Tag Archives: school

Observation 2

We were invited by the kids’ school to go for an observation this week. This is an aspect of their school that I can’t praise enough. I’m sure all parents are itching to know what stuff their kids do in school. Kids are, typically, less than forthcoming. The Montessori system does not require notebooks or textbooks in the first two years, so we know even less than we might in the kindergarten system. An observation is our opportunity to find out what our kids are doing in the three-plus hours that they spend in school. We had been for it last year as well, and came away enlightened and delighted in equal measures.

Mriini-Tara were quite thrilled when we told them we’d be going to sit in their class with them. They led us into class somewhat shyly and spread their mats out in a corner next to each other. Their teacher told us they don’t normally sit next to each other and Mrini had already told us in the car, “Nandu and Nirupama and Vaishnavi are Tara’s friends. Navneet is my friend. Only Navneet.” She was very firm about it. (Yes, Navneet is the same boy she kissed a couple of weeks ago – at least she’s constant. And yes, the teacher confirmed that the kiss did, indeed, happen!)

Amit and I sat down on the floor next to the two of them. To start with, Mrini went through several very easy jigsaw puzzles, while Tara worked with great focus on some number-related activity. Eventually, with some effort by the teacher, Mrini was also persuaded to work on number-related activities. There were several different activities. The one I’d heard most about was number rods – a set of rods with length from one to ten units. The idea was to arrange the rods in sequence and then count the striped units on the rods and the correct number symbol with each rod. There was another counting activity that involved putting the right number of sticks into various slots; and another activity involving putting some kind of counters in front of the number symbols. What impressed me most was a set of beads. There were ten beads, nine strings of ten beads each, nine square mats made up of ten strings of ten beads each, and finally, a cube, made by stacking ten mats on top of each other. So you had units, tens, hundred, and a thousand, visually reinforcing the numerical, geometrical and decimal relationship between all of them. It was so simple it was beautiful – I wish I’d seen it this way when I was four. This basic concept – especially the concept of square and cube, and of zero (dot) one (string) two (square) and three (cube) dimensions – was never actually tied to the real, physical world when I was a student. They were abstract concepts which I didn’t get my head around until much later. Not that Mrini and Tara have any concept of square and cube right now, or of the decimal system or of dimensions of any kind or number; but when they do begin to understand those concepts, they have something real and physical to understand them by. That is just so nice.

The other activity that their teacher made sure they showed us was sandpaper letters. Both my girls can associate vowel sounds with vowel letters and many/most of the consonant sounds with consonant letters. Mrini can do a few more than Tara and other kids in their class can do more than both, but that’s neither here nor there. The fact is, my girls almost know their letters! Wow! Of course I was swept away by dreams of buying them a truckload of books each – I can hardly wait for them to discover the joy of reading! – but when I asked their teacher, she said it would take another year or so before they learnt to read. Can it possibly take that long to get there once you already know the letters???

Their teacher told us they were now much better at putting away stuff they had worked on – something we still have to get after them to do at home – and that they both were very independent in class. She also said it was possible now to have real discussions with them, which was nice. She pointed out some of their art work, mentioning that it was quite neat now, and they were probably ready to start writing. I told her they’d been practicing zig-zags, 5 and 2 at home.

We sat with them for about an hour. Towards the end, I was getting itchy. I think Amit would have sat there the whole morning, he’s that kind of a doting dad, but I thought the teacher had better give some attention to the other kids in her group as well. With a maximum of 30 kids, 3 teachers and an akka, they weren’t too stretched at any point, but you can’t hog the teacher’s time for too long all the same. Other kids came up to her to ask for work or to show her what they’d done. Several kids showed her words they’d written, and one boy brought his notebook and asked for sums. Yes, he asked for sums! He even knew what numbers he wanted to add – and the teacher let him dictate the questions! And when he didn’t like the colour of the pen she was using, she let him bring her another one.

