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One moment from the day of a preschool teacher. Thoughts about sensibility and modern children.

DSC04398“I’m talking to you and you are not listening to me” said Aarnav, almost crying, while I was trying to resolve unexpected conflict between Arjun and Aarav who were in a second away to use a physical strength for a toy and while the other one was scribbling on the wall, where it’s not supposed to be.

This is the ordinary day of a kindergarten  teacher: to solve all the conflicts in a peaceful and fair way, to make them understand what’s a good manner, give a paper to a child  if it’s needed and be a good listener-friend. And everything at the same moment. Not a minute later.

Aarnav accepted my apologies and request to get back to him, I asked two kids to have turns, explained and give a paper to Nimra. Aarnav patiently waited for me and told me what he was doing yesterday.

“I came back home, ate nice food and go to sleep. Then I woke up, watched Youtube on Apple and ride a bicycle. I have a new one and it’s a blue color. I like cycling. After dinner, I was playing and then went to sleep on mat on the floor, because it’s very hot to sleep on the bed. I fell asleep with my Mommy.”

So descriptive and so precious, but to be priveleged to listen to this you need to gain the trust, be serious to their questions of exploring the world and don’t dare to laugh at this moment.

He is so small and so curious, his questions and the way he talks, what me feel like he is much older and mature in some way, than his peers. I’m just thinking aloud but what if he didn’t express his sadness and say that request. I could lose his trust and what about others who can’t express such words, did i lose their trust?!

We have so many things to do and manage in the class/home, that sometimes we don’t have time to just listen to our kids. To get to know them: what they like or don’t, what their favourite toy or what did they do in their free time.

I remember recently, one teacher told to one shiny smart girl “Are you an old woman, why are you still sitting?” The teacher didn’t mean to hurt her, she just tried to engage children. But it’s not even about the thing which you are telling to a baby of 4 years, but they way and intonation she used. You better see her, you can’t imagine that child’s face full of pain.

Please try to understand that children are tend to be sensitive. Each and everyone has its own personality. And I feel that teacher should first have some training, at least observe them, understand what and why they are doing that and then teach them whatever he/she wants.

I came, hugged her and sat next to her. Because I just simply knew her: she is a shiny full of energy and curiosity girl.She shared that she is just feeling tired, which is essential to the last period of class, especially after physical activities.

New generation children, they are different. They live in a completely new media environment than you or even your parents were living in. From 3 years old they differentiate between Panasonic and Samsung, even not being aware how to read. From 3.5 years they look for their “Apple” and watch Youtube with cartoons and podcasts. From 4 years old, they know who is Spiderman, Batman, Flash and believe in superpower. From 5 years they invent a game playing with keyboard to learn to differentiate letters.

Time flies and changes. You should try to learn the art of being parent, to change and be flexible too, in case you don’t want to hurt your most precious people in the world. Your children.

-Lunara

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Changes and kids. Did your approach change?!

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XXI century-time of rapid technologies. Everything has a speed. Tabloids are screaming: “Faster, higher, better”.  We barely can imagine a day without a gadget with high-speed internet. Now we can be aware what’s happening in each and every corner of the world. At once and with only one gadget. Changes, changes and changes.

We can talk to our family and friends wherever they are, all over the world. We are more likely to spend more and more time being online rather than meeting them face-to-face. Changes, changes and changes. Everything is excelling and everywhere. So it does happen with our kids too. You might probably notice that in different ways. And, here is the thing.

12 years ago I had a chance to see my small siblings appearance to the earth and stages of development. In a couple of years, I witnessed my cousin’s stages of growth and to some point it was different. Apart of his physical development, mentally he was more sensitive and much older than average kid five years ago.

1:00 am, year 2017. I’ve got a message from my school teacher on retirement. She is not sleeping because her grandson who is 4 years old doing his homework. He goes to some additional courses where he has some textbooks with tracing letters and he is just keep saying “We mustn’t loose the time and we must finish everything in time or before hand”. Oh let me remind you, 4 years old. He feels the time far deeper than many adults’ do.

