Raising a global citizen on the GO

Devam started school in September 2012 and it became clear to me that we are not going to able to travel on a whim. While I was planning trips based on Devam’s school calendar – I also wanted to make sure that Devam is always aware of the many different places that exist in the world. Living in New York you are always surrounded by immigrants (like myself) from many different parts of the world. I was talking to a mom, a Macedonian, in our play room. Devam sometimes talks about how his friends pronounce certain words differently. He was quiet amazed when I told him that people from different parts of the world say the same thing differently. He was also fascinated that his friend had visited her family in London and his friend’s mom had visited Philippines while Dale stayed home with daddy.

I am also very thankful to the New York Public Library that has books written by international authors. Devam has visited many a different places through his books. He recently brought home a book called – “Knuffle Bunny Free” – written by Mo Willems where little Trixie visits her Oma and Opa in Holland, eats French fries on the streets and looses her little bunny on a plane. Devam can relate to this as he has traveled on a plane to visit his own Grandpa and Grandma back in India. We also met a 4 year old who said he would love to visit Eastern Europe – how could he have possibly known? Later while talking to his parents I realized that his mother was from China and his father was American. They traveled with him since he was very young and has loved the idea of visiting different places he can find on a map.

Yesterday we were visiting the Natural History Museum and it took very little time for Devam to spot the Bison he saw at Jacksonhole. Also an amazing resource are several story apps on iTunes. The contributors and the stories you can find here are from different parts of the world. Certain shows on TV like Disney’s – “Little Einsteins” are always traveling to different parts of the world be it Egypt, China, Japan, India or Africa. The new movie “Brave” – is about a little Scottish Princess.

With all these resources do you really have to travel for your child to be aware of the world around him? While your child might relate to things because he/she has seen them or experienced them at some point, I am sure that these indirect resources will provide a great foundation for them when they travel in the future.

Shatavadhan and why it is so intriguing to a parent

When I saw the Shatavadhana performance, besides being in awe about Muni Ajit Sagar it left me wondering how and why is he able to perform the Avadhanam. Before I get into my thoughts on that, just some basics I learnt, “Avadhana” is a literary performance popular from the very ancient days in India. It was cultivated by the Telugu speaking community. Originally it involved the partial improvisation of poems requiring immense memory power and it tested a person’s capability of performing multiple tasks simultaneously. Avadhanam can be considered as “divided attention” as it is the highest level of attention. Muni Ajit Sagar performs a variety of avadhanas – challenges beyond the literary, he performs Ganitavadhan (mathematics) and Netraavadhaana (using the eyes).

Having said this, the core question remains, what gives Muni Ajit Sagar this unique ability to memorize a random set of 200 questions, process the information and provide a response. And I believe it is his absolute clarity of mind and soul. Also the process of “selective absorption”. It is his ability to be selective about the information he absorbs through either of his senses. This keeps his mind uncluttered and clear to process the necessary information with speed and in large quantities at any point in time. The best analogy that comes to mind is that of a computer. A computer will relay back any information you feed into its memory. When you overload it with a huge variety of data – it is likely to crash, it is likely that it cannot find the information you are looking for – it might display a 100 files if you are looking for specific data. We overload our minds and our soul with inauspicious karmic matter (Lesya) that crowds our otherwise immense ability to process higher levels of information at a rather fast speed. So by performing Avadhana – Muni Ajit Sagar is bringing to our attention the core philosophy of Jainism that emphasizes the necessity of self-effort to move the soul towards divine consciousness and liberation. He is preaching shramana dharma (self-reliance) and the “path of niganthas” (path of those without attachments or aversions). He is bringing to our attention – what we are capable of doing and achieving if we can only shed the unnecessary baggage we otherwise carry on our mind and soul.