Meanwhile, the girls were getting itchy too! In the middle, Mrini wandered off to join her friends and find out what Navneet was up to. She came back soon, but not for too long. We kept telling them we’d be leaving in “five minutes” – standard procedure for brining any fun activity to a graceful end – but when we still hadn’t left at the end of fifteen, Mrini gave me a disgusted look and said “bye, mummy,” much too firmly. We took the cue and left!

I was talking to their daycare teacher about it later that day. Their daycare runs a primary kindergarten school, where things are done rather differently. I mentioned to her how much freedom the kids had in the Montessori environment. She surprised me by saying, “It is one of the most disciplined methodologies.” I started to tell her how little discipline there really was, but she was two steps ahead of me. “It allows kids a lot of freedom, so they learn to do their own work, at their own pace, and to enjoy the freedom of being able to walk around without disturbing other kids. That’s what discipline really is. Not being made to sit in one place and be quiet, but knowing that you have to do your own work without disturbing others.” That was a good point.

Overall it was a very nice experience. It is nice to know that one’s kids are actually learning something in school, even if they refuse to show off or even talk about it at home. It’s nice to see the manner in which they are learning, and how much fun it can be. It’s great to watch the independence, freedom, and responsibility that this environment allows them. Best of all was the atmosphere in class. When I sat in class with the girls in June last year, when they had just joined school, it looked like complete chaos. But now it’s August and the class has settled down. A couple of the new kids are still shy, and one boy howled for five minutes when his mother handed him over to the teacher, but apart from that, the kids were all comfortable, happy, and mostly engrossed in their work. The teachers were comfortable, cheerful, firm and un-hassled. Kids were completely comfortable with the teachers, they didn’t even hesitate to sit in the teacher’s lap. Yet… this was school – not somebody’s home, not a playschool, not daycare – this was school.

I don’t have a very clear recollection of what my school was like at this age, but I’m sure that it was nothing like this! I’m so happy our girls are in this warm, bright, and happy place for three whole years.

Leave Education to the Schools

It’s all very well when you don’t have kids and you think: “Oh, when I have kids, I’ll teach them this and I’ll show them that, and I’ll share the other with them, and I’ll always do this and (especially) I’ll never do that,” and so on.

When the kids are there growing up in front of your eyes, you really have to pin down and put in words practically your entire belief system – and that’s not so easy.

One thing I’ve realized I do believe – if for no other reason than out of sheer laziness – is that it’s best to leave teaching to the schools. I’m a lousy teacher anyway. They, hopefully, know what they’re doing.

My mother was probably a good teacher. At least, I hope she was, because she taught tiny tots in school for a while. She likes to talk about her unconventional – for that time – approach to teaching. I remember her sitting with me while I painstakingly learnt to read. As one of the most impatient people I have ever known, the thing that stands out most is her patience while I struggled to piece the words together. (According to her, I was mildly dyslexic.) The other thing that stands out now, in retrospect, is that she didn’t try to teach me to read; she just sat there and let me learn it on my own.

Once I’d mastered reading, I don’t remember my mother ever working with me on any school-related task – from homework through projects, and, later on, even to issues with teachers or other students. She never glanced at my homework to see whether I had done it or even to know what it was that I had to do. She never tutored me for tests and exams and she never questioned me on the outcome. She never even told me to go study. But somehow I knew that I must do the work I was given to do, in the time I was given to do it, and I must do it myself, without help from parents, sister, or classmates. I knew that if I had questions, I should ask the teachers and no-one else (and from that I eventually learned that most teachers didn’t like to be questioned and often, especially in higher classes, didn’t actually have the answers.) I learned to be disciplined and conscientious and independent, qualities I now – strangely enough – value highly.

But how did this approach help me? Did it help me excel in school, or in life? Not really.

In school, I was a good student. I was not great; I was never top of the class; I was not even good enough to get a seat in an engineering college – or at least, the only engineering college I did get into was the one my parents didn’t want to send me to (Thapar, in Patiala); and I wound up doing English Honours (which was probably really the best choice for me anyway)… So I was not a great student, but whatever I did, I did well enough.