For a few days, one of our most talkative students was weirdly passive and silent. He is one of the students who always has been willing to share his thoughts and experiences, which, if you ever faced this kind of situations, is very strange. And today when we had a sharing time, teachers asked him to say something. In a shy way, he stood up and for the first time shared “I was not sitting and mammy shouted at me. And when I sat mammy became happy.” You must see that face of the baby full of sadness.

Being such a tiny creature, he is just a genius, his vocabulary is outstanding. He knows and notices far more than many adults do. He even chooses his own clothes to wear, when he is going out.  But at that moment, I was feeling so bad for him and I wanted to hug him. His tiny heart feels far deeper than many adults’ do.

Apparently, kids are changing. But did your approach to the kids radically change within these years?!

“…Nowadays, every two years generation gap happens, kids will have grown up in completely different media environments”.

-Lunara

Of Purple Suns…

“Ma’am, I want a purple crayon.”

“I want black, please!”

I take a second to look at the mini-people making these polite requests.

You see, we are colouring ‘suns’ to make finger-puppets. Cookie-sized ‘suns’ they will later play with to understand what Mr. Sun does in the summer season. The elephant in the room was of course, the yellow crayons waiting to be given out, ready, in my hand.

I was instantly transported to a phase in my own childhood, where I used to draw a particular picture over and over again, one that I am sure is familiar to many others as well- a house, two zig zag lines that stood for two mountains, a winding path from the door of the house, a single, awkward tree that stood in a lonely yard.

The singular goal of my childhood, as well as that of my immediate friends’ was to duplicate this picture to perfection. The tiled roof was always red, the tree was always cloud-like and green, there was always a spiky yellow sun, the house always inevitably faced the right and had only two miserable rectangles for windows. With each year that passed, we refined this picture with little flourishes (such as shading, or the additions of finer details like flowers or blades of grass) but we never really changed it. We never, not once, questioned it. It wasn’t that we didn’t draw other things (we certainly did!) but this picture was a recurring theme, coming up unexpectedly in drawing sheets at slumber parties, on tissue napkins at boring restaurants, on desks in a substitution class, even in our first attempts at MS Paint (two years of making that house come onscreen, I tell you).

It was only much later, when I sat down to draw with a little friend, and my fingers instinctively reached for that red crayon that it hit me that I had never seen a house that remotely looked like that (one of the perks of growing up in a middle-eastern concrete jungle). That I had never seen a plump tree and two shapely mountains. That windows seldom looked like matchboxes. All my years of perfecting the idyllic landscape suddenly seemed incredibly unimaginative and silly.
Today, I realize that the obligatory bowl of fruit and scenic cottage are part of our inheritance from landscape painting and classical art, but that its blind reproduction has done untold damage to the creative vision of many generations of possible young artists.

My student reaches out for the crayon box I am holding in my other hand. It has purple, certainly, and black, and brown, and every other colour I hadn’t considered in my grown-up realism.

My mind races back to a conversation with another teacher. I was telling her about a student telling me about pouring blue water and green water for a plant, and how being the rational adults we were, we had been tempted to laugh at the adorable mistake, that is, until we quickly realized that the student was trying to describe something he had actually seen.

You see, water looks green when you pour it from a green plastic bottle.

When I shared this story with that teacher, she responded with one of her own. An anecdote of how she had asked her former students to draw the sun and one of them gave her a blank sheet of paper after a while. When asked why he didn’t draw the sun, he explained that he could never look at the sun and that he could only see white blinding light.

I am drawn back into the moment by the little ones who are pushing small squares of papers into my hands.

There is a purple sun…and a black one.

-Ferzine

 

 

 

 

 

Theory in practice

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Who am I? I’m an intern with a degree in teaching, who just dived into the world of tiny tabula rasa creatures for the first time.

