An ‘A’ for Homeschooling – Two homeschooling families share their experiences with Diana Yeong

Check out this articles in Mother & Baby featuring Wai Leng and Haliza Ithnin. This article entitled An ‘A’ for Homeschooling – Two homeschooling families share their experiences with Diana Yeong was published in 2002.

Chong Wai Leng and her husband, KV Soon, homeschool their children, Amrita, six years, and Samanta, five years.

Wai Leng is an enthusiastic supporter of the homeschooling movement, and uses her website to operate the MALHEN (Malaysian Home Educators’ Network). For more information, check out the website at http://www.familyplace.com.my

Many parents homeschool because they want their children to learn in an atmosphere that is responsive to their individual learning styles.

The following families relate why they decide to homeschool, and how it has been for them.

‘We have been homeschooling our daughters for more than a year now. I have been a work-from-home mum since I had my two girls. My husband runs his own IT consulting and services firm.’
Homeschooling for a happier child

‘We devided to homeschool because we felt that the children need an environment of love and freedom to learn and to be themselves. A happy home is the best environment for them to learn and to grow.’

‘The school environment may not be the best judging from the over-crowded classrooms, and highly structured and teacher-dependent methodology. Creativity and individuality are not highly valued and thus turning the children into mechanical learners, losing their natural sense of curioousity and wonder about the world around them.

‘Seeing how happy our daughters are at learning at their own pace and doing what truly interest them reinforces our belief that home-education is a viable alternative to formal schooling.’

Why homeschool

‘We chose to homeschool because we want our children to have:

1.      A healthy sense of self-worth (which is so often destroyed when they are constantly told at school that they are stupid or worthless).

2.      A love and joy and independence in learning – something that is not always apparent in school.

3.      The freedom to pursue their different paths of learning.

4.      The ability to adapt to change – being able to learn in different environment and situations as wwell as to the different mediums of learning.

‘We believe that merely employing learning as a means to prepare children for school or university is a narrow view of education as education should be viewed as a life-long learning adventure. We do not know how much longer our current school model will continue to exist in the future, or whether universities would transform themselves into something more virtual and dynamic.

‘Therefore, education should go beyond short-term results. In this way, we are truly preparing our children for the present as well as for their future.
A preference for homeschool

‘Our children attended preschool at ages three and four years, and when we were not too happy with their kindergarten, we decided to teach them at home.

‘The children enjoyed it but Amrita wanted to try another kindergarten when she turned six. Not wanting to deprive her of the experience, we found one that was open to our idea of part-time schooling as we wanted to maintain our home-education approach with the girls.’

‘Now, she realises that school is not that enjoyable because of all the homework, and an absence of play and recreation. Our children appreciate home-education much more now to the great envy of their school-going friends!’

Learning through ‘unschooling’

‘We adopt the unschooling method of learning, which means that the children take the lead in their learning process. As parents or teachers, it is our duty to understand their learning styles and inclinations so that they learn at their optimum capability.

‘No two days are the same for us as everyday is a different experience. Some days, the girls may wake up and go straight into writing or drawing, or they may be playing some games together, or they may want to watch some VCD’s.

‘We have recently started going to an orphanage near our home, and we would spend time with the children there, reading to them or playing together. Sometimes, we go on trips with other homeschoolers – we have so far gone to the Putrajaya wetlands, Kellie’s Castle at Batu Gajah and the Ipoh Sam Poh Tong together.

‘The girls also visit their grandparents in Ipoh and Seremban quite often, and sometimes go on outstation trips with their Daddy. These are all learning experiences and very much a part of their education process.’

The absence of a rigid curriculum

There is no fixed curriculum as we prefer learning through questioning (the chidlren asking questions_, jands-on activities such as creative art, baking and cooking, and of course, reading and writing work.

‘The girls also go for ballet classes which they love, and they also enjoy doing art with their friends. They also like to swim, and we have friends come over to play and swim. Somettimes, they would play at their friends’ homes.

‘They also play the piano whenever they feel like it. Learning through play is an important part of our children’s ‘curriculum’.

‘We do not test our children but we assess them using quality workbooks and reading materials.

‘This is because we do not believe in a standardized test for everyone, as not every child learns at the same rate or manner. And multiple choice questions do not reflect well what the child knows or does not know.’

‘Therefore, why make them go through all the trouble and anxiety and pressure at such an early age? Nowadays, preschoolers are also being trained to sit for exams, and I think that is going too far!’

The good …

‘The benefits of homeschooling are immeasurable! Some of the more obvious ones are:

  1. The children are confident and enjoy learning very much. They are also free from fear of punishment for noot knowing or not doing their work.
  2. Homeschooled chidlren tend to discover their positive traits much earlier because they are given the freedom to explore and to experiment in what interest them.
  3. Homeschooled children are usually more creative and inquisitive as they are encouraged to ask questions and to think outside the box.
  4. Homeschooled children tend to fair very well in college or universities, so much so that some universities in US have raised the passing mark for homeschoolers!
  5. Homeschooling families tend to be happier and stronger because they spend more quality time learning together and having fun along the way. When parents are also learning with their chidlren, the whole education process becomes more meaningful and enjoyable.
  6. Homeschooling families tend to travel much more extensively because they are not restricted or bound by the school calendar or time-table. The world becomes their classroom!

And the not so good…

‘I am tempted to say there are no disadvantages of homeschooling but to be fair, it may not be for everyone as it takes a great deal of understanding and commitment from the parents as well as their children.

‘It may not be everyone’s cup of tea, and if you are the type that absolutely cannot saty at home with your kids for more than three hours in a day without getting at your kids (or your husband!), or if you are a result-oriented type who likes a very structured way of learning and teaching, then, homeschooling may not be for you or your kids.

