Imagine Aarohi – a community of open learning. Not a school or an organization, but a community to create space for open learning with co-creation, co-learning, and co-existence as key parameters.
They joined the community when Prashanth and Nandini were looking for an alternative school for Advay, 5yrs old. In the last two years, they got understanding about homeschooling and now homeschooling Advay with the community.
“Thank you Aarohi for giving us space and support to know that we can homeschool Advay. We made good progress this year. We have also failed enough this year. We walk into the next year with a bit more confidence and a lot more openness.. we hope to make progress and are open to falling even more”. Their journey of this year
Ever since we joined Aarohi in 2016, we have always been sharing how we wanted to home-school Advay. We were clueless about home-schooling when we joined Aarohi and wanted to experientially understand how to go about it. That alternative-week structure helped us in getting the exposure and also in taking it at the right pace for us.
So for the academic year 2018-19, we wanted to do more of Aarohi-schooling-at-home than Aarohi-schooling-at-Aarohi. We are happy that you gave us the space to cut the chord with Aarohi, be outside while still being included.
The context /intent/purpose we had for the 2018-19 academic year was this
1. To make-up / discover a structure for learning at home.
2. To figure out one or more “subjects” that we want to afford ourselves the luxury to “deep-dive” into while paying attention to important-but-not-urgent subjects in parallel.
3. To come up with a way to document & account progress.
We are happy that you gave us the space to cut the chord with Aarohi, be outside while still being included.
Personally, I learned that off-the-shelf-tricks for home-schooling won’t work with him.
We learned that we cannot plan everything. While at the same time we cannot leave everything unplanned. We learned that a rudimentary plan + action + reflection is a fantastic structure to do home-schooling.
We have learned that we need to be patient before we can start noticing results. We are now clear that results don’t show up at the click-of-a-push-button-on-a-phone-app. But results do show up months later if we keep at it.
We have learned that we __can__ home-school at home. That we can highlight for ourselves and for him the learning that naturally happens in almost any activity.
Having noticed that results do show up, we now have an expanded trust in the process “plan-act-reflect”. We discovered the need for documentation. We do documentation more regularly. Not always in a book. Sometimes on chalk-board, sometimes via drawings, sometimes in a book, sometimes in video.
A lot of practices at Aarohi were rediscovered at home. They made more sense when we rediscovered them than when we were “following” it. For instance “plan-act-reflect”, “documentation” and “morning sunshine”. [While we dont wake up at 6:00 AM and go for morning-sunshine, we do make it a point to go out for some cardio-kind-of-activity first thing in the morning, alteast 3-4 days a week.
We also learned that all 3 of us have our breathe-in and breathe-out times. There are times when we are very intentional, very rigorous, very focussed; and there are other times when we get lazy, directionless, bored and depressed. We have noticed how these things come and go in cycles. Overall our run-rate has been quite encouraging. We can now build on this.
We started off by focussing on what was immediately executable by us. Reading / Writing / Math (RWM). While Advay participated in those and also made progress, he was not really relishing it. So, we dropped focussing on RWM and let him free for a while. During which time he did some craft, drawing, models at home, etc.. It was all unorganized at that point.
Some of the learning stories
FLUTE: In Aug last year, he joined Flute class. Initially, he joined Flute because his friend in the neighborhood was learning Flute. Only a few classes later he started enjoying it. It has been 9 months now and he still goes to Flute class. He has progressed from learning Saralavarase, to Dhatuvarase, to Jhantivarase, to Alankara and soon into Geete. He has become very fluent with flute. It’s not just that he is learning flute, it’s that he has begun to see the world through music. Sometimes he identifies notes in songs, in words, in statements, in birds singing etc. He attempts to render through his flute, the sounds that he has heard just once. He attempts to play songs that his seniors in the flute class are learning. Early this year we had to travel to Shimoga a lot due to functions back-to-back at my in-law’s place. Because of that Advay missed a bunch of flute classes. Last week also he had to go to Shimoga for some reason, but he shared his resistance to travel. He said – “I am not able to make as much progress with Flute as I want to, because we are traveling too much. I wish I could attend more classes and make progress.” We have come to realise how much “he wants to flute” and that it matters to him. So, Flute has become a “subject” for him. [My blog post about his journey with flute: https://www.prashanthudupa.com/index.php/advay-learns-to-flute/]
SWIMMING: Near our gated community, a sports club opened for membership last year in September. It has a full length swimming pool and we have all bought membership there. Initially we would all go to swim simply to chill and be in water. Over a period of time, I personally developed a liking for swimming. I kept challenging myself to do more lengths and burn more calories. My freestyle swim became more graceful and swift. I can now swim for an entire kilometer in 40 minutes. Watching me swim, Advay wanted to learn swimming too. Coaching classes were announced at the club, but Nandini was of the opinion that Advay shouldn’t join the coaching-class right away. That he should learn swimming by himself as much as possible. That swimming should be his discovery first before he asks for and chooses to take on coaching. I concurred with her so we let him learn swimming by himself at whatever pace he saw fit. I would teach him a thing or two (very rarely) when we went swimming together. We go swimming almost 2-3 times a week now. 3-4 months after we started going for swimming, Advay started to mentally simulate his free-style stroke while at home and attempt to swim that way when we went to the pool. He was not able to make much progress but I kept pointing out all the baby steps that he did take. Soon he started to mentally rehearse his dive and practiced with me when we went to swim together. Today almost 6 months after we started swimming, Advay can dive and also swim about half the pool length in free-style before he has to stop, take a breath and continue. He has discovered both diving and free-style swimming in his own way. We want to let him grapple with that learning and discover swimming by himself for some more time. Swimming has now become another “subject” for hom.
