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The Guilt Trip Of Structured Learning

I admit that I am a huge fan of bollywood music. And when I am in the mood for dancing, the more noisier the music gets, the better! This has been one of my struggles to strike a balance between my enjoyment and not exposing my child to age inappropriate music. He is five now.

Bollywood and me

There was a time when he used to watch bollywood songs along with me on TV! There I confessed! Sigh! So much for being a Waldorf parent! However, this episode was few years ago and I am happy to say - now I am out of that habit for good. It was not easy for me but yes I needed some discipline to not watch it in front of the kid. Anyway, we can always catch these amusing things when the child is not around.

Once I was out of that habit, I joined bollywood dance classes. Come on, from somewhere I needed to get my dose of dancing for that kind of music! Added benefit being the start of a fitness routine, which I badly needed. Now, the next part was that I had to take him along. Again, he used to enjoy the bollywood music, only saving grace being that he is out of watching it on screen by then. He used to remember all my dance moves and later started imitating me at home. This I understood (or mistook!) it as his interest in dancing and put him in the kids group bollywood dance classes. I could easily see his enthusiasm and interest in those classes. He used to even cry on those days when the class was not happening. Though I knew that this is not encouraged as part of the school methodology we follow, yet I justified my decision as he looked like having fun.

Time for reflection

When it was time for a PTM at school, the teacher asked me the reason for sending him to such dance classes. I told her that I put him because I felt that he was really enjoying it. She immediately said, "He would enjoy aerated drinks and TV as well, why don't you give him those too?"

That reply snapped something inside me! My child is usually very active and busy all the time. At school, it is not only about having age appropriate activities, but they also encourage personality balancing activities. Now, what does that mean? It means that they understand the child over a period of time and recommend the kind of activities that he should be part of, which helps him to be more balanced. For example, a child who is very lethargic or keeps a low profile, is encouraged to do more of mobile activities like running or jumping around. Similarly, for a child who is always super active, is recommended to do some calming down activities such as listening to a story, string beads etc. My child falls into the second category and ideally needs more of soothing movement.

With my decision to send him to such dance classes, that idea of balance became pointless. In fact, there are chances for him to become more hyper because of all that loud and electronic music with heavy stomping/jumping/dance moves.

Coming back to the PTM, the teacher said that, "Here we are consciously working to help the child to achieve balance, and simultaneously he is participating in dance classes that are not suitable for his age. And this defeats the whole purpose!" At that point, I had a reality check - as a parent for a young child, I should do what is more important than just do what he wants or the society demands. I had to re-prioritize and choose wisely between being a parent and a person who shares the love for dancing to bollywood tunes. But of course, it doesn't mean that I have to give up on encouraging him dance to those tunes. It just means that I need to wait till the time is right, age appropriate and then find out if he really wants to do it. There is absolutely no need to rush!

Age appropriateness

Well, the bollywood saga did not end there! I kept listening to those songs, it is a great unwinding time for me on most evenings while cooking. Over a period of time, whenever my son threw a tantrum I used to be paranoid that I am the culprit. I used to relate all his screams and hyperactive behaviour to exposure to bollywood music. Gradually, listening to bollywood music in his presence was reduced (not completely stopped though - I am yet to reach there!). Anyway, this music is a reality in current world. No party is ever complete without grooving to such dance numbers, but that is no reason for me to expose him to them on a daily basis. Whether this music is the reason for his behaviour or not, it is definitely not age appropriate. Period.

Days passed and came the much awaited pongal celebrations at our apartment. My love for dancing was wide awake once again and after finding a group of similar aged kids, I decided to train them for a performance. Little did I know what was about to come! Days have become more chaotic. My son became extremely unmanageable and you know what I would relate this to right? Yes, dancing for movie songs! This time around, the only breather being they are not bollywood and are little child friendly, tune-wise. Anyway, I did not want to give up in the middle and really wanted to see the kids come together on stage. Surprisingly, my child was quite ok on the stage in spite of me loosing it all through the practice sessions. I concluded that he just took me for granted during the practice phase and that it doesn't work well when your dance instructor is your mom herself!

All in all, this drill of just blindly repeating what an instructor does cannot be considered as learning. This is similar to learning an "A" for a "A" instead of arriving at "A". A learning happens when the teacher guides you to arrive at something on your own, and helps you to be aware of it. This was also not just for fun as his behaviour proved to be something else. Either just dancing together (without the stress on what is right or wrong) or letting them play freely is better than asking them to repeat a structure at this age. This becomes especially relevant to my child because he is not exposed to structured learning anywhere, not even at school who believe that these are for later ages. Hence this exercise was not his age appropriate, so no point in cribbing again. Period.

The buzz word - summer camps

Currently, my social media feed is flooded with summer camps for children. Unfortunately, the corporates do not provide a summer break for its employees, which means that the summer camps come as a blessing for working parents. While it is a personal choice whether to send one's kids to a summer camp, it is wise to not give in to peer pressure here. Recently I heard about a science summer camp aimed at kids within the age group of 2-4! I could not fathom what the tiny tots must be learning in a science summer camp at that age? Just imagine! Summer camps should not happen for the reason that you have to put him somewhere just because everyone else is going. Like every other activity for kids, it should be either need based or interest based and definitely, age appropriate based!

Till last year we were blessed to have an alternative school right in the apartment premises and hence I used to send my child to their summer camp (although they are closed for few weeks making it a complete break). We sent him because we know that the rhythm at school is very much age appropriate. Now after relocation, I think twice before sending him to any camps. As you know, I had enough guilt trips of putting him in structured learning!

Every exposure counts

Even when the kids are not going for any activity classes, they pay close attention to their environment. Like we all know how well they remember the words that we would have said in a haste and regretted it immediately, don't we? Hence it is good to be aware of what we are exposing the child to.

We expect the best behaviour from our children but are we really modelling by being one? Parenting is more about unlearning and re-learning things and we are blessed to have this opportunity to live better each day. It would feel as an amazing journey when we look at it this way rather than thinking about sacrifice and loosing self as the only traits during this process.

Those tiny eyes are always watching us and learn a lot with observation. As a parent, we should really strive to be worthy of that imitation, isn't it?

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