A visit to the Microbiologist

Since Swashikshan was launched in July 2012, we have been looking at how whatever we do for our kids could possibly be replicated by anybody in India. Visiting the real world, finding out how things work, how stuff is made, these are the things that make for a ‘real’ education and that is the philosophy behind Homeschooling by and large.

A Doctor friend of ours, who runs a lab, seeing that we were homeschooling, had expressed a desire to know more about it. In the course of our talks, she mentioned that she has a spare Microscope lying with her. We gladly took it up and have enjoyed using it at times.

We then thought amongst ourselves, how wonderful it would be if our kids could get to see the inside of a Pathology Lab, and see what makes up their blood under a microscope, things which only Medical graduates get to see.

So at rather short notice, a few of us gathered together and went to visit Clinilabs at Borivli, in October 2012.

Dr. Neena Patil, whose father was a teacher, was very glad to demonstrate everything in her Lab. She started by showing how blood is collected, by tying a tourniquet. She explained why it is tied, and how blood is collected in different bulbs for testing.

The different colour coded collection tubes are used for collecting blood and running different tests.

She also explained about Biomedical waste and how needle tips are burnt, and syringe tips are cut in theNeedle burner and Syringe cutter. Also the segregation of Medical waste and separate bags for disposal of sharps and other waste.

She explained in detail about how blood is checked, the centrifuge, the Incubator, and the different parts of the Microscope. Parents and children both learned a lot!

Then it was time for all of us to have a look at the Peripheral Smear! This is a drop of blood which is spread thin over a glass slide, stained and put under the Microscope.

We saw Red Blood cells, White blood cells, and also Malarial Parasites, the ring and dot forms. Wow!

She also showed us from the text books the various things we were seeing under the microscope.

Both young and old got a chance to see the miracles of the human body a bit better than ever before.

Since it was a small group, each child could get to see under the microscope under different magnifications.

All in all, it was a great learning experience. Such outings are a wonderful way for all who are a part of Swashikshan. I am ready to organize similar outings for anybody interested.

Here is the Resource tag:

Subject: Biology

Age groups: 7 to 17 yrs, and parents too

Number of persons: 10 to 15 at a time.

My email: drspmathew@gmail.com



First Christian Homeschoolers Meet at Mumbai

Homeschoolers young and old, in and around Mumbai, who are homeschooling because they believe it is what God has called them to do, met at Shanthi and Kumar’s residence on the 22nd of September 2012.

It was a great time of bonding, sharing our journeys, encouraging one another, praising God for His very evident manner of leading each family in their walk with Him and for Him.

A million thanks to Shanthi for opening her spacious home for all of us.

We started at 4 pm. As each family entered, they met friends new and old, and immediately the conversations started in myriad different ways, each one unique yet with the common denominator of what the Lord has done through them.

The informal talks lasted for about 45 minutes till all the families had arrived. We were served pani-puri and soft drinks in the meantime, and given our personal name tags too.

We then started with a prayer asking the Lord to guide us as we met, and that He may show us His will for us today. After this we had a short time of introductions, as many were meeting for the first time, being relatively new entrants to homeschooling. Each family gave a brief summary of who they are, what they do and where they stay.

Then the children were divided into two groups, with the smaller ones playing around us in the hall, and the older ones going to the park nearby for outdoor games.

After this we got into the grown-ups discussing, sharing and remembering their own journeys. We started with Rajesh and Alice Lele, then Stanley and Charis, Saju and Jane, followed by Yogesh and Shruti, Craig and Teresa, Mathew and Vinita, Shanthi, Rohini and Suresh, and Ann Manning.

Each family had unique experiences, and every testimony was an incredible record of God’s faithfulness sometimes inspite of our human weaknesses and our tendency to depend on our own wisdom rather than depend on Him.

