Babe, the sheep pig guru

It was a perfect evening – the girls and I, big milkshakes, popcorn the way my mum always made it when I was a girl, a blanket and Babe.

I did not expect to enjoy the film as much as I did. And talk about synchronicity- it was completely in keeping with my post, ” Hush, a belief is being born” – not limiting ourselves by boxes created by society and by our own thoughts and belief systems.

The simple and beautiful story reiterated some of the qualities I need to keep in my arsenal as a home educating parent, and yes, they stand me in good stead in general life too. Tuning in and listening to my intuition, trusting myself and my family, trusting life and not being afraid to walk my own path. Living life this way is exciting and adventurous, not to mention joyous.

And as I grow into this new skin, my wish for my children is that they carry on being  free spirits flowing through life with a thirst to learn. Uncontainable undefinable energy.

In fact, that is my wish for all children – my positive energetic visualisation for a generation dancing in tune with the Chi of the Universe.


Time travel is real – come join me

When I was a child, I did not come across too many stories involving time travel. Since I began to read to my children, it constantly amazes me how many stories there are in this category. I would even say it classifies as an entire genre in its own right. Among other things, it stretches the imagination, makes the impossible possible, takes you to times and places long gone or yet to come.

And what better way to learn History – stories that seamlessly weave fiction with fact are a huge favourite in our home.  It makes History come alive with people, their thoughts, emotions and actions as opposed to the dull drab History lessons, crammed with dates and battles, from my school days.

In my mind, time-travel is not only possible but in fact, a reality – especially through the medium of food. We will overlook the highly negligible fact that access is limited to times during my life and which have a special meaning to me.

Whenever I knead dough for chappatis, I am instantly back in the kitchen of my Nani (maternal grandmother). I can hear her instructing me – “when you are done, not a bit should stick to your hand or to the bowl. You should be able to see your reflection in the metal bowl once done.” I mentioned this to her during our phone conversation last week and as we laughed together, I could feel our love, our connection and am comforted, knowing  that she is always with me.

Today, I have cooked my favourite Sindhi meal, Sai bhaaji, a pot of delicious and simple flavours, a wholesome mix of lentils, spinach and veggies. And I am in my mother’s kitchen. When I cook a tomato curry and carrot rice, I am sitting under the big trees in my school campus, opening my lunch box to share the contents with my friends.

Pasta sauce has a special meaning in my life. Macaroni in a tomato sauce was the first meal my two dear friends and I tried to cook together. That kitchen, the mess we made, the huge amount of time we took to cook something so simple, the constant giggles and laughter and the kindness of my friend’s family as they ate our concoction…. all unforgettable.

No wonder I enjoy food so much. It is not merely nourishment for my body. Food denotes moments, people and memories filled with love and laughter. I have so many such moments, I could fill a book, fill a lifetime. A simple aroma can take me back and forth in time.

And I am not the only one. One of my favourite bits in a bilingual Spanish and English book (Me llamo Celia Cruz) about Celia Cruz is the bit where she describes how Azucar (sugar) – lots of it in warm milky coffee always takes her back to her mother’s kitchen in Cuba, surrounded by family and friends. “When I walked out on stage, I would simply say “Azucar!” And the audience would know exactly what I meant – home and love and lots of kisses.”

Now it is your turn to tell me about your personal time-travel medium. I would love to hear your story.

Hush, a belief is being born

As part of my quest to take better care of myself, I read a lot. I watch videos on YouTube and various websites – lectures, philosophies, meditations etc etc.

Something that has really got me thinking is the concept of beliefs. Where do beliefs come from? Are they set in stone? Why do we resist it tooth and nail when someone questions or contradicts our beliefs?

Most of us identify and define our personalities in some way. We use phrases like “this is so me” or “that is just not me” etc. When did we decide who we are exactly? What parameters did we buy into in order to decide what we believe in or don’t? And why did we bow down and let ourselves be limited by our “beliefs”?

I have way more questions than answers here, but these very questions are the starting point for my thought process – a chain that will lead me somewhere and that is one thing I can say with certainty. Every change in my life, every decision or detour has always started with questions – Why? Why not? What if?

So, how is a belief born?

It is conceived as a single thought. It could be a thought that we arrive at as a conclusion to something, or a thought based on something we read, hear or witness. It does not matter where the thought arises from. If we buy into the thought and think it often enough, we end up with a belief. And then, we live life and make decisions based on this belief. And quite often, we allow this belief to define us as individuals.

Time for an experiment – one that is going to require quite a lot of awareness and questions.

What happens if we don’t limit ourselves by our beliefs? What happens if we examine our current beliefs and trace them back to the thoughts from which they were born? What happens if we then ask ourselves whether that thought or pattern is adding value to our lives now? And then, what if we just let go of the thoughts that are limiting us and replace them with something that is true for us at this moment? Is it really that simple to change a belief? Why not?

