Beware of the wolf!

Disclaimer: Names of people, whether children or adults, have been changed to respect their privacy.

I’ve recently come across a number of adults in positions of authority who seem to use certain questionable methods to assert that authority. One that is sadly common as a “disciplinary hack” that has come to my attention in multiple scenarios is “I’ll tell your parents”. Here are a couple of examples of scenarios – the usage and their effect.

1. 7 year old Leena was running around when she was supposed to be standing still. One of her teachers saw her and said “Leena, if you misbehave, I will complain to your father!” Leena spent the next one hour sobbing, and consequently missing a fun activity in one of her favourite classes.

2. 8 year old Rohan was eating his lunch slowly, and missed 5 minutes of his first class. The teacher monitoring scolded him, saying “I will tell your mother!” Rohan came home and told his mother himself, but also told her that he was scared to tell her because the teacher scolded him and said she’d tell his mother in the same vein. Rohan usually readily tells his mother about his day, both the good and challenging.

3. The 2nd grade class had a fun activity in one of their classes, and it was a noisy one! There are many methods to calm down. The method chosen by the teacher was “If you make noise, I will call Divya ma’am!” (Divya ma’am being their vice principal).

I’ll leave you all with a moment to think about these 3 distinct incidents, their effects, and how they could have been handled differently.

Some effects of the incidents:

  • The person to whom the complaint was being made (mother, father, vice principal) was indirectly being vilified. With this, a false sense of fear is created around this person.
  • Understanding the true consequences of their actions are lost -be it the child missing out on a class due to running around or going hungry from lunch due to not eating.
  • Without understanding the consequences, the same actions get repeated.

What could have been changed about each of these situations?

  1. For starters, the buck of discussing consequences shouldn’t be passed to parents and others!
  2. Consequences should be discussed on the spot (not postponed), in a matter-of-fact, non-confrontational manner.
  3. Use do’s instead of don’t’s. (Example: “Let’s sit and do this together” vs “Don’t run around”)

What else do you think we could do in the above situations to replace vilifying and fear with constructive criticism and positive reinforcement?

Aurinko Sports Day

The Aurinko Sports Day came and went this weekend. Aurinko does it again! The format of the Aurinko Sports Day is unlike any other I’ve personally seen. Children are led on the path of enjoying recreational sports, as the first requirement in being skilled at sports (or anything really) is enjoying what you’re doing.

The focus is on ensuring every child enjoys working out and playing sports, rather than focussing on winning (and invariably focussing on losing). Every child participated in a number of games. Every child was recognized for their participation through the audience’s cheers and being awarded a medal. Thereby, every child was given an opportunity to believe that they are capable! Even the children who were nervous prior to the event about their performance, ended up saying that the Sports Day was the most fun event ever and feeling proud of themselves for participating!

Why is it so important to focus on participation, you may ask. When the focus is on winning, often participants give up when they realize someone has already won. At Aurinko, every child completed the race, even when they realized that someone else had already reached the finish line! The cheers too did not stop till every child completed the race! The value of finishing what one has started thereby transfers to other life events. This also brings out the notion of aspiring to be good at what one does, irrespective of how others are doing.

Another lovely aspect of the Aurinko Sports Day was family participation. Participation, not competition. We family members did zumba, played tug of war, and also played a very interesting game designed and built by the Aurinko students. Our children watched us try hard, cheer each other on, enjoy the sweating and panting, and keep going on! In doing this, we adults literally practiced what we preached!

It was such a joy to be a part of an event where everyone in the school – teachers, staff, children and families enjoyed together so much. The day ended leaving all of us in the Aurinko Family feeling relaxed, content and happy to have spent time together playing and laughing.

Good pride or bad pride?

What is pride? Why do we feel proud? When should we feel proud, and how can we express pride in a positive manner? Are there different kinds of pride? These are deep questions to ponder for a fully grown adult, and yet Aurinko approaches them, as always, in true Aurinko style – simply, naturally, and in a way that children will always remember. For those who aren’t in the know, Aurinko Academy, the school my daughter attends is truly a progressive, child-centric, joyful school located in Bangalore, India.

After a long and severe viral fever for 10 days, my daughter Ananya, Grade 2, was overjoyed to return to school. (I should add that Aurinko children LOVE going to school – they will work hard at making fevers go away just so they can get back to school!) She had some positive recognition last couple of days – including being selected for the International Reading Olympiad. When she came home she said she felt happy. Being a mom, I naturally gave her a big hug and told her I’m proud of her! 

After some quiet time, she told me, that there is good pride and not-good pride, and good pride is when she feels pride for herself or her parents feel proud of her, but bad pride means showing off, saying “I’m the best!” and making anyone else feel bad. She also said that just because she is good at something, doesn’t mean that someone else also can’t be good at it, and that’s why she shouldn’t say “I’m the best”.  She said that they discussed this last year in Rama ma’am’s class, and that she always recollects this when she feels happy or proud of something she did. 