CARPENTRY: Advay always showed interest in craft and carpentry. He would do some carpentry at home and also at Aarohi. For while he was smitten by the whole coconut-shell-craft thing. He would do that a lot at home. Infact everything in his surrounding was for a while becoming a tool for coconut-shell-craft. [https://www.prashanthudupa.com/index.php/pulling-ideas-and-experiences-together-to-make-something-new/]. Nandini’s parents built a new house in Shimoga. For the last 4-5 months lot of carpentry work was going on. All the carpenters there and their work fascinated him. He would combine left over wood pieces into something new. He would bring back wood pieces and figure out a way to build something useful for home. Around this time he started saying that he was convinced that he wanted to be a carpenter when he grows up. During dinner he would keep repeating that. Keep sharing that he would make a good living by being a carpenter. The sparkle in his eyes for carpentry was clearly visible. Near our home a carpentry workshop got announced in April. Advay was eager to join. Once we enrolled him, he prepared and longed to go for that one week workshop. Each day he would go for the workshop with total intention and purpose. On the first day, before he got in, he told us – “Amma, Appa – today I am taking the first step to realise my future as a carpenter.” At his workshop he built a key-holder which we have started using at home. He now wants to build more. So we have purchased basic carpentry tools. We shifted some left over wood sheets (from the carpentry job we had commissioned at TERIFLIX in 2017) to our home. We are building a small carpentry workshop space for him in the backyard. He has already started some wood-craft using his new tools at hime. Once he picks up something wood, he sticks to it for hours. Carpentry has now also become a “subject” now.
Be it flute, or carpentry or swimming; the “subjects” were chosen by him. We call it subjects because only in those areas he feels drawn go deeper. He only likes to visit other areas. These areas he wants to deep-dive.
HIT & MISS.
Personally, I had hoped that he would make more progress with reading, writing, and math. Nandini keeps getting him to do some reading, some writing (both English & Kannada) and some math every once in a while. He can read/write and do the math. But not as much as I had hoped. Nandini is not worried about it as much as I am. She feels that he will pick up RWM naturally, so we don’t have to fret.
Advay would document (as a journal in his diary) regularly what he accomplished. As a part of that effort, some writing would happen for sure. But more importantly, he would give himself the space to make note of what he accomplished vs what he set out to do. We would help occasionally, but more often than not we would leave him to reflect by himself. We can tell that some things have shifted for him. For instance, Advay took on this mighty project of cleaning up his resources rack at home all by himself. He took almost 3 days to complete the whole thing. But that was a result of reflecting on how being careless with resources wouldn’t work for him.
A few weeks ago, he started developing a liking for rhyming words. Since then he keeps finding an excuse to make sentences using rhyming words. Like “tomorrow you will go vote, and come back have oats.” Rhyming words show up in short poems also. For instance, “When I eat Paa, Amma tells me to drink water from lota, after which I wear my chappal from Bata.” (Here Paa is short for Pasta, apparently.) When he hears new words, he tries to connect it with other words that rhyme.
He once attended a talk on “Birds at Good Earth” by one of our neighbors at Good Earth. Since then he has been observing birds. He is not too interested in learning their names or species or anything technical like that. He likes to wonder about their colors, their feathers, etc.
This year we started playing Chess and Carrom at home. He has become quite good at Chess. He has understood the need for strategic thinking while playing chess. We also play billiards at the clubhouse one in a while. There he has developed an intrinsic understanding of how forces play out when the cue ball hits other balls on the board. Force, reflection, bounce are all things that he has developed some understanding of.
With his friends in the neighbor hood; they have built a ShivaLinga from a cement block. They all pretend to play around it. The ShivaLinga is real for them. They do pooja for it, take care of it. They also have put together an army that protects the ShivaLinga, while some others come to attack/steal it. In all this, there is this element of “building my own community” going on. We have observed that he has developed in communication & team building.
I bought a DSLR this year. Advay and I spent some time, especially in the nights, taking photographs. Together we learned long-exposure photography. While he likes to take photographs, at the moment, it doesn’t charm him much.
