Sometime back, I read Naheed’s post on parenting and volunteering. I was amazed how in US, a parent is so much involved in the child’s school activities as well. And through those, they are not only able to contribute to their own child’s growth but to the society as a whole. It was such a beautiful merger of parenting and volunteering.
For days I wondered how we could do it here in India as well. The schools do not usually involve parents in school activities; even a parent-teacher meeting is quite superficial here. So how can I volunteer with my child? Some days back my daughter came back with a circular of winter breaks from the school. When she is at home, most of my time goes in doing new activities with her and suddenly it became so clear. Why not do the same activities with all kids? I decided to do voluntary art and craft session with kids every day during the winter session. At first I was pretty apprehensive about whether I will be able to handle so many young kids that too with my 2-year-old son. But I decided to give it go and started planning for a week-long Art with Heart sessions.
My friends said “If you give free sessions, nobody will take them seriously!”. But then they weren’t “free sessions”; they were gifts from the heart. And how do you put a price to that? I sent out the email and started with 8 children between the age group of 5 to 11 years old. I was doing this for the first time, but I wanted to be well prepared. I planned 4 crafts for a 2 hour class each day (which in the end always extended to 3 hours). I practiced each of them myself and decided on the steps. Most kids were very young and had not used a scissor till then, I was thinking “How will I teach them to use a scissor? How will I teach them to use a stapler? To use a scale? To measure?”. There were so many new things to try for me and for the kids!
I wanted them to try new things and learn something new, beyond the craft! I chose each craft keeping those things in mind. One day we made penguins with paper cups and I had asked the elder kids to prepare flashcards on interesting facts about penguins. So after making the penguins, we did a small quiz on them!
Learning to measure was also a fun activity. We started with measuring the room with our own heights! And then the kids measured each other with the tape. I did take help from my son’s “Sid the science kid” tapes on how to teach measurements. One day we made an aquarium and one of the facts we learned was that the smallest fish is 1/3rd of an inch. When the kids measured 1/3rd of an inch, they all screamed “So tiny!”. 🙂
I also observed how a very strong individual as well as team effort was going around. Everyone wanted to do everything on their own. The youngest child was 5 years of age and I would ask her many times, initially, if she wanted me to cut her sheet but no, she wanted to do everything herself! And after they finished their own, they would eagerly help the other child. They were actually learning more from each other than from me! I just taught crafts, but they learned working together, sharing the material, waiting for the other person to finish, patience and so much more.
After the one week, I was so touched when they made tiny hand-heart thank you cards for me and for their parents.
And that was when we got the news that the winter breaks have extended for another week! I asked the kids if they want another week of craft sessions or should we try theatre. To my surprise everyone said theatre. “Were the craft sessions not good?”, I asked. “No aunty, they were very good, but we want to try theatre too!”
I realised if someone is willing to teach, the kids are eager to learn newer things. I wish regular schools in India would explore volunteering opportunities for parents, involving them more in extra-curricular activities, just like it happens in so many other countries. When a parent does that, he/ she does it out of love and not duty. Even otherwise, as parents we do the best activities with our kids, if we just stretch a little and extend those to include more children, imagine the difference we can make!