She also told me she wishes all her friends got selected with her for the Olympiad. This is another wonderful demonstration of the Aurinko philosophy, where children always want to share their joy rather than keep it to themselves. Of course, learning is at the core of this joy, where children believe in cooperation, helping and guiding each other rather than viewing learning as a(n unhealthy) competition. Learning, and education, is meant to be shared with all, and not kept selfishishly to oneself. I see this in every Aurinko child I’ve been lucky to meet – that they are always eager to share their joy! 

This conversation with her, just made me feel so proud to be a part of Aurinko ❤️ Do visit Aurinko by clicking here to know more!

This post has been also been posted at, or click here to view.

A dedication to our Guru, Professor Sadagopan

Yesterday, I took a drive down memory lane, both literally and figuratively, as I went down Hosur Road (safely masked in my own vehicle!) to my alma mater, iiit-b. I have been a part of iiit-b as a student since 2004, when as a tender freshly-graduated B.E. I entered the campus for the first time. Little did I know, what an impact this wonderful organization would have on my life. 

The campus one would visit today (in safer times of course) is very different from that which I entered in 2004. The structure has grown, burgeoning into new buildings. Gone is the window-canteen, where we would drop in for a cuppa noodles at midnight; and the small patch of lawn behind the erstwhile women’s hostel, where we would play badminton in the evenings.

However, in all these years one pillar has remained constant – Professor Sadagopan, our esteemed and beloved director. 

There is no lack of articles on the internet that embody his achievements. What I could tell you about his accomplishments, you would already know! I could write about his long list of awards, but you would have looked those up! I instead choose to write about the teacher, who has influenced many, many students. 

I remember the talk he had with our M.Tech batch on the day that we joined in 2004, near the erstwhile pond. This was my first interaction with him. For those of you wondering which pond I am speaking of – seventeen years ago, when our campus was brand-new, there used to be a pond to the left side as soon as we entered, inhabited by ducks, with rabbits hopping around on the lawn. As we unloaded our belongings into our new hostel rooms, we were summoned to the pond for the director’s address. I can still feel in my heart the warmth of the director’s welcome on that day. As he spoke to us of new beginnings on that warm summer day, it was the first spark that lit our journey of learning at iiit-b. 

The most life-changing impact the Director had on my life was at my Ph. D. graduation. I had recently moved to the US, awaiting my Ph. D. defense. When my time to defend arrived, I could not fly out to India, due to medical reasons – my little A was due to arrive a mere few weeks later! I shall be eternally grateful to Professor Sadagopan, and my two mentors Prof Chandrashekar and Prof NJ Rao, for having enabled me to defend online via Skype. Professor’s innovation and support in allowing me to do so came at a time when online defenses were not common, in fact I was the first from iiit-b to do so. Further, as I could not attend my convocation, he arranged to have my father personally collect my degree from the chief guest, in a true partnership of kindness and innovation. Professor, I am so proud to be a graduate of iiit-b, twice over. 

I could write about so many more ways he has influenced our lives, such the time he visited my home on the occasion of Navarathri Golu. To have my Guru visit home on Saraswati Pooja is a blessing I will cherish forever. During the first week of my M. Tech., when he requested all of the new students to write an essay on their expectations of their time at iiit-b – and yes, he read them all! Today, personalized learning is a buzzword, one which every educational institution strives to achieve through any means. But Professor Sadagopan has always known each and every one of his students for their individuality, no small feat across so many decades! For as long as I have been a part of iiit-b, his doors have always been open to all his students to drop in for a quick word or a long conversation. Yes, I could write on and on about all that he has done for us! 

Dear Professor, we cannot thank you so much for all you have done for our institute. You have guided me, and so many others and built our institute from the ground up. Your kindness and support are always remembered with gratitude.  Our namaskaarams to you and Madam. 

Thank you,

Effects of learning to cook

Here are a few examples of a 5 year old child’s learning in 3 years of learning to cook. These demonstrations of learning are taken from her experience of preparing “apple kesaribath”, a South-Indian semolina pudding sweetened with apples.

  • She has learnt several topics of mathematics while measuring out ingredients – including basic arithmetic (addition, subtraction and multiplication for now), fractions, ratios. For this recipe, we needed 1/4 cup of semolina (rava) and double that quantity of water. She was able to accurately measure out a quarter cup of semolina, and then calculated that double of quarter cup would be half a cup. This demonstrates an understanding of multiplication.
  • She has demonstrated the spirit of scientific inquiry, through observation of reactions between different ingredients and application of different processes to ingredient. For example: what happens when heat (a process) is applied to applies (an ingredient, a fruit)? She observed that the apples turned from crispy to soft, became stickier, and changed in color from pale yellow to light brown. She observed that cooking apples caused steam, despite not adding water to the pot, and was curious to know why. She asked questions about these reactions, and learnt that apples contain juice (which upon heating produced steam) and sugar (which upon heating caused caramelizing that made the apples turn light brown).
  • While preparing this recipe, traditionally served along with a spicy semolina porridge called “upma” or “uppittu” in small street-side cafes called “Darshinis” in Bangalore, Karnataka, she demonstrated a desire to understand culture, asking us to tell us the story of the dish, where the dish comes from, and how to eat it.

