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Big Learnings from Small Villages

Updated: Apr 19, 2022

At the time of writing this we are entering a third lockdown and a brand-new year. In this spirit, I decided to take a trip down memory lane and revisit some of my 2020 and 2021 learnings.

In many ways, the lockdowns taught us to revisit our roots and bring back some old habits. Habits that we lost them along the way. Habits like consuming home-cooked meals instead of ordering fast food. With schools shutting down and switching to online classes, parents and older siblings have become the new tuition teachers. This is also an old and good habit, but I’d like to talk about some that are a bit less obvious.

During one of my visits to an NGO as a teacher and learning specialist, several observations stuck out at me, and I think we can all learn a thing or two from them. In smaller villages things happen differently and because of this difference the people there are braver, have better immunity, and are more adaptable to changes.

For example, an urban swimming class will usually see a very scared six-year-old boy dip his toe in the pool, complain that it’s too cold, cry a little and make a big fuss. This will lead to the boy’s parent complaining to the instructor asking for the possibility of a warmer pool.

Compare this to a rural six-year-old boy and you see a boy so brave that he jumps straight from a tree into the pond. He also screams that the water is cold, but he laughs his discomfort away and continues to play in the pond. His attitude to discomfort strengthens him.

This blog does not intend to promote a completely rural way of life. Instead, I hope to see more parents responsibly blend some good rural habits into their urban lifestyles so that they too can see these benefits.

All my friends don’t have to be exactly like me

Children in urban households usually only spend time with other children who are of the same age, same school, same class, same housing complex etc. In rural households though, all children of different age groups play together.

They don’t just play together; they also work together and do village chores together. It teaches them working in a team and to identify strengths and weaknesses in others. It trains them to empathise and understand others. Such groups of mixed age children are the best place for children to learn social skills because while all humans are equal, we are all still different.

But what does this mean, certainly I don’t advocate holding gatherings of unsupervised children in a house during lockdown, No! What I do encourage is that when we organise a virtual get-together of our child’s friends, extend the invitation to their friend’s younger and older siblings too! That way while talking and playing your child can learn something and teach something too, and that’s how real growth will happen.

Developing A Problem-Solving Mindset

I watched the rural children form into a group and decided to cross the pond. Some had jumped in but there were few that couldn’t swim. The children that couldn’t swim had different ways of crossing the pond. Some caught onto floating objects and went through. Some children decided to ask the older children to carry them on their backs.

Copying a good idea is common in both rural and urban areas. The difference is that in the urban areas most children have seen the same T.V. show and have the same solution. In the village the children are experimenting and testing out their own thoughts and only on when they fail, do they copy. They experience failures first-hand and learn from them. This is the trait that helps them solve problems.

If we were to take one thing back to urban child-care, it would be to allow children to make mistakes. In the professional world there is a saying that goes “Experience is the best teacher”, for children, let these experiences include mistakes, because childhood is the best time to make silly mistakes and learn from them.

Taking Risks Responsibly

It’s no surprise that when compared to the rural households most urban parents tend to be over-protective of their children. Instead of these two extremes, I believe that it’s better for parents adopt a middle approach. Parents need to teach children to be responsible, for their own actions. Teach them like Spiderman did, that with power comes responsibility. Sure, a child will often make wrong decisions, but as parents and teachers it is our job to explain right from wrong. Show them what went wrong and be there to take care of them when they make big mistakes. Children raised in this manner learn grow up to take calculated risks and behave responsibly.

Learning to keep themselves productively engaged

The progress in technology, has certainly made our urban lives easier. When it comes to children’s content though we are certainly in danger of overstimulating them. (Read more on overstimulation in my earlier blog.) Rural children tend to deal with their free time more productively instead of crying that they’re bored. It’s not a difference in their genes, it’s that when we give our children free time, they explore themselves, think, ideate, create, experiment, and grow! In our urban households we show a little too much love and care and this hampers them from being alone with their childish thoughts and questions. It’s exactly this insight that is used in creating the open-ended toys. For those of you unfamiliar with this term, open-ended toys are more basic and rudimentary play objects best described as 90% child and 10% toy. One example would be a set of three blocks. What the blocks are depends on the child’s imagination at that time! One minute they are three houses, second minute one block is an airplane flying over a two-block truck! When the stimulation (blocks in this case) exists but is limited, it forces the child to get creative!

The Road Ahead is Uncertain, But That’s Okay

We’re in an extremely confusing time for both adults and children. Let’s teach our children not to be scared of everything, but to be vigilant and cautious. Let’s teach them to take risks but be responsible, and above all let’s teach them while everyone is not exactly the same, we are here in this world together. When children grow up with such values, they become the responsible leaders of society we hold in high regard.

Guest Blog by: Prriety Gosalia

Chief Content Officer, Early Years, Navneet Education Limited

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