Review – Indian Mom Connects’ Indian-Themed Treasure Box

Ye All!

The team at Indian Moms Connect recently sent us their Treasure Box for review.  The Treasure Box kits are designed for children aged between four  to six. This meant that I got to review this box with a cutesy neighbor’s kid, since my own kids were past this age!

As you can see, the kits are designed to present a fair bit of challenge for kids that age. There is ample opportunity to employ and refine both fine and gross motor skills along with a healthy dose of interesting reading thrown in.

The Treasure Box Kit

The Treasure Box Kit

What we loved about the box was that it came with an unusual theme called ‘Ladakh’, one of the most exotic tourist spots of India. The box was peppered with delightful activities for 4-5-year-olds with a lot of background about the place they have themed it on.

For example: Take a look at this!

The kit doesn’t address any formal lessons but includes lots of materials that intend to work the child’s hands and mind in sync. The kids(my own kids helped this 4-year-old) loved the way the boxes had to be cut out(which are great for fine motor skills.)

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The animal puzzle box was a great hit too!

While cutting out the sides of the boxes was at an appropriate skill level,  there are a good amount of challenge built into them while folding them up into boxes( which required help from us).

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At the final stage, when the boxes stacked up to form an animal, they were elated.

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Both the cutting of the animals and The animals featured on the boxes came with material that offered special info about them.

What I loved most about the box was that it carried an activity with a cultural highlight of Ladakh. Consider this: The

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The kids loved the idea of the fabric squares and let their creativity go on the loose!

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Our peace prayer flag in progress!

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And then we found a story-book that was refreshingly informative on one animal of Ladakh- “Bumboo – the obstinate donkey.”

All of the materials can also be used for other projects. I love how organized the kit was. The only downside we noticed was that the cutting out of the animals for boxes could have used some dotted lines for clarity. Other than that, the kit was immensely enjoyable. The fact-based activities made it an interested read for adults too!

IMC Treasure Box Kits are designed for several age groups and are located in the US. Their kits carry an Indian flavor. You can also find IMC Treasure Box Kits here.  They are currently running a 20% off promotional offer too!

 

The promo code is “EMAIL20.”

 

They have some interesting themes coming up for the festive season. Check them out here!

Thank you to Indian Moms Connect for the opportunity to review this product. We thoroughly enjoyed it!

 

 

 

 

 

Child Behavior: 7 surprising factors that could make it weird!

 

weird-habits-of-kids

Child behavior

You could be the parent in the supermarket battling embarrassment on your child’s odd behavior- or you could be the one judging the parent there. Or you could be the kindergarten teacher who suddenly has her hands full with this little devil who trumps you in all your attempts to make him learn – Or, you could be the mother non-plussed about your child’s sudden onset of aggression and strange child behavior.

A child’s development and behavior is a combination of many things they encounter. Children often display a range of behaviors that can range from passive, shy, to uncooperative, defiant and even aggressive.

There are some obvious factors that affect child behavior – like child abuse and bullying in schools.

Related: Bullying in Schools – 10 Effective Classroom Strategies to Nip It In the Bud

However, there are few factors that do not exactly ring on top of our heads while analysing the cause for a sudden change in child behavior.

Here are a few of them:

Teachers not respected by their colleagues

Children tutored by teachers who did not feel respected by their colleagues in their working environment seemed to be passing on the negative effects of high stress and low social engagement to their children. This could be a direct result of the teachers feeling inadequate about their teaching material and supplies. This is true for children as young as first graders.

Children tutored by teachers who do not feel valued feel the negative effects too Click To Tweet

Classroom environment

Seasonal variation, especially extreme heat and cold can lead to an increase in aggression in children. Other factors like humidity and exposure outdoor activities have a huge impact on the child’s moods. In effect, it is important to maintain moderate and stable environmental parameters as far as possible- at least indoors. (This article in TIME confirms that heat can increase aggression in adults as well- so beware of losing it and yelling at your child!)

The external physical environment has effects on the behavior of a child Click To Tweet

Also Read: 10 Simple Ways to Raise A Book-Lover

Physical arrangement in the classroom

A child spends almost half his waking hours in his school. It is important that he does not feel obvious discomfort in the manner of learning. The physical attributes in his learning environment- like lighting, distance from the writing boards, the spatial arrangement of his chairs so he doesn’t feel isolation or intrusion, ambient noise, etc. play a huge role in the child’s learning progress- and, in turn, his overall behavior.

The physical arrangement in the classroom can aggregate into massive learning disruptors for a child Click To Tweet

Uniforms

There is an ongoing debate about the pros and cons of having a uniform for school. Advocates say that uniforms remove distractions for children, thereby facilitating a better learning environment. Also, it reduces the obvious range of diversity in a classroom, which helps with countering bullying. Needless to say, it is extremely important that uniforms must be suited to the predominant climate and environment of the school to reduce the physical discomfort that obstructs learning.

The right choice of uniform can impact the welfare of the child Click To Tweet

Family structure

Studies show that children from stable families demonstrate improved learning capabilities and less aggressive behavior. Family structure especially parental separation is seen as having a huge impact on child learning capabilities.

When they were born

According to this article, children born in the summer months(May to August) can face behavior problems and show poor academic engagement. The simple reason is that they are highly likely to be grouped with children who may be months older than them, widening the gap in language and behavior problems in the classroom.

When a child is born influences how they learn Click To Tweet

Peer monitoring

A learning environment that harnesses peer monitoring has been found to have a profound effect on child behavior, especially in groups.  According to this article, this is true for reinforcing both positive and negative behaviors. Peer interventions can increase engagement and reduce the burden of the teacher as well.

Peer monitoring is more effective than traditional teaching Click To Tweet

 

About the Author:

Devishobha Chandramouli is the founder of Kidskintha- a site dedicated to creating happy children. She believes that growing up well and happy is a function of growing up with well-informed adults. This site aims to deliver research-grounded and bite-sized pieces of information on two important facets of a child’s life- parenting and education. You can find her voice on the Huffington Post,  Inc. Addicted2Success, TinyBuddha, Citizen Matters, Nectar and Lies About Parenting.

Homeschooling: A Homeschooler Shares Her Journey

Advantages of homeschooling

The Joys Of Homeschooling

Before I get into the details of homeschooling, and how and why we do it, here is a brief explanation of the days that led us to this path. The problems we were facing during this time were only temporary, but after we took the step and began homeschooling, we discovered numerous benefits of homeschooling that we never thought of before.

The days which lead to our evaluation of Homeschooling Pros and Cons

He had just begun the first standard, and his teacher had been driving us up the wall. My son is quite the bookworm and reads a lot. He used to come home everyday and tell us that his teacher can’t spell. She didn’t read or pronounce words correctly and she often changed words in his books that were spelled correctly, to what (she thought) was the right spelling. Another complaint was that she used to pinch and slap the children if they talked in class. Being about 8 and a half months pregnant at the time, and having to ‘un­teach’ all that the teacher was teaching, AND having to go to his school every day to correct his teacher’s spellings and discipline methods, was just a wee bit more than I could handle.

These weren’t the only problems. My son was bright and creative. Sometimes, I saw him come up with an interesting way to do his work. But then he would always say­ “It’s ok. Maybe the teacher won’t like it.” At that tender age, he was already seeing a need to be exactly like everybody else.

He was afraid of doing things his way even though these bright ideas were coming to him. This scared me. The need to conform and fit in, just to be like everyone else, is something I find very wrong. His reading skills were far ahead of the class, but he was forced to re­read easy lessons just because the rest of the class was doing it. His drawings were better than any of my pathetic attempts at art, but he ‘had to’ draw the same old boring house with chimney, or mountains with sunset like everybody else did.

Related: What We Are Subconsciously Teaching Our Kids!

This carried on for a few weeks, and a week after my baby was born, I suddenly got the heartbreaking news that my 80 year old father had cancer. I packed my bags at once, and with my newborn baby, took an exhausting 14 hour bus journey from Goa to Bangalore to take care of my father. It was the first time I had been away from my son, and even with all the stress of having to care for a newborn with gastroesophageal reflux and my father as he underwent chemotherapy, I still couldn’t stop thinking of my son left behind in Goa, and the horror of a teacher that he had to put up with each day. Not to mention­ the dreadful principal who didn’t seem to care that her teachers were far from competent.

One day, having a bit of time on my hands, I decided to look up homeschooling and I hit the jackpot. I discovered an amazing book online called ‘The Teenage Liberation Handbook‘ by Grace Lewellyn. The book was exactly what I needed to make me take the leap of faith into the world of homeschooling. If you have a teen, buy them this book, but BE WARNED­ It will convince them that they do not need school any more. And if they read the book well, be warned again­ There’s even a chapter on how to convince parents that you don’t need school! (I used that chapter when it was time to convince my husband!)

Once I was done with the book, I phoned my husband. I was all pumped up and must’ve sounded like a crazy person, but he patiently listened to every word. He said he’ll think about it.

Soon after, when I was back in Goa, the first thing we did was what the book suggested: Meet with parents who have already been homeschooling.

Related: The Conundrum Called Education

I Googled ‘homeschooling in Goa’, snooped around a bit, and I discovered a wonderful couple and their two teenage children­ who lived not far from our home. When I called them they happily welcomed us for a visit, and we went to their house. They were a wonderful family­ united, passionate, intelligent, loving, friendly, generous, and fun. The children had been taken out of school when they were 8 and 10, and they learned informally at home. They never took exams, though they continued to go to school after-school ­hours and play sports like basketball and football with their friends. They didn’t follow any specific religion, and encouraged their children to participate in all religious functions just the same. Their daughter wanted to do social work and worked as a volunteer with deaf and blind children. Their son was studying computers and was also into photography. Both the children also used to rescue snakes, as volunteer work, and they even took the trouble to show us their most recent catch­ a Russell’s Viper which they were keeping in a jar in their house until they could release it back into its natural habitat!

We spent about an hour with them that day, munching on Marie biscuits and sipping tea. We discussed the schools nowadays, different teaching methods, and talked about what children really need. It was a great day. The next morning, we marched into the principal’s office and asked for our son’s name to be removed from the register. That was the best thing we ever did for him.

What is expected of me­ as a homeschooling parent?

You do need to have lots of free time on your hands.You don’t necessarily need to turn into a teacher. A parent is already a teacher anyway! You only need to set an example. Show your child that learning things is awesome. Trust that learning is happening all the time. Show them that you don’t always need to sit down and study from books. When you want to learn something, you just look it up, don’t you? You don’t sit down frantically reading it over and over again while rocking back and forth.

Take long walks with your child, in parks or fields, even on the street, observing and explaining nature and its processes. Doing this pleasantly everyday, you could easily cover school’s ten years of science in about one year. Sure, the child won’t remember every little detail, but there’s no exams!

When you see your child get obsessed with something, drop everything and jump into their world to hear all about it. The next day, if they don’t care about it anymore, that’s fine. Just let them find a new passion all on their own, and be ready to do it all over again. One fine day, they will find something that will last.

Expand your horizon, and keep learning with your child. If you limit yourself, your child’s world is limited too.

Together, Google every question they stump you with, and delight in the answers. THIS is how they will come to love learning.

With younger children, talk talk talk… Talk all the time, and about everything that crosses your mind. This will expand their world. When they get interested in something, they will pelt you with questions, and be sure you answer every one!

What do we do everyday?! Homeschooling pros and cons

Now, our days are very different from what they were three years ago. We used to wake up to the sound of alarm clocks and dart around the house looking for missing socks or books like ants running about in search of food! Now we all wake up at leisure. Some days it’s at 6. Other days it is 9.

Only 20 minutes of formal lessons each day. The rest of the day is spent in learning too, but that learning happens on his own. He is learning to play the guitar on his own, from Youtube.

No more do we sit down to homework in the evenings. Our tea­ time is dragged out every evening, and we chat, play, draw, discuss the happenings of the world. Every evening, my son waits for his friends to return from school and they all play until sunset. All this happens in a very leisurely way. In our opinion, it is just the way family life should be. The stress of homework, exams, and other insignificant worries that schools pile on us is no more in our lives. There’s no yelling, studying, struggling with homework, rushing with breakfast, worrying about marks…

Whenever we feel like it, we get in touch with other home schoolers and we have picnics as often as once a month ­sometimes more! These picnics often turn into little projects for all the children to work on together. The kids in the group range from a few months to 20 years old! They all get together and the older and younger ones all interact together just the same. The last meet we hadturned into a movie making project which was thrilling for all the children.