But is “well enough” good enough? Is, for instance, English Honours good enough?

Now the question is, of course, what do you want for your children. For some people, it might be a difficult question to answer. They might be torn between “doctor” “engineer” and (hopefully) “artist” (either creative or performing). For me, the answer is none of those. I don’t care whether they become doctors or engineers; writers or violinists; Wimbledon finalists or movie stars. I don’t care whether they ever achieve greatness in any field or not. I don’t care whether they have a job and a career or they are destined to penury as struggling artists or activists. I don’t even, really, care whether they make themselves rich or not. What I want for them is something more difficult to define. I want them to be balanced, determined, confident, secure, and independent people. I want them to have the foundations for strength, peace, and contentment. I want them to have integrity, at every level. I want them to be able to take on the world without blinking.

I want them to be people I can look up to in respect, even in awe – not for what they might achieve, but simply for who they are.

How am I going to help make them that way? I have no idea – but certainly not by helping them to learn whatever their school wants them to learn. Not by holding their hands to teach them to write. Not by pinning them to a study table while they struggle with numbers and letters. Not by pushing them to learn faster or better than others in their class or school or neighborhood. But maybe, just maybe, by letting them be whatever they want to be.

When they went on stage a few weeks ago, I was so proud of both of them. Mrini, for obvious reasons – she was unfazed by the lights, the sound, the audience, the strangeness of everything, and she stood in her place and did her part and enjoyed it. She can hardly wait to get back on stage. (I probably should get her into a music and/or dance class soon – she so loves to sing!) She had courage and elan. But Tara – Tara was bewildered by the set-up. The too-loud music troubled her. So she covered both her ears with her hands and just stood there, looking bemused. She didn’t cry. She didn’t run away. She didn’t even look scared; just puzzled. She stood her ground and did what felt right to her and she was not in the least bit embarrassed or upset by her performance. That takes a kind of courage and confidence too.

Academic performance, good or bad, is not going to turn them into the people I want them to be. Excellence at academics will of course give them confidence, but that is a confidence limited to only that sphere, and based on only that success. I want them to have the confidence to go against the flow, to not excel if they choose not to. To take their own time and do their own thing.

And that’s why I’m so happy with the Montessori system and with their school in particular. They let children learn at their own pace, and they have confidence in kids’ ability to learn (as much as in their own ability to teach). At the end of last year, their teacher said, “Well, they should know the number symbols from zero to nine by now, but they haven’t completely got it yet. You can work with them on it over the summer holidays if you want to. Otherwise don’t worry, we’ll do it when school resumes in June.”

That, exactly, is what I want to hear. I want to know where they stand, what they need to work on, and I want to know that there is absolutely no need for me to “work” on it with them. I did talk and play with numbers a bit with them during the holidays, but I didn’t “work” on it. And they seem to have got it now anyway. Ok, they are a couple of months late. Should I be worried? I don’t think so.

I have little enough time with my girls as it is. What time I do have, I want to spend enjoying them. I want to watch them play, and talk to them and engage them in all the things they don’t learn in school – making cake, listening to music (as opposed to nursery rhymes), watching (and playing) tennis, telling stories… And in all of this, if I can somehow impart to them some bits of my desired philosophy, my preferred outlook on life, so much the better.

I know what you’re thinking: it’s all very well to say this now, when they are not yet four years old and they don’t have tests and exams to pass. Can I stand by this when they are 8, 10, 14 years old and studies become more challenging and the rat race becomes more competitive? I don’t know – but I intend to try. And if their school means to continue along the path it has started out on, I imagine I might have some chance of success.

