After going through such and other similar literature, I was more positive about this adventure and wanted to embark on it. We and a handful of other families came together in this enterprise, though, the other families appeared more skeptical than hopeful for me. In all we had ten children scattered in the ages between 5 and 12. With this set and DJ as our mentor the journey began.
And what a journey it was!
Since then, every day has been new and charged, every movement a mental struggle where my beliefs, misconceptions are challenged and shattered and my brain fights in its endeavour to create new pathways of understanding. Along this voyage of discovery my definitions of joy, togetherness, forgiveness, family and life have undergone a complete transformation and my wish is to share this joy with all.
Our immediate focus on pulling our children out of school was to give them complete freedom, with no restraints whatsoever. The purpose was manifold, one of them being to wipe out the cobwebs of stress from their minds and hearts.
It took a mere couple of weeks to bring out the freshness and liveliness in their faces. They spent their time lazily, enjoying the sun and the rain and the mud on which they showered their individual creativities. They dreamt up stories and giggled and laughed and slept and ate alws! It helped that we lived in the outskirts of Hyderabad where the bounties of nature were very visible. There were peacocks and snakes, magnificent sunrises and sunsets, campfires and sleepovers.
At times this would irk parents and others in the community to see them while away "precious time" when all their contemporaries were seriously slogging away at their studies. In comparison our children were pretty poor in mathematics, English the sciences and geography. I remember I cringed, the time when my 10 year old daughter did not know where in the world Chicago was! (What a disgrace! All school goers know that it is in USA of course.....or so so I imagined!). There were many such incidents like when they failed to answer simple addition questions fast enough for us! But then we took heart and courage in reading up about similar problems faced by other un-schoolers parents. And when we tried to enforce any sort of discipline and study times, they were conveniently forgotten. Most often either their dullness in lessons would be a test to our tempers or else their quirkiness and imagination in answering would send us into raptures of laughter, becoming stories to be told and retold! The emphasis though being on the vernacular, the importance of learning other languages was always explained. Spending so much time together they got to know each others strengths and weaknesses intimately which they expressed in songs that they wrote on each other gently ridiculing each ones typical idiosyncracies. Much later we realised how much this self created fun activity had helped them to overcome their weaknesses and bond them together for life.
Slowly however they were given some duties to perform regularly like collecting flowers for worship in the mornings, drawing rangolis every morning and evening in front of their houses, singing simple bhajans together in the evenings, etc. The elder kids were given additional activities like doing certain hours of household chores, helping the elders in cooking, etc. Every festival was celebrated by our community together, so the children had loads of opportunities to perform responsible activities like serving water to all at meal times, waiting patiently for food to be served since, by rule it was served only after it was first offered to God. On special events skits and plays would be performed, they were encouraged to tell stories in public highlighting the greatness of Sri Sai Baba which had been recounted to them by elders. Some of the kids would cry, some would be shy and others would talk typically like elders! Our community would take pride and would be appreciative of their antics for days after!