It was 18th Oct, my birthday. I told Raghu i completed 34 years that day. He said “you are so old” I laughed and was about to say something when he came back with: “Soon you will have grandchildren” So i laughingly and unthinkingly said to him… “for me to become a grandmother… you will need to get married and have kids first”
Pat came his response: “No…. first i have to meet some one” I gulped over this and said “yes then you’d have to marry and have children…right?” To which he said: “No… then i will adopt children” This conversation was the best gift i could have asked for that day.

Raghu is our biological child and Zoya is our adopted child. And Raghu is aware of this and remembers bringing Zoya home clearly. But this was the first time he’d ever said anything about how a family can be formed outside of the traditional way. He is already aware of how a biological family is formed and hence i’d say this dialogue came from some level of understanding within him.

More Lego

Today Raghu browsed the Lego website all by himself. I was sleep deprived and trying to clean up 15 days worth of dust (this is one heck of a dusty place) so that we would not sneeze every time we moved something. We just returned from the trip to my parents in Bangalore. So i was unavailable mentally and physically. Z was sleep walking around the house and hence i could not ignore her either.

Anyway… Raghu called me to see a brief 15 sec clip of a new Bionicles product video online. Not sure how he managed to figure out the site… he is rarely online or even on the computer. After about an hour or so he walks over for some lunch and there in his hand is a miniature, almost identical replica of the Bionicle-flying-machine he’d shown me earlier. He’d improvised with motors from the aeroplane, batman’s vehicle-slinger-thingy and some other random pieces… that when put together in a particular way really looked like it.

His attention to detail and interest in motors, electricity, Lego creations of ideas he has etc. has been a pleasure to watch. It makes me aware of the sheer sense in doing/learning about that which interests us vs. that which somebody thinks we ought to know. Thru his Lego inclinations he touches upon math, history, spatial thinking, diagrams, verbal descriptions of his creations, and much more. Which class lesson can make that claim to fame?


Raghu played hang man with me today. (fyi:
He’s played it before with me. I’ve written out simple words like T_ _ _ R and given him a clue that its a wild animal. Whereupon he loves to pick the wrong letters so I have to start drawing the man hanging from the noose.

But today…. he spelled a word out in dashes! He asked me to guess it.
It went like this: _ _ _ _ _ _ He wanted me to spell it like this: TY_RKS. In case you have not guessed… its T-Rex (acronym for Tyrannosaurus Rex). It was a case of interesting, creative spelling and quite phonetic of him.

God/School Almighty!! What if he never learns to spell? Why not correct his spelling at every step of the way ( even though he seems so newly proud of his spelling skills)? Invented spelling must be squashed as quickly as it germinates.

Man…. am i glad i read about invented spelling on Sandra’s and other RU lists/sites etc. I loved being able to calmly watch his creative power, concentration, and sheer joy at being able to create a hang-man when i was unable to spell T-Rex the way he did. He beat me at my adults-rule-game.

To look at it as a happy game, a point of departure, a spurt of phonetic recognition is more important to me than turning it into a teacherly/schooly moment.

Rabbit, Pooh, Tigger, Roo, Piglet and I

While watching “Winnie the Pooh: Springtime with Roo” for the n’th time with Raghu and Zoya this morning, I was in a slow, slightly sleep-deprived, zoned out state. And this state of mind made me hyper-aware of Rabbit’s voice to the exclusion of all else…. kids chattering, laughing loudly, the garbage collectors et al. This is the one where Rabbit takes away Easter from everyone (because no one listens to his orders/commands during the previous Easter celebration) and Tigger, Roo and the Narrator help Rabbit see the light 😉

So back to Rabbit’s previous Easter…. he is singing his organization song while riling up the troops for his version of Easter preparation. He says something like “Its work, stop having fun now” “we must prioritize, organize, supervise, etc…” “No one can start Easter till I say so” “It has to be perfect or it will never do” etc. And I started to feel like Rabbit and I are very alike.

Aaaaarrrghhh…. Delegating work to the submissive, anal planning, getting things orderly and neat… all traits I fight within me. Maybe the kids are subliminally sending me a message by asking for this DVD repeatedly.