The one thing which I like the most about working with children is constant learning. Learning about them, about teaching and parenting and about yourself.

Today, in the kindergarten, one boy was quite cranky in the morning and for almost a half an hour was crying without even a break. To distract him from the reason of crying, class teacher told a story about the boy, who is her neighbor and whom she met yesterday crying. According to her, the boy noticed a caterpillar and wanted to touch it, but suddenly it bit him.

 “He was crying so badly and he had to go to the hospital with his hand, where the doctor applied to the boy some oil treatment and he got an injection. We should never touch any insect! It can bite us!”

That actually worked: the boy was listening carefully, without any drop of crocodile tears. But the thing is that after a few minutes, the teacher left and I asked the 4 year old student from our class, who was sitting nearby, what she was doing yesterday.  And you might not probably believe in this! She told us the same story; just word in word and with so much passion and using various face expressions, that you would not ever believe that she is retelling something.

And this happens quite often. Their minds and memory are like a sponge. From time to time, parents tend to worry that their child is somehow behaving in the way parents don’t like. Not a surprise, but the thing is, as you’ve read : these tiny creatures tend to copy most of the things which they do from their environment, especially from parents, their main role-models.  It happens almost in every aspect of their life: the way they talk, move, behave and react.

At this early age kids are so innocent, they believe you without any hesitation. The interesting thing is when one creative teacher  in order to attract and discipline one proud boy, told to the children that we have superheroes in the class and she started to nominate each child with the name of the famous ‘Avengers’. I’m still wondering about the kids of our time, in what world they are living in and how different they are from 10 years back children. At that time when teacher started to do nominating, as she shared, she was hardly realizing what Power she got. All of them know about these things (superheroes), they were really excited and according to their faces it meant a lot to them.

“We have a superman in the class! Aarnav is our superman! And we also have a superwoman! Come, Aarohi! You are our superwoman!”

It meant a lot to them and especially to one boy. At the moment when they started to misbehave, teacher claimed that she had to take away their superpowers. One more time, you could not possibly imagine what happened next. I couldn’t. That boy started to cry. Because someone took his superpower. He is not a Flash, he can’t run as fast as the Flash can only do. After understanding the causation, he changed, got his superpower back and started to run all around the classroom as happiest child ever.

Isn’t it so sweet and powerful at the same time?! At this age, children grasp everything at once: all the concepts, manners and more importantly they believe you! You just need to find the key to their heart and spend more time with them, because you know they will never be at the same age again! Please, don’t miss the moment!

ON THE OVERRATED ART OF SITTING DOWN

“My mummy is angry when I (am) not sitting, when I (am) sitting, she is happy…”

This was shared by one of our three year olds during circle time today.

I want us to take a moment to let that sink in. That a three-year-old has observed his mother’s emotions and how they change in relation to his own behaviour. That he was so deeply moved by his observation that he felt it was important to share it with his friends.

What is striking though really, is that he has identified that him sitting down is important to his mother. This belief is probably reinforced by other well-meaning adults and caregivers who surround him, who equate being good with sitting down.

When I was a pre-university student I remember being really frustrated and telling a friend, ‘Schools are designed to keep us sitting, to keep us from wandering about, we just go from one place we sit down to the next…’. It seemed then like nothing more than a beautifully synchronized performance- from one bell to another, from one line to another, from one chair to another.

Later, as a student of sociology and cultural studies the truth of that statement seemed to ring more true in the context of the process of socialization and biopolitics.  As any social institution is obliged to do, especially one that is responsible for a human being’s formative years, schools traditionally serve as the right arm of the state. Take Foucault’s take on anatamo-politics for instance:

“that discipline tries to rule a multiplicity of men to the extent that their multiplicity can and must be dissolved into individual bodies that can be kept under surveillance, trained, used, and…punished” (Foucault 1976:242).

In other words, it is the vested interest of the state to atomize people to make them easier to govern and control.

