Homeschool Dilemma – answering hs questions

Here are our answers to some of the common questions aimed at us when the topic of homeschooling or unschooling crops up:

Question: “How did your kids respond to their friends or other people on why they chose to homeschool?”

Our kids are aged 11, 18 and 19 this year and they have been getting these questions by those who are either too shocked to know that such a learning approach actually exists here, or that they could not believe that all their years of studying for exams could have been saved with homeschooling! Some of the responses they got from those who found out that they never attended school:

“What? You homeschool? But why???”

Answer: “I don’t know? Why do YOU go to school?”

“What about exams? UPSR, PMR, SPM…?”

Answer: “What’s that??? Never heard of them.”

“What about college?”

Answer: “What ABOUT college? Do YOU know what you are going to do with YOUR life?”

“Do you have any friends?”

Answer: “I don’t know…..We’ve cats and a dog at home….do YOU have friends?”

So one strategy really works – counter question! Throw their questions back at them!

Another strategy that they have found helpful is to tell them what they want to hear. For example:

Question: So, what school do you go to?
Answer: Private school.
Question: Which one?
Answer: The one in XXX location.

Ok. Line of questioning ends.

Now I would like to talk about the most asked question AFTER “What about college?” posed by people who find out that our kids are not schooled, which is: “But what about SOCIALIZATION?”

It is a difficult question to answer because there are many myths about socialization that people consider as normal, but which in fact, are not.

But first, let’s define the word: socialization is a noun that means the adoption of the behavior of the surrounding culture. The act of adapting behavior to the norms of a culture or society is called socialization. Socialization can also mean going out and meeting people or hanging out with friends.

So to socialize is to adopt and adapt to the social norms of a surrounding culture. In the school setting, the social norms that can be found are conforming (to rules & regulations) competing (in exams) and confining (of thinking in the box). These are often accompanied by survival-of-the-fittest behaviors in the forms of cheating, lying or bullying. On the more “positive” side, it is also about having fun like hanging out at shopping malls or doing some physical activities like ice-skating or going to the movies (also in the malls).

As kids grow into teenagers and early adulthood, socialization gets more sophisticated in the forms of “cool” activities like going clubbing – which often includes extremely loud music, drinking, smoking (not just cigarettes but other ignitable grass-formed or non-legal substances), or the current trend of vaping which is essentially e-cigarettes but marketed as flavored, smokeless smoking, and is believed by experts to be many times more cancer-causing than normal cigarettes. But that’s another debate. So to say no to these invitations is to say no to such socialization. And that, to my my mind, is NOT such a bad thing at all.

So if these are what our kids are missing out on when they do not go to school, then I would say very good – we won’t miss them! Our teenagers may not understand dirty jokes that their friends like to tell, and they get laughed at by their peers for their innocence, or they may risk being ostracized by their peers by declining their invitations to go to clubs or to smoke or to vape, and risk not being invited for any social events ever again. But at least they know they made the right decisions by saying no to the kinds of socialization that they are not comfortable with.

What our kids enjoy very much is the kind of socialization that is not age-specific (they mix perfectly well with 2-year-olds to 70-year-olds), nor gender-specific. Wait. Isn’t that what normal people do in the normal world? Right! Which makes socializing ONLY with people your age seems rather out-of-the-normal range in real-world circumstances!

“Sometimes when I’m with a bunch of friends, I wonder to myself why they are so loud? Then it occurs to me that, hey, people my age are like that. That’s ‘normal’!” (Confession by a late teen).

“It’s very difficult to socialize with people my age because they like to go clubbing, which I don’t enjoy due to the very loud music and the large amount drinking and smoking!” Confesses another teenager. “Because of our (homeschool) upbringing, we tend not to follow the crowd. Sometimes that makes us seem antisocial. But the truth is, we like to be out with friends just like any teenager would, but we draw the line when it comes to behaviors that we deem dangerous and unhealthy.”

So the verdict is: socialization is a big issue that needs our careful attention. What kind of socialization? That is the question. It’s not as easy as getting our kids out there with their peers so that they can socialize. It’s more of having them acquire healthy lifestyles so that they will make healthy choices based on their preferred lifestyles. And when they are out there socializing, they will (hopefully make the right choices rather than to follow the crowd.

Selamat Hari Merdeka!

At this solemn moment therefore I call upon you all to dedicate yourselves to the service of the new Malaya: to work and strive with hand and brain to create a new nation, inspired by the ideals of justice and liberty-a beacon of light in a disturbed and distracted world.