These are just a few examples of how cooking integrates education across disciplines, in a manner that makes learning natural, engaging and integrated into real life!

A recipe book for kids

I have an idea.

One of the constants during the pandemic has been food. Food has brought us comfort, joy, satisfaction, learning and more. When the weather has seemed gloomy, we fry pakodas, seating Ananya on the kitchen counter to gobble ’em up while they’re hot and crispy. When we need something to chew our brains on, we prepare a feast from a new cuisine, such as the middle-eastern feast we made, complete with home-made falafel, hummus, pita & muhamarra. When we need a dose of adventure, we spend the day making all the elements of a dish from scratch, such as pav bhaaji, filling our home with the aromas of freshly roasted spices and home-made bread. Ananya has loved this journey, eagerly awaiting dinner-time each night and learning to measure out ingredients for pav, roll out papdis for dahi papdi chaat and assembling her chaats just the way she likes.

The impact of this learning experience on Ananya has hit me a number of times. When I snagged a beautiful fresh baguette to make bruschetta, she asked me “which country is a baguette from?” I was also amazed when she casually mentioned to me learning about a “bibimbap” (a Korean rice bowl) from one of her books. I was once again in awe what a sponge for learning children are.

One of the roadblocks I’ve had on this journey is the sheer lack of good cookbooks for children that suit our tastebuds. I should mention here that both my daughter and I are those oddballs that can’t handle sweets- we do enjoy the occasional dessert, but love our savory food. We’re also vegetarians, and love trying ethnic food from everywhere- from close to home to around the world. But when I searched for cookbooks for kids, I frequently found dessert-themed books, or books with savory dishes that weren’t vegetarian, or good ethnic cookbooks that had great food but just weren’t accessible in language to a child.

This got me thinking. What if there were a cookbook that ticked all these boxes? A vegetarian, savory food cookbook written for kids. A cookbook full of colors and beautiful visuals. A cookbook that tells a story about each dish, the history and how the dish came to be. A cookbook that teaches children the science behind the food. Did I mention, a cookbook designed just FOR KIDS?

So this was my idea. This is the concept. To plan properly, it needs a series of recipes, stories behind the recipes, steps that children can accomplish independently and guidance on when they require adult assistance. Clear, concise, comprehensible instructions.

What do you think? Would you, or your child, love this?

Homeschooling Day 2: Forays into Science

We could feel the isolation slowly becoming the norm today. Of course, I do anticipate days coming up where we get frustrated. However, today felt strangely peaceful. With the lockdown effective starting today, the situation felt oddly stable at least for the next few hours, a feeling we hadn’t felt in several days.

A started off her day with what felt familiar to her – working on language and math, as she would in school. I was very proud of her for independently doing her work as she would in school, asking for help where she needed it.

After lunch and some downtime, we decided to work on something new – Science! Now, A is a preschooler due to start kindergarten in the fall, and while they do a lot of experiments and learn a lot of life skills in school and otherwise, she hadn’t yet come across the word “Science”. A little background about A and Science – while she didn’t know the word Science, she has been performing science experiments and scientific activities for years now, such as:

  1. Baking chocolate chip cookies – she has been baking with me for years, which is a great lesson in chemistry.
  2. Star-gazing on clear nights – she loves looking for Venus and Mars on a clear night, and isn’t this astronomy at its best?
  3. Nature hikes – observing birds, learning about different flora and fauna, these are perfect examples of zoology and botany!

Today, we started formalizing her science education, by building her science vocabulary. The words we learnt today were:

  • Science – the study of the world around us!
  • Experiment – an activity used to answer a question.
    A couple of days ago, she asked me “What are bones?” and “What would happen if our body had no bones?” In order to explain better to her, we performed a simple experiment of filling a plastic bag with a marker and propping the bag up to stand. From this experiment, she learnt that “without bones, we will not be able to stand!” (her words!). Today, we recollected the activity with the plastic bag and marker and I explained to her that that was an experiment!
  • Data – the information we learn from the experiment.
    In the experiment about bones, the data she gained was that without bones, we cannot stand up.
  • Observe – use our senses to notice things.
    We went through our five senses and discussed smell, see, touch, hear and taste. We used simple objects around the room and A told me what she observed about each of them – how the eraser felt, how the water bottle sounded when she shook it, and how the marker looked.
  • Predict – say what we think will happen.
    We made predictions about the world around us, such as predicting what would happen when it gets cloudy outside, or what would happen when we mix yellow and blue.
  • Compare – observe what is same and different about two objects.
    We took two objects – a blue crayon and a yellow marker, and observed what is same and different about each of them.