Here is what Anne Manning has to say:

It was such a privilege to meet with other Home Schoolers on the 22nd! Thanks Shanthi and Mathew/Vinita for making this possible! Encore!! 🙂 🙂


It was a particular joy to see parents of young children praying and seeking God for this faith inspired, adventurous, sometimes acrobatic and tight rope walk of Home Schooling their children! 🙂 🙂

It was also nice to hear parents who have gone a ways in their journey, help answer questions from those who are considering or just venturing out.

I want to leave the three tenets of Home Schooling with all those who read this…namely

1. When you start out, ensure you have your own Rhema Word from Father God. This is important, because every faith endeavor will always face a time or season when all one has as an anchor will be the Rhema that the Lord gave before the journey began. We owe ourselves this!

For Ashlyn and me it was Acts 4:13.

2. Ensure that both husband and wife are in agreement with the decision before you begin. This is important because two are better than one and a three fold cord is not easily broken. A more down to earth reason is that there will be times when one or both of you can become so stressed and find it so hard, that you want someone to blame for starting this ‘crazy thing’ in the first place! 🙂 If and when that happens, no one can blame anyone, because you both decided to plunge in together, taking responsibility as equal partners, at least at the basic decision making level! We owe each other this!

3. Be disciplined to ensure the year is planned as a whole and then each month and week, so that the children sail consistently through each grade, with no lag or lack because of parental indiscipline or lack of commitment to the cause. At least one parent should be willing to make Home Schooling their top priority of each day, and stick to it. Our children depend on us for Home Schooling, so we owe them this.


It was great to hear how each person planned for their children, prayed about, selected and acquired curriculum, handled how each parent would play a significant, need based role in Home Schooling, coped with challenges and also what each one would do differently if they had an opportunity to turn back the clock and begin all over again.


I, for one, conclude that Home Schooling is a faith walk, one step at a time, choosing to walk the line, sometimes precariously, but always assured of the Father’s eye watching, hand helping and heart loving what we do, endorsing it with His provision and wisdom, enabling us by the power of His Holy Spirit, and taking us on in our journey initiated by Him, taken on by us and which will ultimately bring glory to Him, as our children make choices that will let their light so shine before men that when they see their good works they will give glory to our Father in heaven.


All said and done, Home Schooling is honoring God in being faithful stewards of the children He has given us, putting our shoulder to the wheel because we love Him and them, and then knowing that is is not easy, but worth it in the end! Love …Anne

Rajesh and Alice have this to say:

Dear All, 


It was a joy for us to meet for the very first time most of you who have been co-travelers with us on this very exciting journey of Homeschooling. 


We look forward to greater interactions and working together to further the spread of Biblical Parenting and Homeschooling so that the world around us will know the right way – God’s way of bringing up our children.


Just a word of caution that I mentioned to a few parents that day,  but would like to sound to the rest on this forum too.


It is good to draw strength and encouragement from the knowledge that there have been few that have trodden the path before you and that there is a path that is slowly emerging. But because our God is creative, please understand that He will have a very unique path charted for you and your children. SO I want to encourage you all to seek the Lord and keep your eyes on Him as He will be the one that will direct your ways and shed light on your path. 

Those of us who have gone ahead of you are like the cheerleaders standing on the side and cheering you on…Our paths may be similar in parts but will definitely not be the same…so don’t even for a moment base your confidence in any of us (who are ahead of you on this path) or on our experiences, but learn from what we did right and also from where we messed up… Hopefully we will be candid enough to share that with you as well 🙂 


A special thanks to you Shanthi, for opening up your huuuuuuuuuuuggeeeee home 🙂 to us and also for the excellent hospitality… The food was really good too!! 🙂 Thanks Mathew and Vinita for the initiative that you take to organise and  keep everyone clued in on all that is happening!! 


Apologies if I have missed anyone else who worked hard to put this evening tog…. 


God bless you all…


Rajesh & Alice


By the end of our sharing time the kids also had come back, and we prayed and thanked God for the food set before us.

During dinner time again there was a lot of catching up to do, amidst the chaos made by children running and playing all over the place.

After dinner we had a special treat, three varieties of delicious cake by the talented Nithya, daughter of Kumar and Shanthi.

