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Fine Motor Skills Development

The creation of a child from a single cell is magical, and so is the development of the complex human brain. But what aids the development of the human brain is rather a series of simple activities. 

The brain controls and facilitates the functioning of the entire body stimuli. So the development of our brain can be seen as a coding process whereby our brain learns various skills over time. One set of such skills is termed as ‘Fine Motor Skills’. Fine motor skills involve fine coordination between small muscles in our hands, wrists, fingers, feet, and toes to act in accordance with what we see. ‘Hand-eye coordination’ is a type of fine motor skills.  

Following are the six integral aspects of Fine Motor Skills:

● Agility
● Balance
● Coordination
● Power
● Reaction Time 
● Speed 

As we have highlighted above, the development of children’s fine motor skills can be boosted by some simple activities which are all about a fun learning experience. So the next time your child is tempted towards screen-time, try involving them in some of these fun activities instead!

Activity 1 – The Pulse Puzzle

The activity might sound like a tongue-twister, but it can be a great pastime activity, that involves absolutely no cost. Pick two distinct coloured pulses, say, the split Bengal gram and green gram, and add in beans like red kidney beans or the white-eyed peas. Mix them together in a bowl and your activity is ready. Now encourage your child to segregate them and put them into different bowls. The activity not only involves the act of picking and holding but also improves the child’s recognition skills with respect to colours and textures, and might even encourage them to eat pulses. Start with two pulses and then you can make your way up from there. 

Activity 2 – Lego

Lego building blocks are children’s absolute favourite (and adults’ too, honestly!). Turning, placing, and flipping the pieces support the development of fine-motor skills. And they also promote creativity and imagination as every Lego play hour is an opportunity to build and talk about something new altogether!

Activity 3 – Craft Fun

Often parents fear giving scissors to their children concerning over the sharp-edges. But now there are a variety of child-safe scissors (safety scissors) available in the market that are kid-friendly. Cutting and pasting activities are a perfect setup to build hand-eye coordination and boost to creativity is a bonus! Also, colouring and painting are great activities too. 

Activity 4 – Threading Beads

Threading beads can be a great activity to promote visual motor-skills. And you can always play around colours and types of beads that encourage children to come up with newer patterns. Also, it enhances children’s detail to attention. You can step-up the activity and play with variations. One such variation can be showing a pattern of threaded beads of different colours and asking your child to replicate the same. Playing around such variations can keep the freshness of the activity intact and boost your child’s retention. 

Little activities like these go a long way and strengthen the foundation of our children’s development. Also, it is important to incorporate these activities as a fun learning experience and not like a to-do-list activity. Our children learn everything at their pace. The ‘right-age’ or the ‘right-pace’ is a myth. Don’t let any of these viral ideas ruin your experience of parenting. 

To read about my parenting experience with my child on his fine motor skills and when it consciously started, go to the link here.

I prefer encouraging what my child is genuinely interested in (mainly Lego brick building) along with free-printable activities I receive from ‘Growing Hands-On Kids’ website by Heather Greutman. 

Happy Parenting!

Thank you, dear Santa, for the Lego Bricks!

by Pallavi Prakash Kumar

Lego Classic Bricks set were Santa’s present for Pratham during Christmas celebrations in winters of 2018. I remember this day because I was intuitively guided to introduce a Lego kit to my child.

The blog is over!

I got to be kidding, right?

Yes! Of course, I am kidding…

The story of Pratham’s gift from Santa goes like this… C’mon, read on…

It was sometime in the month of July 2018, when Pratham and I were waiting outside the car parking at a South Delhi mall for my husband to bring around the car from the basement parking at the fourth level below the ground. It was going to take some time, and I knew it. After a few minutes of waiting, I started looking around at the shoppers passing by and began hearing some distinct voices along with thunderous clapping that was getting louder by the minute. A small thank you speech followed by the clatter of cups & plates. I so wanted to know what was happening and followed the direction where all these celebratory sounds were emerging from. I soon came upon a gathering where kids of ages three and above, escorted by their parents had begun dispersing in twos and threes, carrying a card and a goodie packet in their little hands. I asked one of the leaving parents keenly, what was the gathering all about? The lady answered, “This was a Lego robotics workshop for kids above 3+ years old.”

My guess was right; it was a ‘Parent & kids’ workshop as Parent’s day was round the corner. Pratham & I strolled a little closer to the celebration area. My eyes grew big and round seeing the large colourful rubber blocks, almost 6-7-inches long, sorted and kept arranged in different large boxes. On the table, set around the centre stage, were many medium & small-sized blocks, a few pullies and belt systems and few laptops. Also, stationed on the centre stage were some small to big Lego mats positioned on the interlocked colour mats. There were kids doing alphabet writing, some were busy colouring, some in the process of making objects of their choices – all fully engrossed. Some kids in groups were around the table, some playing over the mats, some others leaving with their parents and some reluctant to leave & being pulled by their parents. It was a beautiful sight to see so many genuinely interested and engrossed children in the making and learning. It was a pleasant and invigorating experience for me as a parent, “Alone the Lego sets keeping them engaged so sincerely. Wow!

Pratham wanted to go inside to play with big blocks, and he started wailing and pulling my hand to take him inside. Seeing this, a fair, golden brown-eyed lady standing by the entrance invited me inside. I immediately called my husband and requested him to wait a bit for us.

As I stepped inside, I realised that this was a path-breaking moment for me. I wanted to know more about the Lego robotics workshop. This opened me up to bombard the host with questions that were flooding my mind; I was excited.  I wasted no time in introducing ourselves my name, my son’s name, his age, his interests etc. Quick as a supercomputer, she registered our names and returned in a jiffy with exuberance “Hi Pallavi, Hi Pratham”. As soon as she smiled at Pratham, he rushed off to the play area, as if he just needed that invitation. My little one understands smiles well, approval signs. Now, I jumped asking my questions. At what age can we introduce Lego to the child, what is the age group required for robotics workshop, where & when does the classes happen, is there any Lego class for toddlers?