Maybe it will set us free of a pre-defined notion of “me”. Maybe it will allow us to expand and just “be” at every moment in time. Maybe, maybe not. Who knows? Only one way to find out. Are you game to join me on this quest? There is no time limit on this journey of discovery. The only rules are

  • ask questions
  • introspect
  • enjoy

And feel free to share your findings, if you so choose.

A versatile slice

Hmmm my kitchen smells divine. Our weekly double batch of gluten-free high-protein sourdough bread is nearly ready. It is one of the food items that all four of us love and will happily eat anytime of the day.

Thinly sliced, buttered and toasted on a pan or griddle,
On its own or slathered with raw honey,
Dunked in home-made soup,
Generously topped with hummus and avocado,
Or just either one as the fancy takes us,
As an accompaniment to eggs
Be it poached, scrambled or an omelette,
Heaped with delicious green pesto
Rich with kale and asparagus,
We each take our pick
Satisfaction guaranteed
To taste buds and stomach.

And now with the menu taken care of for the next two days at least, we are free to enjoy our time going on walks, playing board games, reading, learning, loving and laughing together.



A workbook cushion for a soft landing

This post was inspired by a friend’s question to my comment on Facebook about our home being a “no workbook” zone. It set my mind buzzing and so I am doing what works best for me – writing my thoughts down to get some clarity. This is going to be long, so hang in there.

When we started on our home ed journey, I bought all the basic level workbooks – writing, maths, even fun music theory as my kids learn to play the piano. That was when I was naive, still groping my way through each day thinking that some amount of structure was required in education. That was the only way I knew, being a product of a very structured academic-based education system.

Gibbon never really took to the workbooks and as she was still young, it was easier to just let it slide. Then Koala came along and over time, we have shrugged off structure and formal learning more and more. Now, the only formal lesson we go to is piano, but that is the Suzuki style of learning an instrument and the philosophy of “no exams” fits in very well with our home ed style. That and the fact that we have a fantastic and flexible teacher. The Suzuki piano calls for an entirely separate post, which I have been meaning to get to and will do so… soon!

Having observed how my kids learn and what works best for them, here is why workbooks simply do NOT work for us.

Workbooks are very generic and do not cater to specific interests. Let’s start with writing. An exercise book of writing letters of the alphabet or words or simple sentences over and over is, in my opinion, mind-numbing. So how are my kids learning to write?

With Gibbon, writing is developing as a natural progression from her intense love for books and reading, which was born from the hours and hours of reading aloud we did and still do (though hours and hours is now a luxury). We never followed any phonics reading schemes, which again, I find mind-numbing. Reading came to her purely from being read to – stories with interesting plots and big juicy words that captured her imagination. She was exposed to the written word everywhere and I made some books using card paper and big markers when she was little with pictures on separate pages, so she could take her time and drink in the words and pictures independently of each other. I learned about that from Glen Doman’s book “How to teach your baby to read.”

Also, watching me write always inspires the kids to take up pencil and paper or type on the iPad. When I started this blog, they wanted to do the same. They now have their own pages on this website – My Gibbon’s Page and My Koala’s Page. Gibbon writes her own posts and just before we publish it, we go over the spelling and grammar. Again, no workbooks at all. Rather, it is situational learning and I find that it is the most effective way for my kids to learn anything.

When it comes to Koala who is a free-range child with a very strong mind of her own, workbooks have no place in her way of life. She learned letter formation by simply tracing over the big marker words in the home-made books mentioned above. To her, it was writing a story she loved after having had it read to her over and over. It was personal and personalised – not a random sentence she could not instantly connect with. Now, she will ask us to spell words that she wants to write – names of songs she likes, names of animals and books, places, anything that takes her fancy. When we go on a trip, both kids like to write out packing lists for me. Hands-on practical writing.

I find maths is a subject where parents look for the security of a workbook to drill in the concepts and to get “much-needed” practice in. When the workbooks did not work, the best decision I made was letting go of the need to make the kids sit at them. It opened my mind up and made room for other ways to get the maths in. Through suggestions from other home ed mums, we discovered the complete and utter joy of doing all our maths work through practical hands-on stuff like cooking and GAMES – board games, dice games, card games, just playing in the park and collecting sticks, sorting beans into egg cartons, handling money and change, talking about quantities, area, distance etc. Like language, numbers are an integral part of everyday life, so really maths just happens without having to create lesson plans or create over-contrived unrealistic math problems for the kids to work out. They create their own questions if we just let them be. All we need to do is be engaged and available to help them find the answers. Yes, they don’t have the speed or ready times table to rattle off, but they understand quantities in a very practical sense and know how to manipulate them to work out the solution using simple logic. And for now, that is enough. If and when the time comes to be speedy, I am sure we can find an efficient way to do it.

Over time, I have come to realise that my children are learning all the time. My job is to watch, facilitate, find resources, be available and most of all, trust them. This realisation hasn’t come about without its fair share, and then some, of angst and worry. Ultimately, the biggest advantage of home education is finding each child’s optimal manner of learning and flowing with it, and being prepared to change tack entirely as they grow and their needs and wants change. If workbooks are their thing, use them. There is no right or wrong way to learn, only their way.