Mouthwatering, irresistible, fabulous, fantastic…were just some of the compliments from those fortunate enough to have tasted the cake!

We also planned to fix a date for the next meet most probably in January 2012, third Saturday.

Here are our group photos! Cheers…

Children together…

Parents too.

Hope this encourages you too as you read. Questions and comments welcome.






Water testing report 2

When I checked my kitchen tap water for E Coli as part of our project with our children, I was shocked to see that it tested positive. This meant that there was contamination by Coliform bacteria in the water. The photograph below shows the water in the bottle which has changed colour to yellow from the original purple.

We get piped water from the BMC at 9 30 pm daily which is collected in the building’s underground tank. I met Dr. Inamdar, the Medical Officer Health, who promptly sent a staff to collect water from the BMC pipe what comes into our building. I also collected samples of water direct from the BMC line coming into our building, before it falls into our tank.

The results were surprising.

Here is the photo.

This shows that the BMC water which is coming presently to our building does not have any E Coli contamination. Congratulations to the New Link Road Forum, whose tireless efforts resulted in plugging water thefts at Ganpat Patil Nagar.


Kudos to the BMC for addressing our concerns as soon as we pointed the out.



But the effects of the earlier seeding of bacteria through the water lines is visible now in our buliding’s storage and supply system. It looks like the earlier contamination which took place has resulted in these bacteria persisting in our building piping or tanks.

This may be the case in other buildings too. I will have to check.

In the meantime, I have also taken samples from Aquagard and Kent water purifiers, results awaited.

Tap water contamination testing

Our drinking water in Mumbai is under threat due to puncture of main pipes by residents of illegal slums.

The photo above taken by our Residents Forum shows the main BMC line which was punctured by the water mafia.

The main water pipe supplying water to millions of residents, as a result of this horrible pilferage, is open to reverse contamination by sewage from nearby open air toilets in the slums.

How do we detect and confirm if there is actually fecal contamination of our water? It is actually quite easy. Human feces contain large quantities of a bacterium called E Coli. These bacteria are also known as Coliforms, and are not found anywhere else in nature. If we can detect the presence of these bacteria in water, it confirms that there is contamination of the water by feces.

Here is how we can do it:

In order to test the water that comes out of the taps at my home for possible fecal contamination I ordered an E Coli testing kit from a Pathologist friend of mine, Dr. Neena Patil who runs Clinilabs at Borivli.

We decided to do it as a homeschool project with our kids called “Tap water Purity testing” and here is the first half of the project.

The kit contains a sample collection bottle, and a nutrient powder called PA Broth.

We need to label the Bottle according to site of collection of water.

We collect running tap water from our kitchen sink.

Shake gently the water in the PA Broth to dissolve the nutrient powder.

Pour into sample collection bottle.

Now we need to keep this for 48 hours at 30 Degrees Celsius, and observe if the color changes to yellow, we are in deep trouble.

We are waiting for the results.

If you would like to check your water, please let me know. Limited kits available.



Thinking of IGCSE

Our daughter has been home schooled since the last 8 years. We have seen to it that all three of our children get a solid foundation in all subjects, and most importantly an understanding of what is right and wrong. The Bible has been our reference for what is right and wrong. Parents should teach their own children the most important things in life, since children are given to parents and not to teachers, the school or the government.

We believe the heart of the child is the most important, not his or her mind and brain. So our emphasis in homeschooling our children has been to give them a heart that loves God and loves to do what is pleasing to God, what is right, and not what is popular or pleasing to themselves. This has been a challenge, because as the Bible says, we all have a tendency to do what is wrong, even though we may know it is so. That is the default state of mankind ever since the fall. This sin has separated us from God. We love doing what we think is right.

One can be a genius, but if one does not know what is right or wrong, then any genius can become a threat. We also know that evil company corrupts, and hence we teach our children also to be careful in choosing their friends.

On the academic front, our children also have developed a love for various subjects, [though we do not believe that any subject can be taught in isolation] and we like to encourage them in whatever way possible. Our dream is for each of them to live a fulfilled life, find a career or calling that best uses the talents that God has gifted them with in a unique way, since every child is unique and like no other.