It was quite apparent looking at the large turnout of kids and parents that it was one of a kind and rare classes. She replied for the first time “My organization is called Zeki Jaan*, named after my father and I am a Turkish.” She further added with a broad smile, “Zeki means intelligent in Turkish and Jaan same as in Hindi means life, so it is intelligent life.” She also shared details about her decades of experience in Lego training, her aim to encourage critical and coding skills in children, STEM learning through Legos bricks and blocks with hands-on exercises. She added, “The classes are for toddlers, kids 4 -16 years old. Kids get to learn how to build simple machines using large pieces from an early age. Lego helps in fine motor skills development and spatial thinking.” Fine motor skills stood out to me as soon as she made that mention. She further explained “Introducing science concepts like balancing and gravity becomes easy, explaining physics concepts with models like gears and axles, wedges and screws, levers and pulleys becomes effortless too. We can also explain pattern matching, colour contrasts etc. through Lego-based activities.”

My phone rang before the conversation with the Turkish lady ‘Emine’ could come to any logical ending. It was my husband waiting at the exit gate. I had to leave. I could not wait for a second more. I quickly grabbed her business card as she handed one to me and left from the place with Pratham.

It was then that I first explored more about fine motor skills development in children. I usually prefer learning new subjects through books, so, I ordered the book ‘Basics of Fine Motor Skills’ by Heather Greutman**. I also learnt more about the bricks and blocks, their types and related activities for kids.

I had made up my mind after the conversations with Emine to gift Pratham his first Lego sets on his 3rd birthday, 10th December 2018. But somehow it skipped my mind in preparation for his birthday party. Later, when Pratham’s class teacher asked all the parents to send across a surprise Santa gift with the child’s name on it. It was then that I remembered buying Pratham his first Lego set. These gifts were supposed to be distributed respectively to the child by the Santa during Christmas celebrations hosted by the school.

I bought the set, gift-wrapped and labelled it with his name on the sticker and handed the gift box to the teacher. On 24th December, after the Christmas celebrations in the school, he came home happily, hopping and jumping, all excited and showing me his gift from Santa, it turned out to be a momentous day for both of us.

The ease of introducing him to new activities and new concepts with Lego is tremendous. An added advantage, my concerns over his increased screen time, and worrying about his overall development have reduced to a large extent.

A Santa bringing in a treasured memory and a gift for their child’s development, what more a mother could have asked for! All this happened automatically, at the right time, place and order. I had no knowledge of Lego or fine motor skills development up until that day. Had I not been there waiting for the car, had I not heard those mysterious clapping thunders, had I not followed my instincts? Lego sets and creative learning through bricks & blocks wouldn’t have taken its birth in my son’s life at the right time, and I wouldn’t have explored consciously about fine motor skills development which now is one of my favourite indulgences when choosing toys and activities for my little one.

This year we’ve enrolled him for structured bricks and blocks building programme.

* Facebook page link: https://www.facebook.com/zekijaan and website link: http://www.sproutingstems.in/

**I would share more about the book & its review soon.

Effective Routine, Explore, and Experiment

‘The 3Es for the Higher Education Segment’

The need for the Higher Education segment to adapt to the changing world scenario due to the novel coronavirus is way greater than what we have discussed with regard to pre-schooling and primary schooling. This greater need arises from a relatively rigid and demanding curriculum and associated worry for quality grades, increased pressure to manage studies from home, adapting to the online mode of classes after years of experience with in-person learning at institutions. All this results in mental pressure, anxiety, lack of motivation, and decreased productivity.

If you are a student who can connect to these feelings or a parent reading whose child might be having a tough time adapting to the changing education environment, we want to take a moment to assure you this is normal and the way you are feeling is genuine, we are all together in this!

Unprecedented times bring unprecedented challenges, and that’s how innovation is born. Where the hard time is presenting us with challenges even with routine activities, it is also an opportunity to innovate and experiment. The core truth in this situation is that it’s going to take time, and uncertainty is going to prevail for the time being. But there are always some ways we can think of to make things easier for us to adapt and enrich the learning experience ‘at one’s own pace’, isn’t it?

Making the Routine Effective 

  • A good and consistent sleep routine, often ignored by older students, is the key to good health and ensures a better mental and productive state. A body that has had a restful night’s sleep is way more ready than a body that has pulled an all-nighter of binge-watching to take on the new day.  
  • Attention span issues are common with distractions around. And we would say, don’t say a strict no to distractions like social media, instead make time for them. If studying two hours on a stretch is posing to be a challenge, then instead try experimenting with smaller studying sessions. Try studying for 45 minutes after which you give yourself a 20 minutes’ break. You can use this break time to enjoy all that you want. But keep it to the ‘break-time’ only. Similarly, resist the desire to complete a Netflix show in a single-day and instead reward yourself with one episode a day, maybe with a meal or later towards the end of your workday. 
  • You can also try ‘focus music’ in the background with apps like Headspace while studying if it fits you. Try making a concise to-do-list (‘to-accomplish-list’, much better!) every day and start by taking small steps. After all, only those who are strong enough to take small steps when times are tough can brave enough to take the leap!
  • Build a habit! Personally, this is what I practice. Whenever I have a hard time keeping up with my routine or rituals, I try incorporating a new thing or a new activity to my routine or rituals. So now I have something to take along in parallel, and the likelihood of me managing both increases! Reading a book, a new form of workout, meditation, it could be anything.  
  • Take a day off! Being at home has also blurred the lines between weekdays and weekends. After a week of work, we all deserve one day off and indulge in some recreation or simply sit back and relax. Spend time with your family, get on a video call with your friends, play with your pet! 
  • Take it easy. We are often drawn to thoughts ‘no one will understand’ and resist sharing our problems and feelings. In case, if something is not working out for you, seek help, from your parents, your siblings, friends, teachers. And sometimes we don’t even need a solution, all we need to do to make things better is just talk it out with someone or free-write all the feelings or indulge in something we like doing, to allow the inspired actions to flow in. Don’t worry, it will all be fine!

