Kumon, Brainquest and the Internet

When I think back to my days of homeschooling, I remember Bob Jones and A Beka curriculum.  I also remember my mom thinking outside of the box and incorporating daily life into our weekly schooling plan.
Sure, there was the book work, worksheets and lots of pencil sharpening.  But there was also quite a bit of real life learning, training and education. 
We spent time on the scene of a demolition of a building. I spent several days with a State Senator for Nebraska, shadowing and learning.  We planted a huge garden and raised poultry (and learned quite a bit from those two simple things).  

Some of the other things we did for our home learning ::

~ we did our own cooking and laundry at home (starting at a young age)
~ assisted our mom in cleaning our church building, and all had our own jobs
~ took art classes, piano/drum lessons, ballet, played sports, etc.
~ we all started our first jobs early in our teen years (and my sister started her own business at the age of 12!!)
~ NO television for many years (ah, the horrors!) so alot of creative play time, exploring, creating and even building a treehouse.
~ the awesome ability to have my grandpa teach us all how to drive … in the back parking lots of Dodge Park at a VERY early age (I won’t tell how young!)
~ loads of camping, learning how to build fires, how to pitch tents, how to fish
~ lots of animal raising (cats, dogs, fish, ducks, geese, chickens, rabbits)
~ Mom made syrup, butter, graham crackers from scratch and we learned as well along the way
~ exploring the background details of how a dairy farm worked and what steps are taken to get from little ole’ bee to honey on our toast.

Fast forward to present day.  Homeschooling for families now looks completely different than it did back then.  There are more curriculums available, there are larger support networks, there are even more opportunities afforded kids to join in with “standard school settings” for a portion of their schooling, etc.

What I find interesting though, is that given the choice, I’d choose to homeschool JUST like my mom did.
When I realized that textbooks would only get us so far in our “away” schooling jaunt, I pulled from the way I was raised … and we set out to investigating the city we would be living in for several weeks and I set out to explore the internet.
What I found was beyond helpful and I’m impressed with the following resources (beyond impressed, actually) ::

These workbooks are not for everyone.  They require repetition, repetition and more repetition.  They also offer your child the awesome opportunity to DO THE WORK ON THEIR OWN.  Most kiddos don’t need a teacher standing over their shoulder 8 hours out of their day.  They need a bit of guidance, and a bit of support, and then they need the freedom to work on their own.  There is a great sense of satisfaction when they reach the end of a worksheet and can say ‘I DID it!”

We used 5 books each for the two littles …. that covered topics as broad as “Tracing” for Mia and as specific as “Geometry” for Tony.

I’ll be honest though — I found the repetition a bit much for my two littles, and a lot much for me.  I could only handle so much of the “not again” comments from the kids, so we hit, skipped and missed quite a few of the repetitious pages.
BrainQuest ::
Gone are the days when BrainQuest simply means the little flip cards with fun questions.  I found two workbooks put out by BrainQuest and they were amazingly wonderful to use during our time of away schooling.  Fun, colorful and covering a wide gamut of subjects, they held the littles’ attention WELL!  Mia actually asks every morning if it’s time yet to do her BrainQuest workbook.  Big thumbs up on these!
Our favorite Internet Resources for learning ::

Science :: Foss Web, Catie

Reading :: Raz Kids (requires a paid membership or a login from your teacher/school)

Math :: Math Playground and EveryDay Math

All subjects :: Have Fun Teaching

In addition to workbooks, internet and assigned school work from home, we are also taking advantage of some extra time together as a family unit and going on field trips, utilizing the local library and including everyone during things like science experiments and art projects.

Homeschooling still isn’t for our family long term … and I will gladly send these kiddos back to their amazing teachers … but we’re making the best of our time together!

Pahar Ganj

A favorite jaunt for backpackers, locals, expats and people in general is Pahar Ganj.  It is located near the main New Delhi Railway Station and is it ever BUSY!

