Reading Fair 2016

This is the first time that both my kids participated in a Reading Fair.  It was so worth it that I am going to host it again next year.  There is so much learning involved in creating story board and getting deep into your favorite book.  We had just 8 kids (with youngest being only 3).  We had 2 teachers who listened to every kid and gave them a detailed feedback.  My kids have been very proud of their feedback and I couldn’t have imagined how precious it is to them.

Kabir chose The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind by William Kamkwamba.  I gave this book to Kabir in LA Airport before we were going to take a flight back to Memphis after Christmas.  As soon as he started reading it, he was hooked to it and couldn’t stop reading.  I expected him to pause when we had taken off as we had a personal TV in the plane.  He looks forward to a personal TV in the plane.  Even a movie in the plane couldn’t distract him.  All 3 of us (Amit, Arjun and me) were watching a movie in the plane while Kabir was hooked to this book.  He knew this is his favorite book at the time and his eyes were sparkling.  That’s when we decided that he should work on this book for his reading fair.  We didn’t realize that nonfiction story board is so much more hard than a fiction but it was worth it as we learned a lot.  Amit helped him to make a small windmill that can generate electricity.  I think this was his favorite part of the project.  I think the most difficult part of the project for him was to draw the windmill on the story board.

Kabir - The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind

Arjun chose Night of the Ninjas – Magic Tree House #5 by Mary Pope Osborne.  He loves to make things from the cardboard and wood.  So, he made a tree house and he added some handmade books in them and also inscribed it with “M”.  He made a Peanut with clay and put him inside a sock and he found a white stone which he believes wholeheartedly that it is a moonstone.  Arjun did all the cutting and gluing on this board.  He drew a ninja and samurai.  At this stage we realized that we don’t really know much about ninjas and samurais and so we ordered the fact tracker and learnt from it.  So, he had to go back and fix the description of ninjas and samurais.  He did most of the writing on the computer and I had to just fix spelling and other errors.

Arjun - Night of The Ninjas (Magic Tree House #5)

Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother

Not many people are going to like this but I have to confess that I actually enjoyed reading Amy Chua’s book, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother.  I don’t agree with her 100% but I do agree with her on lots of points.  When I read her book, I was not judging her or analyzing her.  Also, I tried to see her point of view.  I appreciate her honesty.  It takes lots of courage to write such a book because you know you are going to be grilled for doing so.  I appreciate this book because it gives me an idea of different perspectives as far as parenting style is concerned. 

I agree with her that schoolwork must always come first.  But for me, winning a medal or getting the highest grade is not the most important goal.  I would love for my kids to win but I am absolutely fine with them losing too.  This is because I feel failure is as important as winning.  Always winning can make you very arrogant.  Failing will make you a bit humble, compassionate and it has lot of lessons.  I would prefer for my kids to learn how to deal with failure now rather than later in life.  Unlike Amy Chua, I love playdates and I want my kids to participate in different activities like plays.  My sister-in-law, Shikha, once said that it takes a village to grow up a child.  I couldn’t agree more with her.  I like my kids to be with their music teacher, art teacher, swim coach, my trusted friends, my relatives and learn from all of them.  Also, whenever I drop off my kid for a playdate, it is understood that the rules of the hosting family will override our rules.

However, I concur with Amy Chua as far as TV or computer games are concerned.  We have no TV in our living room.  TV is so restricted in our house that whenever we watch TV it’s a big deal.  We own no video games.  I and my kids have no iPad as yet.  Again, I concur with Amy Chua about the topic of kids’ choice.  I feel when kids are small they don’t necessarily know what’s good for them.  For example, Kabir wanted to learn guitar rather than piano.  We told him that he needs to first learn piano because that’s the basic of western music.  He can make a choice when he is 13.  So, piano was not his first choice and was forced upon him initially.  Now, he just absolutely loves it!  Arjun is never interested in anything for the first time.  Initially, I have to force him.  Over time, he loves it and begs for more.  There are so many things that I never wanted to do when I was little but now I wish my mother had forced me.  While I will pursue their interest with much more vigor but they do not have a choice to avoid activities or subjects that we feel is vital for them.  As kids get wiser, they are more able to make good choices and hence more freedom.  I feel my job is to be a parent even if my kids don’t appreciate me at the moment but eventually they will understand.  I am a parent and not a cheerleader.  I am not in contest of winning their approval or vote all the time.  At the same time, I do pick my battle.  If Arjun still wants to drink in a sippy cup, it’s not worth a fight.  I agree with Amy Chua that our kids are much stronger than we think.  I think our expectations from our kids needs to be always a little higher than their own expectations and it might need adjusting depending on circumstances.  Also, sometimes siblings are so different that a parent might need different parenting style with each one!