Explore and Experiment 

This is a perfect time to explore your interest and delve deeper into various career opportunities as the market needs change after the global crisis.

Various global platforms are standing in support of students by providing free courses*. Even certifications and forms of vocation that might cost some amount are worth exploring as they add to the students’ learning curve and aid in realizing what they are drawn to, their ‘calling’. Webinars led by industry leaders and professors of reputed universities can broaden their perspective and give direction in their field of interest.

Also, if you are passionate about some form of art like music, dance, craft, writing, or any other sphere, now is the time to devote some. Incorporate them in your routine, dedicate some time and energy, learn more, and you can even consider sharing what you learn, which is easier than ever as the world functions online! Make a move! If it works, fabulous, and if it doesn’t, we can always keep learning and working! Whatever you will do in this phase, will add to your experience, and that’s the best thing one can gain.

And once again, a gentle reminder, we are all together in this, and it will all be fine!

*Links to a few online resources that might help and interest you,

  1. Harvard University 
    https://online-learning.harvard.edu/catalog/free 
  2. Coursera
    https://www.coursera.org/courses?query=free
  3. edX
    https://www.edx.org/

Be blessed!

WHAT’S IN STORE FOR THE PRIMARY STAGE CHILDREN?

India has made remarkable progress in access to enrolment & schooling at the primary education stage.  The role of primary education (grades 1-5 in India) is to develop the cognitive, emotional, physical, cultural, and social skills of children. The academic subjects taught are mathematics, science, history, geography, and social sciences.

For primary stages, virtual learning was never explored. But the current pandemic has made it the need of the hour. Due to the current public health worries and to contain the spread of virus, educational institutions moved online, some yet to achieve for all the grades. As per a UNESCO report, the Covid-19 pandemic has affected more than 157 crore students across 191 countries.  In India alone, the number is more than 32 crore students who have been affected by the lockdown.  Nearly 1/5th of the world’s numbers.

Parents’ concerns about their children’s academic year and how to prepare their children for the next level/next grade during this period is genuine. Another group is that of the teaching staff where some teachers are working remotely from their educational centers and some imparting knowledge virtually aiding children in adapting to the new mode of education seamlessly. Furthermore, our children-the virtual learners are coping up in the transition phase too, adapting both socially and academically. So, virtual learning & teaching is a bit challenging & demanding for all- parents, teachers, and children. The shift towards virtual learning ensures a shift towards cooperative and guided learning as opposed to the routine learning of the classroom. Teachers can guide the parents about various assignments, important notices through calls or emails or WhatsApp or virtual tours, etc. Parents can guide & help the children in independent learning by teaching them how to navigate the school portals, respond during the virtual classes, access study materials, and upload assignments.

One line: We (parents, teachers, and children) are all adapting collectively, so co-operating in co-creation with one another can help us emerge magnificently.

For improved learning, a calendar based list of activities prepared with the help of teachers (or any parenting expert) for the children is a great approach.  This will ensure school readiness and sustain early learning of children at home. Also, refer to our blog on the duration of study and the importance of brain breaks here.

To engage the children usefully ‘National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT)’ has come up with an alternative academic calendar. This calendar guides the teachers on the use of social media and technology tools available for education in interesting and fun-filled ways.  The calendar also guides the parents and advises the teachers through mobile phones where there is no internet connectivity.  The Ministry of Human Resource Development (HRD) together with NCERT, has launched e-Pathshala online portal and mobile app for students to understand the NCERT chapters.

Besides academic studies:

Children in the primary stage need stimulating and engaging activities. There are plenty of DIY art projects available online for children that help bust boredom for good, giving a fun twist to learning which keeps them engaged and entertained for hours. When studies get too much, children can download coloring sheets for coloring. A number of videos available online teach origami, navigational charts, and mosaic painting. However, parents may make the best out of this situation by using this time to make their kids play independently with blocks, Legos, solving puzzles, Sudoku, coloring, etc., anything to keep kids engaged for longer duration productively.

Safety skills are essential at this age, and this time can be used perfectly to learn some of these.  Children can learn to write their full name, address, and phone number, make calls on emergency numbers. Children can learn to identify money denomination and how to handle and manage money. Allow your children to help you with simple household and cleaning chores, and activities like cold cooking. Also, activities like reading (e-books and storybooks), listening to audio stories, writing (letters, poems, stories), dancing, exercising, meditating, playing with board games, Legos, blocks, and puzzles can be a great way to combine learning with fun. Communication with friends, classmates, and teachers is a good way to keep the children involved and in reassuring them that it will all be fine and everyone is together in this!

At a time like this, when we are all confined within the walls, virtual field trips are the best way to absorb different cultures and feast the eyes on some fine arts. Visit the museums in India such as the National Museum, New Delhi, Indian Museum, Kolkata, Salar Jung Museum, Hyderabad, and even the world’s largest museums via the internet.

Children can learn all about genetics, archaeology, or astronomy in the most entertaining way through the Ology science website. Learning about space and other planets becomes more fun with the Discovery center of space learning. There are some brilliant educational websites for children like National Geographic kids, STEM works, Exploratorium, how stuff works, science buddies, and many more. Early childhood coding can also be initiated for primary stage children and enrolling them to live online coding classes by WhiteHat Jr can be considered. Learning how to code is helpful in developing abstract thinking.

To prepare the child to be independent, teaching life skills is not only important for self-sufficiency and self-care but also a vital step towards developing healthy self-esteem and a sense of empowerment.  Age-appropriate skills will help the child from preschool until they complete high school.

Every parent and teacher now understand that every child is different from one another.  So, some children may easily adapt and adjust to the new learning environment; others may find it difficult.  It is essential to devise a customized learning format for the child to make it work constructively.  We need to allow our children to grow through this situation at ‘their own pace’, and a supportive environment built together by schools, teachers, parents, and friends can be a foundation towards personalized learning, helping them sail through the present unprecedented times.

Happy parenting and happy schooling! 