Pahar Ganj New Delhi India

Pahar Ganj New Delhi India

Pahar Ganj New Delhi India

Pahar Ganj New Delhi India

Pahar Ganj New Delhi India




Tibetan Village in New Delhi, India

In another installment of Piyush’s amazing tours, Pam and I headed out to explore the Tibetan Village in New Delhi, India while my mom was in town.Piyush is the founder of Indomania Culture Tours, and I’ve shared the information about his other tours under the very handy tag of: you guessed it, Piyush.On this trip, we set out to help Piyush with a bit of a trial tour, to give him feedback on what should be changed, etc.  His bio and info page on the tour and settlement itself can be found on his Facebook Page.

The entrance to the colony is quite non-descript and if you were to drive by it, in passing, I am willing to bet you would not notice it.

As we walked through the pathways and sauntered down the alleys, we were all struck by the vivid and vibrant blues and greens of the walls. My kind of color scheme!

The acting secretary of the Tibetan Youth Congress, Lobsang Dorje, led us on our tour and was quite delightful.  He was engaging, knowledgeable and informative.  Plus, his hair was wicked cool!


The prayer wheels were possibly my favorites.  The concept is enchanting and really special, the more I learned about them.

Prayer wheels are cylinder-shaped wheels made of brass and copper, and filled with a Buddhist mantra known as “Om Mani Padme Hum” written on paper and placed inside.
Outside of the entrance to the temple, was this HUGE prayer wheel.

At the end of each rotation (made while you physically walked in a circle, while holding on to the wheel), a bell rang.

Worth noting?  The Dalai Lama has declared that animated GIFs, internet based prayer wheels AND apps are viable options for prayer wheels!  One app, called A Poetic Universe offers wisdoms when the prayer wheel has been turned three times, but only when you go in a clockwise direction!!

All along our walk in the settlement, we saw prayer flags displayed from all of the buildings and rooftops.  Prayer flags are found all over the Himalayas and are used to bless the mountains, countryside and people.
Prayer flags come in five different colors, representing the elements the the “Pure Lights.”  Flags are arranged in order, blue, white, red, green and yellow.
Blue symbolizes sky/space, white symbolizes air/wind, red symbolizes fire, green symbolizes water, and yellow symbolizes earth.


Prayer flags are meant to promote wisdom, strength, peace and compassion. Instead of believing that the flags carry prayers directly to gods, they feel that the mantras and blessings will be blown by the wind and spread to all those around. The Lung ta (horizontal prayer flags) when hung in high places – carries the blessings, prayers and mantras to all those who come in contact with the wind that has passed over the surface of the flags.

She was delightfully and methodically counting her prayer beads.  108 in all, her fingers were gracefully flipping through each one, bead by bead, as she hummed her mantra.

Just outside of the colony, lies an area that almost feels like a suburb of the Tibetan Settlement.  It is a quiet area that houses local Indians who have set up homes and shops on the land between the river and the Tibetan colony, so as to form a sort of collaboration with the Tibetans.
Whether it be the castoffs and waste that the Tibetans offer free to the Indians as recyclables, or the produce and greens that the Indians offer to the Tibetans, they are constantly working together.

This guy was hard at work.  He looked to be digging a trench.  He was so proud to show his smile and pose for a bit before setting back to his task at hand.

Disappearing Act

I’ve written in the past about the jobs, titles and responsibilities that are attached to being a mother.  How those things define who you are.  How often it’s no longer about what you used to do for a living, or how far you made it through your education years.  It’s sometimes, pathetically, not even about what your NAME is, as many times you are simply referred to as “Antonio’s mom.”

I knew before we landed in Delhi as a new expat family that my reason for being on this earth was currently defined by three letters – M O M – but had no idea how deep my feelings on the subject ran, UNTIL we landed here and started acclimating.

It almost feels as though you are slowly, slowly … disappearing. 

Disappearing Act Naomi Hattaway

The things you used to be relied on for, are now passed on to someone else to do.  You no longer do even the miniscule of jobs that formerly identified you as a MOM.

Your ID badges that are required for admittance to daily stops (school, club, etc.) all list me as either a “Parent” or a “Spouse” … not simply Naomi.

Before I got married, I wore several hats.  I was a single mom (both financially AND physically) to Terran.  I received little to no child support and while chaotic, I thrived at that.  I worked two, sometimes three jobs.  I relied heavily on family and friends to help with Terran’s social and mental well-being (not to mention babysitting!).  We got through it.  At the end of every day, while I may have been tired, I was satisfied because I had “done it all.”After getting married and quitting my job, I found myself slowly adapting to my new role.  My new title.  I no longer was the breadwinner and was simply a mother.  I was also now a wife, and a daughter-in-law.  With those two new jobs, came new requirements and new daily things to work on, perfect and enjoy.

With this recent move and since becoming an expat chick, I am again adapting to my new role.  This one though, leaves a lot of gaps.  It’s as though I’m disappearing … and rather than let that happen, my instant inclination is to over-commit.  Find things to volunteer for and ways to spend my day.

How do you best balance the lack of required MOM duty (and even WIFE duty) with a desire to find yourself again?

When you’re living in a country where most everything is done FOR you, shouldn’t you seize the opportunity and do things that make you happy?

It seems to be so … seems logical that us expat girls should relish in this time and instead of relinquishing ourselves to disappearing, we should leap for joy and make bucket lists galore.  Explore, learn, teach, expand and better ourselves.

Why then … do alot of the women I talk to still feel over-scheduled, not rested and stressed?  Is it the disappearing act and all that’s associated with it that leaves us still longing for more?

As we sit around the school campus after drop-off, or carry in our yoga mats, or get in line at the local “grocery store” … there is alot of discussion about how THIS time should be golden … yet we feel guilty for doing things that make US happy.

I’m not looking for the answer … as I’m sure that for each of us expat women, there is a different situation involved (some have traveling spouses, some are the breadwinners, some have children, others do not, some are here with no departure date set and others know the minute they will leave).

I’m simply voicing out loud my struggles with feeling sometimes as though I’m simply disappearing.

Horn Please

John and Lindsay had this idea first (I think?)  and I simply took it and ran with it.You see, all of the lorry trucks in India have a variation of art on the back of the truck with the words:

Horn Please

Horn please

(a rare occurrence that a photo is featured that I did not take – credit to krebsmaus07 from Flickr)

I really wanted a “commissioned piece” so to speak, that represented our time in India.  I thought it might be appropriate to have a canvas painted as though it was the back of a lorry truck.

I chose one of the photos of a lorry truck that I had shot earlier … and from here on out, all of the kudos go to my driver, Kushal, who found the lorry truck painter, and worked for two days to get the directions straight … even down to our new address in Florida, written in Hindi.

Finished product?  Now proudly hanging on my wall …

Two Friends

Several people have written eloquently about friendships.  They are key, important and needed.

I wrote about how to branch out.

Chris is pretty depressed about his friendship status.

Kirsty wrote about lifelong friends.

Tsh shared about imperfect friends and solutions.

Jo wrote about belonging to a tribe.

Maria touched on what her dog taught her about life.

and …

Rachel wrote about the rules of making new friends.

At some moments in your life you only need ONE friend.  The gal that sticks by you during all of life’s ups and downs.  At other points in your life, your spouse or partner becomes your true thing — that person who is always there and rock star steady.

Then there are the moments when you have such an influx of amazing people in your life, that you are full to overflowing.  

(maybe just a bit reminiscent of the feeling after Thanksgiving turkey?)

That’s where I am.

Full to overflowing.

To market we go – INA Market

Take two … back to the INA Market as we were having fish for dinner last night.  This ain’t your neighborhood Krogers or Giant Eagle, people.
In an effort to hopefully somewhat adequately describe this experience … I can tell you that INA is a closed market (not open air) and has what seems to be hundreds of shops.  
Shopping at INA Market in New Delhi

From plasticware to shoes, saris and fabrics, vegetables, meat, fish (both live and already processed), live animals, cheeses, grains, spices, stationery, even “American” items like Lucky Charms and Jif peanut butter.


There are no spiffy clean tile floors, no shopping carts and orderly shopping.  There is no hand sanitizer when you first enter, and there is definitely no elevator music to lull your ears while you shop.  


There is no mindless shopping here either … you don’t have aisles and aisles and shelves upon shelves to choose from, while on the other hand, there are some instances of MORE than you could ever imagine to choose from.

As you walk through the maze of shops, shop owners call out to you “Need something today, madam?”  or “What can I get for you, madam?”  It is a noisy experience.  Bargaining and negotiation for the best price is a constant.


The smell is pretty hard to convey.  Tony had a VERY hard time in this environment because of the smell and the heat.  As an adult, I have been able to mentally push past the smells.  It is a combination of all of those spices, the fresh meat, the animals (and all that comes with animals in containers), loads of hot/sweaty bodies, and simply the smell of India, etc. all combines for a pretty powerful sensory overload.


As we walked by the chickens, ducks, roosters and fish — the kids said “awwwwww mom … look at the animals!”


Little did they know that if they wanted chicken for dinner, one less “cute little animal” would still be sitting in that cage.


There was a hysterical situation with a catfish. A woman asked to purchase a catfish … once wrangled out of the blue bucket, he somehow escaped from his plastic bag (en route to be … well … ready to take home for dinner).  He flopped around the market floor for what seemed like an hour as all of the shop owners chased him around.  The kids found THIS rather amusing.

Oh … the fabrics…  I think I’ve gone to heaven.  I canNOT wait until my sewing machine arrives!

I’m going to enjoy our times at the markets!  I am looking forward to trying out Khan, Nehru Place and Dilli Haat after the kids start school!

Sheviks Toys

With the somewhat new arrival of shopping malls in Delhi, the struggle of locating popular and quality toys is becoming a thing of the past.  Even in just the two years since moving here, the malls have been popping up all over and I’m guessing that in the past 5 years is when the phenomenon hit Delhi.

Since my opinion of the shopping malls is that they seem to be the places where folks go to hang out, eat, take advantage of free air-conditioning, yet very rarely buy anything, I am not very eager to go spend my time (or money) at the malls.

Can you say CROWDED?
When it comes to the kids spending their allowance, picking out birthday presents for their friends or (let’s be honest, here) choosing a toy that WE are buying for them that has nothing to do with a birthday or a normal gifting situation, there is no place we’d rather go than to Sheviks Toys.
Their selection is pretty varied (beyblades, barbies, littlest pet shop, craft kits, balls, bubbles, magic tricks, etc. and etc).  They have very helpful staff that will climb up a very rickety ladder to toss down additional options and gift wrap too.
Pricing is all reasonable too.  The prices on the tags are just about the same as what you would pay at Target, which makes me happy.  Nothing irks me more than overpaying because it’s an imported something-or-other.
Not only do they have toys, but also a wide variety of books, coloring books, art supplies, puzzles, board games, backpacks, notebooks, etc.
They will even test out each and every writing utensil you buy BEFORE you purchase it, to make sure it has ink that works!

Next time you find yourself in need of a gift for a little person, consider supporting Shevik’s!

(extra perk?  There is a small grocery store, ATM, flower stand, veggie stalls, tailor and more all in the same block!  One stop shopping!)

When I go in next and they don’t have customers, I intend to poke around a bit to get the low down on the history behind the store.  I bet there’s an interesting backdrop!

Shevik’s Toy Store
25-B, Paschimi Marg, Main Market C Block
Vasant Vihar, New Delhi, 110057



Qutub Minar

We decided to take some time this weekend to “see the sights” … and headed to Qutub Minar.



The Qutab Minar is 72.5 metres (238 ft) tall with 379 steps leading to the top. The diameter of the base is 14.3 meters wide while the top floor measures 2.75 meters in diameter.

The nearby Iron Pillar is one of the world’s foremost metallurgical curiosities, standing in the famous Qutb complex. According to the traditional belief, anyone who can encircle the entire column with their arms, with their back towards the pillar, can have their wish granted. Because of the corrosive qualities of sweat the government has built a fence around it for safety.

Surrounding the building are many fine examples of Indian artwork from the time it was built in 1193.

A second tower was in construction and planned to be taller than the Qutb Minar itself. Its construction ended abruptly when it was about 12 meters tall.The name of this tower is given as Alau Minar and construction of recent studies shows that this structure has been tilted in one direction. It is made of red sandstone all the way except for two stories at the top.