Sitting down is therefore agreeable behaviour only from the point of control, of subjugation. I sincerely hope I am not naïve in believing that our days of authoritative teaching and parenting are well past us, that we have, in fact, globally moved on, well past this.  While progressive schools around the world and even India (take DRSIS, where I work, for instance) have appreciably embraced flexible seating options in classrooms to a good extent, the teaching community at large still needs to reflect more deeply on its implications.

But before I trash the flexible seating movement for still not taking into account the inherent obvious constraints of sitting/the necessity to be seated itself, in the first place, it is important to ask a bigger question.

What really is the connection between sitting and learning?

I am tempted to trace its origins in India to the Upanisads. A very rich set of texts that are a vital part of our Indian heritage, ‘U-pa-nishat’ literally translates into ‘sitting at the foot of (the teacher)’. While the Upanisads contain vast depths of knowledge about the nature of reality, the self and all things esoteric and fascinating, it remains that it is part of an oral tradition (though later penned down) whose focus was receiving and transmitting information through generations. Given that we now not only have a strong history of written language and documentation, and that we no longer prescribe to a model of learning that is passive or teacher-centered, it is imperative that we probe this still lingering connection between sitting and learning.

 

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Maybe it’s time for chairs to sit down for a bit…(Picture Source : http://www.pixabay.com)

 

Learning as an organic process, certainly does not require sitting down. That much is at least obvious. Our parents never sat us down literally, and pronounced ‘your name is so and so’. Learning your own name happens organically, whenever you are ‘called’, whenever you turn your head and realize you were being referred to, and this happens irrespective of whether you were standing, sleeping, upside-down or sitting. It can of course, be argued that to ‘learn’ a skill such as perhaps, pottery, you may need to be seated. My argument here is that learning, defined from the constructivist perspective (which is one that the IB PYP accepts and endorses) as connecting the new/unknown with the known, can happen at any time, anywhere, seated or not.

Flexible seating then, while admittedly a much better alternative to the traditional teacher-centered classroom, still needs to be rethought. Bean-bags, round-tables and throw-cushions do a great deal to make our classrooms less rigid and authoritative, but I believe we need to rethink the assumptions we are making about the connection between sitting and learning further. Is sitting differently, or on a more comfortable cushion qualitatively a better alternative to sitting on a traditional chair? Or can we move past this notion of sitting, to accommodate and invite learning styles and experiences that may altogether not need chairs? Can we move towards stopping equating sitting with being well-behaved and independent movement with ruckus?

Let’s make our little ones feel happy and confident, sitting or not!

– Ferzine Imtiaz

 

 

“Two inappreciable things in formation of child’s identity”

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Just recently I came across a news report, which made me feel shocked. As some lady from the TV box was stating, there is a well-planned scheme, where kids are involved in some game X through internet and where they have to complete particular dangerous tasks. Through psychological tricks, they completely brainwash childrens’ minds, making them do stupid and dangerous things. And you won’t believe that kids play it: there are 27 hashtags in popular social network and it’s increasing with every minute.
Moreover, when they are close to the end of the game, the biggest reward is the child’s own suicide. And what’s more serious, they actually take their own lives. Very sadly, according to reports, the number is not diminishing.
Why is it happening?! For me, personally, it’s matter of time and freedom. From the bottom of their hearts, parents badly want their children to live better than they did and provide them with everything what they, being children, didn’t have. Due to that, most of them try so hard and as a result they neither have time nor strength to spend some good quality time with their children at the end of the day.
However, according to some experience, I believe in saying that, the tricky truth is if you want to raise good children, we, as parents, should spend twice less money and twice more time with our precious ones.