PRE-SCHOOLING: THE NEW PARADIGM

The Covid-19 pandemic has necessitated a new way of life for all. The need for change in one of the critical areas is ‘education’.  The effects of coronavirus and the observance of preventive measures announced by the government has changed the entire outlook of the education system, resetting the life of students, parents, and teachers exponentially.

When pandemic started, schools had to shift to online teaching. Many of them have been successful in turning the physical school into virtual school, while some are yet to achieve it for all the grades.

The time spent during the lockdowns & transition to online learning has given parents the direction to adapt and cater to their kids’ learning & development themselves customised with online lessons to the changed scenario.

In India, while the schools are still closed, parents of playschool and preschool going children want to know whether their children’s admission can be postponed by a year or should they be learning online through the classes arranged by the schools. Or just let the children be, not doing anything at all, as far as a formal way of learning goes.

Some parents are hesitant (not wanting to, despite peer pressure) enrolling their children between the age group 2-4 years for online preschool classes as they are not comfortable with the idea of their toddlers spending two-three hours in front of the screens as this being their first time experience and exposure to the formal way of preparing their children. The screen time of many children presently has anyways increased, so to draw children away or to minimize the screen time, some parents feel home teaching is the best way of learning- teaching right now. But one of the big concerns then is, their children are losing the peer group to play and interact with, giving them the important social skills.

For all stakeholders, the safety of children is essential, especially during the time of the pandemic. So, parents and children have options to either choose the new learning environment and make the learning possible through online resources or home school their kids or give the best of both worlds (if possible).

Swati Popat Vats, author and early childhood education expert, says, “Parents need to know that preschool contributes to the foundation of the child. Parents can defer the enrolment into a physical school, but they must not defer the academic year of the kids.  Even if the schools are physically closed, parents are unable to give language stimulations at home, but the brain of the child still needs these invigorations, so parents can defer an academic year, but not the child’s learning.”                                                                                

90% of a child’s brain development happens by the age of five. Children have a natural motivation to learn. Children are curious learners; they like discovering everything around them, and exploring every object under their reach. Just as they learn to stand and walk on their own by trying continually and master their walking, the same goes with learning to read, write, and speak.

Home is the first best place to start the journey of early childhood learning. Parents and teachers can integrate many learning principles in daily life by observing the child’s interest, noticing what they often like exploring & delving into, encouraging their curiosity and guiding appropriately, also setting some ground rules so that they learn to be respectful, can assist in nurturing the child’s uniqueness and, all the while, spending time together with parents.   

Children’s perceptions are built at home; they start learning about objects and things around them with their sense of touch, feel, sight, hear and interaction, to understand and experience the nature of the world. Majority of the activities that children can perform should be physical explorations where they have an assurance that they are safe and have plenty of time.  If children are physically active, they engage mentally fast. No better place than home for this and no better adults than parents to facilitate the learning for a child there can be. Parents can make it possible and provide a well-rounded education to their children with the help of online activity guidance, book kit and preschool material kits.

As a child grows, they start to become explorative, inquisitive and the desire of acing all activities increases. Workbooks and picture books are good companions for a child at this age. In this stage, augmented reality enabled books to deliver interactive content, focused on curriculum-based education are a good resource. With stories, rhymes, alphabets, words, images, storytelling-precisely explained and projected just like physical learning with a teacher, concept building and early childhood learning can be strengthened by parents. Parents get virtual teachers on the pages of the books that provide instant support and guidance on how to teach their children on the particular concept or activity of the book. Hands-on learning also comes with a virtual teacher. This is convenient for the parents to learn the procedure in a few minutes and guide the child to perform the activities correctly.

A good education system always needs an effective, age-wise curriculum that imparts the urge for learning, making it easy and fun-filled. To enhance the child’s ability to apply the knowledge, parents can teach and encourage the activity-based and innovative learning approach. Dr Maria Montessori says “The hands are the instruments of man’s intelligence” and that the hand and brain must develop in harmony. 

For toddler group, aged up to 3 years, lot of well-crafted hands-on training materials are available online; parents can use these training materials to train a few activities such as music and movement, language, arts and crafts, hand-eye coordination. For children, 3 to 6 years, parents can teach languages, phonics, numbers, read bedtime stories, practical life exercises with the help of online materials.  Besides, parents can give their children pretend play items, building blocks, hand-eye coordination materials and many more items that reduce the screen time and keep the child actively involved for a longer duration. Some of our favourites for early structured age-wise educational supplies & programmes are from firstcryintelli kit and flintoclass@home.

Today, homeschooling is also largely accepted by many parents, and they are more comfortable with the alternatives of imparting education to their kids. All thanks to the Internet! The Internet has revolutionized, parents and children can access all the knowledge in the world.  There are some brilliant educational websites for kids like National Geographic kids, STEM works, Exploratorium, how stuff works, science buddies and many more that provide an excellent way for kids to learn.

Children need the right age-related learning resources. Digital resources are available on an easy to navigate portals where parents can teach a child with just a click. Learning resources are set up in a clutter-free form and are available age-wise. As children progress through the curriculum, level-by-level, lessons become challenging, exactly the way it happens in schoolroom learning. This is called adaptive learning.

Online learning helps the parents, teachers and children learn-teach, whether on an aeroplane trip across the country or on a quick ride in the car. Wherever they are, parents can take the preschool with them on the laptop, tablet or even on the smartphone, if required.

Although parents have busy schedules and many both working, they can fine-tune their timings; can swap shifts or work from home, so that one of them can supervise the child when the other is at work. Children’s academic schedule when well-planned in advance, a day prior or weekly or even monthly overview can help in channelling resources in a better way. Also, parents keeping themselves flexible and open to the changes that may come uninvited in the schedules would serve a multitude in maintaining one’s peace and harmony.

Children need holistic development, they must be in a safe and secure environment, and all this can happen harmoniously only if there is genuine understanding, cooperation and support from the family and all participating members in the education of the child.

Happy parenting and happy schooling!

6 things to consider for Virtual classes

One day, after one of his virtual summer camp classes in June (2020), Pratham came over to where I was sitting, jumping & hugged me. With sparkling eyes, he said “Thank you, Mumma, for bringing the school at home. Thank you, now I get to spend the whole day with you & Papa. I don’t have to go to daycare anymore”. His ‘thank yous’ of ‘school at home’ filled me with astonishment. That entire day he carried on feeling happy, thanking me, repeating the same lines.  With a grateful & stirred heart, I started researching and reading about how to create a successful school-at-home atmosphere, how to help & manage the learning of children from home, how to don the cap of a co-educator, what safety and social measures to keep in mind etc. etc.

After a successful dry run of below-mentioned points for one month, I am ready to share my happiness & learnings with you. Point number – 4 is optional for me at the moment because my son is too young to go down a rabbit hole on the internet. He only watches ‘YouTube Kids’ or ‘Khan Academy kids’, and between my husband Prakash or I, either of us is usually around our little kangaroo, Pratham, when he is near the screen.

Down to six! Here are six (6) things to consider:

Parents and caregivers as co-educators: Children-the virtual learners are in a transition phase, both socially and academically. So, parents’ & primary caregiver’s involvement- is crucial at this time. In fact, the well-being of parents and immediate caregiver’s is equally important. We too are in our transition phase work-wise, responsibilities-wise, and socially. But kids’ modelling us through our verbal and non-verbal cues doesn’t stop. So, let us gently, consciously and intentionally co-operate with one another in the ever-changing process.

  1. Separate study and play area

The first step in improving the learning of the child at home is to dedicate a peaceful space at home with least distraction from outside. This way, the child is able to understand and maintain the clear boundaries between ‘school’ and ‘home school’ environment at home. For my son, I also ensure the following:

  • He carries a backpack to his dedicated school space.
  • Separate school space, study corner and play area.
  • The table is not wobbly or crowded. It is safe for keeping multiple items, including the desktop/laptop.
  • There is plenty of natural air, light and cross-ventilation of the room.
  • If possible, the space is colourful, clutter-free and clean.
  • It is a good idea to keep ‘Mommy-me’, ‘Teacher-me’ and ‘Working-mom-me’ hats different. I wear different colour-coded badges to remind my little one of the role that I am in.
  • For some kids keeping a squishy ball in hand during the class helps them de-stress. When I am working, I keep a happy smile slow rising squeeze ball or colouring pages to manage my stress level at work.

2. Time management

While studying online and depending greatly on online resources for all academia, children are jointly operating with varied sources of distractions too, e.g. social media, for say. Thus, conscious control of time becomes all the more important. While adults can depend on the 4Ds (delete, delegate, defer, and do), the same doesn’t fit children. How about the 3Cs?

Consistent Sleep: Our mind and body need time to wind down, and a night of restful sleep is a must. Studies support that a fixed bedtime and wake-up time can help set the mind frame right for a productive day ahead. Not to forget, it supports good health too. For children, a mid-day nap after classes too might be necessary. Try experimenting with different routines to find the right one for your child, without affecting the wake time.

Cut the Clutter: When an area is dedicated for a particular task, it helps us get the instant vibes we want and enhances our productivity. Thus, for online classes, set up a separate study zone, where there is a minimum disturbance for the child and s/he can study in peace and comfort. No extra gadgets in the dedicated room!

When we talk about clutter, we often ignore the mental clutter. Winding down is an essential exercise for our mind and body. If screen time during the day disturbs the child’s sleep routine, simple practices like deep breathing and conscious noting can help achieve restful stillness. If you want help with these to begin and be consistent, kid-friendly apps like ‘Headspace‘ might be the right kind of aid. Parents-Children activities are worth a try!

Checklist: Week-long plans might be useful when you plan for yourself or your child, but to inculcate the habit of planning in your child and encourage them to adapt to the life-skill of time-management gradually, a daily checklist is a way to go! Sit with them and make them write all they feel that needs to be done in the day, and don’t forget to add ‘free-time’ as something they can look forward to after a few hours of work. Little breaks during the day work like magic. And if something on the list is not ticked off by the end of the day, there’s always the next day to complete those and plan better so that it fits their lists, time and space. While later in time, apps like ‘Evernote‘ can add to the convenience, I suggest starting with a basic pen and paper to avoid extra screen time and plausible distractions. Also, playing around with colours can make the whole process so much fun! Where are the colour pencils?

3. Parent’s participation

Parent’s participation is necessary in:

  • Encouraging independent learning online by teaching them how to raise hands, how to mute and unmute themselves, how to turn on and off the video and how to answer through the chat options. For parents whose kids are 9-10 years old, training them on how to upload the school assignments and how to download the study materials can also be considered.
  • Keeping the kids motivated through physical, mental and fun exercises plus their intrinsic motivation through journaling in progress planners or watching a fun movie together. 
  • Enlightening the child on online safety measures like keeping online profiles secured with unique credentials, not sharing passwords, informing them of fraudulent etc.
  • Moderating the screen time of the little ones with 10-5-1 minute gentle reminders followed by simple movement activities soon after the screen time helps in healthy disconnection from the screen. 
  • Helping a child cope up with feelings like loneliness, boredom, frustration, anger etc. through pep talks, patient listening, deliberately guiding them with meaningful questions, or handing them a glass of water to calm down works.

4. Online Safety with AI-powered parenting ‘Bosco’ app

While the internet is the home to knowledge and resources, it is also the place for predators, cyberbullies, age-inappropriate content, malware, and more. Thus, discussing online safety with our kids becomes elementary as they are already adept at technology in all forms. Barring them from using technology or being by their side all the time is practically not an option, but making them aware is! If we cannot bar the technology age, we can upgrade our parenting to the technology world. One such app is ‘Bosco’ – an Artificial Intelligence (AI) powered parenting app which predicts the threats and keeps the kids safe online. It combines advanced machine learning algorithms based on child psychology & cyberbullying researched data collections. 