So here’s my plan: as school continues and they learn to read and write and then go on to arithemtic, geography, history and all that other stuff, I’m not going to be studying with them. I won’t “go over” what they’ve learnt in school each day or each week. I won’t be checking that they’ve done their homework or studied for a test. And I’m not going to stop them if they want to spend their time playing games instead of working. I spent the day before my Xth Standard English Board exam reading Tolkein (which was, sadly, not part of the curriculum) and my parents weren’t in the least bit perturbed by that. They trusted that I’d done my work for the exam – and I want to pass on that trust to my daughters, starting, oh say, a year or so ago. If they don’t do well academically, that’s ok – in the long run, they will learn that they are responsible for their own lives and that is a lesson well worth learning.

Some day, in their own way, they will take on the world. And I’ll watch from the audience and say with pride, “that’s my girl!”

For me, that’s good enough.

Back to School

We’ve been reminding the kids for a week or so that school would be re-opening soon. We took them out clothes shopping and school-bag shopping. All weekend, we talked about going back to school on Monday. And at last today we did it. Tara gulped down her breakfast, while Mrini dawdled over it, but as soon as I’d brushed their teeth, they rushed to put on their new clothes. Mrini is into Winnie-the-Pooh t-shirts and Tara is into Mickey Mouse. Mrini chose a pair of blue denim shorts and a white t-shirt, while Tara went for yellow pants rolled up at the bottom and a bright red t-shirt. They grabbed their new school bags and stuffed in their snack boxes and water bottles. They both agreed to two ponytails in their hair, and enthusiastically posed for photos.

Despite all of which, we got out of the house a good half hour earlier than we had been doing during the summer holidays, encountered as little traffic as could be hoped for, and they were (as usual) the first kids in their class to reach school. They are in a new classroom this year, but have the same teachers and most of the same classmates, apart from a handful of new admissions who haven’t actually joined yet. Predictably, both of them were shy when we actually reached their new classroom, but it took only a couple of minutes for them to relax enough to enter the room. After that, they kissed us and pushed us firmly away, waving happily. It makes me so proud when they do that – I’m so glad that they’re confident and secure enough to send us away smiling, even after a 10-week break and with a new classroom to boot. It must be so difficult for parents whose kids cry and fuss and don’t want to go to school.

Their teacher told us that school had already been open a week for older kids, and the bus/van services were fully operational. I’d planned to go and check that the girls get on the van today, but after speaking to their teacher in person and the van driver over the phone, I’m going to take a chance on it. I will go to daycare at lunchtime, to ensure that they reach as expected (and to drop off their lunch). And if that part of the day goes according to plan, then it’s official. The kids are back at school, and they’re not “babies” any more – they’re “second-years” now. They really are growing up!

Report Cards

Summer holidays are here! Luckily, this year the girls are in daycare, so I don’t have to tear my hair out wondering how to keep them busy for two whole months. It’s difficult enough on weekends! Daycare, in retrospect, has a wonderful addition to our lives. They have a good gang of friends, a group of 15 or so, and a nice set of care givers who seem to have no trouble keeping 15 kids under 5 busy and happy. Sometimes, when I leave office a few minutes early, I actually feel bad about pulling them out of daycare when they are having so much fun with all their friends!

On Thursday, we went to their school – leaving them at daycare – to pick up their report cards. Sad to say, report cards come in the shape of computer printouts nowadays. Our girls’ report cards were almost identical – they don’t know their number symbols yet (0-9), and they aren’t interest in writing. But, they’re great conversationalists. They have separate gangs and don’t stick to each other all the time – which was good to know – but they do mimic each other. So, if one is being naughty, the other will be too. And if one can be made to toe the line, the other follows automatically.

None of this was really surprising. What was surprising was to see the art work the kids had done. They had coloured butterflies, caterpillars, and fish – neatly, inside the lines, and even using different shades for eyes, wings, and fins! They had cut out and painted paper christmas trees and stockings. They had made flowers out of coloured paper and ice cream sticks. They had sprinkled glitter onto paper to make the curved shape of a snail’s shell!

Of course I have to say hats off to the teachers for having the patience and inclination to make 30-odd kids do these activities neatly and to completion; but… my kids can do all <em>that</em>!? Wow!? At home, they just scatter the crayons all over the house, tear up their drawing books, fight, and come crying for help! What magic do they wield at school to turn these undisciplined, unfocused balls of energy and frustration into budding artists!?