This year he did a lot of free-style painting. He would observe something in his surrounding (trees, plants, etc..) and paint it.
Since he started learning Flute, music has become a significant part of his life. He has attended music concerts in the vicinity. He now appreciates his cousin brother’s mrudunga skill more than ever before.
When we changed our washing machine, we dismantled the old one by hand. He did most of the dismantling. I was mostly around for stuff like lifting heavy stones, moving the cylinder etc. He has since experimented with motors inside the washing machine and built a sand-paper-scrubber for his coconut shells. [https://www.prashanthudupa.com/index.php/pulling-ideas-and-experiences-together-to-make-something-new/]. He could potentially use that for polishing wood as well, but I will let him make that connection.
You might remember that he got the matka from Aarohi, fully confident that he will fix it. He tried many different ways to fix it, but couldn’t fix it. He now knows may ways to not fix a broken matka. It was around that time he had this insight – “not everything we think will happen.” That’s what he shared during the last Manthan.
We had skating shoes at home. This year he spent more time skating. He is quite proficient at it now.
After the JordIndians came to TERIFLIX and filmed a sketch, he felt that he too could make such videos. He said his channel will be called ShimLooreans (short for Shimoga & Bangaloreans). Towards this, he started making a Joke book where he would write jokes that popped up in his head or jokes that he would hear from friends. He once declared that he will write on joke every day. Recently he said he doesn’t want to do that anymore.
He has done a lot of craftwork: Popup greeting cards, origami frogs, models with Lego blocks, crochet, cross-stich etc.
At home he noticed that Nandini is constantly having to speak loudly to call me from upstairs. And I her from upstairs. So he built a bell system for us. Pulling a string from the kitchen would sound a bell in my room upstairs. And if I pulled a string from my room upstairs it would ring a bell in the kitchen. The bell was made by attaching a spoon to a fulcrum and pasting it to a plate. When pulled, the spoon would hit the plate and make a sound. We have noticed a clear trend this year: he loves solving problems at home. He wants to build stuff for home that we all will end up using. And he is willing to learn things in the process of building something useful for home.
Both Advay & I bought new cycles. We bought it as a means to spend some time together in the morning. We have since been cycling regularly (2-3 times a week). He feels sufficiently independent now. Nandini frequently sends him to buy stuff from the nearby shop. Advay has been trusted with taking money from the purse, buying what-ever-is-required, computing the change he should be getting, cycling and buying the stuff.
For a few months this year, Advay had taken up the accountability of evening snacks. He would actually cook some evening snack all by himself. Bhel-puri or some such thing. Sometimes he chops vegetables and helps Nandini cook. He can actually cook a particular kind of Rasam all by himself now.
We have watched a few science documentaries during the year. We watched one about how there are so many energy frequencies in the world and that our bodies can pick up only a subset of those via eyes, ears, skin, and tongue. How we have invented machines to create, transmit and receive energy in other frequencies. How we can use techniques to visualize energy frequencies that the human eye is incapable of perceiving by itself. He has since become very observant of things like cell-phone towers, satellites etc. He keeps noticing them with a sense of wonder as to how they help us communicate with his aunt who is in the US. He loved to watch how salt-on-paper would dance when kept on a speaker with loud music.
Nandini & Advay went for the star party near Hassan. Since then he looks at stars and planets with wonder. He keeps finding reasons to revisit that experience. He can recognize a few constellations also. He also got interested in Panchanga (Indian Calendar). He got his grandfather to explain Panchanga to him.
He took part in a community event, where he underwent training for 5 weeks to give a stage show on environmental issues and going zero waste. He experienced being part of a chorus that makes up a stage performance.
I would do 3D modeling with Sketch-Up for my personal projects. He would observe that and find himself wanting to learn how to do that. I sat with him for a day and explained the basics of SketchUp. Few days of practice later, he was able to build 3D models all by himself.
Nandini & Advay went for a trip this year to Murugumalla, where he was taken through the whole process of making silk-garments. Right from breeding silk worms, to extracting silk to making a cloth out of it. It was a totally new experience for both of them. This group that they went out with was new. They are all mostly home-schoolers (or wannabes). The group only comprised of mothers and children. [Fathers not allowed]. They enjoyed the entire trip. Advay learned new things on the trip, especially about history. About a month ago, we went on a trip to Chennai and visited Mahabalipuram Temples, National park, Snake park, science museum, Light-House and the Beach. All first time experience for him. We had also driven to Shravanabelagola. Through out the trip we read about Baahubali, why he decided to do naked-standing meditation. We read about Jains. And actually got to see Gomateshwara statue and the temple around it. All of these trips, we think, has planted seed for curiosity about history.
All of these are, like I said before, periphery. He isn’t digging deep into any of these at the moment. But he has enjoyed them for a while and gathered some learning in the process.
Thank you very much for your silent and reassuring presence.
Imagine Aarohi – a community of open learning. In the community not only our kids glow, but the families also grow together.