Raising Self-directed learners

This year, our unschooling has gone up several notches in terms of busy-ness. Amrita (17) who has been working hard on her singing, song-writing and guitaring, was abundantly inspired by her Nashville trip last June, to attend the Country Music Festival there. She did her own fund-raiser for the trip by holding 3 solo recitals and selling her “Ticket to Nashville” album consisting 5 original songs. This year, she has been busy performing in various Open Mic events around KL. She is starting to get paid jobs too! Getting paid for something you enjoy doing? That’s a dream job come true! What’s in store for her this year? She is writing a lot more songs and her songs are evolving, and so is she as an artiste! Her first professionally produced album is in the works!

Samanta (16) is focusing on her dancing – she aims to be the best hip hop dancer in he country. Hence she is training very hard with her teacher and mentor, Joel Tan – the first person to start a street dance academy in Malaysia and the most sought-after teacher for hip hop and other street dancing styles. Sam is also exploring her other talents in singing and song-writing too and has been singing publicly recently with her sister! She is also working on her first book of cartoons of childhood!

And Arian (9) is doing well at drumming, piano, hip hop dancing and aikido classes. He enjoys them very much. Other than these, he spends his time playing and learning with the kids at Clic (Community Learnng Initiative Center), specially set up for homeschoolers. Parents are very much involved in the running of the center as well as conducting activities suitable for the kids. There are currently 6 families who come together 3-4 times a week for regular activities like tree-climbing, playing traditional childhood games a the park, learning Mandarin the fun way, baking cupcakes and cookies for sale at the flea market, etc etc…

This is our experiment: teaching our kids by inspiring them to chase their dreams no matter how unreachable they may seem! Our kids will probably uncollege too! No stress about exams and coming up with college funds. Instead we can invest our money in whatever initiative our kids might fancy – be it producing an album, or starting a cafe! The sky is their limit!

Q&A on Self-directed learning

Question 1: Why did you decide to educate your children at home?

Answer: Because I believe in the preservation of children’s original minds – loving, curious, playful, innocent and inquisitive. I believe the schooling system works to destroy most of these.

Question2: What is the highest level of education that the main parent-teacher in your homeschool has completed?

Answer: We never went to college. I did my diplomas in music (teaching & performing) with prominent teachers in the country. My husband is a self-taught business consultant.

Question 3: What do you consider to be the similarities in home education and public education?

Answer: Sorry, can’t think of any!

Question 4: what do you consider to be the differences in home education and public education?

Answers:

Home education: Children choose what and how they want to learn.
School: The education system chooses them for the students.

Home education: Children learn at their own pace – be it fast or slow.
School: The school sets the pace for the students. Everyone has to finish the syllabus within a given time.

Home education: There are no constant testing or exams. Children learn because they want to, not because they have to.
School: Students are constantly tested and pitted against one another. Students learn because they have to. They do not have a choice.

Question 5: How would you describe the educational services offered in the public schools?

Answer: Insensitive. Inadequate. Not inclusive. Lacking in vision and mission. Perpetuating mediocrity.

Question 5: What about interaction & people skills?

Answer: Interaction and people skills are developed through nature, nurture and culture.

Nature: Some kids are born talkers. They love talking to people and have the natural tendencies and skills to interact with people from walks of life. These are the extroverts who enjoy meeting people and talking with them. For the introverts who prefer to indulge in quiet reflection rather than participate in noisy or lively discourses, they too can possess good communication skills when they are encouraged to open up in public.

Nurture: The “nurture” theory is that everyone can be trained to be good or better at something. In the case of social skills and people skills, this can be developed with training and practice. Good role models offer the much-needed inspiration and motivation for the young to emulate from.

“Interaction” is the ability to communicate and get along well with people, not just of one age group but of multi-aged and multi-cultured groups of people. Children who are put in a “box” of uniformed age-group kids will have the social skills of a uniformed one. Some kids need more help than others in the area of social skills, like those with autism, attention deficit conditions and those with selective mutism. Much improvements have been seen in such individuals who are in a loving environment of openness and acceptance, rather than in an environment of hate and exclusion.

Culture: All these are dependent on the environment we are put in – the home environment, the school environment or the work environment. An environment that promotes healthy interactions between people of all ages and cultures work well to encourage the kind of interaction that is respectful of diversity in belief systems and cultures. This diversity in turn breeds diversity in talents and skills. We need to create a culture that respects individual learning differences in our young. We need to start from our homes, our schools and our work places.

In short, we need to depart from the mindset that only school-going kids get to have “normal” interactions with others. We need to ask these questions: Are schools creating conducive environments for positive and wholesome socialization for children? Why are there so many incidences of gangsterism, bullying and discriminations going on there? What kind of social skills do kids learn from their peers? Kids who are educated at home are not isolated from society. But they too, can experience setbacks in this area if their social environment is not looked into. But it does seem rather unfair that school-going kids aren’t asked that question about social skills even though some of them certainly seem like they need serious training in that area!

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