We also discovered in school that the girls do actually eat their snacks every day. This is surprising because they have insisted on taking bread and marmalade every day for the last three months! If I give them something different, even if it is roti and marmalade, it comes back uneaten. So I wondered if they were really eating their bread everyday, or what. Apparently they not only ate it, they finished it very quickly and then looked for more interesting stuff in their friends’ tiffin boxes. It had become such that one of their friends went home and told his mother everyday, “give more of this, Mrini and Tara will like it; don’t give that, Mrini and Tara don’t like it.” And of course, his doting mother did just that!

So – this manipulation and exploitation of the opposite sex starts at this tender age, does it!

And now there’s no more school for two months. When the girls go back in June, they will no longer be the “babies” of their class. And it’s just the other day that they started school!

The Christmas Spirit

The twins have really gotten into Christmas mode this year. When I went to pick them up from daycare one day, they called me inside very excitedly and showed me the miniature Christmass tree they were engaged in decorating. There were streamers and balloons up, and pictures of Santa Claus. Later on, Tara told me that Santa Claus came to school and gave them chocolate and that Mrini cried. Mrini confirmed that she had cried, but the chocolate story she did not verify, so I’m not sure whether that part was fact or fiction.

On the last day of school before the winter break, there was a Christmas party in school. I’d thought it was only for the tiny tots of the Montessori classes, but when I went to drop the kids off, I saw the entire school was in ‘party’ clothes – that is, not in uniform. The Montessori classes had been decorated in Christmas colours, and the one of th ekids’ three class teachers whom I saw was dressed in a gorgeous rust-red silk churidar-kurta. School had notified us not to send any snacks, so I gathered they would be provided, and later on I saw that the kids had also been presented with jigsaw puzzles and Santa Claus caps that they might have had a hand in the making of. We had also been asked to collect our charges by 10.30 a.m. This might not have been very convenient for us, but for the fact that both Amit and I had a holiday that day. Amit went to pick up the girls and was equally delighted with the party atmosphere.

Such a thing never happened in the schools I was in, back in my days. We were allowed to be in “civvies” – that is, not in uniform – on our birthdays, up to a certain age; and on school-leaving day, the students who were bidding farewell and those who were leaving were supposed to come to school in “formal” attire, which meant that all the girls wore saris (many of them for the first or second times in their lives). Their day started late in the morning and ended late in the afternoon, so the rest of us didn’t get to see them in their finery much. (On a side note, I was quite relieved never to have to go through this ritual, because I didn’t finish school in this school, and the one I did finish in didn’t have any ritual that I can recall.)

Apart from school-leaving day and annual day, which was a very organized and rehearsed affair, the only other occasion on which we might have worn civvies to school was Children’s Day. On that day, I think, we also got a small packet of goodies to munch. But that was only while we were very small – I don’t think we had it all the way up to sweet 16.

As for festivals – I don’t recall ever learning anything about them in school. Whatever we imbibed was from other children around us, not because there was any formal focus on them. I don’t think we ever decorated our classes or did rangoli or had our teachers come especially dressed up in the festive spirit. The main thing we got on festivals was a holiday. The rest was up to our parents. Since I’m not too much into any festival, I think it’s a good thing that the kids’ school is so enthusiastic about them.

On Missing The Bus

Kids really are amazing.

In a conversation some days ago, sup33 mentioned what her daughter’s to-be school principal had said: kids are much more hardy than parents think they are. They have more stamina, more energy, and are more adaptive than we give them credit for. My own kids have proved this to me many times already, yet they still surprise me.

When I was much younger – not a child exactly, but just growing up – I was scared of being left at school. This actually happened once, when one of my parents turned up a little late to pick me up – I must have been 6 or 8, or possibly even 9 years old. But much later, even up to the age of 16 or so, I used to have anxious dreams of being left at school. In those days, I went home by school bus, and I had a constant, though mild, paranoia of missing the bus. My recurring dream on this theme lacked the intensity of a nightmare, but it was definitely a worrying and anxiety-laden dream, and one that persisted for a while even after school itself – or at least the school bus part of school – had come to an end.

