Saturday, June 06, 2009

Learning On Autopilot

I run into a bunch of desi kids (and parents) each week at J's music classes and each time I am amazed by the few things that they have in common. To begin with, they appear to be highly compliant - working diligently on their Kumon homework while waiting for their music lesson to begin or reading a book with such great concentration that one wonders if it only for pleasure. Right after music lesson, these kids will fan out to go to other activities - tennis, swimming, karate to name a few.

They usually come geared for the next thing on the calendar. They all look pretty serious for their age - even with a room full of 6-10 year olds, there is absolutely no noise or chaos. It is not as if their parents are monitoring them - the kids are pretty self-regulated. If their music lessons are any indication, they go through the motions of "learning" whatever it is their parents want them to on auto-pilot. They practice enough to have the tunes right, are well-prepared for tests and quizzes but you will be hard pressed to hear the sound of joy in their singing.

J used to look around in wonderment when she first started taking lessons. She has even asked me a few times if she should learn some of the other things that these kids were learning. I would guess it is about fitting in with a group that at least resembles her on the outside. I would imagine it would be hard for a desi kid who socializes with other desi kids almost on an exclusive basis to not feel like a loser if they were not learning at least five things at the same time besides getting straight A's at school.

Being a desi parent, I except I share the cultural genes with my brethren. So when, I try to buck the trend and take a different approach with raising J than is the norm in desidom, I do feel some level of anxiety. In taking the road less traveled, I am likely to encounter problems and obstacles for which there is no ready solution in the desi-parenting playbook. I will need to figure stuff out as I go and hope that I get it right. As for J, she has settled in the desi fringe content (as far as I can tell) to think of these kids more like her than not at least in outward appearance.

1 comment:

ggop said...

I loved your final paragraph. My baby is struggling with gross motor skills and is behind on milestones. I already encounter questions on what he can do and not from my desi bretheren (to be fair to them, many stare blankly when I try and explain so I think they just don't get it)

In short, I have anxiety too.
I will always try to keep your column in mind in future because the standard desi playbook for academics and extra curricular activities is not going to work for me.