Saved by unschooling!

Here’s another unschooling story with a happy ending from a mother who truly believes in her son!

When we first decided to homeschool Greg, it was a very scary time for us parents as we didn’t know what to expect; and quite frankly, didn’t know how we were going to homeschool him. But we knew we had to do something because Greg was getting so upset and unhappy about going to school.

He started having night terrors every night, crying out for help, repeating that he is dying. In the mornings, there was tears and talks about wanting to die as we walked to school. In the afternoons, great big heart-wrenching tears will spill from his eyes again as he spotted me standing outside the classroom.

We didn’t know what was the matter with him while school kept assuring us that he was fine and was one of the best student in his class. He was fast-tracked into the reading group two years ahead of his class.

But we knew, whatever he was so unhappy about…we wouldn’t know until we gave ourselves and him a chance to find out. And that will mean taking him off what we felt was like a “runaway train” and settle him back down onto the ground. And so, in December 2006, we deregistered six year old Greg from his school and our homeschooling journey began. We had sent a happy, bubbly independent child into the education system, and it returned to us a nervous, clinging child who wouldn’t leave my side nor the house.

We thought we were dealing with quirks of a gifted child as Greg was tested to be gifted at age 4 by an educational psychologist. But little did we know, 18 months into our homeschooling/ unschooling, Greg was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome.

A year later, Greg was informally diagnosed to have Sensory Integration Disorder. It basically means he has faulty sensors in his body. They are either over sensitive, or under sensitive to a point of not working. Now we understood how school had become such a horrible experience for him. The noise, smell, tactile issues and the temperature fluctuations. It was all playing havoc on him, and confusing his mind.

In 2011, Greg was diagnosed to be suffering from allergies that was effecting his moods and behaviours. After a diligent few years of gluten free, egg free, potato and tomato free diet…we saw huge improvements.

Unschooling has allowed us to strip everything down to bare basics and just focus on Greg with minimal variables interfering. It has allowed us parents to understand what and where is the root of the problem, and help bridge or fix it.

It has been quite a journey for all of us. No matter how dire it may seem sometimes, it has never crossed our mind that it cannot be done. We have always had faith that with Will and determination, anything is possible. And so it is, as evident in Greg’s confidence in himself.

I want to share my happy story here!

My son Greg has done a mock exam for his German language and passed with 94% mark. Yesterday practise mock exam scored 100%. He is now registered to do the CEFR German language exam in this coming April..the first out of the four that he can complete over the next 3 years.

This is quite an accomplishment for a 14 yr old. And a big sigh of relief for us parents! What matters most for me is not the exam scores but more of the fact that he WANTS to do it. He is happy and confident to do it. He is challenging himself to do it.

Not bad for a kid who spent the first 18 months of our unschooling life shutting me and his dad out, just focusing on playstation gaming . We were housebound as Greg refused to go anywhere. Greg was suffering what can only be described as school phobia. Any sight of school uniform or school going kids will make him nervous. Any school books or worksheets will result in him having an emotional meltdown. He hates writing (still do but not so bad now) and absolutely detest any form of timed activities. So any form of test or exams will be absolutely out of the question. And digital gaming was his only safe haven.

It is not hard to see how we became unschoolers. We had no choice. He was definitely a child who knew his mind, knew what he wanted and most of the time WHAT HE DOESN’T WANT! I don’t think I have much of a tongue left after all these years of having to hold my opinions back when dealing with Greg’s habit of not wanting to try anything. Or he could start something, doing really well with it..and then completely drop out of it.

I can only console myself that it is just him trying things out. Practising, I call it.

Over the years, we saw Greg growing up in his own pace and time, and trying out new things. It all has to be what he wants and nothing of what we suggest.

In the last 18 months, Greg have decided to try languages. He started with Mandarin because it was something to do that will get him out of the house. Then he asked for German language lessons. Two months ago, he started Russian language lessons and now he is keen to start French this coming June. Last month, he told me that I have to teach him the Malay language.

And so, I have been informed by my son that his ambition now is to be a translator. Not bad for a 14 yr old to have figured out what he wants to be in the future. When i was 14 year old, I was too busy worrying about school!

I have to say, I am very proud of my ” eat, sleep and dream” video-gaming son to have figured out what he wants out of life. That itself is quite an achievement. But most of all… him being the perfectionist that he is, allowing himself to take some risk and try something…this is the true achievement that I am so very proud. This is the final barrier to him being his very best….BROKEN!!

No more “I can’t do it” and more “I can, and I did!”

As I have always shared, small steps can lead to big things. All we need is Faith. Every story shared here in this group, signifies something important and valuable. It tells us, it can be done.

Every achievement, no matter how minute and insignificant it may seem to be, forms part of a solid foundation that will launch many more great things.

Have faith. Especially to parents with avid digital gaming kids….good things can come from digital gaming.

Thank you for allowing me to share my story here. For more encouraging true life home schooling stories, please come join us at https://www.facebook.com/groups/362320523854093/permalink/791785650907576/.

Amrita’s Treehouse Open Mic

Amrita started Treehouse Open Mic as a platform for budding musicians to showcase their talents in a clean and safe environment for the young. Being a teenager herself, she is well aware of the dire need for such a platform other than those that are held at pubs and bars late at night. We applaud her dedication to her art and her willingness to share this platform with others! See you there tomorrow!

Our CNY 2015 in pictures

This lunar year seemed to have come and gone in a flash! What makes it meaningful is the connecting and reconnecting of relationships (both new and old). And the practice and preservation of culture and tradition.

Here are some of the highlights:

Chinese New Year on ice at the Royale Ice-skating rink! Amrita was part of the CNY on ice performers who entertained guests at the hotel rink.

CNY Tea-ceremony at Clic – a cultural practice & tradition for children to show their gratitude and respect to their parents and elders.

CNY get-together with family & friends at Clic! The Clic family is growing and strives to be an inclusive community for all!

The biggest & most awesome low sung ever! Lovingly prepared by Kent Leong & his mom!

A game of “da feng chui” (Wind Blows) and how a simple game can be so inclusive and fun!

CNY singing performance by the kids at Lecadia Primacare in KL. Thank you for inviting us again, auntie Amy Ratos!

The highlight of the evening – Dragon dance! The dragon was the live-wire of the evening!

Joined by two young lions or were they lioness? ;)

Here’s wishing everyone a great year ahead!!!

Our Unschooling photo Diary Jan-Feb 2015

Amrita’s ballet class for homeschoolers finally took off in January! It is held at a dance studio in Subang Jaya.

Amrita shared her songs with her special friends at Dignity & Services – a volunteer support group for those with special needs, in Taman Tun Dr Ismail.

Learning Bahasa Malaysia through making home videos.

Sam turns 18! And she is happy that her shoulders have healed and she is now going full force back into dancing and performing!

Sharing session in Taman Melawati with other unschoolers. Amrita sang her original songs.

Amrita turns 19!

Her EP “Clues” is gaining interest and attention in the local music scene. Follow her on http://www.amritasoon.com

In the Star paper.

And Sam’s hip hop class for kids & moms is finally launched!

It’s great fun & good workout!

For further info on classes & activities, please write to beyond.schooling@gmail.com

Happy Lunar New Year a Everyone!

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Introducing “Ask Me!” On LBS

The past couple of weeks I have been getting calls by parents as well as community workers on how to introduce the unschooling approach to their children and their community. They lament that the education systems here (the public schools, semi-public as well as independent schools) are seeing increasing numbers of students dropping out. Parents are worried for the future of their children. Community workers are worried about the increasing gulf between the rich and the poor. The former can afford private and international schooling, with all the rich resources at their finger tips. But the poor has nothing for them.

We need a complete mind shift to tackle the many issues that confront education today.

Asking the right questions is the right start. Ask not what education can do for me, but ask instead, what I can do for education! Parents who come asking about what curriculum and what exams to take, do not get it. It’s sad for their kids who continually get pushed into the various systems but end up learning nothing worthwhile.

So let’s begin by asking questions and here’s the place for you to do so! Here’s a recent one from a young mother:

Question: “How do you decide on the unschooling approach when there are so many approaches out there such as Waldorf, Montessori, IGCSE, etc?”

LBS answers:

Unschooling to me is a natural approach to living and learning that fits my views and values of what education should be.

1. Parents take an unhurried approach to letting children be naturally curious and excited about the world around them. Why time or measure our children like they are in a race? Life is not a race! It is a growing process to be experienced, explored and expounded in various stages and with lots of love and understanding.