We had such a wonderful time here … the surrounding greens were peaceful as local families shared picnics … and it wasn’t so busy that I wasn’t able to capture photos without other visitors in the shots.


Of note is the legendary “skin tax” we’d heard so much about.  If we had been Indian residents, our admission fee to see Qutub Minar would have been Rs. 10 (10 Rupees or the equivalent of $0.20) … because we are foreigners however, our admission price was Rs. 250 per head. ($5.23).  Still a bargain and worth every penny, especially since children under the age of 15 are FREE! One of the few times we didn’t have to pay a dime (or a rupee, rather) for Terran!

More information, if you care to read it ::

Inspired by the Minaret of Jam in Afghanistan and wishing to surpass it, Qutbuddin Aibak, the first Muslim ruler of Delhi, commenced construction of the Qutb Minar in 1193, but could only complete its base. His successor, Iltutmish, added three more stories and, in 1386, Firuz Shah Tughluq constructed the fifth and the last story. The development of architectural styles from Aibak to Tughluq are quite evident in the minaret. Like earlier towers erected by the Ghaznavids and Ghurids in Afghanistan, the Qutb Minar comprises several superposed flanged and cylindrical shafts, separated by balconies carried on Muqarnas corbels. The minaret is made of fluted red sandstone covered with intricate carvings and verses from the Qur’an. The Qutb Minar is itself built on the ruins of the Lal Kot, the Red Citadel in the city of Dhillika, the capital of the Tomars and the Chauhans, the last Hindu rulers of Delhi. The complex initially housed 27 ancient Jain temples which were destroyed and their debris used to build the Qutb minar.[4] One engraving on the Qutb Minar reads, “Shri Vishwakarma prasade rachita” (Conceived with the grace of Vishwakarma), this is thought to have been engraved by the enslaved Hindu craftsmen who built the minar.

The purpose for building this monument has been variously speculated upon. It could take the usual role of a minaret, calling people for prayer in the Quwwat-ul-Islam mosque, the earliest extant mosque built by the Delhi Sultans. Other possibilities are a tower of victory, a monument signifying the might of Islam, or a watch tower for defense. Controversy also surrounds the origins for the name of the tower. Many historians believe that the Qutb Minar was named after the first Turkish sultan, Qutb-ud-din Aibak but others contend that it was named in honour of Qutbuddin Bakhtiar Kaki, a saint from Baghdad who came to live in India and was greatly venerated by Iltutmish.





About four months ago, I went along on an AWA Outreach trip to Diksha.

Diksha is a school that was started on October 1, 2008 with just 13 children.  The land was gifted to the school by the government, and they were just asked to keep it clean and tidy.

Families who have a family income of less than Rs 8,000 are admitted to the school, with no tuition charges to the family.  That monthly salary cap is equal to about $160 USD.

Diksha offers a safe, healthy place for the children to be from 8:30 am until 1:30 pm, with a midday snack, a full meal and as important as the sustenance for their bodies, an education.

Now up to a total daily roster of about 60 children, they range in ages from 3 – 12 years old.

The women who run Diksha used to feed the children biscuits and bananas for their snack, but because bananas are now too expensive (Rs. 50 per 6), they just serve biscuits.This is the amazing woman who cooks for all of these kiddos.  She makes rice and dal, and occasionally vegetables when they are donated.

As we sat and visited with the administrators (who all 100% donate their time and energy), we learned that their teachers make Rs 5,000 per month.  The same teachers could teach in local Delhi schools and earn approximately Rs 27,000.We discussed options for helping these children out, including hotels gifting their daily unused produce (nothing that had already been cooked though) for the next day’s meals.

We also talked at length about joyful celebrations, and how they would love to have volunteers (even one-off volunteers) come to teach the children a dance, practice yoga, color a mural, etc.


The motto of Diksha is “Give the best, leave the rest.”

Diksha is an amazing place – whether you are in the Delhi/NCR area and have some time to give, or live farther away and want to give the gift of money.