School-hunting Tuesday, Feb 12 2008 

My son Pranav’s third birthday is on 2 May 2008. We wish to send him to school form this June when the new academic year starts. So we’ve already visited a school.

Although compulsory education begins only at the age of six in India, it’s impossible to get admission at age six into class one in a good school, if a child hasn’t done kindergarten: Lower and upper KG, one year each. And, if the child hasn’t gone to nursery, it’s going to be very hard to find a seat in kindergarten!

So, almost everyone ends up sending their children to school very early: one year nursery and two years kindergarten before joining class one at the age of six. Children start grappling with grade one lessons in kindergarten itself. If they’re not already smart at them, ‘NO’ seat for them in class one. (There’s separate interview for parents and they are expected to be smarter than their kids!)

The school we visited follows alternative education (Waldorf education of Rudolf Steiner) up to class seven and prepares children for CBSE (central syllabus) exam from class eight.

We didn’t like the teacher who dealt with us there because her way with my son was not in accordance with the system of education they claim to follow. She tried to be polite and decent with us but was obviously rude with our child. Philosophy on paper but not in practice.

But you can’t like everyone and everything in a school and then seek admission for your kid.

We’ll be visiting some other schools before choosing one.

Schooling has turned parenting into a nightmare. This BBC story and the comments tell it all.

Techno Tots Sunday, Jun 10 2007 

My two-year old son demands that he be left at the computer and his mom and I take our hands off him so that he can ‘work’ with it uninterrupted.

He goes hog wild with the mouse, running the cursor all over the screen and clicking on the task bar icons and the shortcuts.

Somehow I keep the keyboard pushed under the table top, otherwise he’ll tap on it with both his hands and sometimes with his legs, too.

When the going gets tough, I turn off the machine and let him do what he wants.

Anyway, my work is interrupted when he gets so enthusiastic about working with the computer.

My boy has been attracted to the computer since he was about eighteen months.

As I noticed his joy in playing with the computer I wondered whether it was right to expose a little child as young as 18-24 months to the computer. Is there a recommended age level for introducing the computer to a child’s world?

I had no success in finding any convincing comments on this matter until I came across a blog discussing this topic the other day.

I was glad to learn that Amit Agarwal of Digital Inspiration had a two-year old son who was computer savvy. The famous Indian blogger had already faced my situation and devised ways to deal with it, in addition to finding relevant articles from B.B.C. (articles: 1 and 2).

His method of launching a slideshow or drawing software to keep the child’s interest engrossed in it doesn’t work with my son. What he wants is the whole system for himself and tapping on the keyboard and clicking the mouse.

The two B.B.C. articles are really good. They contain the findings of a study and views and opinions of some experienced people. Here is a summary:

· The very early use of computers is heavily promoted by educationalists…

· Computers make an ideal context for learning through play.

· The multi sensory experiences that they offer are particularly appropriate for the very young and promote the use of memory.

· Play on the computer should be viewed as one of a range of contexts for play, rather than given a separate status.

· Ten minutes, three or four times a week is a good guide.

· It is not desirable for young children to sit in front of a screen for prolonged periods of time.

· Young children should be encouraged to investigate the real world, and links made between this and the virtual world of the computer.

· Painting games…allows children to be entirely creative and are additionally excellent tools for developing fine motor skills.

· Computers will play a significant part in children’s learning experiences throughout their school days and beyond.

· Parents have a powerful role in determining their child’s perception of the ways that this tool can enhance knowledge and expand their world.

As you can see there’s no conclusive answer to the question. It all depends upon the informed judgment of the parents!

Keeping this in mind, I’ll let my two-year old son tap and click and make him happy.

To Speak or Not to Speak English Friday, Jan 13 2006 

I learn that it’s beneficial to babies if parents talk to them (as they do in their mother tongue) in a second language of their choice from early days. Some parents who are not conversant in a second language engage a tutor to do it.

In our case it’s a problem.

I had made up my mind to talk to our baby in English while Ani vowed to speak only Malayalam, our mother tongue. But when I tried it I discovered that I didn’t enjoy it for the simple reason that it didn’t give me any sense of fulfillment. On the contrary, talking to Pranav in my mother tongue is a highly rewarding experience for me. Gradually, talking to little Pranav in English began to sound comical to me and I stopped it altogether.

