Rooting ‘The Write’ Experience
Wish you all a happy Indian National Handwriting Day! Let’s begin with the Aksharabhyasam and rooting the Write experience the right way.
Thoughts of K C Janardhan Curated by Aarthi R Nandakishore
Home is the first school for every child. Aksharabhyasam gives them formal or informal beginning to formal education on the auspicious Vijayadashami day by making them write on rice. This 5000-year Indian ritual also called Vidyarambham is for children aged five and above.
Aksharabhyasam, the ritual commonly associated with Hinduism in India, is probably one of the oldest practises that we still follow. The Sanskrit word means ‘initiation of education’ to a child by his parents, elders and guru on an auspicious day. Vasant Panchami, Guru Poornima, Sravana Pournami, Ugadi and Gudi Padwa are the major festivals commonly chosen for this ritual across communities, seasons and states in India.
A quick Google search amazes me with many similar rituals and practices across the world that are being traditionally followed to start the child into formal education. The future seeds of Aksharabhyasam will delve deeper into some of these interesting practices. For now, let’s look into the genuine reasons for this ritual and what it really means for the child’s development.
I never had formal Aksharabhyasam. My family did not practice this ritual. I had crude handwriting until class 4. My genuine interest and natural flair for the art of writing developed much later. Here’s a sample memory of my handwriting as a 13-year-old.
I want to remind you all of Mahatma Gandhi here, with a purpose this October month. “Bad Handwriting is a sign of Imperfect Education,” he had said. Teaching Handwriting to kids is the finest example of system failure. Handwriting is a learnt behaviour. Children learn it the way they see it. Many parents and teachers themselves have bad handwriting. Children watch them write and quickly learn it the same way. The big question: Why do we plant the seed for formal education at the wrong time with quarter-baked knowledge?
What we see happening now in homes is a grossly dilated and distorted version of what our ancestors rooted in the Aksharabhyasam ritual. Some core principles got weeded out. There was a well-researched reason they planned Aksharabhyasam only after the child completed 5 years so that the child understands what we speak before they learn how to write.
According to Child development studies, children should be introduced to formal learning only after 5 years. This is so that the required fine motor skills – the coordination of neuro-muscular-skeletal movements between the ages of five and five and a half which help in developing the tripod grasp and facilitate the little, little subtle movements to form the shapes of letters.
It’s a rat-race among parents to get their child ahead of the learning curve, with letters, languages and skills trying to showcase their prodigy in-the-making, across their social networks. There is very little understanding of the child’s cognitive bandwidth and its limitations for the age.
Let us not play with their learning process. Children need to absorb the information, should be able to assimilate the information and after all this, apply the information. This mainly applies to all skill-based learning.
From this, one can understand why most graduates and postgraduates today have paper knowledge but lack application of that knowledge. Who is responsible for their faulty beginning as a child?
Let us realign ourselves with two simple rules of Aksharabhyasam:
Doodling or scribbling remains the informal beginning to handwriting for a child below 5 years
Formal writing journey begins for your child ONLY after 5-and-a-half years
Today many Play Homes or Preschool Day Care Centres or called by any other name force children less than five to learn formal handwriting, which has become a flaw in our education system. This has gone unnoticed, and most teachers and parents are not aware of the ill effects or the side effects of it.
Therefore, I request the parents and teachers to be aware of these issues and start following the right practices to make the children love writing and support them with the correct inputs and make it a pleasurable activity.
The Sign-Off Sample Shots:
For the last 30 years, I have been helping Parents, Teachers and Students to improve their Handwriting from Unreadable to Readable and Readable to Admirable. Here are some Before-After samples of my students: