As a school going girl and a college student I found myself intrigued and thirsting for more on subjects I liked. Having had the good fortune to choose what I wanted to study without having my parents choose it for me I couldn’t blame anyone if I had to put up with a class or two. Not to sound clichéd but I can’t describe it as anything else but the experience of a lifetime, what with Macbeth coming to life in the classroom, to getting the opportunity to host an All India Radio show, writing and shooting a documentary and organizing a literature festival with an English tea party theme where I got to dress like an Englishwoman in the 18th or 19th Century.
Today, a decade a half later as a mother I’m still that intrigued student. I entered motherhood with doubt, needless to say, but also great conviction on the kind of parent I want to be. I always wanted to be a mother so that was the easy part, well if you don’t count the 20 hours of labour! We were living in in London when my older son was born and when he was six months old we returned to India. We came back to our own house, an independent house with no friendly neighbours. It was not easy as a young mother to cope with the realities of a secluded life. I wallowed in it for 2 years while we settled back into life back home. Then I decided enough is enough and I’m going to start looking for activities and events to take my son to. A friend recommended a singing group and I took him every Tuesday and Thursday for 6 weeks. He being an active child wouldn’t sit down when he was told to and wanted to play with the other children. How could I blame him he didn’t see children his age often unless friends with children came over or we visited them. The whole experience disturbed me because it validated something that was already brewing within me, the need to go off the beaten path when it came to education for him. All that seclusion did end up in something good after all, like all silences do I suppose.
A friend had asked if I had started applying to schools for my then 1.5 year old and I was confused, she then explained that you needed to get admissions a year earlier or there wouldn’t be any seats left in the “international” schools and they also needed to call us parents in for an interview. When we got into the car to leave, I told my husband I definitely don’t want to go down that road. I just got it into my head that I don’t want my children to ever wear uniforms. I came home and began my research and found so many alternate education options and within a few months my husband and I had decided on homeschooling. I became so excited at the prospect of becoming a student again, unlearning and learning again with my son. I even reached out to the Indian homeschooling association to see if they had a chapter in Bangalore, when reality hit me like a load of bricks, he won’t have a social life if I homeschool him and he’ll get sick of seeing me.
It was 2016, my second son was born by then and I reluctantly started looking for schools in my neighbourhood and found exactly what I wanted, a Waldorf Kindergarten. A kindergarten with no blackboard. Fast forward 3 years and my son doesn’t know to write or read, add or subtract or the names of the latest superhero movies. Let me tell you what he does know, he knows to sing in 5 Indian languages, understands the significance of the different festivals across religions, he knows the names of most fruits and vegetables which means he recognizes them, he loves cooking, from chopping to cleaning, knows to help a classmate younger than him to wear her shoes and ease her pain if she has a fall. What I find the most beautiful is that all he does all day is play. Yes, I did say PLAY.
I go to sleep knowing that I have done right by my children because every time I ask my sons questions like, What are you doing? What did you do in school today? What do you want to do today? Why do you want to go to school? The answer is always PLAY.
My hope for my boys is that they get to play all their life, having fun with everything they do so that they love everything they do no matter how small or how big. Life for them will hopefully be one long, never-ending playtime.
Author – Sneha Mohan John
Writer & Mum