The Persekutuan Tanah Melayu shall be for ever a sovereign democratic and independent State founded upon the principles of liberty and justice and ever seeking the welfare and happiness of its people and the maintenance of a just peace among all nations.

Tunku Abdul Rahman
August 31, 1957

The Spontaneous Cooks & Random Bakers

Ok this is a random post on cooking. Here’s a confession. I enjoy cooking. Some of the time. I’m not the cook-every-meal-kind-of-mom. I’m a cook-by-inspiration-kind-of-spontaneous mom! And luckily my kids are not the “But-we-need-you-to-cook-everyday!” kind of kids. So that’s a great relief! To my kids, eating is but an irritating diversion from the things they are busy with. So to plan ahead on what to eat is truly alien to them and whenever grandma (por por) asks them what they wanted to eat for lunch or dinner or breakfast the next day, they could never answer her!

So a simple sandwich or some fruits and cereal will do for a quick meal!

Nothing is simpler and healthier than throwing leafs and cut fruits into a salad bowl and having them with your favorite salad dressing! Or if you run out of dressing, you can just eat them undressed :)

This week is pancake week for us. Don’t ask me how it got started but we did have pancakes for breakfast and lunch today and the kids couldn’t stop making them. And when they stopped, I started! So here are some variety of shapes made by Sam:

And here’s my savory pancakes for lunch!

It’s our day off today (Monday) After weeks of madness we finally have a day where we could do nothing. But we chose to do baking instead! Because we felt like it. And because it’s been ages since we baked. So here they are!

Good old-fashioned Rock Cakes with apricots! They are done without measuring because we could not find our kitchen scale. And I hate to measure anything. So it’s down to a practice that even world-famous chef had to learn when they come to Malaysia – the art of “agak-agak”.

Amrita made Belgium chocolate chip cookies with a recipe taken from YouTube (where else?)….

And Sam made sushi with recipes from a book she recently bought.

Learning to cook couldn’t have been easier these days. You can learn practically anything at the touch of a screen. You don’t need to go to cooking school to learn how to cook!

And that goes with learning a million other things as well!

Be spontaneous. Be random!

Life will be more interesting this way.

Selamat Hari Raya 2015!

To all our friends and readers of Learning Beyond Schooling who are celebrating this holy season…..

A peek into 14 days of our passion-led lives (mid-June to early July)

This is actually part of a homeschool survey conducted by a researcher on homeschooling, which also included an option to submit a 14-day homeschooling diary which I thought was interesting and hence my submission (with some minor editing here). Take a deep breath before you proceed!

Day 1: Took a train from KL to Ipoh to visit Popo (grandma) on her birthday. Took her out for nice dinner together with uncles, aunt & grand aunt. Popo was very surprised but happy to see her 3 grandchildren!

Kids got to practice their Chinese with Popo and grandaunt and they were impressed with their progress! After dinner, we came back to KL in uncle Onn’s car. Reached home at about 11pm.

Day 2: badminton for Arian & his Clic friends, Chinese class for Amrita & Sam with their friends.

Afternoon- free time at home spent on doing homework, going online and practicing the piano.

Evening- aikido class for Arian, ballet for Amrita and hip hop class for Sam.

Day 3: morning – Amrita teaching ballet to her students, I teach piano classes to Arian and friends.

Afternoon- music rehearsal for piano students. Evening – aikido class for Arian, ballet class for Amrita, hip hop class for Sam.
(Their grandma was admitted into hospital for surgery to remove her bladder).

Day 4: morning – Amrita was invited to give a talk on her pursuit of her passion at the Digi headquarters. There were many other speakers there, mainly previous fellow winners of Digi Awards.

Afternoon – piano recital by my music students. About 10 students performed 3 pieces each and they all did very well! Mr PK Chong of Classical Heritage Singapore (my brother) gave his evaluation of the students.

Evening – Aikido class for Arian, ballet for Amrita & hip hop for Sam.

(Their grandma went through a 10-hour surgery and was placed in ICU ward after that. The kids did not go because it was strictly no visitors allowed. But we were constantly updated on her condition by grandpa).

Day 5: Amrita teaches at the ice-skating rink.

Sam had dance rehearsal and Arian stayed home with me. Did reading & homework and played the piano. The rest of his time was spent playing his game cards & watching YouTube videos.

Evening – the kids went to Sunway Pyramid to watch the ice-skating competition there. Had dinner together with their daddy there.

Day 6: Amrita had skating class & coaching. Afternoon – aikido class for Arian. Amrita had ballet class. Evening – Sam had dance rehearsal.

