Neetal is the mother of 2 lovely boys and is a mom-influencer by passion. She started this journey around 2 years ago and started doing it for documenting the journey of her children. When she started getting a lot of requests from fellow parents and her friends to share her advice and take on parenting, she went public with her views and begun her fanbase. Help yourself out by visiting her page @mama_talks.
Q. Give us some information about your child.
I have 2 boys. The elder one is 6 years old. He was a premature baby who was born after 35 weeks of my pregnancy. He was literally such a tiny baby. He weighed only 1.3 kgs at the time. I had a few complications with my pregnancy. I got to know when he was 2 years old that he had a speech delay issue. This pushed me towards the unconventional learning route because conventional ways were not enough for him.
Then I have another boy who is going to be 3 soon. My life revolves around them.
Q. What are your opinions on online education and how do you think it is affecting the children?
I am not in favour of online education but yes, now you have no other option. You have to attend because this is the criteria of the school and the Education Ministry. All along we use to say that screen time is not good for the kids; keep them away from mobile, iPads, laptops, etc. And now all of a sudden, we are asking them to sit for 2 hours and look at the screen and then you will talk to your teachers.
You can give a half an hour session to the parents and teach them how to homeschool their kids and fix a curriculum for them. This way the child can learn from the parents directly. With younger kids, one parent always has to accompany the kids during online classes. You can't just hand over the device to them and expect them to start learning. For younger kids, practical learning is more preferable than just sitting and attending online classes. It would be better if online education is not prescribed for at least the Primary class children.
Q. Can you explain to all the readers what exactly conventional and unconventional ways of learning are?
Conventional is the traditional way of schooling, like the basic blackboard, chair, table, and book way. Where the teacher comes and rights on the board and you learn. Unconventional is the opposite of it. You give them practical, play-based learning and you don't ask them to recite their ABCDs. I would say unconventional learning is becoming popular in India also. One example is phonetics and phonics classes where now you don't follow the conventional way of mugging up these words and performing the diction. Now, they don't do that. Everybody wants their child to understand alphabet and words.
Q. Which of the two do you prefer and why?
I would not pick anyone. Because every child is different, and every topic and subject is different. You cannot teach them everything practically, and you cannot teach them everything in the traditional way.
You have to go with a mixture of both. I'll give you an example of my younger one. When I was first teaching him numbers, he first learned 1,2,3,4,5,6 as just words. where he used to listen and learn. But he didn't know this is 1, this is 2 when he saw these words. Because he only remembered them. That is the traditional way. Now, coming to the unconventional way, I was struggling a lot with teaching him shapes. Take circles, squares, he didn't learn it. Then I gave him different items like plates, a square bowl and then I asked him to hand me the square bowl, the round plate and this is how he got to know the shapes. That is the unconventional way. You cannot call any way right and the other wrong. You need to understand how your child learns. Every child is different, so every method you need to try.
Q. How can we explain to children the importance of learning?
When we were young, parents used to scare us by telling us that if you won't study, you'll become a servant, have to scrub the floor and dishes or that we'll marry you off. These things don't work. Because learning is not only about books; learning is not only about writing exams; learning is saying right from wrong. I don't tell them that "Come on, we have to study today." I always say "Come on, let's do an activity today." That's the best way. That is how you get them to sit. When I started writing with them, I didn't carry a pencil and paper with me. I was actually advised by this therapist because of the speech-delay to never use a pencil and paper, that try different ways. What I did was I took sand in a pan and made the letters on it, and made different shapes with it, and taught it to him. Because kids like to play with sand and mud. Then we did the same with clay. These also help with their gross motor skills and it becomes a game for them.
Q. How can one be a good role model for their child and instil proper traits as well?
When you start playing with the words, they also start liking the words. When you read to them, they subsequently pick up the book and try to imitate your reading. This is how a love for reading starts. When you start writing and doing work, the child will notice you. That's how they'll gradually adapt to the world. Today's kids don't listen to anyone. They are not scared of anyone. Today, there are so many ways to find success; it's not the typical doctor, lawyer, police inspector route that everyone has to follow. You have to follow your passion and that passion should come from within. You have to show your passion to your child and be a role model for them to imitate. If you act irritated about your work in front of your child, then they'll also act the same way about their homework or studies.
Q. Any tips you want to give to the parents out there for their kids.
Don't be a part of the rat race. I see a lot of parents messaging me about how do you spend so much time with your child? How is your child performing these activities?
Every child takes their time. You don't have to put in much effort to do any activity. I just make it look playful. You don't have to use fancy toys or activity kits to make it fun. Use the resources that you have to make learning fun.