If you would not do it face to face, don’t do it online.”, says Shelagh McManus, an online safety advocate for Norton. This simple advice can serve to be the ground rule. It acts as a guideline for your child, discouraging any sort of conversation with strangers and abuse of any form. Also, you don’t need to spy, but you can try monitoring wherever you can. Simple steps like:

  • Discussing online safety and making our children comfortable, yet aware is one way.
  • For younger children, allowing them to browse only under your supervision can be a basic rule.
  • Making our kids realize the importance of a unique password is a must.
  • No matter how much kids resist, parent’s presence in the list of friends on the social media platforms can ensure online security too.

To make the entire process smooth is by developing a friendly relationship with our child where s/he finds us trustworthy, where we can talk about anything and everything, and s/he can confide in us at ease!

5. Brain-Breaks

It is important we bring in versatile activities, repeated pauses and timely breaks depending upon the age of the child for effective learning. Interacting with our child during study breaks is better than letting the child spend time over phones or gadgets. So the online learning, when tailored with physical, mental, behavioural and social activities, can help them in:

  • Internalizing and absorbing the concepts, lessons, and tutorials better
  • Boosting cognitive functioning
  • Stimulating curiosity and creative thinking
  • Consolidating retentions and finding innovative connections

6. Duration of study

According to a psychiatrist, Dr Colette Poole-Boykin, parents should multiply the child’s age with 2 or 5 (minutes) (child’s age X 2 or 5) to find out the attention span of the child. When parents get worrisome thoughts concerning their child’s concentration & attention span, this rule can give respite to parents. This guide is also essential for parents to fare better with their kids’ study plans at home and sail well with their virtual classes, during the COVID-19 period.

Further to this rule, she suggests that elementary school kids should spend from one to two hours of instruction based learning per day, middle school kids two to three hours and that of high school students three to four hours of instruction based learning per day, maximum.

After actively engaged in so many activities, being with the child for his virtual classes, managing the school work, and office work along with household chores, losing calm is quite natural. I lose my calm sometimes, to be honest. So, I want to close this blog by saying:

  • If you also lose your sanity, remember you are not alone, and it is not forever. It is okay to feel the feelings but bouncing back empowered is the key.
  • At this time, we are all firming up our resilience, and gratitude muscles in the whole process.
  • Keep me-time every single day. Even 5-minutes a day can be enough. YOUR PEACE IS IMPORTANT TOO.
  • Acknowledge and praise yourself every day, in the mirror or through journaling or gratitude prayers. Also, acknowledge and praise your child as they move through the new way of learning.
  • Some days may look like ‘No work done’ day, or ‘Not according to how I had planned’ day, trust me when you would sit down to reflect each & every activity with fine details in the journal, you would start feeling thankful for those days too.

Happy parenting and happy schooling!

HOMESCHOOLING Vs VIRTUAL SCHOOLING

This blog intends to define Virtual Schooling, and outline the differences between Homeschooling and Virtual schooling. Homeschooling also known as ‘Home Education’ & Virtual Schooling also known as ‘e-learning’ or ‘learning from home’ are two different modes of education. But the two terms Homeschooling and Virtual Schooling are being used interchangeably. So, let’s explore the differences & similarities as we read along…

Read about ‘Homeschooling’ here.

Virtual schooling is different from Homeschooling. In virtual schooling (e-schooling), the school work, knowledge transfers or learning happens at home instead of a physical school building. To complete the courses and schoolwork, students and teachers connect virtually for an online programme. It includes online homework, worksheet, textbooks and other information—students log in to their personal secured account to upload or access their work.

The students complete their assigned work and submit it through an online programme. The teacher assesses the work submitted by the students and manages the students learning for each class. A portion of the course conducted via live webinar classes, the students can interact with the teacher in real-time via microphones or chat software. The virtual school allows teachers to teach a curriculum established by the school. Whereas in homeschooling, parents are the teachers who teach predetermined guidelines to complete the state-required standards. Also, in virtual schooling methods, the schools conduct state-regulated tests on different online platforms. Contrary to this, no such assessments are there for these students.

Both Virtual schooling and homeschooling, allow the students to study outside the school. It is essential to understand the thin-line difference between the design and pattern of two curriculums before deciding the child’s education. 

Setting all differences aside, one can find that both types of education promote enthusiasm and learning independence, teachers and parents can construct the daily school work around their learning preference and interests. 

In present times, parents are adopting a blended approach to support their child’s learning which is commendable. In India, parents are now no more limiting their ward’s education restrained to the traditional curriculums by the schools; they are also choosing to enrol their kids to online courses and workshops which the child is passionate for.

Though Virtual school and homeschool have similarities, they are used interchangeably. Looking at the present uncertain period, the schools physically starting their operations, and children going to school is unlikely until the end of the year 2021. Schooling from home for formal school goers is the need of the hour for an unprecedented period because of the COVID-19 situation to contain its spread. So, the conversation around the teaching method led to ‘homeschooling’ being used widely but conversely. Also, in this period, many parents would want to re-consider the method of teaching, whether homeschool or formal schools or best of both the worlds for their wards. A model of education where formal schooling is joined by homeschooling in a complementary role, can add to our children’s learning experience. The unlock period provides a good opportunity to explore homeschooling.

Homeschooling in India – Know more

The term ‘Homeschooling’ has gained momentum in the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic period. With this term, confusion in the minds of parents has also increased, especially among the Indian parents. Homeschooling is not something new. It is already a practised and a legal form of learning and imparting education in some countries. According to ‘Right to Education’ (RTE) Act, 2009, under the article 21A of the Indian Constitution, education is the right of every child and is compulsory till the age of 14. It doesn’t outline the mode of education or teaching methodology (Homeschooling or sending to school or virtual learning) decided by parents for their child. Things are good to go as long as the education of the child is in place. In India, Homeschooling is still a grey sphere.

