Many educators and parents face the question of how much freedom should be given to children ? Rather they face the limit of their own patience and attitudes. We constantly face this question at Adharshila in many forms. One time is early mornings ..
As of now we have stopped waking up children early morning for a run. But there are enthusiasts who go on their own. And this is really fine with us. (Even if it's not, who cares !)
Actually the first battle was to convince the teachers to wake up early to wake up the kids. To add weight to our effort we also tried to convince them that exercise could be good for themselves too at 20 +, or any age. But it was a struggle. With quite a lot of motivational or long talks, the next one or two weeks someone would wake them up. And once woken children did go for the runs and enjoyed as they came back laughing and looked happy. But whenever we became more efficient and this routine went on for more than a week they would start tricking and avoiding - both the teachers and children. At times it even becomes an issue, strong enough to make it to the weekly newspaper or the fortnightly swashaasan meeting of the children.
Then we would convince ourselves that this is not at all the way to go about this especially in an alternative learning center and lied low enjoying the comfort of our beds early morning. Early morning sleep is great. And what about the freedom of choice of kids etc. Everybody was happy, even the teachers.
But its sort of difficult to just lie in bed if one wakes up at 6.00 AM with great enthu to do something with the kids and then remembers their freedom and reluctance. It's difficult to go by Summerhill or the sayings of great people like Vivekanand, Mao and great educationists who profess lots of sleep for children So after a while we would be again thinking of ways to wake them up early. Who likes to see hundred kids lazing around in the mornings. The whole mood of the day starts to look slow and lazy. The children also become slow and casual. There is definitely this thing about PT that makes the school look crisp and disciplined and orderly. So we came up with putting variety to exercise - some times run, some times push ups and pull ups on the bar, yogasan, standing in a circle and, fun with rope, weightlifting with bricks etc.. a Parle G for anyone who does more than 10 pull ups!
This becomes a cycle. As a parent too we face this.
This works much better than forced running. All the better if one is around and the mood is happy and non persuasive. After a few days there is a group who keeps doing things on their own. We are happy we have motivated them. Actually we too are not the PT teacher types who will be on the ground in uniform and combed hair as if we have been waiting for this the whole night. So we too bunk after a few days.
At times, the cycle of pushing things and letting go is a good strategy. Most of the times its not done consciously but its our nature too. It goes with our levels of enthusiasm and our own highs and lows. Variety too is good. For a while children were even playing kabaddi, kho kho, Frisbee early morning. Needless to say that it's great if the adults are doing it, then even if children don't follow them they see that its something that can be done.
Finally over the year there are groups of children who become interested in various forms of exercise and keep doing it off and on on their own. Films like Bhaag Milkha Bhaag help a lot. There was a sudden increase in activity after the film was shown.
Like right now there is group of running enthusiasts. Some of them even run 10 km. Some are on to yogasan and general exercise very early, around 5.30 AM. And then there are others who need more sleep.
The ideal in our heads is that children should decide or feel motivated on their own and do it with self discipline. It's quite tricky. Doesn't happen all the time. But ultimately some children do things on their own some times.
They have to get ideas from somewhere if they are not in their culture. Should we introduce ideas which are not in the local culture? Should there be no compulsion to do things at all ? Should there be no system or routine ? There can be many more questions.
One of the problems with alternative educators is that they have a lot of questions (a good first step, maybe) but very few answers (which in itself is not a problem) and very little patience to find the answers which might take months/years of practice to work out. Also we are a bit over weary of systems especially when they are made by others though we are happy to make our own rigid systems and become unhappy when others don't follow.
But right now we are happy with Totaram, Rakesh, and many others who go for a run on their own and are happy to do it for themselves. We are trying to figure out sport schools for them visualising them as future marathon runners (another problem of parents and over enthusiastic mentors, which many children don't like).
But as kids will be kids, so parents will be parents and the twain shall constantly battle !