Muni Ajit Sagar is one of 12 that have attempted an avadhanam, many like Mr. Garikipati Rao and Mr. Medasani Mohan have performed Sahasraavadhani (1000 questions) as well. So what was so special about this avadhanam? I believe it is the first time I have personally come to realize what Jainism is trying to teach me. It is the first time I have come to realize that our minds have the power to do so much more, see beyond the surface and think beyond the horizon. It is the first time I have come to realize how I am under-utilizing my own abilities.

As a student myself and as a mother I wonder how I teach myself and Devam the path of Jainism – its triple gems? How do I cultivate this idea of selective absorption – how do I teach him to select? How do I help him achieve this level of attention? I have answers to explore now.

Please note that many other philosophies like the Buddhist philosophy talk about similar principles, I am noting Jain philosophy here as I am most acquainted with it and Muni Ajit Sagar is a teacher & a student of this philosophy.

To see a repeat performance of the Avadhanam tune into: JaYHo TV on TVU Networks

Date & Time: 10th of March @ 6:00PM India Time

Note: You can download the TVU Player Application on your Apple Devices by looking for TVU Player at the Application Store. You can also watch this online.

“Children learn more on the road than in a whole school career back home” – Nancy Vogel

After writing several blogs over the past few weeks I started wondering: Why should parents travel with their tots? Sure, parents need a break, the family needs a change of environment, it’s a great bonding experience and you want to explore new places (great basic reasons to travel, don’t you think?). But does traveling help your tots grow and learn from their exposure to new cultures, new people and a whole new world? Traveling with your tots can cost a few $’s, is this a worthwhile investment?

I still remember the first time I visited Switzerland with my son who was barely 1 years old then. I remember the amazement on his face as he checked out the goats and the roosters on the Swiss mountains, as we swished down the snow in a tube at Mt. Titlis, as he saw the fleeting snow capped mountains from the Glacier Express, as he experienced his first boat ride at Lake Geneva, tasted cheese at Gruyeres and had his first chocolate tasting at the chocolate factory at Broc. While I am not sure how much he learned from his experience, I know that he thoroughly enjoyed it.

On researching more on this topic online I came across several blogs written by parents that have taken up traveling as a full-time passion. One very inspiring story is captured beautifully in a blog: “Family on Bikes” by Nancy Vogel. The Vogel family is rightly our inspiring story of the month and here is short video on them:

The Vogel family (of four) recently finished an epic family bike ride from Alaska to Argentina. Nancy’s two, twelve year old, twin boys have become new Guinness World Record holders as the youngest people to cycle the Pan-American Highway. Nancy, a teacher by profession, wrote an article for The Washington Times titled “Children learning through family travel”. And she talks about “How can travel help kids learn?” My favorite excerpt from the article is as follows:

“As we travel, our kids are always in new and stimulating environments, therefore their brains are always growing dendrites that make it easier for them to learn anything.  It appears as though their brains are so stimulated by everything that is going on around them that they just pick stuff up – it goes in through osmosis.”

It was a very interesting article, Nancy talks about how her youngest son, a weak reader for years was able to learn to read flawlessly while on the road, so please take a few minutes to read it.

Nancy has authored several blog posts and articles on this subject. I will like to reference one more article she wrote for examiner.com titled “Families travel to give children better education”

“As families travel throughout the world visiting historical sites, children gain an understanding of what life was like on the fields of Gettysburg or in ancient Mayan cities. They visit museums and national parks and natural wonders. Roadschooling parents encourage their children to learn from everything surrounding them and the kids learn in a natural learning environment.

When children engage their five senses in their learning they learn more. They truly understand when they see, smell, hear, and touch. Many families have come to the conclusion that there is no better education.”

Nancy’s experiences give us great insights on what our tots gain from our travels. We continue to research more inspiring stories about traveling families and learn how they add value to their lives from their pursuits.

Happy bonding on your travels during the upcoming Memorial Day Weekend. The Shah family will be staying in New York waiting for daddy to return from the West Coast. If you plan to travel this weekend, do share your exciting stories with us. – TitterTot