Homeschooling is a mode of education and a way of imparting knowledge to school-aged children at the premise of their own home, instead of schools. Homeschooling gives the parents a chance to provide a tailored teaching experience to the child with lots of hands-on activities. Studies suggest that a homeschooled child perform academically better and score more percentiles than regular school students.

Homeschooling is a big responsibility and life-alerting for both parents and the child. Parents get a chance to relive their life while helping the children discover their passion. But it can feel daunting, unstructured and puzzling at times. The path is full of enlightening, fun, adventurous and challenging experiences, for both, parents and the kids taking on the world.

Children love learning new things. Besides regular studies in Homeschooling, it offers flexible time to kids for exploring different aspects of life, including social conduct and personality development, etc. and allows uncover their passions. Parents need not be certified teachers to homeschool their child. Parents are aware of the child’s progress and develop a syllabus that fits suitable according to their child’s learning style & psychological state.

Homeschooling is a bigger segment and should be better organised. Parents who are Homeschooling their kids can help each other through online groups and forums, regular meet-ups, and coordinated activities like zoo trips, museum visits, excursions to religious places etc. Thus, kids interact with other kids and share their knowledge and do not lack socialisation. Homeschooled kids are socialising by virtual means like online tours, virtual playdates and video calling, during the Covid-19 period, which is quite a similar experience for formal school goers at this time around.

Homeschooled kids have a strong sense of autonomy. When they were reviewed on topics related to leadership, care for community, self-discipline, peer play, and on various course related subjects, their answers were promising. And they performed well on measures of emotional intelligence and mental well-being. The real world is as bright for them as it is for everyone else. Home educated children go on to do challenging work even, as adults. They stand out, and their involvement in social activities and community building is thorough and sincere too.

In recent times, a growing number of families have started considering Homeschooling as an option. However, home schooling is not widespread in India but slowly catching up in major cities like Mumbai, Hyderabad, Pune and Bangalore. Safety concerns and exorbitant school fees kindled interest about Homeschooling among parents in metropolitan cities. Indian parents prefer Homeschooling over formal education to provide religious and moral instructions, also due to their concerns about the learning culture in the schools. They are uncomfortable with the large volume of homework after school, mugging up the textbooks without understanding the concepts and the lack of time for the kids to read beyond the syllabus.

Parents in rural areas prefer homeschooling for transportation convenience. Public transport may not reach the students home or, if they do, they may take long hours over the poor roads. Rural parents have an opportunity to instil in their children an acknowledgement for local values and places and integrate the local economy into education. 

The common question most parents ask is about the legalities of Homeschooling in India. At present, no formal institution or body governs Homeschooling in India. Nonetheless, parents who wish to home school their children can do so. RTE does not put-downs or rules out Homeschooling in India. Children studying through homeschools can appear for board exams through the National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS), IGCSE or state boards.

Presently, where we in India stand in terms of universality and versatility of education, full acceptance of Homeschooling is still afar. It will require multidimensional progress in terms of economic, social, and political culture. And even then Homeschooling will be able to replace schooling; we have our concerns over that.

Conventional schooling, too, provides a plethora of benefits, which schooling in other modes may fail to deliver. Schooling allows our children to learn among peers who come from various diverse backgrounds. It not only helps our children learn social skills but also develop deeper relations like friendships. Extracurricular activities ranging from athletics to theatre allow children to recognise their interests, which many a time turn into a passion they wish to take ahead in life. Learning from teachers who are experts in their domain adds to the quality of learning, helping develop an interest in subjects that might form the basis for career choices. Also, the school environment helps children learn to handle and cope up with a multitude of situations on their own, adding to their growth and sense of individualism.

In my viewpoint, a feasible and practical approach to educating our children will bring together the best of both worlds, where the essential elements of schooling like peer learning can align and mix together with the right ingredients of Homeschooling!

A model of education where formal schooling continues but is joined by Homeschooling in a complementary role, in certain areas depending upon the individual needs of our children and spheres that can incorporate learning in the form of fun activities might pose to be an ideal one!

The unlock period provides a good opportunity to experiment around Homeschooling!

There are quite a lot of resources available for parents turned into Homeschooling educators. Many apps are available online to support parents and children with home learning. Whether full-time Homeschooling or just to support a child’s education. Here are few apps most beneficial for everyone.

They are:

Khan Academy and Khan Academy Kids: It offers interactive exercises and lessons on all topics. The lessons can be of great use to parents and students.  

NASA for students: This website includes a free catalogue of articles and topics related to space exploration and aeronautics.

Homeschool.com:  It provides information about getting started, lessons, links to local groups makes this site a great resource, especially those who are new to Homeschooling.

Project Gutenberg:  It has a large collection of eBooks, children’s classic literature. It is an amazing resource for starting their own library on a budget.

Xtramath: It lends free math videos, lessons and activities for teachers and parents.

Technology can enable educational curriculums and students can educate themselves on the go. They can learn anything they like from their parents, friends, teachers and the community. Parents can understand the kids better than anyone and can give their child the best to shine. 

Happy schooling!

Excerpts: e-launch of the book ‘A Song of India’ by Ruskin Bond with ‘The Indian Express Parenting’

She Narrates (www.shenarrates.in)
A Song of India by Ruskin Bond

Adding a feather to his cap and the fourth volume to his memoir, Ruskin Bond’s ‘A Song of India’ hit the stands last month.  A Song of India-The Year I Went Away takes us back to Bond’s childhood and his final year in India before he went to the UK to live his passion for writing. The book also marks 70 years of the journey of Bond and his pirouetting pen. 

In an interview with Express Parenting, India Express, Bond shared some treasurable lessons for children and the young aspiring writers. Being a child at heart even in his eighties, he strongly advises children to value their childhood as there’s no second time around with it. “You are not going to be sixteen again, so have a wonderful time. Go for hikes, have adventures, read a lot of books.”, he adds. He condemns the time spent on outdoor activities being overtaken by technology and all new forms of entertainment.