Since our daughter expressed a desire to attend Junior college, we decided to explore the options of giving the tenth grade exams since they are the gateway into Junior college in India.

As we were perusing the different boards with my daughter, we felt that the IGCSE offers a wide range of subjects, flexibility and tries to make the child understand and learn rather than go by rote learning. http://www.cie.org.uk/qualifications/academic/middlesec/igcse/overview

IGCSE is a board whereby children can give the 10th grade exams. Since our daughter is now 13 years [2012] and expressed a desire to study abroad at some time, we thought of her giving the IGCSE exams for that reason too. Cambridge IGCSE is the world’s most popular international curriculum for 14-16 year olds, leading to globally recognized Cambridge IGCSE qualifications. It is part of the Cambridge Secondary 2 stage.

Schools worldwide have helped develop Cambridge IGCSE, which provides excellent preparation for the Cambridge Advanced stage including Cambridge International AS and A Levels and Cambridge Pre-U, as well as other progression routes. It incorporates the best in international education for learners at this level.

So we sent an email to Dr. Vandana Lulla, Principal of Podar School in Santacruz. http://www.podarinternationalschool.com/

She immediately replied, calling us to meet her at her office in Podar School. My wife and I met her on the 6th of August 2012.

She listened to us as we explained why we had approached her. We wanted to have our daughter Grace give the IGCSE exams as a private candidate. She was most open to the idea, and recalled some cases of homeschooled children who had appeared as private candidates through her school, and who also happened to top the exams, without attending a single day in school.

She also mentioned that there are many students who are talented in various other fields and often performing or taking part in tournaments, as a result of which they do not have time to attend classes at all, but still do well in the exams. She also stated the opposite case which was more common, of the majority if kids who do badly in exams inspite of attending school regularly.

She agreed that the child’s grasp of the subject and how they do in exams has little to do with the time spent in school.

We then asked her about the details of the IGCSE exams.

She mentioned that if the child is appearing as a private candidate, she can choose any of the variety of subjects that CIE board offers http://www.cie.org.uk/qualifications/academic/middlesec/igcse/subjects# [except those with BES in brackets as mentioned by Shailaja Karanam from Hyderabad]. The minimum subjects to be taken are 5. She has to only appear directly for the exams, carrying a proof of identity.

The minimum number of subjects a child can choose is five, and the maximum she can give is seven in one exam.

The exams are held twice a year, and the child has to clear all the subjects chosen in the course of 18 months or three exams in that period. For example she can clear three subjects in October, and four in May. The admission process starts in August and Jan for the IGCSE exams 18 months later in October and May the following year respectively, and the school will issue forms for the same.

In case the parents feel that the child needs coaching in particular subjects, then the school refers them to teachers who coach privately small batches of 3 to 5 students. These teachers are associated with her school, but coach independently subjects which the child needs.

The Principal also mentioned that there is a way to evaluate the childs preparedness for the IGCSE in the core subjects of English, Maths and Science, called Checkpoint. It costs Rs. 20000/- and the exams are held in August. The school conducts this exam over a week and it gives a complete evaluation of the strong and weak points, the child’s grasp of these subjects.

We also mentioned about our National Body Swashikshan, and she invited parents and their children interested in IGCSE to visit her so that she can clarify any points they might have. She also agreed to us putting up a write up of today’s meet with her for Swashikshan.

Overall our meeting with the Principal of Podar School went off very well. We would like to share this information with our fellow homeschoolers in India and abroad. If you have anything to add or share, we would love to hear from you.

Mumbai Homeschoolers National Park Picnic July 2012

As the monsoon season pours rain over the ever green forests
and hills of the verdant Sanjay Gandhi National Park in Borivli, we homeschoolers look forward to our annual picnic to the flowing
stream in the midst of the dense forests of the park.

This year we had quite a few newcomers, who have taken the step towards real life education outside the confines of the school. Even though we had planned it in a rather short notice of 5 days, around 24 of us managed to have a wonderful time at the park on the 24th of July, 2012.

Reaching there:

By road, along Western Express Highway is national park gate. By rail, from Borivli station, reach National park gate, buy your tickets. Inside National park gate, if you have your own car, drive right up to the stream on Kanheri caves road. Dr. Mathew’s car and driver were also available to drop our special invitee’s right up to the stream J


Preparation tips:

Things to get:

Change of clothes.

Picnic food items.


Strap shoes.

Magnifying glass

Net for catching specimens


Frog cage


Bucket and mug


Extra clothes


Things not to get:

Plastic bags and plates. National Park is declared a plastic bag free zone.

Timings of the picnic:

1:30 PM to 5:30 PM

Most of us reached the stream by 1:45 pm.


The picnic:

We all gathered upstream, a short walk from the bridge. After changing, it was time to test the waters. There is a good flow of fresh water as it has been raining quite heavily in the past week.

Almost everyone immediately jumped into the water, which though cold, became comfortable in no time for us. Only some of the parents did not venture out into the stream waters to deep.

The kids played with one another, splashing water, catching frogs and small creepy crawlies, and exploring the area in general.

The older kids wandered upstream to explore the forest and wildlife. The younger ones with Supriya had a splashing good time at the mini waterfall Jacuzzi.

They caught a small tailed frog, and also what looks like a centipede.

The small rapids over the rocks were like a natural Jacuzzi, providing a wonderful cold water massage to those who dared to venture into it.

Soon everyone was feeling very hungry, and the mothers had lovingly packed delicious food for all of us. Most of the goodies vanished in no time!

The weather was perfect, thank God, cloudy and cool, with no rain. This allowed us to take quite a few pictures, some of which are also posted on my Facebook page.

All had a wonderful time, playing and also getting to know one another, sharing experiences and the common and uncommon joys of homeschooling.

All too soon it was time to head back.

With joyful hearts we walked back to the road, where monkeys and hot corn awaited us!

After a tasty snack of hot Bhutta with masala [lime and salt], we went back to our homes, with wonderful memories.

See you next time, at another place, another time, for the Mumbai homeschoolers picnic @ some other exciting and beautiful place soon! J





Working Dad’s and guilt

I am a working Dad, and quite proud of it. I never realized that being a working Dad is anything to feel guilty about. I have read a lot of articles about working away from home Mom’s and guilt, and have admired those Mom’s [including mine] who managed to juggle work, long hours of travel, and all the house work.

What about working Dad’s? We spend the majority of our time away from home. Not knowing what is happening at home, with our kids.

Are Dad’s only supposed to be ATM machines, without any relationship with their kids? Popular culture seems to think so. Infact it promotes the so-called successful Dad who makes money and provides all the luxuries of life to his family.

Let me relate what changed in my life over the years which made me start to think differently about Dad’s and their role in the family. The key influence which changed my world view about my life, work and family came from the word of God, the Bible.

Here is an example:

These are the proverbs of Solomon. A wise son makes his father glad. But a foolish son brings sorrow to his mother. Riches that are gained by sinning aren’t worth anything. But doing what is right saves you from death. The LORD gives those who do right the food they need. But he lets those who do wrong go hungry.

(Proverbs 10:1-3 NIrV)

Proverbial wisdom says that it is not money that makes Dad glad, but a wise son. My priority should be to raise a wise son, not only for his own sake but for mine too.

It also says that money earned the wrong way will actually damage my home and its peace and joy. So I am to constantly evaluate my work, my business, to see that I am earning honestly.

God places a lot of responsibility on the Dad, especially for his children’s character. It is Dad and not Mom who will be accountable to God.

I love my work as a Physician. I love my family, my kids and want the best for them. As I reevaluated my life in the light of God’s word I realized that I had to walk the talk.

As a Doctor, my work used to take me away from home for over ten hours a day. As I saw my three little children growing up, I made a difficult decision, to let go of the major part of my practice to another Doctor, for the sake of being with my children and my family.