We started the twins on the school van ten days ago, just before we left for Pondicherry. I went with them for two days, and left instructions with their teacher, the van driver, and the daycare attendant that from the following day, they would come on their own, unattended.

Then, the weekend intervened.

And we went to Pondicherry.

And by the time we returned and sent the kids to school on Wednesday, something got lost in transit between the school teacher and the van driver and the kids didn’t get on to the bus (or in to the van, in this case).

It was my last day of unemployment, and I had spent the morning getting their lunch ready. I drove to their daycare with the intention of greeting them as they got off the van, to ensure that they reached safely and were not unduly worried about the commute, and also, at the same time, delivering their lunch. I had just about reached the place with a few minutes to spare, when Amit called.

“Where are you?”
“I’m almost there, at their daycare,” I said.
“Ok. You have to go to their school right away.”
Naturally, thoughts of illness, accidents, and other possible calamities flooded into my mind.
“The van didn’t pick them up.”

First I called the van driver. He was unperturbed. He had thought they were starting from tomorrow. In any case, he was already quite far from school and couldn’t possibly go back to pick them up. So I called daycare, updated them, called Amit back, updated him, and set off on the long drive to their school.

I was tense – were they very upset? Were they scared? Lonely? Crying?

I knew that their teachers would not leave them, that they would keep them engaged and do their best to allay their fears, but… Just a few weeks ago, Mrini had been in tears fearing I wasn’t coming to fetch her, and I wasn’t even late that day. And just this morning, Tara had said “don’t go,” and clung to me tearfully, while her teacher tugged her away and assured her that mama would come early today to pick them up. And I hadn’t turned up! What trauma they would be experiencing!

So I drove blindly, stupidly, preoccupied with these thoughts. Narrowly escaping various catastrophes, I reached school at 12.45 to find… two perfectly happy, laughing, playing, children who greeted me with “hey, what happened to the van?” (or words to that effect). Not a word of complaint or a single teardrop in sight.

Huh. So much for all that worrying. Why on earth did I think that my childhood fears, which I had forgotten all about until now, would be their fears? They were in a familiar environment, they had their teachers, their work, their friends. One of the things with Montessori is that older kids – up to 5+ – are in the same class as younger kids (3+). The older kids get to stay back for an extra hour or so, so by the time I reached, the seniors still hadn’t gone home.

And then, of course, there are the two of them. Although that more than doubles their naughtiness and all the mischief they can get up to, it also means that each of them is very rarely totally alone.

I greeted them unconcernedly, as though my turning up was just a special bonus for the day, and we drove to daycare, and they were somewhat late for lunch but none the worse for it – despite the fact that they’d returned from a hectic trip out of town and had an extremely interrupted sleep last night. They both slept in the afternoon (thank goodness!) and were in top form that evening.

One good thing that came out of this entire experience was that something that would doubtless have worried me – the prospect of the twins missing the bus – happened even before it had occurred to me to be worried about it. And once the worst has happened and has been handled, it loses its fear factor. I know now that if they ever miss the bus in future, their teachers will call us, and either of us, wherever we are and whatever we’re doing then, will drop everything and rush to pick them up. And until we get there, they will be in their school, with their teachers and friends, and they will be fine.

Overall, they are just amazing in how adaptable they are. They’ve just been two weeks in daycare, and that’s been interrupted by a change in daycare, and a trip out of town; but they’ve settled down with a minimum of fuss and are absolutely cheerful and positive about the whole thing. Tara had taken to fussing a bit when we dropped her off at school in the morning, but today she told me with great determination that she was going to go “quickly” into class, and she did – she waved to me and went off smiling!

I still have twinges of guilt at how much time I’m going to be spending away from them… but it’s worse when they make it so easy for you.

