Yesterday, the Shikshantar School Gurgaon turned 16.
It was the first time I came across an instance of a school celebrating it’s birthday.
I have celebrated Foundation Day in my school but a birthday was a first so I was curious about how it would go down.
It was an interesting experience and sort of reinforced our decision to send Vihaan to Shikshantar. ( Not that the decision really needed any reinforcing )
The celebrations started with a walkthrough of various classrooms where games and project areas had been setup – Parent’s could do the stuff which their kids do on a regular basis ( sing, play instruments, ball painting etc )
The school was decorated with projects, paintings, doodles and other stuff created by stuff – All the stuff that was on display was not just created by kids for the birthday celebrations.
It was stuff they created during their learning process and I guess the intent was also to give us parents, a deeper view of how kids are taught different things.
Food was also not arranged by the school.
Instead all parents were asked to bring a particular dish made at home – Idlis, Pakoras, Cheese Sandwiches and Suji Ka Halwa.
Yep, I spent 2 hours making 60 sandwiches and it sort of felt nice 🙂
The celebrations culminated with a program on the school front lawns with the kids and Didi’s lighting diyas ( teachers are called Didi’s and Bhaiya’s at Shikshantar ) singing songs and ( again, another Shikshantar tradition on the occasion of someone’s birthday ) buzzing dragon flies in the evening dusk keeping us company.
It was an afternoon well spent.
We couldn’t quite put our finger on what was it that was different, but among other things, I think it was the start of building a stronger community – among the parents, teachers and children and an assurance that here is a passionate group of educators who will help our children bloom into happy responsible adults.
Yesterday’s Mint Lounge also had a front page story called Meet The Unschoolers
There is a growing trend of people ‘unschooling’ their kids i.e. instead of sending kids to school to learn in a regimented manner, children learn at home.
Unschooling advocates a philosophy of letting children learn based on their interests via a mix of work and play, primarily driven by their innate curiosity and desire to learn a particular thing at any point of time.
At one point of time , we very briefly flirted with the idea of ‘homeschooling’ but quickly realised that, not only would it involve a lot more physical presence, it would require a certain kind of mindset which we probably didn’t have.
We did have our misgivings though, about the ‘rote method’ of learning in a high pressure environment present in a lot of schools (including the ones we went to ) and were pretty sure that we didnt want Vihaan to experience that.
I guess you could say, our objectives were similar to the benefits ‘Unschooling’ apparently delivers – A childhood full of joy, learning at your own pace in your area of interest, responsibility and choices, and the ramifications of making those choices, and parents trusting and treat children as individuals instead of just infantalizing them.
That’s where I realised yesterday, Shikshantar Gurgaon with it’s philosophy and execution let’s us have the best of both worlds – the formal structure of a school with the benefits of ‘Unschooling’ 🙂
After 4+ years of being a parent, I believe children can help us become better versions of ourselves and look forward to the journey. Hope you do too 🙂
Btw, There is another Shikshantar in Udaipur which is which focused on rethinking education and development incase you want to learn more about Unschooling.
As part of the same ‘Meet The Unschoolers’ article above, there is another fascinating account by Natasha Badhwar and her daughter – ‘The Joys of Walking Out‘ and how it impacted their lives for the better.
Reading List of books from the articles referenced above:
- Free to Learn by Peter Gray
- Deschooling Society by Ivan Illich
- How Children Fail by John Holt
- How Children Learn by John Holt
- Dumbing Us Down by John Taylor Gatto
- My Daughter’s Mum by Natasha Badhwar