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I was observing one life story about parents’ spending time. It was a recently married couple waiting for their first baby. You could imagine how it was happening there, in 90s. The father was working hard for the sake of the family and especially the upcoming member, finding different ways to have more income. Meanwhile, the mother was carefully preparing for and expecting the baby. Eventually, that day had just come. They were really happy enjoying the new arrival, as all parents do, but after a few weeks, they had noticed that their precious baby had some issues. They had tried a lot of things and finally a miracle had happened. They really cared about this child. Mother, being at home and taking care of baby, she taught the child everything what she knew: together, they were learning the rhymes and the songs-and the baby was pretending to read books to others while saying those rhymes. Together, they learnt the alphabet and all the numbers before hand. Together, they had read the books and learnt how to write, even when the baby was struggling with particular ones and cried her eyes out. Together, they played games and learnt whole table of multiplication.

In terms of freedom, having been very close with her mother and father in his/her early years, they started to trust the child and slowly-slowly he/she became independent. From grade 3, he/she started to do his/her own homework by himself/herself. Then he/she was involved in numerous school activities and contests, even having time and dedicating himself/herself to 7 years of music school. Completing her school and university with high marks and more importantly, good amount of work experience at the same time, he/she ended up now abroad, working towards a big goal.
From my perspective, that was not money, but the time the parents dedicated to the child, which played a crucial role in the development and formation of his/her identity.

-Lunara

Is Your Child Too Fussy? Think Again!

Children are tiny bundles of big, raw emotions in their purest, most unassuming forms.  There is so little that escapes them, so little that they do not notice or take to heart.
There are very few filters between them and reality.
The adult is one of them.
As adults, we mediate their interaction with reality. We censor, we select, we curate life for them, whether we consciously decide to do so or not. Mindfulness of this fact, of course, helps.

Some children, around 15 % of the general population, are born with highly wired nervous systems, and feel more deeply, being more sensitive to stimulation such as sounds, light, colour, space, as well as the emotions of other beings. Research in Psychology in the mid-90s by psychologists such as Elaine and Arthur Aron has led to the further study of this personality trait, termed ‘Sensory Processing Sensitivity’. Often children who feel deeply, often do not know how to cope with the strong emotions they feel, or what to do with them. They usually need more time than other children to process and respond to stimulation. Overwhelmed, they tend to either cry or act out aggressively. When these expressions are met with anything less then understanding and assurance, they develop ‘abnormal’ patterns of behaving such as risk avoidance, excessive aloofness or introversion, problems sleeping or tend to be viewed as ‘hyper-sensitive’ or worse, ‘too wound up’, or even just ‘fussy’. Adjectives and labels such as these only add to the often extremely vocal pressure to be ‘normal’ or ‘be like the other kids’. When internalized, this dangerously cripples the development of a strong identity and a healthy self-esteem and a sense of trust.

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As an early years facilitator, it is becoming increasingly apparent to me that children with SPS often see the world more beautifully and vividly than everyone else. Take this anecdote from one of my students for instance:

“How does a plant look like?” (Facilitator)
“Beautiful it is, flower sits (!) on it…” (Student)

One of Aron’s most significant contributions to Highly Sensitive Persons (HSPs) all around the world is a counter-narrative to the years of being told to ‘take it easy’ or to not be stubborn- the possibility that SPS may be a gift, an evolutionary red herring that makes them better artists or poets or scientists or parents and definitely better human beings. This of course, is contingent to open and understanding socialization and child-care.

I love the IB Early Years Programme for their approach to young children as competent, complete beings in their own right, not just projects in the making.

Adult care-givers everywhere, whether they be parents or teachers, need to be more attuned into the worlds of children with SPS. With openness, understanding and a fluid, non-authoritarian approach, much irreparable damage can be warded off in the first place. Children with SPS do not need to develop thicker skins or indifference, they only need a listening ear and a warm, accepting hug from time to time. I love the IB Early Years Programme for their approach to young children as competent, complete beings in their own right, not just projects in the making. If their sensitivity is nurtured and given mediums of expressions, and not thwarted or judged, highly sensitive children have within them, the innate strength and resilience to create unexpected joy and beauty out of our complex and chaotic world.

-Ferzine

SOME THOUGHTS ABOUT PARENTING AND TEACHING FROM THE OTHER SIDE

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Parents and teachers. Teachers and parents.