Day 7: morning – ballet class for Amrita, aikido rehearsal for Arian.

Afternoon – Amrita had a singing performance which we all went for. She performed with flair and confidence – the audience was mesmerized.

Evening – we visited grandma at the hospital. She was still in ICU and we could only go in 2 at a time for a short while. Arian could not go in at all as no children were allowed! Evening – had dinner together with grandpa, aunty Chris and cousin Stephanie after our hospital visit.

After that we took our kids to watch The Minions at the cinema!

Day 8: chilling at home after a crazy weekend! Kids doing their own thing – at the computer, iPad, piano, guitar, etc…..and a little bit of housework & homework (yes we do them periodically!) Oh and we harvested our pineapple – actually it’s Sam’s – took almost 3 years to grow and fruit, but that’s another story.

Day 9: Morning – Chinese class for Amrita & Sam. Arian went ice-skating with friends. Afternoon- doctor’s appointment at UH for Sam to do a scan on her injured shoulder. After that she and Amrita joined Arian and friends at the skating rink. Sam tried out the skates that her friend passed to her – fit like gloves!

Evening – aikido class for Arian, ballet class for Amrita and hip hop training for Sam.

Day 10: Morning- Amrita taught ballet at the studio while I taught piano at home to my students.

Afternoon – Taught a creative writing class to the kids at Clic. Then sent Amrita and her friend for skating rehearsal for a show.

Evening – Brought her back for ballet class at dance studio. Arian went for aikido class with his friends.

Day 11: Morning – Khan Academy Math with fellow unschoolers at Clic while Amrita taught ballet at a kindergarten. Afternoon- birthday party celebration for June “babies” – played various games with all the kids!

Evening – aikido class for Arian and ballet & hip hop for Amrita & Sam.

Day 12: Amrita went to work in the morning, while Arian and Sam were at home doing their thing – homework, reading, piano and laundry (yes, we do those too:)

Afternoon- taught a piano student at home and later joined their sister on the ice for their skating classes. Evening – stayed on for dinner there and went home after dinner.

Day 13: Morning – Amrita went to the ice rink for class & work while we had dim sum breakfast with papa after his basketball game. Afternoon – Arian went for a card fight tournament with papa while I went shopping with Sam. Picked Amrita from ballet class after her friend dropped her there from the ice rink. Evening- visited grandma at the hospital. She looked well & eager to go home the next day!

After the visit, we took a cab to KLCC to go to the bookshop there and had Japanese dinner. Papa picked us up from there after his interfaith buka puasa event.

Day 14: Morning- papa took Arian to aikido rehearsal at the Dojo while I sent the girls to the ice rink.

Afternoon – sent Sam for guitar class and from there, back to the ice rink again. Evening- papa went to bring grandma back from the hospital. After which we drove back to collect Sam and sent her for a meet up with her friends. Amrita attended a concert at Bentley auditorium with her friends. Arian stayed back with grandma and grandpa until we came home at midnight to pick him up. What a long day it had been!

And that is our 14-day diary entry of our passion-led life! It is definitely not a typical family life that one is used to. But when one puts passion before predictability, this is what you will get! It may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it suits us fine :) As long as we have the stamina to keep this up!

So how was YOUR week?

In Pursuit of Passion

Learning to play a musical instrument takes years for many to master, but it need not be a drudgery if one dwells into it with the right motivations – to understand oneself better and to express it with creativity and sensitivity – music notes are merely notes if played with the absence of feelings. In the learning process, not only will one gain mastery of the instrument, one shall also gain mastery of the self!

And this is evident every time we have a music performance event for the kids – the girls come in their best dresses and the boys in smart shirts and long pants. The anticipation was running high and their enthusiasm was clearly noticeable in their piano-playing! One by one, they each came up to perform three pieces – from elementary studies to Japanese anime soundtracks, from Richard Clayderman to Bach and Beethoven!


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Art Grabbed!

At a blink of the eye, we have come halfway through the year, and the month of June seems to be the busiest one for our family as well as our Clic family!

Starting with our participation at “Art for Grabs” held at The School @Jaya One, which had the parents and children busily creating art and crafts together several weeks prior to the event. Their excitement was hard to contain – ideas kept pouring in and they wanted to make EVERYTHING!!! But we had to draw the line at the final day of consolidating all the items for sale. And they did have a lot to sell! Our worry was not the lack of art items for sale but rather, how are the little kids going to sell them all amidst so many other adult-manned stalls at the art bazaar?


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