It was a search for help to breastfeed my daughter under a unique set of circumstances that led me to the term "Attachment Parenting." I was hooked to the idea almost instantly since it was so very opposing to all the mainstream messages that I was getting bombarded with about being with my child from all quarters of my life. I kept searching for more information and discovered that Hema Bharadwaj, unschooling mother to two beautiful children, lived just a few miles from me and was connected to a host of other wonderful individuals, including Sandra Dodd, who have all decided to take a path less traveled. For me, that was the beginning of a whole new direction to our lives.
At this point I have a three year old child who has not been enrolled in any kind of formal/structured setting away from home.
The trend in India is start children off with some form of schooling quite early on, so I consider myself to be a homeschooler. Radical Unschooling is a path that I consider ideal for developing an incredible connection between me and my child. I strive to achieve those conditions and learn to inch closer to those ideals on a daily basis, to the best of my abilities, despite various challenges thrown at me by life.
|A few years have passed. Pushpa has two daughters, born in 2009 and 2012.|
I also work part time as a speech pathologist, with much support from my family, to pursue another passion of mine—helping individuals with communication disorders.
This week on the podcast I had a fascinating conversation with Pushpa Ramachandran. Pushpa and her husband live in Pune, India and are unschooling their two lovely daughters, Veda and Vinaya. Pushpa also works from home part-time as a speech therapist. I really enjoyed hearing about their unschooling lives as Pushpa answered my ten questions!
You can listen to the episode here or read the transcript here.
Pushpa shared a lovely story about how, when her first child was young, she was searching online and stumbled onto attachment parenting, which led to homeschooling, which led to unschooling and Sandra Dodd's website. Then she narrowed her search to the surrounding area and stumbled across two names: Urmila Samson and Hema Bharadwaj.
"I discovered that Hema lived not too far from me so, the eager beaver that I was, I emailed her. Initially she did not email me back because I think they were traveling or something. Then I ended up picking up the phone and calling her and she was in the middle of what it sounds like at that point, was just the chaos that an unschooling family is in the middle of all the time. Busy, busy time. She just told me to come over.
I went over and I will not forget that first day. Both her kids were busy doing something. Her younger one was busy playing something and her older one was busy with the video games. I was just very surprised to know that both her kids had never gone to school and then I was surprised to know that she was connected to other people that had never gone to school."
Pushpa started hanging out with the moms, most of whom were unschooling. I love that, at the time, Veda was quite a bit younger than the other kids so the biggest draw for her was Hema's dog, Snowy. Very fun! And eventually, when Veda was school age, she stayed home instead.
We were talking about how natural learning is so much about following the connections and Pushpa shared a beautiful story about where she'd seen those connections go.
We watch a lot of animation movies and the creativity that is coming out in movies that are made now is just amazing. An example was like this movie that they really liked for awhile, Mr. Peabody & Sherman.
We also talked about unschooling in India and she shared some resources:
That movie has time travel, and worm holes and they dip into all these different civilizations. So, you know, my previously conditioned self might have looked at that movie as something that was just a fun thing to look at, but now my unschooling side has seen how they talk about time travel and how they are talking about making a machine to time travel.
Then they get into this whole concept of space travel. Then we dabble a little bit by joining the local astronomy group here and so then they are hearing all these terms and they are connecting all of that with the plot and the characters that they have seen in these movies. So, then you suddenly realize, “Wow, you know this fun movie that was just something that they watched for two hours is actually so very rich and deep in all of the different things that it can lead to!” It is such a fun way to be exposed to that stuff because that is not how I was exposed to it."
Swashikshan: Indian Association of Homeschoolers have a website, an annual meetup, and a Facebook page.
There's also the India Group for Homeschoolers & Alternative Education Facebook group.
And we had an interesting conversation around the ideas of education and school.
Education is something that my parents have provided me and my sister with and they are very proud of it, and rightfully so, because it has opened doors for us. It has changed our economic position it has given us skills to travel abroad to be successful woman and mothers.
Pushpa shared a well-known quote, commonly attributed to Mark Twain: "I never let my schooling interfere with my education." Just because we aren't sending our children to school doesn't mean we don't care about their education.
So, I can see why that perception that education is so important is valued. It really has tangibly changed the economics of many, many families that otherwise would not have access to better healthcare, better homes, ability to travel, more spending money, all of that exposure. For many families in India, schooling and getting those degrees and getting those jobs has lifted them out of difficult situations.
But I am starting to now learn how to tie both of those together so I do not feel the need to look down upon what my schooling is because it has really helped me. But I do not necessarily think that home education has to be pitted against that. I would also like my children to have all those opportunities. Not sending them to school does not necessarily mean that I am keeping them away from all of that.
We also spoke a bit about her role as a speech therapist and what unschooling parents might do if they are concerned about their child's communication skills. She explained that, first, it is important to acknowledge it because your child may be feeling like they are struggling as well. Then you can figure out if your child may want or need help.
And second, don't panic. It's a longer term process. You can be your child's partner—that's what she does, helping parents learn some techniques to help their child. She finds that as you begin to understand things, the fear begins to melt away.
And I loved Pushpa's answer to my last question!
"I would have to say hands down the most valuable outcome for choosing unschooling is to rediscover the joy of learning. And how learning is really the most important part of anything that you do. And how learning is constantly happening, whether I decide to pin it up on a board and display it and shout out, “Oh! We are learning, we are learning!”
Whether I choose to or not, it is still going to happen. I have no control over learning. It will happen no matter what I try to do or not do.
Sometimes they are not learning what you think they should be learning but then you get surprised and you literally have to eat your own words because you realize that what you thought they were learning, not only have they learned that, they have learned above and beyond that which you have never even considered."
So true! It can be so hard not to jump in, but when I managed to give their learning space to unfold, time and again I was amazed at the connections they made and the directions they went—I would never have thought of them!
Beautiful stuff. :-)
Natural learning: 9 things l have learned about (naturally)!
Pushpa wrote a great article for Families Learning Together Magazine about nine things she's learned about natural learning over the years through watching her daughters grow and learning:
You can read more about each one in the full article here: Natural Learning.
- my children learn all the time
- my children are innately curious
- strewing helps
- one thing leads to another and everything is connected
- play is the highest form of research
- travel helps!
- learning takes time
- learning does not have to cost a lot
- learning together fosters togetherness