After each PTM (Parent-Teacher meeting) at our kindergarten, along with the class teachers, I participate in the process as the third person, trying to see and understand both sides.  According to my observations, there are several types of parents.

Some parents who  put a child in private school, expect their baby to be a genius, pushing him/her into different contests, forgetting the thing that every child needs his/her own time. The worst moment is when they start to compare their own kid with the development of others.

My observations give me the power to say that most of the children who are natural talkers (freely and constantly talk everywhere about everything), have some difficulties with drawing and writing neatly. I was among those who love to sit and do all the precise work, such as writing, reading and drawing and got all the high rewards for that. Later, step by step I excelled at speaking, and now I can’t imagine my life without talking.

An other type of parents nurture their child. They find time in their busy timetable and spend quality time with their toddlers, even coming up with their own approaches. Just recently, one father shared with us, that they brought alphabet magnets and put them on the fridge. From time to time, they ask their baby to go and bring some specific one. Isn’t it simple and incredible?! (Just thought about making some meeting parents to parents, where they will share about their approaches) Sometimes these parents send notes of gratitude or photos captured of the child taking action to teachers, making teachers feel on the ninth cloud.

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Talking about the third type, sadly, but there are some parents who just don’t show up to PTMs, or make a visit only for a couple of minutes, having more important things to do. In such cases, I’m just always wondering, then why did you decide to give a birth to a child. A Russian proverb literally states “Job is not a wolf, it won’t run to the forest”, meaning the child won’t never be at the same age again.

Now, as I have a chance to watch this process from the other side, I have some thoughts about parenting and teaching as well.

One day, one wise woman, named Ferzine pointed out something, which felt to me just brilliant: “I don’t have students, who are in the middle. Only who already knows this or just don’t get it. And it’s not about child’s brilliance, it’s just about time parents dedicate to their children. Now they know about numbers or letters, tomorrow it will be words, then sentences and after various concepts. And this little gap now will remain till the end of school and influence the rest of their lives.”

-Lunara

WHEN PLATONIC FORM AND CHILDREN COLLIDE

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“How do you mean?

I mean, as I was saying, that arithmetic has a very great and elevating effect, compelling the soul to reason about abstract number, and rebelling against the introduction of visible or tangible objects into the argument. You know how steadily the masters of the art repel and ridicule any one who attempts to divide absolute unity when he is calculating, and if you divide, they multiply, taking care that one shall continue one and not become lost in fractions.

That is very true.

Now, suppose a person were to say to them: O my friends, what are these wonderful numbers about which you are reasoning, in which, as you say, there is a unity such as you demand, and each unit is equal, invariable, indivisible, –what would they answer?

— Plato, Chapter 7. “The Republic”

The one thing I ponder over with endless fascination is how we learn, specifically, how we connect unknown abstract concepts to real-world objects. This is a riddle as old as the history of philosophy itself. Plato was one of the first to identify and compound this problem, many contemporary thinkers (including linguists) now think he was very, very naughty to have divorced specific objects from their ‘eidos’ or ‘essences’. In thought, at the very least 😉

The example traditionally dished out to explain theory of universals and particulars in every Philosophy 101 class typically goes something like this:

Platonic form can be illustrated by contrasting a material triangle with an ideal triangle. The Platonic form is the ideal triangle — a figure with perfectly drawn lines whose angles add to 180 degrees. Any form of triangle that we experience will be an imperfect representation of the ideal triangle. Regardless of how precise your measuring and drawing tools you will never be able to recreate this perfect shape. Even drawn to the point where our senses cannot perceive a defect, in its essence the shape will still be imperfect; forever unable to match the ideal triangle.

Source: Wikipedia (!)