‘In other words, your kids may be better off going to school!’

For those who want to try it

‘Find out all you can about it so that you thoroughly understand its concept and objectives. Talk to parents and their homeschooled children. Talk  to your family about it to find out how everyone feels. Make a plan for yourself and your children – allow enough time for everyone to ease into it.

‘If you are keen about home-education, do join MALHEN (Malaysian Home-Educators’ Network) to connect with other like-minded parents by visiting our website

Haliza Ithnin, is mum to Zulfah, eight years, Huda, six years, Hafiy, four years. Haliza decided to homeschool Zulfah after Zulfah had negative experiences while attending primary school.

‘I used to teach at private schools. I had taught students from the diploma level right down to kindy. Before my daughter turned eight years old, I gave English tuition to the kids. I was so shocked to see so many mistakes, not made by the kids, but by the teachers.

‘I tried quietly and tactfully correcting them because I knew if I did it too often, either the kids would not believe me or worse still, would not trust their teachers anymore.

‘I also found out that it is not entirely the teachers’ fault because they were just too busy with other things such as disciplinary problems. That itself bugged me because I do not think children liked to be told to undo something and redo it – it just confuses and bored them.’

Attending ‘normal’ school

‘The only time Zulfah tried formal schooling was for a month this year when I sent her to stay with my parents as I was going for haj. It turned out she experienced a frightening incident where her classmates played with matches and burned the school storeroom.

‘Another thing that convinced me to homeschool Zaulfah was when I had a heart-to-heart talk with my neighbour who also happens to be a teacher at the school where my kid should have attended. She related to me how Standard 2 and 3 kids told them (the teachers) how to buy cheap porn VCDs from the pasar malam. That did it for me!’

Incorporating learning into our daily life

‘For the first few months when we were getting into our homeschooling routine, I explained to everyone that they needed to understand that I was a teacher working at home, so they could not expect to just drop by for a five-course lunch!

‘Learning self-discipline was important, and not just for my daughter: I learned that if you must cook while teaching, do just that!

‘By explaining what an onion is or working out the measurements of a recipe together, I managed to incorporate learning into my daily chores. Sometimes it might just be spelling out of the ingredients or even doing fractions.’

‘We have found out that anything can be a learning experience. For example, car trips are good for number recognition or reading signboards. This is a good activity even for the very young – if a kid can hum any Hindi song or advertisement, he can count or learn the alphabet.

‘In fact, there is not reason why a child needs to wait until he is in Standard One before learning the alphabet and numbers. Even two-year-old kids can count if you make it fun, and many of them can recognise KFC even if you think they do not know their ABC’s!’

The results of homeschooling

‘Ever since Zulfah began homeschooling, there has been a positive effect on her siblings as well. The others will try to sit and “learn” like her so I do not have any problems with them bothering us. Even my two-year-old daughter knows when we sit down, we read or count, so she wants a book to scribble on.

‘I also give my eldest the opportunity to become the teacher – so the task of teaching the others the Arabic letters is hers. What surprised me is when she invited some friends over to learn Jawi together. A mother phoned to ask if I gave Jawi tuition because she saw the work that was given. It was not from me!

Zulfah’s schedule and curriculum

‘A typical day for Zaulfah starts at 8 a.m. Sometimes, she goes to a neighbours for Arabic lessons (with three other kids), and they all study together. English class is with me for all of them again, but the other subjects are taught at home separately. We finish sometimes at 12.30 p.m. and after lunch and prayers she goes to her Islamic classes from 2.30 till 5.30 p.m. at the formal school.

‘The books we use are the usual exercise and activity ones – UPSR books for English, BM and Math but Zulfah is probably not at the same level for every subject 0 she is already on Year 3 for Maths and she started the Science workbook last year although the book is for Standard 4 to 6.

‘For arts, I teach her sewing and cross-stitch on checked cotton material. Computer studies are a must, and not just for games. It test Zulfah on the usual spelling and Maths, and orally for other subjects, because I feel I need to know her level of understanding and whether we have  achieved our objective.

‘I have also started to introduce her to some “old stuff”, whether it is just an outdated syllabus, or the original version of Hang Tuah. She has even been exposed to old Indonesian books that our fathers used to learn from before the new BM was created.

‘I explained to her that while education has evolved, we still need to use the latest ‘spelling and format method.” This has made her respect books and knowledge of all kinds, and she tries to read anything as long as she can understand it.

‘This is a far cry from some kids nowadays who will not touch a book that is not spelt the ejaan baru way of worse, still think that SRP material is not relevant as we now have PMR. This  does not mean I do not teach her the latest computer and Internet-know-how, though.’

‘Sometimes I let her decide what she wants to learn as long as it is within the ‘timetable”. For example, she wanted to learn fractions although at first I thought she was not ready for it. Thus sometimes the work done is not by chapters, but rather a bit here and a bit there, but I make sure we finish everything before moving on to the upper levels.

The outlook for the future

‘This is only our second year, and as far as the long-term outlook on Zulfah’s homeschooling goes, I am still open to changes, if need be.

‘’However, we are happy with this arrangement so far. I think I can still manage on my own – except for subjects like Arabic where she studies with my neighbour. Zulfah enjoys the Arabic lessons and has noticed that her friends (who are in the formal schooling) are not studying this.

‘Recently we made a newsletter which she printed and sold to her friends. One of my personal goals in homeschooling is to try to teach Zulfah to be self-sufficient, so a somple task like this means she has to do it all herself right down to taking the  orders, selling, getting the correct change, and so on.

‘As for drawbacks, the only thing I can think of is that maybe she misses out on things such as sports practice because she had that experience during her one month in formal schooling. To make up for it, I try to expose her to other activities instead.’

Ariticle courtesy of

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