Ananya and Amulya Gangadhar, nine-year-old twin girls from Hyderabad, will never forget how the water cycle or cyclic nature of water (rain falls – water vapour rises – cloud forms – rain falls again) works. They will not forget this because instead of learning about it from a diagram in a book, they experienced it first hand and understood what it actually means while watching the rain fall in one of the wettest places on earth, Cherrapunji in Meghalaya.
In March 2019, their parents, Ramya Lakshminath and Gangadhar Krishnan (Gangu), took them on a road-trip with the aim of teaching them vital life skills and providing them with unique learning experiences.
The twins are being home-schooled by the parents and from Gangu’s perspective there are no better teachers than nature and direct experiences.
During this ‘road-schooling’ trip, the family travelled 13,000 kilometres in 90 days, visiting 15 states and crossing three international borders (Nepal, Bhutan, and Bangladesh). While they learnt about geography as they went from one state to another, they also seamlessly transitioned to exploring the nuances of agriculture when they lent a hand to plough the fields in Arunachal Pradesh.
“It’s been one amazing journey,” says Gangu, the twins’ father, as he recounts more such experiences.
Travel has always been a constant in the lives of Ramya and Gangu, who travelled with the twins for the first time when they were all of six-months old. Armed with nothing more than the bare necessities, the couple was used to spontaneously driving off to holiday destinations in their car, no matter what the distance. One almost gets the feeling that they were preparing for this lengthy and exciting road trip all these years.
13,000 kilometres, 15 states, 3 international borders in 90 days
In making this trip, the couple wanted to achieve two objectives – equip the girls with life skills and facilitate experiential learning. “We follow a rather minimalistic approach towards travelling. We take only what fits into our car (Tata Nano) and nothing more. We would drive through the day and pitch our tent at night and unfurl our sleeping bags. Wherever possible, we sought shelter with the locals and enjoyed their hospitality as well,” recollects Gangu.
“Throughout our travels we often camped at petrol stations and even slept in our car after parking it on the roadside.”
“We never faced any challenges or experienced any untoward incident.”
The focus has been on the journey – in equal parts entertaining and educative. From having enriching conversations with local residents wherever they went, to spending time learning from women like Nomita Kamdar who is a keen environmentalist and also the recipient of the Nari Shakti Puraskar in 2019, the twins have had the opportunity to be exposed to many different ideas and ways of life.
Of refraction and magnification
Describing a learning moment, Gangu says, “A peacock feather was immersed into a water-filled glass jar. She noticed the bending of the stem at the water surface and that led to an enquiry about the concept of refraction.” While Gangu explained the concept to Ananya, he steered clear of using the term ‘refraction’. However, what she had just chanced upon was a rather important concept taught in physics.
It didn’t end there – she noticed that the part of the feather that was immersed in water was appearing thicker than the part above – and just like that the concept of magnification was learnt! “Just by observing and travelling, I feel the girls have learnt so many concepts that are usually taught in a rather drab manner in school,” says Gangu.
Questions and self-doubt about homeschool
Gangu, who has worked for almost 17 years in the corporate sector, and Ramya, a school teacher, had decided to quit their jobs a while ago and do something they felt more passionate about. Ramya decided to conduct yoga classes and Gangu curated bespoke tours for eco-conscious travellers.
As people who broke away from the everyday rate-race to follow their dreams, they realised the formal education system was shackling their children. Not wanting their girls to grow up in such a constrained environment, they decided to pull them out of the formal education system and homeschool them instead.
They created their own curriculum and developed their own methodologies — the road trip was one such idea.
Like every major life decision this too came with its own set of questions and some guilt in this case. “There are days when we wonder if we have taken the right decision – given that we have never set any agenda for the girls so far, they have been making their own time tables and schedules. There are moments when we question ourselves, but then we see the learning, the compassion and just the kind of life lessons they are learning and we pat ourselves on our backs,” says Gangu.
Has it all been worth it? Definitely, say the couple.
“We believe we are shaping the children to be free and independent thinkers, and not storehouses of information. If you spoon feed all the answers to your children, then they will be limited to only what you know. Let them experience and explore. You will see what a world of difference this learning has on them,” says Gangu in conclusion.
If you would like to get in touch with Gangu and understand more about their travels, you could reach out via Instagram.
(Edited by Nishi Malhotra)