On being asked about how he never runs out of thoughts to write about, he says for him there’s never a dull moment. He never runs out of ideas because he can see something is always happening around all the time, which can easily be put down in words. He emphasizes that to be a writer, it is of utmost importance to be interested in people around. For him, memories of people and time spent with them turns out to be an excellent basis to write about. 

He recognizes that the pressure children face these days is different from what he had during his childhood. The pressure of studies and grades, earning a living, and having a good career, he finds the world turning into a rat race with societal norms taking over one’s sense of making a choice. 

He pities the irony that in the age of technological advancement where there’s extended forms of freedom like over the internet, still the basic freedom to pursue what one loves, has gone down. 

His eyes lit up when he mentions that more and more children these days are showing their interests in pursuing writing as their career and in knowing how to express themselves better, which, according to him, is a radical change and an excellent progress. On being asked about his advice for young children and writers, he proposes ‘enhancing command over any language of choice’ to be considered as a pre-requisite when venturing into the writing career. He smilingly warns them that writing can be a difficult way of making a living; however, it is figurable.

Like the perfect author, he has built up the excitement, and has kept us waiting for his upcoming book “How To Be A Writer”. 

We at ‘She Narrates‘ look forward to the above upcoming book by Ruskin Bond! 

Here’s the video link to the e-launch of the book ‘A Song of India’ by Ruskin Bond –


@Penguinsters #RuskinBond #ExpressParenting #PenguinIndiaPenguinsters#ExpressParentingReadAlouds

A to Z inner-ing exercise

Human brains are wired to effectively process one linear thought at a time. Here’s an exercise that helps you in uplifting your mood and fetching positive outcomes, especially when you are feeling negative emotions like anger, fear, hatred, insecurity, guilt etc.

The exercise is called ‘A to Z inner-ing exercise’, and the inspiration of this exercise comes from the teachings of Abraham-Hicks (Law of Attraction). You may wonder why is it called the ‘A to Z inner-ing exercise’ Well! All of us started our learning journey with the Alphabets. Going for A to Z will give enough time (just the right amount – neither too less nor too much) to change our state from negative to positive.

Here is how to do this 5-step mindful exercise: Exercise on!

Prerequisite: Be willing and mindful!

Step 1: Deep breaths

In & out for 5 seconds. In your mind affirm “I am willing to do this

uplifting A to Z inner-ing exercise. I am all set.”

Step 2: Countdown, 10…1. Calm your mind and body.

Step 3: Mind Mapping

Give a leisurely glance to the wordlist(Handout 1) for 10 seconds. This is a list of power words. You can add to the list and write your own power words, any word reflecting the change in thought or state you are intending to bring about.

Step 4: Capturing your power Fill in the blanks and try to capture ‘10 power words in 10 seconds’. In Handout 2[P2], there are two columns. In the first column, the heading is “I feel excited”, and in the second column the heading is “to know I Am …”. Download the sheet and start filling on the right-hand side with your power words.

Example: Left hand-side reads “I feel excited” and in the right column I have fed the power word that came instantly to my mind. This is how my list looks.

P.S: Your mind would pick up those that it had been looking for.

P.P.S: Initially, you may or may not reach 4 words and that’s okay. But, with practise, words would start coming easily and more naturally. Also, if you are doing this exercise with a facilitator or in a group reaching 8-9 words is easy.

Step 5: Reiterate & Recapture

Read out ‘aloud’ the complete sentences on your sheet. Read the whole line from left to right, loudly like this, “I feel excited to know I Am… Dedicated, I feel excited to know I Am… Blessed, I feel excited to know I Am… Aligned” and so on, from what you have written.

Trust me, ‘A to Z inner-ing’ exercise helps in the holistic expansion – physical, mental, emotional and spiritual.

Helpful Notes:

  • This exercise can be done with the help of a facilitator, or in a group. It may have more effective and positive outcomes. The facilitator can do the back counting 10 to 1, give out handout 1 to the participants, keep track of the time and ask the participants to read the whole list out aloud.
  • The power words can be NOUNS, e.g. – dreamer, believer, light, VERBS, e.g. – walking, exercising, re-claiming, ADJECTIVES, e.g.– big, smart, awesome or ADVERBS, e.g. – fast, effectively, efficiently etc. A reference list is provided to get you started.
  • You could try to use your non-dominant hand to fill the power words in the right column to do the exercise more mindfully.
  • If you are performing this exercise mentally, your mind may wander, it’s okay, even if your mind has picked up one positive word, you are better off than before. You may stop in between and think, until the words start coming easily and effortlessly.
  • To reap its benefits to the fullest, please follow this exercise for at least 21 days or more.

‘A to Z inner-ing exercise’ can also be practised:

  • intentionally and mindfully, as a 5-minute meditation round.
  • Especially when you are about to take an interview or about to write an exam etc.when there’s a tiny break-time (less than few minutes).
  • Here’s how to do:

a) Close your eyes and move into a comfortable position, whether you are at your desk or reclining on the sofa.

b) Take slower and deeper breaths and anchor your attention on the breath. Your mind may wander off, and that’s okay and natural. Gently, bring your awareness back to breathing.

c) Set an intention with these affirmative lines:

‘I am willing to be mindful. I am willing to connect with my inner-self. I thank myself for giving permission to relax…

d) Now, with every deep breath in, start thinking of uplifting power words. With every breath in, choose an uplifting, positive word with alphabets ‘A’, ‘B’, ‘C’ till ‘Z’, sequentially or randomly- blessed, creative, abundant, worthy, inspired, grateful etc.

e) You would start feeling grounded, and the intensity of the thoughts slowing down and the breath beginning to get deeper than before.

Hints: You may also refer to the power words from this document.

Benefits of A to Z inner-ing exercise:

  • The more you do this exercise, more easily the uplifting power words start coming to you. More conversant and easy the exercise becomes.
  • This helps in accelerating the process of coming out of the fearful/anxious state easily and in less than 10-12 seconds.
  • You are building up your vocabulary with positive, uplifting, spiritual words.
  • It is a part of self-love practise that one can give oneself in a fun playful way.

Keep shining always!