Montessori Observation

The twins’ school has this concept of “observation” where the parent(s) can go and sit in on the class for a short while once in a way. I thought it was a great idea. School, especially in these early days, is so much of a black box for the parents. Your kids go in, and some hours later, they come out. What goes on in there, nobody knows. The kids know, but they ain’t talking. Mrini and Tara have enough of a vocabulary and they can talk a dog’s hind legs off, but when it comes to school, they are less than forthcoming. “I played with toys” (or “tawys,” as Tara says) alternates with “I played with Navnit.” Sometimes, they volunteer alarming information like “Diya scolded me”. “Why?” I ask. “Because I cried.” This sounds like the outcome, not the cause, so I ask “why” again. “Because I bite Diya,” is the next attempt.

I think the twins are not very clear on the difference between fact and faction. To any question their answer is just as likely to be true, or completely made-up. Plausible, mind you, but not true. I don’t think they are actually lying right now… I prefer to think that it’s more like they don’t really get the difference between truth and telling stories.

So anyway, since I haven’t heard from their teachers yet that either of them has bitten anyone, I tend to ignore that part of the proceedings. But, apart from this sensational news, they don’t have much to offer. They sit through the drive home in silence, only occasionally speaking to demand to know the entire sequence of 21 songs on their favourite audio CD which has to be playing whenever they are in the car.

So, observation seemed like a good way to find out what they were up to in school. Not that we parents really need to know – as long as they are off my hands, and somebody else is handling them for a while, why do I need to know what, exactly, they’re up to? But, of course, we parents are a nosey, interfering bunch, so of course, even though we want our kids off our hands for a while, we do want to know what, exactly, they’re up to in our absence.

I spoke to the class teachers, and they said that Amit and I could both sit in for a half-hour or so one morning right after school starts. When all four of us got into the car to go to school that morning, they girls were quite happy, but puzzled. We explained that we were going to be with them in school for a while and they looked even more puzzled.

When we finally settled down in their classroom, seated on the floor near them, they both sat down to do their “work” quite self-consciously. The teacher told Amit that they were being on their best behaviour just because we were there to watch.

To be honest, I didn’t watch our girls that much. I was busy watching the other kids. Because the Montessori environment has kids of ages varying between two-and-a-half and six, you get to see what the older kids are up to and what your kids will, hopefully, be able to do, in a couple of years. I saw some of the kids working on spelling activities, another one working on a set of wooden blocks. Most of the kids were focusing on their work, though they also spent time looking around and interacting with their friends. I liked the fact that kids could choose what they wanted to do, and do it at their own pace. I saw one girl tell another that she (the first girl) wanted to do the wooden blocks, once she (the second girl) was done with them. I saw the second girl nod, continue her work, and, after some time, put the pieces back in their box and hand them to the other girl.

At one point, a boy came to the teacher and said he wanted his snack. It was still quite early, just after nine, but the teacher told him to go get his bag and sit at one of the tables in the corner of the room. A few minutes later, the boy was back, saying he didn’t want it after all. But I liked the fact that he was allowed to go and have his snack when he wanted it.

When I had sat in on the class in the early days, when the twins had just joined and all the kids were getting settled in class, it had been a much more chaotic environment. Now, it was generally silent, organized, and not restrictive. The kids all seemed somehow responsible for maintaining their environment. They pulled out chairs and tables, and put them away when they were done with them. Activities were restored to the appropriate places. Mats were rolled up and put back in place. It was good to see that the kids were aware enough and trusted enough to do these things themselves.

When we left, we said bye to both the girls and I told them I’d be back to pick them up as usual. Mrini smiled, waved, and continued to do her work. Tara waved cheerfully enough, but a moment later came out of the class in tears. The teacher asked if I’d like to take them home, but I thought Tara would be fine in a couple of minutes, and Mrini was happy enough, so I decided not to. Later on, Tara told me, “Because baba going that’s why I cried.”

Just when you think they are growing up, you realize how much they are still babies.