My parenting style is, I would say, hybrid – some of our family rules have Asian roots such as no sleepover other than with close cousins; and a part of my parenting style has American roots for example I do compliment my kids generously and I also do share their accomplishments on my blog (something I cannot imagine majority Asian parents to do and I don’t know if this is something I’ll regret down the road).

My parenting style is an evolving process.  Nothing is written in stone.  Every time, my husband and I try to discuss, assess and adjust.  I try to learn from each and every parent I meet.  I read this book during our surprise trip to Chicago and Kabir was in desperate need of a book.  So, I let him read this book.  He read about first 9 chapters of this book.  When I asked him what did he think of Ms. Amy, he said, “She is too strict but she is a good mother.”

So, I definitely recommend this book!

The Smartest Kids in the World: And How They Got That Way

This weekend, I was engrossed in the book, The Smartest Kids is the World: and how they got that way by Amanda Ripley. This book compares education system of America, Finland, Poland and South Korea. I would not want to put my child through the education system of South Korea at all because so much pressure on a kid doesn’t feel right. However, Finland seems to have a good balance and its education system seems to be the envy of the world. However, I live in America and I feel there are pros and cons in the current system just like any other place in the world. We, teachers and parents, have to make the best of it for our kids under the given circumstance.

I am so glad to have come across this book just before Kabir starts 3rd grade. Anyone who cares about education, teacher or parent, must read this book. I learnt quite a few things.

Lesson 1: Rigor is important. Discipline and hard work are two important qualities that we need to instill in kids as early as possible and all throughout their childhood. I have seen the benefits of rigor. In Indian schools, we don’t lack rigor and that is why when I studied at University of North Alabama, it was literally a cakewalk. If we can create young adults who don’t shy from hard work and are disciplined to get things done in a timely fashion, we will surely create a productive and happy generation. Nothing can give more satisfaction than hard work. However, there should be a balance between hard work and play. There is a fine line and it’s very easy to cross this line and become either a workaholic or an idler.

Lesson 2: Nothing is more important than education! It was heart breaking to learn that during recession, there are jobs that can’t be filled because majority don’t have the required qualifications in US. The world has become smaller and kids need to compete with the rest of the world. So, they need to work hard and get smarter. We cannot compare our generation with the next generation. What was good enough for our times is not good enough for now! Even if you are all set to be an athlete or artist, the education is very important and it must not suffer at any cost.

Lesson 3: Everyone can be good in Math with practice. In School, I remember teachers telling us that the only way to get good in Math is by practice. However, I don’t think I registered it until I read this book. I had the notion that you either are good in it or not and there’s not much you can do about it. There is a fatal surrender with respect to Math in this notion. With introspection, I have to confess that I am wrong! When I practiced, I got it and loved it. The better I got in it the less I was scared of it. It’s only when I couldn’t get help to understand the concept or when I avoided it that I made my Math problems bigger than life.

Lesson 4: Lessons on failure during childhood is vital. It is counter productive to protect our children from failures during childhood. Failures during childhood don’t have as big a consequence as during adulthood. It is better to let them try, fail and learn from it. Also, they are stronger than we think. With love and care, failure is not going to lower their self-esteem but teach them to overcome it.

Also, this book has a good list of how to spot a good school.   I really enjoyed this book. I got it from the library but it’s so good that I am going to order a copy of this book. It’s worth having this book in my bookshelf at home!


Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity

“Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity” by Katherine Boo is a story of the economical situation of slum dwellers and the penetration of corruption in Indian society. It’s a story of how India might be shining for all Indians except the poor such as slum dwellers. It’s the story of the attitude of “survival of the fittest” amongst the slum dwellers.

This book was depressing and discouraging but it’s a reality. It is definitely not the entire reality of the situation of slum dwellers yet it’s sad and inhumane. I’m glad I read it even though it was a hard book to read emotionally.

The Year of Learning Dangerously: Adventures in Homeschooling

Learning DangerouslyMy husband surprised me by giving me a book on the day it was released. This has never happened before. I loved it! He gifted me “The Year of Learning Dangerously: Adventures in Homeschooling” by Quinn Cummings. I read it in about 3 days as it was such an easy read and so interesting for me.

I could relate to the author as my reason for homeschooling is not religious just like the author. My kid sounded a bit like hers with respect to academic capabilities and I guess, I am doing the right thing by not granting him the opportunity to get bored and get into trouble. I could completely relate to her with respect to the event when she tries to join a homeschool group in the park. I could relate so much to her and after reading the book, I felt encouraged and determined to continue my journey of homeschooling for another year! Also, it was enlightening to know the history of homeschooling and current statistics too. I feel optimistic and present seems to be fun and promising!