And always, always, there is a way.

I would love to make this a discussion, so please do comment with what works for you. How do you learn best? How do your kids learn best? What learning hacks do you think will stand them in good stead as they grow and take their place in the world, independent of us?




Caring for Mum Bear

I love my life as a full-time home-educating mother to my two kids. It took awhile but I finally feel like I have a handle on how we learn best – and of course, now that I have said that, it will all change and we will enter a new phase 🙂

The one area, however, which I have consistently relegated to the back-burner is caring for myself. A few months ago, I decided to actively teach myself more about self-care, just the way my kids and I learn most other stuff, and incorporate small changes to help me stay more balanced through the cyclical ups and downs that are part of life.

I discovered Cheryl Richardson, a huge advocate of self-care – her books, her interviews touched a chord within me straight away. My favourite book is the one she co-authored with Louise Hay – You Can Create An Exceptional Life.

This is something she said – I can’t remember if it was in a book or in an interview – Ask yourself at the end of the day “if this was the last day of my life, am I happy with how I lived it?” You can apply the same to the week, month, year etc.

I liked the idea but promptly forgot about it though I did incorporate some of her other suggestions such as taking time to breathe deeply every now and then, to give myself a smile in the mirror, to learn to take time and space for myself with grace. I am still working on these, writing this blogpost now because I really want to, being a prime example. First, though, I had to say no, lovingly and firmly, to reading a book with Gibbon and had to encourage both kids to take their own down time. A good start, wouldn’t you say?

Last week, I suddenly recalled the “last day of your life” question and decided to give it a go. It has only been a few days, but already I can feel a difference. The question keeps popping into my head at odd times, helping me to be aware more and more of my thoughts and words – a kind of meditation in the midst of my daily life. Of course, it is going to take constant practice to make it a part of my life, but it doesn’t feel like work. It is joyous and almost like a game – a  safety net waiting to catch me when I slip into negative mode, a trampoline to send me bouncing back into positivity. And it feels so good to catch myself in the middle of a diatribe and just be able to stop, as opposed to going on an after-tantrum guilt-trip. I have been searching for this magic mantra ever since I became a mother!

At bedtime, I ask myself “if today turned out to be the last day of my life, am I happy with how I lived it” and immediately I see all that I said and did like a movie trailer – the good and not-so-good bits and know what I want to tweak – that is, if tomorrow comes 😉




She’s got a ticket to ride

Many readers of my generation and the previous one will associate “A ticket to ride” with the Beatles. Yes I have it playing in my head too now, but you are way off the mark. My game-crazy friends, however, will know I am referring to the board game and all its wonderful variations.

A friend, who I call the Queen of Board Games, introduced me to Ticket to Ride a couple of years ago and like many others I know, it was love at first play. Yet, the love isn’t blind – it deepens, as the relationship grows ever stronger with time.

If you are shaking your head, stop. This game is nothing like the board games of yore, a painfully never-ending game of Monopoly comes to mind. The modern board game scene is exploding, with new and exciting games hitting the market everyday. Normal, everyday people are creating games and using Kickstarter to raise funds to turn them into actual products. Beyond exciting!

Ticket to Ride USA was the first game to be created in the series and over the years, more games and expansion boards have been added – Europe, India, Africa, UK and Pennsylvania to name a few. Though the basic game is the same, each board has a different twist which hones the skill to play using different strategies.

I am very fortunate in that, between our group of friends, we own almost all the versions of the game, hence I have got to try most of them at least once. The kids went from watching in spurts to playing in teams with the more patient adults to now actually playing in their own right. My little koala needs a teeny bit of help every now and then but she has got the dynamics of the game down really well.

So why do we love the game so much?

  1. There is a huge amount of fun to be had.
  2. Koala is improving her reading skills because she wants to be able to play without any help at all.
  3. There is a reasonable amount of maths thrown in while calculating routes and scores.
  4. It encourages logical and strategic thinking and planning.
  5. The game enhances our knowledge of Geography and where cities and countries are in relation to one another.
  6. I get to travel far and wide. Hey, if you play the latest Rails and Sails board, you can go to any or all parts of the world. I even sailed past Cuba, which is on my bucket list. This is my first baby step towards the actual trip.
  7. It encourages flexibility and the ability to go with the flow, to change plans when another player blocks your best route. Also teaches you when to give up on a ticket and how best to increase your total in other ways. A key life skill, in my book …. knowing when to persist and when to walk away from a situation.
  8. We are also learning to be gracious when we lose. Gosh, I am competitive when playing with other adults and that is putting it mildly 😉
  9. Ultimately, it is sheer joy and a superb way to spend time with family and friends. I need to have my ticket to ride fix a few times a week.

What! Why are you still reading my blog post?

I expected you to be getting that board out and gathering the troops to play. Or pressing the checkout button on your amazon basket. Or being on your way here for a game and a cuppa. If you take the train (or boat), I will even throw in some cake.