It’s certain from our life style that Prananv will learn Telugu (the language of Andhra Pradesh) and Hindi (our national language) only when he goes to school. He’ll learn them from his classmates and friends. He’ll be going to an English medium school, so naturally he’ll learn English at school. Since Ani and I are teachers, Pranav will get all necessary help from us both. Then we’ll feel comfortable speaking to him in English, because his lessons are in English and using English becomes an absolute necessity. One language that he’ll never need at school is his mother tongue!

If we neglect the mother tongue now, when he’s still a little baby, he’ll probably never acquire fluency in it and our native culture and its heritage will remain foreign to him forever.

But, is it advisable denying our son the opportunity to learn English from us from his early days? Should we put aside all other considerations and talk to him in English? Or shall we use both English and Malayalam (won’t it complicate his little mind)?

An Aborted Journey Wednesday, Jan 11 2006 

My sister and her husband, who have been our guests for a month, were supposed to go back to Kerala on 4th Jan by Sabari Express.
Since it’s the peak season of the pilgrimage to the hilltop temple of Lord Ayyappa at Sabarimala in Kerala, there are no seats available on the train until 20th Jan. Anyone who travels to Kerala by train from any part of the country knows that the two and a half month long pilgrimage season (Nov-Jan) is the hardest to book tickets.
The pilgrims book all seats in advance. It results in ordinary passengers facing untold hardships.The railway runs special trains from various stations to Kerala to ease the rush, but the devotees of Lord Ayyappa don’t spare the special trains either!
Knowing the situation very well I booked two seats in waiting list through a friend for 4th Jan. What we thought was that we could manage to get the tickets confirmed in emergency quota with the help of a contact. It had worked on a few occasions in the past. But this time it didn’t work. We knew this bitter truth only after we had reached Secunderabad Railway Station for boarding the train.
The platform was inundated with the pilgrims in black robe and the atmosphere was reverberating with their chants and songs with the accompaniment of musical instruments. It was clear that for every reserved seat there would be a dozen swamis (the devotees, pilgrims) hanging on.

My sister and brother-in-law stood no chance of a comfortable journey. So we canceled the tickets and returned home.

Swamiye Saranam Ayyappa!

Pranav Is Seven Months Old Saturday, Dec 3 2005 

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Our son Pranav completed seven months yesterday. His growth and development has been remarkable and all our fears have been vanished from our mind forever. Now he’s just like a baby born full-term and his growth is far above benchmark.

Pranav can recognize us both, his maid and a neighbor who makes it a point to spend some time with him almost every day. He doesn’t have regular contacts with anybody else. But we introduce him to other people when we take him out a few times daily. He enjoys being outside and remains quite and happy absorbed in everything around.

He looks at us intently, expresses his immense joy through his innocent laughter and sparkling eyes. If she is holding him, he raises his little hands, kicks her with his rosy feet, bends forward and tries to jump into my hands.

Pranav tries to communicate to all inanimate things around him just the same way as he does to us. He talks to everything and everyone by making incoherent sounds. His babbling delights us greatly. Whatever things he can grab, he tries to put into his mouth.

Our baby likes colorful pictures shown to him and runs his hands on them. His mom reads to him by holding a large book wide open before him and sometimes croons for him.

Pranav is given bath twice a day. He enjoys it very much and protests when taken out of the tub. Bathing him in the tub is very difficult now, because he kicks and splashes water all over, bends up and raises his hands and tries to hit at or grab the mug with water being poured onto his head. Once or twice the water fell into his mouth and he swallowed it. So his mother has to try every trick in the book to distract him from it.

He sucks his thumbs. Drooling is frequent. When he falls on his tummy and tries to crawl, he passes urine invariably.

Pranav takes food without much fuss. His food consists of Lactogen 2, Cerelac (rice), smashed rice, smashed carrot, smashed apple, pulses and a few drops of ghee. The first three are given every day and the rest one after another with a gap of a day or two.

Ani and I sincerely invite guidance, suggestions and tips from all of you in upbringing our son.