Learning and life in the middle of a pandemic

Disruption of lives

The arrival of COVID-19 has brought unprecedented changes all over the world. Every corner of the world and every individual has been touched in one way or the other. The last 7 months of 2020 have been most challenging, to say the least.

The effect of the pandemic on children has been most acute. Their lives have gone topsy-turvy and their schooling has taken unsavoury turns. With only digital mode of interaction in many countries, the learning experience has taken a huge hit. Online learning – while creating enormous opportunities for the use of ‘online’ platforms, has done nothing much in the realm of ‘learning’.

Months are passing by and there seems to be no respite for children and parents alike.

Back to basics

As I observe the challenges faced by both children and parents in my own family and beyond, I have been pondering on the meaning of education. Are learning and education isolated from a child’s life? Are they not integral in the life of the child? So, how does one reconcile the changed reality with the overall well-being of the child? I have more questions than answers.

I had an involved conversation with a parent recently about planning her child’s home-schooling activities. I suggested to her that she allow a lot of freedom within set boundaries. Although ‘freedom within boundaries’ appears an oxymoron, it is my firm belief that it creates the necessary balance. ‘Freedom within boundaries’ gives the child enough autonomy to explore her creativity while also providing a safe boundary if she needs to seek help.

Parents tend to micromanage their children’s time to the minutest level to feel a sense of achievement. However, it will serve both the children and parents better to introduce a healthy dose of neglect. Here, the child can have time for unstructured play, time to be bored, time to do nothing. This is a simple concept, but not at all easy to implement. Any parent will agree with me on this.

Finding solace in reading

To ease my mental dilemma, I have been seeking refuge in reading. I find that it gives me solace even when I do not have any answers.

Maria Montessori

I came across this paragraph in Maria Montessori’s book ‘The Secret of Childhood’. It captures the ‘adult-child’ dichotomy quite well. What do you think?

The adult has become egocentric in relation to the child, not egotistic, but egocentric. Thus, he considers everything that affects the psyche of the child from the standpoint of its reference to himself, and so misunderstands the child. It is this point of view that leads to a consideration of the child as an empty being, which the adult must fill by his own endeavours, as an inert and incapable being for whom everything must be done, as a being without an inner guide, whom the adult must guide step by step from without. Finally, the adult acts as though he were the child’s creator and considers good and evil in the child’s actions from the standpoint of its relation to himself. The adult is the touchstone of good and evil. He is infallible; he is the good on which the child departs from characteristics of the adult is an evil that must be speedily corrected. And in adopting such an attitude, which unconsciously cancels the child’s personality, the adult feels a connection of zeal, love, and sacrifice.

The Secret of Childhood, Maria Montessori

Kahlil Gibran

Kahlil Gibran’s verse ‘On children’ from his collection ‘The Prophet’ is my all-time favourite. Perhaps you might find some solace in these immortal words.

Your children are not your children.

They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.

They come through you but not from you,

And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts.

For they have their own thoughts.

You may house their bodies but not their souls,

For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.

You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.

For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.

The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you  with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.

Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;

For even as he loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable.

Let us all work together to sail through this devastating time and emerge stronger at the other end. You can read some other articles about sailing through the pandemic here, here, and here.

Take care. Stay safe.

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Dr. Soumya Sreehari

Co-Founder and Specialist at NumberNagar®
Dr. Soumya is an Educator and Researcher with a passion for reading, writing and teaching. She holds a PhD in Chemistry (Michigan Technological University, Houghton, USA). Her experience as a student and a teacher in two countries led her to pursue a career in Education. Her core work at NumberNagar® involves quality delivery of product and services at every stage of the customer life cycle. She leads the team that makes this happen. Previously she has taught Chemistry to first year undergraduate students at Michigan Technological University. She is a voracious reader and challenges herself to read 50 books every year.

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