Q & A on Homeschooling (1): Is School Ready for My Child

This is an email to a mother whose son was labelled him “hyperactive” and a nuisance to others while in preschool and enrichment classes. As her son prepares to enter Year 1 next year, she is seriously considering homeschooling.  She expressed her concerns about  socalization, curriculum, the pace of learning and concern that her child’s natural curiosity, enthusiasm and love for learning to be dampened. Above all, everyone she had spoken to has been against homeschooling. She felt so alone.  <names removed / adjusted to ensure privacy>

 

I too have a 4.5 year-old son and I do not intend to enroll him in any kindy. From the experience of my two elder daughters a few years ago, I am convinced that most of these kindies are profit-oriented and hence, their approach to children’s learning is to have them follow a “system” so that teaching is easier and faster, with exam results to show “kiasu” parents. I have recently initiated a playgroup for him and a few other families with young children, meeting once a week to play and do some non-formal activities together. I encourage parents to start this kind of playgroup because it is not difficult to do and the rewards are enormous. Also you get to tailor your program according to your child’s needs. I don’t think boys in particular, are getting the right kind of education in schools because they are wired differently from girls. It is now acknowledged by education experts that boys are more left brained and need a different approach to learning that involves much more physical movements and hands-on activities. Girls have less difficulties sitting down at the desk for hours on end to do writing or drawing. I can attest to that! 

(I was interrupted just now by my daughter who needed glue for her paper-town project, so I just went to the kitchen and COOKED her some! I remembered the method from my grandmother who used to make us tubs of homemade glue for our school projects. Those days we rarely bought them from the shops and everybody seemed to make them at home. Well, kids today marvel at that coz it never occurred to them that glue could be easily made at home!) 

ON socialization, it is a myth that kids get good socialization at school – how can there be when they only talk to kids their age, and when the teachers are around, they are required to shut up. Talking to younger kids would invite ridicule or teasing. It’s a terribly unhealthy kind of “socialization” there I must say! My daughter attended a private school at Year 4-5 and decided to come back to homeschooling again because the atmosphere there can be quite stifling, and the emphasis on exams is to the point of ridiculous! A homeschooler has no qualms playing and talking to people of all ages. “The boys even hold the girls’ hands without feeling embarrassed!” Commented my daughter, whereas in school, that would NEVER happen! 

Many educators and parents make the mistake of “preparing” children for this and that exam in the course of their 12 years of schooling. But shouldn’t we be educating them to be socially responsible people as our main objective? People with the right values and the right perspective of the world who can contribute positively and wholesomely for the goodness of mankind? Whose values do we want them to adopt – their parents or others with different objectives in mind? The first 7 years is crucial in shaping a child’s mind and attitude towards life, and if we miss that, it would be near impossible to turn things around. A mother who pulled her two kids out of school (the daughter at age 13 and the son at age 8) found that she could see positive changes in the son but not her daughter, and on deeper reflection I think it’s because she “lost” her first 7 years of primary education with her daughter that did the almost irreparable damage. I’m trying to help her out now. 

I do not like to plan too much for my children but to let them grow into whatever they want to be. Having lots of opportunities to explore various kinds of learning, like creative arts, music & singing, acting and dancing, cooking and modeling, sports like swimming, golfing, martial arts, etc, all these are important in shaping a disciplined mind and body, and a positive spirit. 

Nevertheless, there are many homeschoolers who opt to enroll their kids at learning centres where they prepare for the O levels, which can be taken privately here through the British Council – you can check for details on their website. But my gut feeling is that education the world over will be changing dramatically and very soon, we will have a lot more options other than the same old trodden path filled with potholes! So, no, I’m not worried about exams 🙂

Homeschooling is catching on fast here in Malaysia due to the many problems with the kind of schooling here. You are not alone! We have a whole wide community at MALHEN (Malaysian Home-Educators’ Network) where you will find lots of like-minded parents. And all you need to do is sign in through our website! 

With best wishes,
waileng

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