolute necessity, especially for children. They learn that their old friends did not just vanish, but are still there and it gives them the confidence to make new friends in the new environment.
Here is to the (g)old and new.
9 Jul 2010
Harry came to us during the winter break and simply never went back. We had much younger children in our classroom and they thought that it was their daily duty to put their hands in to the fish bowl and prod poor Harry. So it was decided that it will be best, for Harry of course, to have him at our house.
Monday morning we found Harry belly up. We put him in a ziplock and placed him in the trash container. As a part of their continuing effort to understand death, there were a lot of questions from the little ones about Harry passing on. In spite of our sincere efforts to answer them, they are still a little puzzled. Chula seemed to understand that death is serious business and that Harry is not coming back as Harry ever. She even cried a little bit before sleeping. The all knowing Mieja consoled her saying that we could always go to PETCO and get another Harry. I am not sure if she understands or is overly practical.
Harry, you brought happiness to our family and in some capacity and we hope we did the same to you.