some pics with the NJ cousins

At the rustic farm…. Raghu and the kids loved the Trampoline… it was in an open-sided veranda. We caught several tadpoles and little fish in our handy net and touched and enjoyed slipping them back into a little stream on the same property. The Tree house was named after Robinson Crusoe and was built about 15 years ago. We were still dealing with the heat and mosquitoes and hence did not stay in the tree-house area for too long. The stream was the favourite hang-out. While hanging out at the cottage Raghu discovered the pleasures of Dumb-charades, also called “give us a clue”. He repeatedly performed Ben 10 Secret of the Omnitrix and several other movies for us to guess. The game was a hit with the cousins… both played out several difficult titles and many other quickies. We spent over 2 hours with this game. It was quite rustic given that there was no electricity the first evening… only came back late night. But we all had fun.

A new experience for Raghu

Raghu took the morning flight to Bangalore today with his older cousins and Mami who have come to visit India from New Jersey. It was an ideal opportunity for Raghu to experience travel with family he loves and be with my parents and sisters in Bangalore. So when we asked him if he would like to go… he said yes! He was clear that if he needed us suddenly it would be hard for us to come right away… but if the need was urgent we’d come. After more than a year here in India he now seemed ready for this big step of a 3 day sleep-over… which is what it essentially is.
He will return with them on Sunday evening. He was so excited but also calm and self-assured.

Besides my parents who he is very comfortable with, I sense that his deep connection with my youngest sister (who lived with us from the time Raghu was born till he was about 3) is also the one reason he is so willing to go to Bangalore without Ravi and me around. And its a short trip and its air travel (which he loves) with his 8 and 10 year old boy-cousins who he loves interacting with. All in all a winner of a trip.

His cousins and Mami (my cousin’s wife and my very dear friend) have been with us a few days. We enjoyed their company and Raghu got to play DS with them… like a multi-play thing. Raghu loved trying out their DS cartridges. They all bicycled and scootered around our complex and also experienced some rustic living near by at a farm. Its been wonderful to see these nephews after almost 2 years. We lived 15 minutes away from them in NJ and have been close to them from the time they were born. So a deep connection for all of us.

So Zoya, who is upset that she could not go, and I are going to focus entirely on each other today… or atleast i’m going to focus on her totally and see what special things we can do for the next 3 days. We’ve boiled some eggs and have painted them and used tons of glitter glue to decorate. We’ll see how the morning unfolds.

I’m very excited for Raghu but miss him already.

My new word for the day

I sometimes will look up words on Wiki just to follow a trail of links… its fun.
Today i found: Autodidacticism link:
I love it. Its exactly what seems to be happening in this house.

Raghu and Zoya will be helped along when they need it and will hopefully always be given rich environments to draw upon…. but ultimately its them pushing themselves thru life and its mysteries… because they want to thrive, learn and become more than they are. Its back to the best example there is: A baby wanting to walk and talk and make stuff happen just like the adults around him. No time-limits, no artificial gains, no coercion. Just be around them and interact and follow their needs… and they respond. Its amazing.

This example always lets me get out of my children’s paths and let them be. So when Raghu says 60 + 60 is 1200, right amma? and i say.. actually its 120 and offer to show him why… and he says no thank you, not right now… i say okay and let it lie. A few minutes later he comes back and says oh actually its 600 plus 600, right amma? He knows a lot. Some days he wants me to show him… and some days he does not. But that does not mean he is not figuring things out constantly in his head.

Some more belated pics

Raghu and Zoya had their first over-night train journey to Hyderabad recently… you can see them in the upper-bunk… and then with several cousins having a shower to beat the heat and posing with some of them.

Oh and then you have Raghu cooking up another of his witch’s brews that according to him can kill Lord Voldemort. And the little costco-lion we bought years ago was given a makeover by Zoya this morning… i helped put some lipstick and some eyeshadow on. Zoya took this photo… so i could not get the little detail included…. the lion’s tail has some bangles on it! I thought it was great how she managed to use most of her preferred accessories despite the lion not having any arms or typical human features.

Some pics from recent times…

That last pic is the one that makes me very happy. I love having loads of kids in my house and each following some crazy path that makes the evening change from moment to moment. It gets chaotic… but its lovely to watch. This pic was when we had 9 kids in the house…. i think quite a few were captured in this pic. It was from a time when Raghu wanted to serve his friends a special meal etc.

Lots of experiences

I am very overdue on writing down our recent journeys. Traveling, water issues in the city, being home-bound due to a virulent H1N1 pandemic in Pune, being a playmate non-stop to Zoya etc have been factors that have kept me from writing and posting photos. Some of what happened or is going on…

The kids have been really going for cold store bought soda (coke etc)… so i decided to see if we could make it in a way that avoids store-bought types. So we bought a few bottles of plain soda. The kids mix it up with different concentrates or home-made syrups. We’ve done lemony fizz, Ribena-soda, Ginger-fizz and others. Occasionally the kids still do ask for Coke/Pepsi etc. But for the most part they have been happy with the new versions. Cheaper and fun concoctions for the kids.