Homeschooling Resources: Textbooks and Websites

Soon after I began homeschooling, I bought a lot of school textbooks for class one. I thought I would be teaching him just the way school does. But then I realised there was no point in homeschooling if I was going to create a ‘school at home’. I still continue to buy textbooks at the start of every year, but now I do it differently. I search high and low for the most interesting and unusual books, which are not necessarily school textbooks. I don’t go by the grade or the age of my son, but just by whatever fascinates him. Our home is full of National Geographic books, and books on philosophy written for children simply because that’s what he loves. We buy lots of second hand books, Childcraft books, and kid’s magazines. I don’t ‘make him study’. He does everything himself. As and when he feels like it. If you want to go about homeschooling in a more traditional way, there are many ways you could.

You could just get someone to give you their child’s old books for you to use. This way, you will know that your child is learning exactly what the schools are teaching. You could also go textbook shopping yourself. Sapna Bookstore has a large section for school textbooks and you could creatively and freely create a curriculum for your child with your best finds.

There are also plenty of options on the wonderful world wide web. Just Google and get youranswer to anything. There’s unschooling, Charlotte Mason Homeschooling, Waldorf Homeschooling, Montessori Homeschooling… and plenty more. Just take your pick!

What about Exams!?!? What about Homeschooling Curriculum?

Sometimes, my son wants to take a test or exam online, and he does, just for fun. We do not see any real need for regular tests or exams. Our plan is to allow our son to answer the Std 10 exam by the National Institute of Open Schooling when he is 14 or 15.

Another (though expensive) alternative open to homeschoolers is to answer the IGCSE exams as an independent candidate. We will do this solely for the purpose of having a certification that qualifies him to participate in mainstream pre­-university or university if and when he sees the need.

Books to Inspire and Help You

Teach Your Own-John Holt

Totto Chan-Tetsuko Kuroyanagi

The Teenage Liberation Handbook-Grace Lewellyn

Escape From Childhood– John Holt

Instead of Education-John Holt

Home-schooling for Excellence-David and Mikki Colfax

Real Lives-Grace Lewellyn

Guerrilla Learning-Grace Lewellyn

Dumbing us Down-John Taylor Gatto

What Color is Your Parachute for Teens– Carol Christen

The Artist’s Way for Parents- Julia Cameron

Useful Websites

All about homeschoolers in India

Top 100 sites for homeschoolers

A cool website on raising ‘free-range’ children

A massive collection of amazing FREE e-books in English, Hindi and Marathi

A great site for home-schooling the Montessori way

Free E-Books

http://multiworldindia.org/…/uploads/2010/04/10-teenlib1.pdf (The Teenage Liberation Handbook)

http://www.arvindguptatoys.com/arvindgup…/helplearnmaths.pdf (Help Your Child Learn Maths)

http://www.arvindguptatoys.com/arvindgupta/conconcept.pdf (The Continuum Concept)

http://www.users.humboldt.edu/…/27806948-Dumbing-Us-Down (Dumbing Us Down)

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About the author

Rebecca Manari is a teacher and a children’s author, who made Goa her home ten years ago. She has worked in the field of early childhood and primary school education for over eight years and now teaches a middle-school class of ten very smart and spirited children She lives on the beach with her husband and two children who do not attend school, but prefer to learn at home at leisure.

The conundrum called Education

Albert Einstein

First, What is the conundrum called Education?

I blinked in surprise when my Philosophy professor posed this question in our first ever class. I looked around and saw that most students were equally puzzled. I mean, everyone knows what education is right? What kind of a question is that to start a Master’s program?! But, by the end of those 2 hours, I realised I was mistaken.

That question was the perfect start to the whole program: What really is education? Is it a product, measured by the student achievement level? A service?  A process?

