Gangadhar Krishnan and his wife Ramya Laxminath believe travel is the best teacher; they follow a child-centric approach to parenting
Gangadhar Krishnan and his wife Ramya Laxminath lived a fast-paced life in the corporate world for over a decade — achieving “milestones” as described in the conventional sense. But then, the Hyderabad-based couple realised how important travel was for them and wanted their twin daughters to see beyond the grind of standardised tests and structured classroom learnings.
In 2018, Gangadhar quit his corporate career of 18 years, started a travel startup and hit the road.
Now the family of four is “roadschooling” — homeschooling on the road — while sharing tips on their social media pages and networking with parents across cities who are on a homeschooling journey. Their nine-year-old daughters Ananya and Amulya — who were pulled out of school last year — learn through these journeys. Last year, they went on a 90-day family roadschooling trip in their car travelling across 13,000 kilometres, 15 states and three international borders.
In Cherrapunji, the girls learnt about the water cycle. In Arunachal Pradesh, they ploughed a farm field and learnt about sustainable agriculture. In another remote village in the Northeast, when they were stuck in the middle of nowhere, the girls learnt another life lesson when unknown villagers offered help — that kindness can be unconditional.
“We believe in unstructured education and travel is an integral part of it. When we are not travelling, we follow a child-centric schedule. The girls decide what they want to do every day. So, if one morning they wish to take lessons in Kannada (our mother-tongue), we just facilitate that,” says Gangadhar, who runs a travel company named Unwind@Unexplored.
During their journey through the Northeast, they followed a minimalistic approach — pitching a tent and sleeping under it for many nights. On others, they stayed with the local people at places they passed by.
The pandemic temporarily halted their journey, but soon they were back on track. Last month, the family set off on their first contactless travel from Hyderabad to Mysore and back through Shravana Belagola, Shimoga, Honnemaradu, Jog Falls and Murudeshwar. At Honnemaradu, they met Nari Shakti Puraskar-awardee Nomito Kamdar, who has been promoting outdoor learning, environmental conservation and social development. “It was a wonderful learning experience for us all, especially the kids,” says Gangadhar.
Throughout their journey they maintained a contactless travel approach, carrying two kinds of tents — one each for changing and camping. “Every morning, we would set up our changing tent in the rural countryside. At nights, we pitched tents at different places — once even inside a petrol bunk,” he adds. One of their important travel gear was a camping pocket stove which was immensely helpful in cooking or making hot tea and coffee.
The family follows a no-plastic, no-junk-food philosophy throughout their travels. “We carry our own drinking water containers which we fill up on the way. In the Northeast, we drank water from public taps, rivers or simply filled water at any homein the areas we travelled. We eat what the locals eat because that again is a big life lesson for the girls in their understanding of cultures,” says Gangadhar.
In their parenting approach, Gangadhar and Ramya strongly believe in focussing on life skills like cooking, cleanliness, self defence, handling fears, inculcating values, respect for animals, handling one’s own emotions and communications. “We often wonder why we took so long to take them off regular school,” chuckles Ramya.