Triangles, along with other geometrical concepts, abstract concepts like beauty and truth as well as numbers are all, according to Plato, universals or forms, that exist eternally, in all their perfection, beyond space and time. That is to say, regular human beings like us will never be able to experience these forms in our everyday lives- the triangles and beauty we experience in our world of particulars, are only poor imitations, shadows, in which the forms inhere to a little extent. This so called ‘inherence’ itself is very intangible and therefore, debatable. There is therefore, according to Plato, no number ‘6’ in our world, it only inheres temporarily in, say a group of objects that can be quantified as 6.

While this may sound wacko, there is some truth in Plato’s problematization of universals and particulars. In Saussurean signification, the sign is comprised of a signifier and signified. Plato’s universals, are in a way, Saussure’s signifieds.

What takes my breath away is that my kindergarteners, the little tabulae rasae that they are, easily and quickly grasp universals from particulars.

What takes my breath away is that my kindergarteners, the little tabulae rasae that they are, easily and quickly grasp universals from particulars. A considerable part of our classroom transactions are spent giving these children examples of particulars. We were learning about the number ‘6’ last week, and I was thrilled and amazed when a child spotted the number (manifesting as a different particular, :p) in a book they were reading in D.E.A.R. later. It is nothing short of mind-boggling how quantifying ‘6’ objects finds its way to connect with the visual representation of ‘6’ and how that, may ultimately be derived from a universal form. What is admirable about the IB Primary Years Programme, is how sensitive they are to these nuances of learning- the emphasis given to conceptual understanding, and to form itself, as a key concept, continues to inspire and move me.

It fascinates me how we don’t ever come across these elusive forms or universals in the classroom or in the world outside and how we all yet, implicitly understand them. There’s something mysterious in that leap of understanding that I can’t wait to explore further.

-Ferzine

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ALTERNATIVE AND INCLUSIVE?

When Lunara brought this book home after her trip to Pondicherry, I couldn’t wait to dive right in. There’s a part of me that’s always wondered how an early years programme would look like in an alternative school.

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While ‘What is special about the kindergarten in Auroville?’ does in no way claim to be an academic text, the fact that it is written by a professor (Heidi Watts) lends to it some air of credibility. Although the book was by no means paradigm shifting for me, I found a few ideas listed as practices in the kindergarten fairly novel and interesting. Ideas such as a ‘quiet room’ and an ‘activity room’ besides uniquely shaped blocks (why do all building blocks inevitably go the lego route anyway?) really spurred on many thoughts in my head.

What really makes the kindergarten stand apart for me, is its authentic inclusivity. Too many schools self-proclaim themselves as inclusive, when they usually only meet one or two parameters of inclusivity. Merely accommodating special needs by ‘mainstreaming’ is not a sole determinant of inclusivity. It was heartening to see children of differing ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds intermingle (in the school) in the book. Of course, only someone who’s actually been there (like Lunara!) is in a position to tell us how much boundaries are really being pushed. Alternative schools generally struggle with accommodating diversity of belief, and the apparent self-reflexivity does not always suffice in ensuring such spaces do not acquire an exclusive, cult-like status in the local communities they belong to.

“Too many schools self-proclaim themselves as inclusive, when they usually only meet one or two parameters of inclusivity…”

A quick and informative read, the ‘book’ does box itself into a corner by attempting to take on comparisons between early years programmes in Waldorf, Montessori, progressive schools and the kindergarten itself. What could have been an interesting and nuanced comparison is sadly reduced to grand sweeping statements that only base themselves on the writer’s subjective observations and limited experiences of working in say, a Montessori school. I felt like a more extensive use of the listed bibliography and perhaps by referring to more sources and examples within these traditions and finding specifics, for instance, within the progressive tradition would have made the book a more rigorous and useful read that would only have enhanced Auroville’s credibility further.

But I must say the book never claimed to aspire to such objectivity. In so far as its implicitly stated aims go, it perhaps only seeks to introduce the kindergarten at Auroville to the general reader or visitor. It is fairly successful in this regard, and leaves the reader feeling that the kindergarten must be a special place and wanting to know more.

-Ferzine