Agonda Beach, India
A GREAT destination for children!
This holiday was not about site seeing or moving around, but a relaxing winter beach break to replenish our energies ready for the New Year and the big adventure but still, they had an endless education.
In fact the holiday was actually one big lesson! They still practised their maths and english, but also covered latin, science, geography, personal development, languages, history, food tech, religious studies - naturally flowing from one lesson to the other. These were not learnt in the usual way, seats, textbook and desk, but through inquisitiveness and curiosity that led to research and hands on experience.
Goa is all we imaged it to be. Large soft sandy beaches with the calm meditative sounds of breaking waves sending us into deep relaxation. The same sound that drew us into consciousness after a deep nights slumber, starting as a gentle distant hum, turning into a loud distinctive roar as our level of consciousness grew. The persistent squawking of the crows coming into the forefront of our periphery, dominating the sounds telling us the day had started.
Opening the doors of our beach hut we looked through the avenue of palms, across those soft sands out beyond the break and onto the vast glass like expanse of water, interrupted only by the breach of dolphins. Feeling blessed by the beauty of this setting, we were compelled to embrace it further, taking a morning run and workout along the beach, maximising on the sense of mental and physical wellbeing.
The daily routine continued much in this way, taking a stroll across the cold sand, that stroll that on the return, would be a sprint to stop the soles of our feet from burning. Finding a table nestled in the giant palms, shielding us from the mornings brightness, we would fuel our bodies with fresh juices and local cuisines, relishing the family time, chatting and observing our new surroundings.
Agonda, famous for its dolphins and wildlife did not disappoint. During breakfast we would sit and watch a continuous display of the dolphins going back and forth across the bay, eagles circling in flight and soaring a great speeds as they caught their prey, a family of giant otters taking their chances in the crest of the large waves - an endless show as if being in one of those planet earth documentaries
Surfing, deep ocean swims and jungles walks were what filled the next 23 days. We all adore animals and wildlife and our enthusiasm is fuelled by one another and our interest seems to begrowing all the time -
maybe to the point of ridiculousness I realised, when the four of us had spent 20 minutes fascinated by a colony of giant ants as their nest drifted ashore a fresh water lagoon.
Mayhem broke out among the troops as the midday sun threatened to scorch their eggs, military like formation, they went into an instant march to seek shade.
‘Quick we need to help them!’ shouts Pablo.
All responding to his cries, we leapt into action gathering washed up debris of leaves and twigs and started to build a shelter, rescuing the drowning and placing them in the protection of their new camp.
‘Hey there what ya guys looking at?’ came the dulcet tones of an Aussie accent, another tourist slightly amused by our dedication to this rescue mission!
Where was I, yes was that it,……we all adore animals…..and so sharing this beach with these beautiful scared cows and stray dogs with us ‘wanna be’ David Attenborough's! was brilliant and entertaining, enjoying the unpredictability of nature adding humour and variety to our zen like days.
As we know kids need high levels of stimulation so we did venture north and south to a few other beaches by means of boat and tuk tuk, which of course re-energised their excitement of being somewhere completely different. But what interested me was how our children, these tiny people who are always thirsty for more, were contented and even enjoyed the simplicity of our existence over those 3 weeks.
I reflected on our time and came to the conclusion that this was down to the fact that they had been in lessons all day, everyday without a break, keeping them engaged and connected without them even realising.
Just by travelling the long distance to India had been a lesson in itself. They had worked on their skills of ‘Emotional management’, having to deal with extreme tiredness, frustration from queuing and playing the endless waiting games. Each hour learning a little bit more about themselves and how our existence is driven by our emotions and feelings. Learning ‘mindset’ and acceptance and by changing these can change their experience. (Mindfulness/ Personal Development / Emotional intelligence)
By the end of day one they had been taken completely out of their comfort zone with new smells and sights circling their very being. They had increased their physical strength by their constant swimming and running, pausing only for the pitstop to refuel and then off again until sunset.
They had experienced fear and challenged this with bravery, surfing in the 6ft waves, sometimes being pummelled by the white waters. They discovered some of the potential dangers of the ocean, being stung by large orange jelly fish and really fought hard against their fear of the water, finally returning to join in the fun and laughter being had by all, mind over matter!. (Mindfulness/ Personal Development)
By bedtime they had completed a lesson in basic Mathematics, started to grasp an understanding of probabilities, made decisions and realised the impact of these decisions, then seeking other ways and alternative opportunities, refusing to accept defeat - And this was just in a game of Yahtzee!! (Maths, Growth Mindset)
I watched and listened as my children grew in confidence, telling me about negotiating purchasing prices and the power of bargaining when buying in bulk - ‘Haggling with the street vendors on their own and with their friends’ (Business Skills)
Returning to the hut with a full awareness that the 200 rupees they had spent was £2.50 - WOW! already in their lives, dealing with currency conversions. (Mathematics) Business studies automatically led us to touch on Cultural Studies and Anthropolgy, the study of human behaviour. Berri spoke of her own observations from her shopping experience:
‘The local sellers have very good memories. I think this is because because they are so poor and desperate for you to return and spend money, they never forget you’.
We opened debates, talking about the cultural differences and the impact and effect on societies: - whether money is the cause of lost traditions and family values. (Cultural Studies, Opinions, Communication skills)
Inspired by others and learning about how a transfer of skills can be applied, they tried their own hand at sand sculpting. They exercised their imaginations, creating their own master chef and displayed skills of resourcefulness, gathering shells and making necklaces.
Science lessons naturally found its own way into their education during the course of the 3 weeks, questioning: ‘why the water today was choppy and where had the waves gone?’
and Food tech was a family lesson when we all attended a cooking course and learnt how to prepare 3 of the local dishes - Chicken Choila, Butter Masala and Vegetable Momos.
Seizing the moment of their curiosity, we encouraged research and documenting their answers in their journals, practising their reading and writing. The list continues, from bouldering, to film making. Ok, some of these things we steered and some came naturally but overall it had been a physical and mental overload of learning.
We got them to try to identify what they thought they had learnt during this time and I found to be a really good exercise. Being aware of their journey- being mindful of of who they are, what they have done and where their comfort zone ends is all confidence building.
Considering all of the above, I have to question as to why the government thinks time out from school is detrimental to their education!!
My next blogs are about the 'Planning' we have done to prepare us and the children for our adventure.