These days our home has a life of its own. I barely have any control over how it may look from moment to moment, let alone day to day. If and when I crave a cleanliness fix that seems impossible at home… then i visit some friends or family or go to a fancy restaurant. Or I find a new spot to snuggle in in the house and look at things from a new physical space. This helps me look at the mountain of mixed up items/toys and see ‘work’ happening and not ‘clutter’.

So like Pooh and Tigger for sure… its best to deal with the moment and be in it… and not think about the future or even the next moment too much. And Rabbit so needs to just chill.

The why and how of our being on the RU path

We have gone thru stages of different parenting and education philosophies over the last couple of years. In fact I’m sure our current RU path might be mis-understood by or be baffling to some friends/family who have met us at earlier stages. I have one friend who was on quite a Waldorf path and i really hope i have not alienated her by sharing our blog of RU experiences off late… with no preamble of how and why this change came about.

So I thought I’d list our experiences and how one led to another:

– Early on when Raghu was about 2.5, we enrolled him in a lovely little Montessori school for 3 hours a day. Raghu told us he only liked being there on Fridays (the day they made Challah-bread)… So i sat outside the classroom (the only way Raghu agreed to stay in the class) reading John Holt and others on homeschooling/unschooling… and the first strands of freedom-from-school thoughts percolated in my head. My memories of school left me with a distaste for schooly-people telling me what to do and how to do it… unless it was someone i gave that right to… like my ex-professor at SVA… whom i loved and admired. And despite the absolutely lovely women who ran this Montessori, the splendid classroom layout and freedom given to children etc… Raghu still resented being told when to work with what and when it was time to go for circle time etc. So we pulled him out.

– Then we transitioned into a Waldorf-esque lifestyle at home with little TV, tons of food restrictions (however lovingly imposed…they were impositions), no-battery toys, more of wooden stuff (if you can’t afford them… make them… yeah right… ), lots of some what false conversations with children… with me thinking i know what is best for them. We thought this was The PATH! All along there seemed to be serious discrepancies in the Waldorf way. But it took us more than 6 months to see this phase thru to its natural demise. While i love wooden toys… i love electricity too 😉 Also the artist in me was irked by the curved corner papers and the wishy washy style of painting and withholding black crayons/paint from the child. There were wonderful things too that we learnt from this phase though… like making candles, using an axe, doing needle work and including children in all our regular work.

– We then got busy with the adoption of Zoya (Raghu is our biological child) and watched the love that only siblings can share. Meanwhile I had to read up on more unschooling practices as Raghu kept pushing the limits our homeschooling had set. And he kept learning things that weren’t on the curriculum for an almost 4 year old. Esp not on a Waldorf curriculum.

– We then moved to Singapore and found out slowly by the end of our 9 month stay there that Radical Unschooling was a big scary place… “”where our dreams might come true.”” Where everything in the world was food to be played with (still can’t bear to watch my kids play with food though… working on this), where work and play were one, where everything was freedom-oriented and hence resulting in laughter, joy and complete respect for one another… surprise, surprise! This was still a RU theory stage though.

– Then we moved to India and settling here brought its own peculiar issues. Everything kept falling into place with Law of Attraction type precision…. i found a lovely Radical Unschooling Mentor, a homeschooling group formed which helps me out in many ways (Me and mentor are the only RU’ing families in the city). Kids are grooving like never before. Dh and I are not worried at all about schoolish learning… but still working on deschooling other habits.

– Battery driven toys, wooden trucks, TV, DVD, mud, straw and glue, composting, playing with screws and bolts…. you get the picture. Everything is connected and everything leads to learning. Even when Raghu is immersed in Lego all day long sometimes…. being given the freedom to explore this to its fullest means that when his body aches from being bent over and in concentration mode for too long… he simply stretches, goes for a walk, does some swinging from the beams, chases his little sister around and then just goes back to his hunched over Lego position. In the meanwhile as i observe this intense Lego phase he comes up with number combinations, simple equations, playfully creates war like scenarios with his Lego characters, talks to his imaginary pals, tells me about his latest creations and shows so much play-versatility that we are astounded.