Ever since I cut down on my work by 50% in the last four years, I have seen, heard, played and fought a lot more with my three kids than I ever knew was possible for a Dad. I have made myself free after 4 pm and then I am all theirs [usually].


Being able to be a part of their world is so precious to me as a Dad.

Every moment, every day brings something new…..like

Being around when my youngest daughter removed the side wheels of her bicycle and cycled for the first time on two wheels.

Being there when she falls, comforting her.

Playing and learning football with my kids and their friends.

Seeing my oldest daughter becoming a teenager.

Seeing her write her stories, news articles, magazines, plays and cartoons.

Being the one to whom they rush when they want to play.

Being the one to whom they call for help with their bath, dinner, prayer and bedtime stories.

Hearing their stories of what happened when they played, about their friends, asking them questions about why they did what they did, giving a different perspective to their view point.

Being a role model to them in the way I live and act with others as Christ would have, with love and humility. This has been a challenge and with the grace of God I am able to change myself and pray that I impart values to them that will make them wise.

This all seems so unbelievable to me as a man. Each moment has given me so much joy, laughter, humor, and new insights into the world around me.

There are days when I get busy with my work, and due to various commitments at times, I cannot be with them in the evenings.

At times like these, I really feel bad.

Missing the part of their life even for a day.

I wonder what is going on as they play, what are they discovering, what new things have they managed to do.


Here are a few thoughts for all you men out there….

I think it is good for Dad’s to feel atleast a little guilty about working away from home. Please spend more time with your kids. They need you more than your money.

It will surely make you a better Father, Husband, and your kids better human beings…who will make you glad in your old age.


Many men will agree that being a father is the most rewarding relationship that they have. Children begin by loving their fathers unconditionally. It is a clean slate. There is nothing the father has to do to earn his child’s love. The difficult part is not losing it. As the child goes out into the world, he will see all kinds of men whom he will look to as models as well. It is crucial that his father stay active in his life and help him make intelligent decisions. A boy without a father will look elsewhere to fill his father’s shoes.

Our fathers carry half of our genetic makeup. Our relationship with our father plays a huge part of who we will become. In many segments of society, people grow up without ever knowing their fathers. This is unfortunate because fathers should play as important a role in raising their children as mothers. A father is the model of a man for his daughter and she will choose a man who is like him. A father is the model for his son as well. Fortunately, there is a trend for fathers to be more active in their children’s lives.


Source: Father Poems – Poems about Fathers, Dads http://www.familyfriendpoems.com/family/father-poems.asp#ixzz20u3wevK4



Father Poem

This poem is about the circle of life, from a daughter to her Dad.

Family Circle

© Melissa G. Nicks

When I am born, you are here
In your eye, I see a tear
Time flies and already I’m two
“Look, daddy, I can tie my shoe!”

Before you know it, I’m five
Every day, you thank God I’m alive
Pretty soon, I turn eight
You tell me I’m never allowed to date

I’m already twelve in my preteen years
Which means you’ll help me with all my new fears
Now fourteen with my permit to drive
Waiting to hit the big one-five

Too early comes sixteen, with my license now
It went by too fast, you just ask how

You want to meet my boyfriend when I’m eighteen
I pray to god that you’re not too mean
The same guy two years later asks for my hand
I’m relieved when you say, that’s just grand

About a year later, you walk me down the aisle
Through all the tears, you bare a smile
Three years later, you’re gonna be a grandfather
You show love and pride for your new granddaughter

Another year down the road
Mom dies, oh the many tears that flowed
You’re not doing so well without her
Less than a year later, you forgot all about her

Alzheimer’s sets in and it scares me so
Not long after, you decide to go
Now I’m regretting not saying goodbye
Every time I think about it, I start to cry

The cycle has begun again
It has started over with little Megan
The other day, she turned two
And said, “Look, daddy, I can tie my shoe!”

Source: Cycle Of Life, Family Circle, Father Poem http://www.familyfriendpoems.com/poem/cycle-of-life-family-circle#ixzz20u4EUaql 


What do you think?