09 Nov Festival Celebration And Homeschooling In Extraordinary Circumstances
In the last couple of months, we have been super busy with our family busyness – producing and canning vegetables and fruits without using chemicals and preservatives. It has been a huge project for our little family team, resulting in a shortage of time for many other activities that we like to do (including writing for this blog!). Our homeschool and festival celebrations have been reduced to the most basic things. Now the season is over, and we are slowly coming back to normal.
During that time, I had to set up the priorities for our homeschool very carefully. I had to decide what was truly important to do and learn and what to leave behind. Since the kids had more time to spend by themselves, it almost turned out as unschooling. Even though I am more in favor of parent-led teaching (compared to children-led self-interest learning), this time I had to give up that and go with the flow. But still, it worked well in the end. Most of the learning was in connection to the practical needs of our family work. Kids had to help pick and clean the vegetables, sort out the canning jars, write down and count how many products we sold, make a statistic of what we sold the most, and do similar math calculations. Helping with the chores was even more important than before because mum was too busy to do it all. Reading together is something that we relish doing whenever we can, not only during school hours. In her free time, my daughter has started to draw a story about her cats. She is a great animal lover, and she lost her baby cat two months ago. It was a time of sorrow for all of us (losing the animal that you take care of is like losing the child). It was the perfect time to find relief in the timeless wisdom of Bhagavad Gita. We read the verses about the nature of the soul from the second chapter, talked a lot about it, and started to learn a sloka. We wrote about this experience in our Main lesson book, making an important note that the soul of a cat continues her journey, hopefully to a better destination (and we helped in that by giving her pradasam, Ganga water, and the sound of a Holy Name).
In this way, this school year for us have started with a lot of practical work, self-directed activities of drawing their own books (my son also draw and write about beasts that he loves), and Bhagavad Gita wisdom that went deep into the hearts of my children because of the sad experience of losing their cat. I have realized, even more than before, that learning happens all the time, not only during official school hours. I also reinforced my belief that learning must always be linked to practical experience. Whatever child experience right now is the starting point, and we can elaborate on it by learning different things that are connected to that experience. And vise-versa: whatever new we want to present to the child, we have to form some kind of real experience of it through the play, art, craft, drama, or practical work. This is the way how children learn on a deeper level. Fact memorization is not real learning. True learning happens when it is followed by emotion. As teachers, we have to create the whole experience for the child – intellectual, emotional, and practical. In Waldorf pedagogy, they call it learning through head, heart, and hands. And sometimes we just need to follow what life brings to us, and make it into learning.
In line with the extraordinary needs of the season, we did not celebrate our favorite Vaishnava festival Govardhan puja in full opulence like we do every year. We had no time to make a hill out of earth and sand as we usually do (it was rainy outside anyway). So we pulled out a needle felted Govardhan hill that I made last year, added peg dolls of Krishna, Balarama, cowherd boys, our favorite calf toys and it was ready to circumambulate around it. You can read about needle felting Govardhan hill in this post Govardhan Puja festival and here about making Krishna&friends peg dolls DIY dolls and puppets for Krishna conscious play
Of course, we would never miss preparing the feast together. Our daughter enjoys making sandesh sweets and that is her service for every festival (and sometimes in between!). Our boy follows his father’s steps enjoying spicing the subjis and frying the puris. Cooking has always been our main service for God, and the kitchen is at the heart of our home.
If you need some inspiration for Kartik activities with young children you can visit my post from the last year’s Kartik here Celebrating Kartik with children
I wish you all a happy Kartik and a lot of inspiration in the teaching-learning experience on the spiritual path!