– Today we were at the typical mall (I can’t stand them but find them the best places to shop in Pune as they have clean bathrooms available… imp as Z needs to pee every 30 minutes or so!!) to get jeans for the kids. The kids spent 30 minutes staring at the transparent sided elevator…. we talked, observed and absorbed the mechanism of the elevator. Pulleys, levers, weights, cords, emergency lights, pistons…. what fun. I can see this coming thru in his lego creations soon. Like the space ship he made for E.T. after watching E.T, the movie. Also at the mall… Raghu spent his Diwali gift money (from his Nainamma) and had fun weighing the options between one hot wheels set and another. I just can’t take it any more… there is just too much learning going on in our lives!! And we don’t even go to school!

My choices of food, holisitc type stuff, love for all things wooden, vegetarianism, need for cleanliness and neatness, etc. might never be those of my children… nor those of my dh. Why would we force our personal choices on them? There are enough choices that our young children are not a party to…. like where we work, where we live because of work, how much money we choose to make etc. So we’d rather not force them to finish the milk in their cup… but rather see if we can add it to the kids-yogurt-making 😉 Or add it to the kadipatta plant in our garden after the milk sours… so it grows well.

My inner drive to reach for more… more freedom, more happiness, more peace, more everything… has even me reeling sometimes. Often, Ravi comes home and asks if he needs to read up on anything before he says hello to the kids 😉 But I think the path is now set for us…

I am becoming a turtle. I disappear into my shell soon as i hear condescending chatter aimed at kids, pinching of cheeks that are not owned by the pincher, answering in sing-song mode for a child who could have answered, etc… I have never been so non-gregarious and anti-general-conversation as i am now.

I guess i don’t know where to begin/end when i’m in such situations. It is hard to hear a mother say “well a smack now and then is a good way to keep them in control” or “whenever i talk to my son about stuff he should or should not do, he covers his ears and closes his room door on me” Its tough to speak cordially and continue a conversation with such mothers.

And to talk about children as inconveniences is deplorable. A child is “good” if he or she will allow the parents unlimited time to themselves or time for a movie etc. So otherwise the child is what? Bad? Why did we have them?

Raghu and I watched E.T. He loved it, i love it and remembered old coloring books of mine that had the most famous scenes in the movie. Raghu built a Lego spaceship type structure… and declared it E.T’s space ship to go home. I love RU’ing.

Today i bicycled, free from kids zipping around me, feeling like a bird even as concrete dust flew around me (i had to stick close to home while my kids napped… and around our complex the construction stuff is intense… oh yeah and my helper was at home with them). It felt good. I usually reserve their occasional together-naps (when they both sleep at the same time) for me-time infront of the computer catching up with email etc. But today i opted for a quick 20 minute zip around. And i’m thrilled i chose this.

I love that the law of attraction is so present in everything and so predictable in some ways. Makes for interesting observations of life. If anyone is interested please read this book “Law of Attraction” by Esther Hicks.

The middle flower is one of the lovely mountain wildies given by my friends Rohit and Pankaj… my co-creators of art these days. The other 2 are the flowers i saw, to my complete surprise, in our compost pile one morning. Guess what they are 😉

Namana’s (Z’s cool new name for Nainamma, Ravi’s mom) house has the anything-goes-balcony space for those free-ing moments of play. Today Namana gave Z an old tape cassette. She pulled long shiny magnetic tape out of it by the yards. Then Raghu decided to join in. Together they made a cats cradle like web structure, a trap, between 2 pillars. By then the tape was empty and not as much fun. Z got a pair of scissors and R proceeded to cut me loose (i was posing as the victim trapped in the magnetic tape web) Namana and I had fun watching them play like this. The balcony was littered with magnetic tape bits… and our morning started on a lovely note.

In the past this very balcony of Namana’s has been used as brick pounding region, paper clip sculpture area and general water war zone area. Rock on Namana-Balcony and Namana’s ‘let them do it’ attitude !!

This is a pic of our Balcony… with the water sheets and a part of the Pirate Ship Wagon. More on this in another post.