Raghu and Z enjoyed climbing a hill behind our house recently… its not accessible easily… and I felt nervous about taking the kids alone on a monsoon-drenched hill. So all 4 of us went. Raghu and Z were very keen on reaching the top.. but we did not feel confident about making it back down the steeper parts before dark. So we stopped half way and rested like goats on a tiny ledge. We were admiring moss and other little carpet-like plants when we suddenly saw a double rainbow!! It was an amazing sight… the kids were so thrilled. We took tons of pics… and i will put them up some day soon.

Raghu has been enjoying the internet in all its cartoon-gaming glory. Zoya misses him during these longish computer spells… she is not able to play alongside yet. But she ends up playing a lot more with me and some friends in our complex… or with our helper… whom she has taken a liking to.

Often i ask Raghu to take a break and come hang out with us… which the dear boy does often enough. Last evening during one such break we all played pictionary and had a blast. Raghu can read fairly competently when there is no time limit or tiny-screen-lettering… so he was very thrilled to be able to do his turns by himself…. although in the end Ravi and he teamed up and created chaos. No one won… we just sort of kept making wild guesses while the other drew and then laughed till our tummies hurt.

Raghu and Z have been making mobiles with me… mostly because Raghu has hurt his eye (some UFO landed in his eye and has been bothering him)… and he loves the hot-glue-gun… so we made a monster out of wood-craft peices that were supposed to become a spider and an aeroplane. It turned out beautifully grotesque 🙂

Allergies and the road to unschooling…

There have been many times when i’ve recounted the tale of how i came upon unschooling. And sometimes people who have children with allergies ask questions about how we treated Raghu’s allergies. So here is an excerpt of an email to some one on this topic and a few more paras on how it connects to choosing unschooling:

I recommend finding a Naturopath near you and see if you like the Doc and the diagnosis/suggestions. My son, then 3 years old, instantly responded to MSM, Esterol, Magnesium, Quercetin, B12 and some dietary changes. His season-induced allergies magically vanished within 3 weeks… only we had to continue the doses for the entire time we were in the US. But still better than using a pump, medication etc.

So diet wise… we switched to raw milk and raw cheeses when possible (we were in NJ and had access to this). Also i started to listen to my child. Sounds simplistic. However…. Raghu had stopped eating most fruit (which he used to love) and started eating more of Methi (fenugreek leaves), Spinach, Kale, Grapes, Apple-skins, and some other things that the Naturopath immeditately said meant that his body was searching for ‘Quercetin’. Sadly till i met this Doc i had forced/coerced/cajoled Raghu to eat what “I” thought his body needed. Once I began following his cues… his health, his over all diet, his ability to ask for foods he liked/wanted/craved improved dramatically.

Giving my child the freedom to choose meant he could connect with his body and really eat only what he wanted and in the amounts he wanted. His health has been amazing since.

He asks for candy/so-called-junk-foods… but he also is the kind of kid to ask for broccoli and kale on a day to day basis. He eats brown rice, chicken, no fruit, lots of greens, many cheeses including fresh mozzarella, olives, stir-fry veggies etc. I mean his diet is rich and varied and yet… he is in charge. I simply make lots of options available. So he may eat sugary, choco cereal with cold milk in the morning and a packet of chips… but then i make chips in the oven…and he loves those too… and then for lunch he asks for soup like today… with grains, pasta, veggies and sausages thrown in. All per his choice and his body. With me simply providing options, making things easily available and helping him find things he wants.

This Naturopath Doctor led me to understand how important it was for my son to stay home… allow his body to relax and adjust to the allergies… not battle emotionally etc with school and seperation from me. Raghu preferred me to hover outside the door of the little, loving montessori he was in. He wanted ony to work on the practical stuff like water, cooking etc. He hated being asked to change and go to the playground or sit for circle time. And i was pretty much spending my days outside the classroom door.

The Doc asked me if i knew about homeschooling… adn the journey began. I started to read and as seems to be the case always when you get passionate about something…. homeschoolers just happened to be all around. We started going to park-dates with our local group and loved the freedom. Many of them were eclectic or traditional homeschoolers. No unschoolers as far as i recall. However Raghu’s food choices that i had struggled with and my apparent idiocy in forcing foods that his body did not need…. was the real killer. That memory pushed me further. When i first came accross Unschooling as a form of homeschooling…. i was hooked. I’d read and read and yet i could not implement it. I was still hooked on controlling TV and some food choices and would insist on fresh air everyday… like run outside and play with other children.

Anyway… soon i could see the futility of force/coercion and the beauty of living in freedom. Unschooling unfolded slowly in our lives. The past year has been a joyful recovery/journey. So allergies to radical unschooling…. that was our path.