These were all relatively new words for intuitive concepts for A. We spent the rest of the evening working on our science vocabulary by including them in our conversation, such as using our senses to make observations about the food we prepared for dinner. We are looking forward to asking a lot of questions, and developing and performing science experiments to get answers!

Homeschool Day 1 – plans vs. reality

Let me preface by stating that today would be our second day of isolation. This means, no playdates, no meeting anyone outside of home unless absolutely necessary (such as a grocery store visit) and following all precautions even if we do step out.

The day started off well. We managed to stick to our schedule for the most part. I was very proud of A for grabbing her workbook and working independently at the same time that she would when in school. The morning went smoothly, with us sticking to the general plan with minor delays/alterations. In addition to the math worksheets, A chose to draw and make stories today, an activity full of whimsy as she dreamt of squirrels and kids playing in the forest.

This afternoon, our county along with other counties in the Bay Area announced a complete lockdown. This means, all 6.7 million residents of the Bay Area are ordered not to leave home except for food and medical reasons for the next 3 weeks. This is a difficult and crucial step in order to contain the spread of the virus. While that debate belongs on a different platform, it did derail our afternoon education plan. Anyway, more tomorrow!

Homeschooling Day 1

Today will mark day 1 of homeschooling.We’re hopeful, dare I say ambitious? 

Here is the schedule we have put together for ourselves: 


Ananya’s Activity




Call grandparents / Read


Shower, pooja


Writing activities – workbook – alternate between Language and Math


Learning activities – alternate between Science and Arts






Reading / Playtime


Milk / Snack

4:30 – 6:15

Outdoor time (if weather permits) OR Game time OR Exploration time (music/dash dot/ pick a topic)




Call grandparents



So this is our ambitious timetable. As the week unfolds, it will be interesting to see how much of the schedule is replaced with screen-time. However, my daughter is great at self-regulating and doesn’t do well with a lot of screen-time. The thing she is truly going to miss is playing with her friends, but right now it’s all about the bigger picture. She’s been a champ at understanding the impact of coronavirus and COVID-19. She’s read through / watched clips including this one from Washington Post, and the episode “How do people catch a cold?” from Storybots. More on this in another post. 

Some notes on my homeschooling philosophy/curriculum: 

  1. I shall ensure my teachings align with Common Core and NGSS as applicable, and continue to work on developing A’s critical thinking abilities. 
  2. I intend to follow an integrated approach to her learning. This means that I will try to develop simple projects and activities to do at home which will guide her learning in Math, Language and Science. In this regard, cooking and baking remains a favorite especially considering we are confined to home, but we’ll see what else we can come up with. 
  3. My biggest challenge so far is possibly incorporating a Montessori approach to her Math lessons. 

Signing off for now. Wish us luck!

The times we live in!

As I open this blog (yes I know it’s been years!) I’m overcome with a feeling of writing a diary. A diary cataloging our experiences during the interesting times we live in. I mean, the first thing I want to say is that it’s 2020, and Planet Earth has been overcome by a pandemic known as COVID-19! While this sounds like the opening lines of a post-apocalyptic thriller, this is just our life as we now know it.

Well, enough of the drama and on to reality. My daughter A, now past the 4.5 age mark, is at home for the foreseeable future. Since the last time I posted here, she has grown to be a friendly, kind, social girl who loves going to school to learn and play with her friends. On Friday, 2 days ago, her school made the decision to remain open through the pandemic, while requesting parents who could manage childcare to support them by keeping their children home. So, tomorrow will mark Day 1 of homeschooling. The libraries and community centers have shutdown as well, and with several days of rain forecast, we’re going to have to get very creative very quickly with my homeschooling efforts.

In addition, our family has started practicing social distancing. In recent days, we slowly but surely cut back social interactions. Today marked the first day of many spent in complete isolation, with just me, A and her dad. To get some fresh air and movement, we chose to go to a park for a walk, and were amazed, and perhaps even a little spooked by how empty the place was. In hindsight, however, I am glad to see how ghost town-life places were; it leads me to believe that more and more people are practicing social distancing as well.

In the following days, I’ll be using this space to chronicle our days of isolation. I’ll share some resources that help us, lessons I’m doing with my daughter, activities, games, routines, you name it, I’ll try and document it. I’d also love to her from all of you, as to what you’re doing with your kids.

Take care of yourself and your loved ones, be mindful of the times we live in and enjoy your time with your family!