Schools are closing or causing anxiety by not closing due to the dreaded contagion of the virus. And many parents worry about what will happen if their kids lose a year of school. I’m here to tell you, nothing much will happen, in fact your kids might learn a whole lot more. And you will be calmer if you don’t try to be Mary Poppins.
Lesson 1: Never be caught by Military Police.
Many many years ago, in pre-internet days, I was an army brat in a remote outpost in the Himalayas, where I was driven into school in the city every day, over bumpy narrow roads crowded with pony-drawn tongas. I haven’t much memory of what I learnt there, but I remember the drive, mostly because it was not allowed for families to ride in Army jeeps, and there was no other way to get to school. It was a great game of lie on the floor when the driver spotted the red beret of an MP, or military police.
Lesson 2: It doesn’t matter what your religion is, you will get sweets.
That was the year when infiltrators crept into the Valley, and it became too dangerous to send us to school. So we stayed home, and for a couple of days a. half-hearted attempt was made to keep up with spellings and tables. But, with nightly sleeps repeatedly interrupted with gunfire, no one could pay attention, and soon the three of us ran free and wild inside the Army base, Climbing trees, being shooed away by soldiers and sneaking into the mandir for sweets.
Lesson 3: You can cope with most things even at age 8.
Inevitably, we, at least my sister and I, got sent away. To complete strangers, to another Army family who lived in Delhi. It was a scary time, getting out of the Valley safely, and then finding our way to the house in Delhi, as the plane was late, and no one picked us up. But we got there with the help of complete strangers.
Lesson 4: A good movie can teach you a lot
Still no school, but the kind family took us out for icecream, cared for us when the homesickness made us physically ill. And took us to a movie that was all the rage — My Fair Lady. And for a couple of hours, I was enthralled and forgot that we were alone. I learned that the English don’t teach their children how to speak, and that the rain in Spain stays mainly on the plain. Vital.
Lesson 5: You can read anything, from books to maps
No TV, no internet, and stuck in someone else’s home, but there were books. And I began reading voraciously — Enid Blyton became my friend, as did William. And the gorgeous forbidden “comic books” of Amar Chitra Katha. And best of all maps to find out how to go home, and papers to read about the ongoing “operations”. Do you notice that military brats never say “war”?
So there you are parents, don’t stress over school stuff, there are other things to worry about, and kids are resilient and will learn anyway. Give them books, maps, movies and even maybe a notebook and pencil.
And, as for you, why not pick up that book you’ve been meaning to read, and finish that online course? Or even write a book?