Lockdown Voices brings together the perspectives of Dr Anju Khanna, an expert in Early Childhood Care and Education based in Gurgaon (NCR), and Deepti Prasad, a mother of a five years old primary school child, staying in Delhi.
Now in the current scenario, the schedule has totally changed. There is no excitement in my child to wake up early in the morning and get ready for school, says a worried Deepti.
Dr Khanna emphasises, the years from birth to 6 years is the time for children to unknowingly absorb life habits and choices. The innumerable parents I have met and worked with have always shared that their children desire to be primarily happy. And then, follows a list of expectations – a good attention span, being diligent, being self-sufficient, a child they can love and hope for as the future of their homes and family trees. Many agree this is best achieved at home.
Why then is there a growing dependency in nurturing the child in early childhood care and education centers? Maybe the breakdown of the age-old joint family system. Another reason is with high schools taking in children at the age of 3 years, it secures the future of a child for the next 14 years. In big metro cities, parents are therefore anxious to get their young ones admitted to sought after schools. This is evident as Deepti sighs with relief that her son, Yunay studies in a reputed South Delhi school.
Dr Khanna feels the gap between our aspirations for our children and our reality of double income homes has led to the setting up of early child care centers. These setups work on the socio-emotional aspect not caring much for literacy but setting a base for future literacy. The centers provide an environment for the child to be with parent-like adults who expose them to nuances of sharing, caring, completing work cycles for building attention span in a learning environment.
With COVID-19, all institutions are shut. Deepti laments, my son is missing school badly. He is missing his school playground, his friends. Moreover, I am also missing his naughtiness. When coming back from school, he would stop at the school canteen and say Mumma, I want this and that. Mumma, I did this or that at school.
With lockdown, everybody is home. But Deepti’s husband Ganesh, a film editor steps out to work every day. Alone, it is not easy for her to channelize Yunay. Deepti complains, it is difficult to keep a kid busy, just playing. My son has started to spend more time watching laptop, television and mobile.
Online classes are going on, continues Deepti. But Yunay does not enjoy and shows no interest in attending them. It is very difficult for parents to make their child attentive. Earlier, the classes were for two hours and it was tough for him to sit through. The duration has now been reduced to 45 minutes, but still Yunay has to do home-work and prepare for mock tests.
Should there be homework and tests for young learners? Dr Khanna is critical that in a world where everything is institutionalised, the early years have become a space for large business houses to invest in. Instead of introducing the child to simple scribbling, language through stories and songs, mathematics while playing with real material etc., the child is burdened with worksheets that can be easily replicated and printed. The aim behind the exercise has been completely forgotten.
Dr Khanna thinks that the lockdown can be a boon for children. They have all the time in the world to explore, play, work with their hands, experience chores in the kitchen, cleaning and mending of things at home and listening to music in an environment of ‘no rush’.
Prateek Khatri, a young friend of Dr. Khanna is making the most of this lockdown
The one task that parents can do at home is to take a pause to create a schedule for the day that includes their inherent dreams for themselves and their children. Plan their own office schedules putting the child in the centre with a simple time line – morning waking with the sun rise at 5.30 A.M. to children sleeping by 7 P.M.
Helping children bond with their inner-self is the key to their happiness – not making them little men and women too fast.
Other stories in this series:
Off school – I: Musings, Off school – III: Contemplations, Off school – IV: Mommy on, Off school – V: Screen time, Off school – VI: Nature, Off school – VII: Time to choose
Featured image : Team LV
Story images : Authors
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