We spoke to Andal Aghoram on why she believes in young children spending their first few years in the heart of their families rather than being introduced to the education rat race at the tender age of 2 and 3 years.
Aghoram, at first glance is the epitome of a grandmother. Apple cheeked and dimpled, she exudes grandmotherly sweetness. Despite, her gentle and unassuming presence, she has been the matriarch of a joint family for over 30 years. She is also the principal of Chennai’s very first multiple-intelligences playschool, Veranda School in T.Nagar.
“Home is the best school.
Young children learn skills through osmosis. Rather than being told what to do, observing and imitating is how they learn. Their minds are like a sponge, ready to absorb and assimilate. They are curious, inquisitive and constantly gathering information.
For such a fertile and unspoiled mind, the best place to learn is at home. Watching how family members interact with each other, and the world around them, exposes these young minds to a whole array of skills from language to social, from sensory to perceptive.
The level of exposure that a child gets when surrounded by multiple family members, and nurtured in an environment of security and familiarity, is far superior to the learning they will get at even the world’s best preschools.
The question here is what happens when these ideal home conditions are not available? What happens when there is no extended family to support the parents or when both parents work?
Are preschools the answer to the modern family conundrum?
Well, it is true that it takes a village, or at a minimum a joint family, to bring-up a happy and well-balanced child. Given today’s lifestyle demands and unavoidably scattered families, parents are often put in a tight spot.
Get a nanny, so that the child can continue to stay at home and stave off the pressures of today’s school life for a few more years; or send the child to a playschool so that they have the company of other kids and are not limited by the abilities of the hired caregiver?
The great solution, in such a situation, is a preschool that emulates the environment a child would have experienced if he/she was part of an old-fashioned family setup. An environment where grandparents are story tellers and provide a moral compass. A place where parents are the physical caregivers and basic educators; while miscellaneous uncles, aunts and cousins pitch in with varied skill sets.
Preschool is not about learning the alphabet from A-Z or numbers from 1-100
The purpose of a preschool is not to teach the child to read and write the alphabet and master numbers till 100. Alphabets and number are taught to children at the age of five, when they go off to join kindergarten, the official start of their school career.
Veranda is a school modelled on the ‘Thinnai Pallikoodam’ of the ancient days. In those times every house had a ‘Thinnai’ or a Veranda, which was an outward extended platform in front of the house. It was there that the children had their first lessons mentored by people from the family, before they entered main school education.
At Veranda, we ensure that every child feels secure and confident enough to indulge in activities that encourage and strengthen their natural abilities every day. Our multiple-intelligences system of education identifies and plays to each individual child’s strengths, thus helping them acquire all the skills that they would have learnt in the bosom of a loving joint family in a very similar environment.
We also provide snacks that are balanced, healthy, home-cooked and typical of a modern Indian family. We encourage our children to eat together, with no distractions and lots of loving conversation. All our rooms are themed, childproofed and child-friendly including the toilets, so that children have the freedom of moving around as they would if they were at home with family members to keep an eye on them.
Finally, we have a 10,000 sft. mini-park within our premises with a toddler play area and a safe, well-maintained sandpit. This allows children to play in fresh air, as freely as our generation played outdoors, as children, when the world was a safer and less polluted place.
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