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.)

img_6602

 

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).

img_6651

 

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

img_6664

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

img_6627

 

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

img_6671

 

Our peace prayer flag in progress!

img_6683

img_6594

 

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!

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Boredom is a gift to your child! No, Seriously!!!

Bored child

The Bored Child

The over-scheduling phenomenon!

I have sworn that I am not going to be one of those people who romanticises one’s childhood. Nevertheless, there are some aspects to my upbringing and common to many of my generation that does make us pull out our rose coloured glasses. I remember summer time most fondly, when I could do and did ‘nothing’. Boredom was allowed and actually welcomed! It was a luxury after the frenetic pace of the academic year. I relished the break from routine. I enjoyed doing whatever, whenever and wherever. And no, I was not brought up in a hippie commune, but in a suburb of a mega city before the onslaught of the “summer camps”.

The basic purpose of a summer camp is to keep children busy, busy, and busy in a similar yet different routine. It is similar because the activities are structured, much like in a school. Children wake up at a specific time, go through the normal school day flow, but they don’t go to school…instead are driven to the camp where they will spend 4-6 hrs, at what the parents hope, is valuable ‘learning’ experience.

Also Read: How Classrooms Can Ring With Life Again!

The gift of boredom!

What would you, dear reader, say if I told you that your child(ren) are better off spending their summer at home which will yield as much, if not more, learning than 2 months at camp? What if I told you that camps are marketing gimmicks aimed at gullible and uninformed parents who have the best intentions and deep pockets?

Daughter wrote a poem, without me prompting or pushing her to do so. I organised my desk.

Let me preface by admitting that I’ve never sent my daughter to a summer camp in these past 7 years (excluding the first 3 years of baby-hood).

I could have. Truth be told, I’ve come close to sending her to a camp one particular summer two years ago when she was 8. She was bored. I was bored. We had exhausted all indoor ideas- reading (me to her and her to me, then each of us alone) board games, worksheets, drawing, household chores. I was desperate and the flyers announcing the latest camp seemed very attractive. All I had to do was pay up, drop her and pick her up. The camp managers would do the rest.

Let me confess that it took a great amount of willpower to not send her to camp that year.

I instead let her (and me) get bored. Oh, we got bored. And, then really bored.

Something happened after the mind-numbing boredom that lasted a few hours. Daughter wrote a poem, without me prompting or pushing her to do so. I organised my desk.

Each of us did something totally uncharacteristic. We ended the boredom phase by adding self-chosen, unstructured past times.

Being bored is not a disease to be cured! Click To Tweet

Boredom can mean different things to different people. To me, being bored is a signal for a change in pace, activity or environment. My daughter feels boredom is a sign for more stimulation. Both of us are right in our own way as there is no one way to perceive it. Likewise, there are countless strategies to banish that uncomfortable feeling of tedium when you are uninspired, yet restless. The peculiar anticipatory feeling of excitement- the precursor to frenzied and self-chosen activity. Being bored is not a disease to be cured. It is a phase when one is low on ideas and big on time. When the possibilities are endless but motivation is minimal.

Summer is the time when this stimuli can be consciously paused, stopped or slowed for them to rediscover spontaneous activities of their own choosing. These kinds of pursuits or free play, if you will, encourage the building of the executive function skills.

Firstly, this generation, the millennials, from a particular socio-economic background of the upper middle class, are inundated with stimuli that occupy their waking hours. Smart boards at school, multi-sensory learning activities, gadgets of all sorts, t.v and the list goes on. These children are not deprived of sensory stimuli (unlike the children of the poor). The former are overloaded for almost 10 months of the year and their brains need a break to consolidate and cement the learning of the year. For instance, studies like the one quoted below show the correlation between memory reinforcement and taking breaks.

“Scientists have shown in rats, for example, that neural activity immediately after a rat has learned a new piece of information (say a new route that leads to food), looks very similar to the brain activity seen when the rat is actually learning the route in the first place. It’s as if the rat is automatically replaying the new information in his head as a way to reinforce it in mind. Interestingly, scientists have found that this memory replay is more robust during periods of wakeful rest – where the animal is just hanging out, not doing anything in particular.”

Secondly, summer is the time when this stimuli can be consciously paused, stopped or slowed for them to rediscover spontaneous activities of their own choosing. These kinds of pursuits or free play, if you will, encourage the building of the executive function skills. What are executive functioning skills?

“The problem solving that occurs in play may promote executive functioning—a higher-level skill that integrates attention and other cognitive functions such as planning, organising, sequencing, and decision making. Executive functioning is required not only for later academic success but for success in those tasks of daily living that all children must master to gain full independence, such as managing their belongings and traveling to unfamiliar places.”

Thirdly, every person, however curious with wide ranging interests, has the scope to get bored, even in this 24×7 world of entertainment. It’s how you cope with it that matters in the long run. By protecting our children from boredom now, we are denying them the skills to effectively manage their spells of ‘ennui’ as adults. (I don’t think the Friday night ‘drink all you can’ parties at the end of a monotonous work week count as healthy strategies.)

So, repeat after me—-Occasional boredom is healthy and necessary.

The Boredom ideas! Here are some awesome things you can do: 

Let your child be bored!

boredom ideas

Boredom Jar

  1. Brainstorm on ideas for a day when the internal drive is on neutral. A little planning goes a long way in generating enthusiasm.
  2. My daughter and I have a boredom jar for when I need a boost of encouragement. Some of the ideas are solitary activities and some, like the example on the right, require a partner.
  3. Devise your own strategies. Write them down, make a BBB-Boredom Banishing Book for one-of-those-days.

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.

Raise a Book Lover: 10 Breezy ways to beat the deluge of distractions!

New 10 Easy Ways to Raise A Book Lover

It’s a world of smart media. You could call it the world of ,er – distractions, but one has to choose one’s words wisely. Your toddler just grabbed that you bought(weeks ago) and is peering into those lovely colourful pictures. You are elated. Ain’t he the little Einstein? Your mind’s drumming up images of how you would raise a  book lover – the sensitive, all-knowing, empathetic man/woman — until it’s interrupted by a …. jingle. That’s your phone in his hand. Wait a minute. Where’s the book? Most probably, somewhere between his pile of toys and the laundry.

There’s dancing lights and peppy music. Then there’s Youtube and animated ‘learning’ apps.  Then there’s T.V. Then there’s  video games, iPads and tablets, “kid-friendly” tablets, blaring “educational” toys.

Seriously, you think that book’s got a chance? 

If you are wondering why it is important for the kid to grab the book instead of the iPad, there’s plenty of reasons (Perhaps, another post?)

One of the most important reasons to raise a book lover is that it makes it dead easy to focus on one task for a few minutes at a time( which is getting increasing difficult!)

And then, it also improves cognitive function in the child’s brain, regulates emotions, helps social behaviour, improves confidence, increases family bonding and finally- it is simply fun!

So stop blaming the distractions, the kid or even yourself!

And do these instead to raise a book lover!

1. Read yourself to raise a book lover.

Yes. Read, please! According to this Forbes report, the top reason that kids don’t read today is that parents don’t read. Kids learn everything from watching you and that includes reading.

Children don’t read because parents don’t read! It’s that simple! 

2. Make it Easy.

If you are on a diet, what is the most sensible thing to do? Keep your fruits and veggies within reach and hide that blueberry muffin.

The same goes for a child. Make it easy for them to grab a book. Put a book basket together with his favourite books and place it in the middle of the living room or his play den or even  his bed. Figure out the best location in your house. And yes, remove all gadgets from the basket’s vicinity. If need be, let them be bored!

Related: Why you should buy fewer toys for your kids! 

3. ‘Picture’ it up.

[Tweet “If your child can read only pictures and not words, that’s still reading.”]

Don’t we all read visual cues all the time? That smirk on your colleagues face ? That painting that ‘spoke’ to you?

Don’t get disheartened when your child focuses on the pictures and forgets to spell the words. Looking at pictures and figuring out the information or the story is also reading. This article beautifully explains how reading pictures is one of the most fundamental ways to store information in the brain. Make the most of it and use the illustrations to tell a story. Show your child that if one cannot read the words, one can still read the pictures and that is reading.

 

You don't have to burn books to destroy a culture; just get people to stop reading them!

4. Say it Aloud.

Make reading the most appealing activity by reading everyday.Interact during read-alouds and book conversations. Reading to your child develops empathetic roots in them, improves cognitive function ,increases vocabulary.  Plus, if your guilt bugs are gnawing at you( believe it or not, women are fantastic at feeling guilt); this is super-engaging way to shake them off!

5. Create Your Own.

Make a holiday journal using illustrations done by your children. It is a great way of preserving a beautiful memory. Stick photos of your time together to add more pages. Use the holiday journal to tell a story about your holiday. Learning to narrate a story is a wonderful skill to possess.

Many families involve their children in cooking or baking food items. Make a book about steps in making something. Your children will connect deeply with books and the power of ownership over books that they have participated in creating, is immense.

6. It doesn’t even have to be books.

Join your child in his/her play and bring the toys alive by making up stories about them. You are building their skills of narration. Its a great way to create settings for stories and characters -in an informal way!

7. It’s all about connections.

If you have just spent a holiday at the beach, pick up a book about beaches or sea animals. If your boy just had a bad day in school, pick up a story about another boy and his own conflicts. If grandma’s visiting; well, then just pick up “grandma tales”. Bottom line- weave in familiarity.

8. It’s all in the name.

Nothing else can be more significant than one’s own name. Make name cards of all family members and play a matching game with photos of the family members. Your child in becoming familiar with print and not only learning to recognise his/her name but also learning that letters that make up a name look different from one another. Some are tall, some are rounded, while some others have a hanging tail…..they all have different shapes.

9. Draw and scribble.

Set up an invitational table/space with crayons, markers and paints. Encourage your child to draw and express their thoughts and emotions. Get them to tell you about their drawings.You may scribe for them. Revisit their drawings and read the stories they told. It instills confidence in children to express freely. Their appreciation and enjoyment of print will grow with time.

10. Help them say it.

The reverse of the above activity also helps a great deal. When children are young, they suffer inability to express their ideas along with asynchronous motor development.  Allow them to express what they want and put together a drawing for them. When they see their thoughts and words come alive, it can do wonders to their vocabulary skills- not to mention their confidence!

Like what you see? Join Us!!!
FREE: 53 HACKS TO RAISE A HAPPY KID!!! [mc4wp_form id=”5329″]

About the Author:

Shivkumar Radha 13 (4)[2]Radha Shivkumar is an early childhood educator with teaching experience in international schools in Vietnam and the American School of Bombay, in Mumbai, India. After 24 years of being a classroom teacher, very recently, Radha shifted gears to assume the role of an educational consultant. In her new avatar, she is hoping to add value to early childhood curriculum and teaching practices by mentoring, coaching and conducting workshops for teachers. She also supports schools in designing curriculum to best meet the needs of the 21st century learner. Over the many years of teaching, she has had many insights, deep reflections and numerous aha moments around how young children learn and develop. Through this blog, she hopes to share those for the benefit of parents of young children.

 

———-

Pin It on Pinterest

[optin-monster-shortcode id="gktz5gauponsuxre"]
[optin-monster-shortcode id="gktz5gauponsuxre"]
badge