[Tweet “I am still in the process of defining what education is to me. On the other hand, I do know what it isn’t!”]

Charlotte Mason (1842 –1923) said, “Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life”. This definition rings true to most parents. Not many would dispute that every parent, whether deliberately or unintentionally, creates an environment where a child can learn and thrive.

In the 21st century, education has come to mean different things to different people. I’ve compiled a very brief list of the many definitions:.

 “Education involves essentially processes which intentionally transmit what is valuable in an intelligible and voluntary manner and which create in the learner a desire to achieve it, this been seen to have its place along with other things in life”- R.S. Peters

 “Education is the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel- Socrates.

 “There is no end to education. It is not that you read a book, pass an exam and finish with education. From the moment you were born to the moment you die, it is a process of learning”- Jiddu Krishnamoorthy.

On the one hand, I am still in the process of defining what education is to me.  On the other, I do know what it isn’t and know enough to resist succumbing to common misconceptions.

The first among them is…

The fallacy of academic super achievement.

A pattern of reasoning which dominates the current educational system is: My child gets 90%(or more) in annual exams every year and because marks are a good indicator of learning, s/he is getting a superlative education. Let me attempt to debunk this reasoning.

Firstly, although a test measures what one knows at a certain point in time, knowledge of a topic is highly dependent on how a test is constructed. In other words, what is the test actually testing?

Secondly, high marks need not necessarily lead to a person being educated. Because performing excellently on a test requires 2 conditions: test taking and study skills. If both the 2 conditions are not fulfilled, performance tanks.

Putting academic achievement into perspective.

Focussing excessively on high marks will possibly lead to academic burn out in your child. I say possibly because I accept that there are children who enjoy a competitive environment. I also acknowledge that there are just as many (if not more) students who have test anxiety and under perform. Most children seek validation of their learning and sometimes their personal worth from teachers, parents, and their test marks. You can probably see how this external validation seeking can be dangerous in the long run.

An assessment is meant to be a snapshot of a performance on a particular day.

As a parent, you are in an enviable position of influence over your child. (Don’t believe parents who claim to have no influence over their children!)

What do you focus on? What do you not focus on? Do you scold when your child gets low marks? Do you praise them when they get good marks? Do you ask “Who got the highest”? Do you expect your child to study every day? Do you answer all your child’s questions? How do you encourage curiosity? Do you question (or not) their teachers during a PTM?

Related: Changing the way your children learn!

Are you, the parent, through everyday micro interactions and with the child’s best intentions at heart, telling your child (ren) that a good or great performance in school (and college) is education?

That school and college is his/her fate is determined?

Almost all Indian parents from the so-called middle and upper classes are having similar conversations with their children. Is it any surprise that our current society is intensely competitive and performance focussed and where students commit suicide because they have failed or disappointed their parents?

What about the situation where the parent is not performance focussed but the school is?

When my daughter comes home with 10/10, I say “Looks like the test was easy for you” “I suppose the test content was not something you were familiar with”, when she comes with 5/10.

The premise behind those statements is to remind children (as well as ourselves) that an assessment is meant to be a snapshot of a performance on a particular day. The purpose of a test is to inform the teacher as well as student of how well the child is learning what she/he’s supposed to learn; to revise teaching strategies and change study habits.

Knowing what you know now, and assuming that most parents want to inculcate a lifelong love for learning in their children, how are you going to approach the all- consuming  ‘performance’ and ‘marks’ focus in society today? Maybe it begins by recognizing that education does not end at a poor performance on a test in school. This brings me to my second point…

‘Right’ schools are an illusion.

That’s right. Most schools with a certain student demographic base will do a satisfactory job of teaching your children.

So, why do parent place an undue importance on where the child goes to school? As long as the child is in a safe environment, teachers are more or less friendly, and the curriculum is engaging, one would think that schooling would not take too much of our mind space, right?

Wrong.

Most parents agonise over choosing a school. Firstly because of the enormity of school choice faced by our generation of parents. There are elite private schools charging over 14 lakhs a year, next layer is upper- mid range schools anywhere from Rs 3 to 10 lakhs. The mid-range will set you back by Rs 1-3 lakhs. Then come the chain schools or so-called public schools with fees in Rs 80,000-1 lakh range. The lower income group also has a choice of schools costing anywhere between Rs.1000 to Rs.30,000 annually.(My domestic help’s children go to one such Low fee private school)

Second, because parents are misinformed about the actual effect of schooling on a child’s future.  These parents are under the assumption that a good school leads to a better ‘quality’ education. (Recognise that both the italicised words are highly subjective and have multiple interpretations.)

Do schools make a difference?

But, most schools, assuming some uniformity in resources, have negligible impact on student achievement or learning outcomes. I’ll explain why…

Schools make no difference; families make the difference.”  – (Adam Gamoran, Daniel A Long, 2006)

In the mid-1960s, about the time when Dr. Kothari and his team of eminent academicians, scientists, economists (Kothari commission) were busy drawing up a report( The report was based on democratic principles of social justice, equality and opportunity and is most famous for recommending a ‘common school system’ to ensure a more egalitarian society)  on the education system in India on the behest of the then Education Minister- M.C. Chagla; The then U.S. Commissioner of education Harold Howe asked professor James Coleman from John Hopkins University to do the same. The aim of the study was to answer a question: “Which strategy was more likely to equalize educational opportunities for poor minority students-compensatory education or racial integration”

Family background is more powerful than which school the child goes to.

The report was titled Equality of Opportunity and findings of the almost 800 page report have been summed up insightfully in a single line quoted above.

The implications of the controversial Coleman Report( Controversial because, up until the Coleman report, the widely accepted belief to equalise educational opportunity was to pour resources into schools.) crushed the long held belief that school quality is tied to achievement. It demonstrated a strong correlation between the family background and student achievement.

Putting aside student achievement, the point I’m trying to make is that the family background is more powerful than which school the child goes to.

Related: Homeschooling: A Homeschooler Shares Her Journey

What did the report mean by family background? It could be interpreted as a complex system of values, beliefs, habits and practices. In short, the family ‘culture’.

Culture is a fluid concept, it is constantly in flux, reinforced and moulded every time humans interact.  In a family unit, the parents determine, reinforce or shape the family culture.

How does one change or shape culture?

What is the dominant culture in society and schooling at present? -An excessive focus on ‘marks’ and ‘performance’.  The aim of becoming a ‘rank holder’ encourages super achievement. Children get categorised into winners and losers.   I propose that it is time to reculture these binary notions.

Reculturation, as the prefix implies, is a process of re-establishing the culture in a unit. Be it a family, school, community or an organisation. Fullan (2001) calls it as ‘transforming the culture…changing the way we do things..”

And this reculturation can only come through changing my own belief system. It begins with me challenging those taken for granted, hegemonic norms in society about ‘achievement’ and ‘success’.  When what I believe goes through a paradigm shift, it has a ripple effect. Every single conversation with daughter, husband, family and friends undergoes a change. It is easy to underestimate the effect of changing one’s beliefs because it seems insignificant in the larger scheme of things.

Yet, Gandhi had it right. Be the change you wish to see.

Commence self-education. Recognise that every human has been conditioned into societal norms. Question one’s own and other’s assumptions and then make informed choices.

References:

The education commission, Education and National Development, 1964-66, NCERT, Ministry of Education, Government of India.
Peters, R. S.  Education as initiation, 1964. in: R. D. Archambault (Ed.): Philosophical analysis and education
Coleman, James et al., Equality of Educational Opportunity, 1966, National Center for Educational Statistics, Washington, D.C.
McLoughlin Claire, Low Cost Private schools: Evidence, Approaches and Emerging Issues, 2013, EPS-PEAKS.
Fullan Michael, The New Meaning of Educational Change, 2001, Teachers College, Columbia University.
Gamoran Adam & Long Daniel A, Equality of Educational Opportunity: A 40 year retrospective, 2006, WCER, University of Wisconsin, Madison.

About the Author:

Preeti Konaje is an inquirer at heart. In her past avatars, Preeti has been a copywriter, baker, event manager, homeschooler and tutor. Now, we can add educator and teacher to that mix. She is currently pursuing the ‘Master of Education’ program from Azim Premji University.

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