2. With the understanding that each child is different and learns at differing rates, there is no stress on children to start reading at a certain age, or get their numbers right at a particular stage. The important thing to do is to be present in mind and body with your child and to be actively involved in the most important element of learning – PLAY!

3. Unschooling is a way of life- not a philosophy or a theory by a person of authority. Parents get to explore the various ways to live and to learn and to play and to work. There are no absolute rules or systems that we need to follow. There are no prescribed books to read or study. There are no restrictions on what materials to use and the activities to do with our children. Thus parents will have to rely on the most essential element when making educated choices – our common sense!

4. Humans do all sorts of tests on animals. And humans see no wrong in testing humans too. But we are NOT animals. How can we allow our kids to be tested? And based on such a narrow result, we expect the conclusions to be conclusive!

5. To unschool is to unshackle the chains that bind us – the mindset that imprison us, the wrong views that mislead us, the fears that paralyzes us. Our children should not be additions to our world problems – they should be the creators of solutions to solve them!

We need more compassionate, all-inclusive and empathetic citizens to bring peace to the world. To me, unschooling is the antidote to the effects of schooling. That is the big picture that many fail to see. But to the few that do, it’s a very liberating life indeed. And we will never trade it for anything else that resembles schooling in any way!

(Forward your questions to beyond.schooling@gmail.com)

Getting started on the alternative educational path

Okay. We started an alternative to school that is NOT a school. A learning center that is not a tuition center. A free learning entity that is NOT for profit. It’s sort of a free “school” that is really FREE! It’s a perfect solution to the many issues of schooling, which, amongst other things, is not changing fast enough to cater to 21st century learning – learning that needs to be personalized as opposed to standardized, passion-driven as opposed to results-driven and collaborative as opposed to competitive.

We all know the problems that school-going kids face everyday – peer pressure, sheer boredom, in-the-box learning, bullying, the lack of morals and morale, just to name a few. We also know that to change the schooling system and its embedded cultures, we’ve got to change the entire mindset about learning – from the ministry of education down to the school administrators and to the parents and students. And that would take much too long. Our children cannot wait for the tiger to change its stripes. We have got to make the change ourselves because that is the only chance our children have to make education work for them to maximize their fullest potentials. Schooling is about catering to the top 10%. Education is about making learning an integral part of living for everyone, irrespective of race, gender and income. Unfortunately, this is not necessarily what we are getting due to the social and political history of the country.

And so, we continue to remain seated in the big white ship knowing very well that it is leaking in many places and that it is slowly but surely sinking, and it is taking everyone down with it. To deal with the sinking feeling, some resort to denial by pretending that all is well and good. Others are pulled away by the many distractions provided, like food and games and other carrot-led activities. But there will be a few who can see what is really going on, and are visualizing and planning their escape from the sinking ship. They try to sound the alarm to the rest of the passengers, but no one is really listening. So they have got to save themselves by getting out before it is too late!

To get out of the system that is rooted in industrial productions, we have got to get out of the industrial-mode thinking – standardization, production and competition, and get into the creative-mode thinking – divergence, personalization, collaboration.

Divergence

The schooling system teaches us to be passive learners – we sit down quietly to listen to the teacher (the person endowed with knowledge) telling us what to learn and what to believe. Rules are made to put every student in his/her place. Those who conform are rewarded. Those who oppose will be severely dealt with. The element of fear and punishment is utilized by the authorities to maintain the status quo. Divergents are frowned upon, and in some cases, even expelled.

But in our present climate-change that is extreme in nature, we need to be a little more “extreme” in our approach and attempt in charting new directions in our flight paths so as to avoid head-on collisions with extreme weather conditions. To do this, our navigational tools need to be up-to-date and state-of-the-art technology. And our navigational skills need to be constantly upgraded to cope with new challenges that present themselves to us in this volatile and difficult-to-predict environment.

To address new problems and issues, we need to have new ideas and approaches. Divergent thinkers have the edge in thinking up divergent solutions to current problems. The question we should ask is: Do you want to be normal like everyone else? If the answer is yes, then by all means, go through the entire education chain. But if, however, your child wants to be different, to do something else other than the prescribed formula, then he or she is a divergent. And you will have to think like a divergent parent to help your child get to a place that few have had the courage to try!

(To be continued)

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