Aruddha Devi Dasi on Homeschooling
Srila Prabhupada encouraged all his followers to write. He said that this would
be chanting (kirtanam) because it is repeating what one has learned from his books. It is also
preaching, because it encourages others to take to Krishna consciousness.
“And our men, all our men should write. Otherwise how we shall know that he has
understood the philosophy? Writing means Sravanam kirtanam. Sravanam means hearing
from the authority and again repeat it.”
Srila Prabhupada said that anyone who has heard attentively about Krishna will be
able to write. He may not be scholarly but his books will be accepted because they are based
on authoritative sources. In contrast, he said, writing by scholarly non-devotees is of no value,
but only a jugglery of words.
“Just like these children We have got so many children, devotees here. It is not possible that
they are understanding the subtle philosophical statements of Bhagavad-gita, but because they
are sitting and hearing, they are writing. You see? But whatever he writes, it is right.”
These statements by Srila Prabhupada should give us an incentive to teach our
children to write well. Writing naturally follows reading because generally we want to express
what we read with our own realizations. Writing also helps in all facets of the language arts,
namely, vocabulary, comprehension, spelling and logical thinking. When the children are
about nine or ten years old we can teach them writing through Srila Prabhupada’s books such
as the Bhagavad-gita and Srimad Bhagavatam. We can ask them to compose essays on what
they have read, comment upon current events through the eyes of sastra, and give answers to
thought-provoking questions that we assign to them. Through this, they learn the different
stages of writing, such as planning, drafting, revising, and editing. A few years later they are
able to do research, understand the meaning of allegories, figurative language and
contradictions. They should be able to think critically, form their own understanding, and
express it coherently.
We can try different ways to encourage our children to write on Krishna conscious
subjects. Here are some of the things I did with my children.
Ask a friend to do a Bhagavad-gita Correspondence Course for Your Children.
During my homeschooling, I heard that a devotee, Suresvara Prabhu, was teaching a
Bhakti Sastri correspondence course for adults and so I wrote to him asking if he would
kindly teach my eldest son, Radhika Ramana. He agreed and we signed up for the class. He
would send questions written for an eleven-year-old and after my son answered them,
Suresvara Prabhu would correct them and send them back with comments, grades and lots of
encouragement. Besides the usual questions, he would also send some challenging ones that
required application of Krishna’s teachings to real-life situations. I remember one in particular
that was based on chapter 2, verses 62-63: “Complete this scenario: A teetotaler enters a bar
with his friends . . .” Radhika Ramana wrote a two-page story about a man who was trying to
practice spiritual life, but succumbed to temptation with his old friends. The man went
through the stages of falldown that Krsna describes, but then picked himself up through good
Write for Back to Godhead or the Local Newspaper
My son was very inspired and gained a lot of confidence in writing through the Gita
course. Eventually Suresvara Prabhu suggested that he write for Back to Godhead magazine.
Of course, this was a challenge in the beginning--the editors would send back the articles
asking for substantial revision. Writing for BTG was a big step and brought out a new
dimension to our home schooling. I also began looking for additional opportunities for him to
write. The local newspaper in Boise had a weekly religion column where different faiths
could present their philosophy and views on current topics. They accepted Radhika Ramana
for representing the “Hare Krishna faith.” He wrote that column regularly for four years until
he went to graduate school. This was a wonderful opportunity to reach people who would
otherwise not be interested. The articles were well liked; he would get appreciative letters
from readers and encouragement from his professors at the university.
While my older son was busy with assignments for BTG and the local newspaper, my
younger son, Gopal, was writing in other areas. His style of writing is direct, upbeat and
engaging. He would often write scripts for plays that we hosted in the temple on a regular
basis. Children’s plays were our focus because we discovered that they provided an easy way
to preach to their parents on Krishna consciousness. After seeing their children so joyful in
play practice, it rekindled their desire to do service in the temple and participate fully in the
temple programs. Writing scripts is really hard work for children but an effective way of
learning the language arts. For Gopal, it involved reading the story from the scriptures,
summarizing and writing in a dialogue format, and editing for grammar and good flow. He
did not mind the hard work because he loved acting and directing the play among his friends.
It was a lot of fun.
My children also wrote essays about the upcoming festivals, appearance or
disappearance days of our Acaryas, visits to the holy dhama or national parks for vacation. In
the early years I encouraged them to write a few sentences in birthday or invitation cards to
friends. The children of a homeschooled family in Boise write letters daily to Lord
Jagannatha, Lord Baladeva and Lady Subadra after Snana Yatra when They are sick, asking
Them to get well soon and bestow Their mercy.
An important point to remember is that writing is not something most children will do
spontaneously or even willingly so we have to make it fun for them. The trick is to ask them
to write about things they want to write about! Writing plays was fun for my children because
they would actually see it happen.
Publishing a Newsletter
Another task that primarily belonged to Gopal was publishing a temple newsletter.
Every month he had to write a couple of articles for the newsletter, give the temple news and
upcoming events. He also had a children’s corner where he created crossword puzzles and
other fun Krishna conscious games. He learned responsibility, how to meet deadlines and
received hands-on experience with editing, publishing, copying and mailing.
Writing for Krishna can be a very wonderful and satisfying service, and we should
help our children see it in that way.