Homeschooling, like parenting has never been more challenging in this fast-paced world of ours, so much so that parents are at a loss at what to do with their children who seem to be “lost” in this increasingly materialistic and hedonistic society. To homeschool is to take charge and lead in the education process to enable our children to be independent, self -motivated and autonomous learners. This means that we, as parents, need to be engaged with our children so that the relationship is loving and binding.
Chong Wai Leng, shares her thoughts here and aims to bring parenting and a learning environment back to the basics of simplicity, engagement and contentment.
Many urban children today lead a luxurious life – everything is placed on a silver platter for them to enjoy with leisure and comfort. They have maids to take care of their daily meals and needs and their ever-willing-to-please parents who buy them everything that they might want. So what else is there to do but watch TV and play computer games and study or course! So today we are producing more and more little “emperors” and empresses” who hardly lift a finger to do anything for themselves much less others. In school, they are “fed” with information, taught how to “behave” and to pass exams.
This is a very worrying and unhealthy trend and parents must make sure that this does not happen in their homes. I have resisted hiring a maid for this very reason because I want my children to know what life actually entails and not have the attitude that they have to be served by the maid or their mom. It is never too early to let them start doing things for themselves so that they are not dependent on adults all the time. More importantly, by being self-reliant they also develop a healthy sense of self-confidence and positive-thinking. They also begin to think about others around them and not be so self-centred.
Here are some of the things kids can do for themselves at different developmental ages:
When your child is just beginning to stand on his or her own two feet, you should let him or her do it with less and less help from you. As long as the area is free from objects that might hurt the child, he or she should be given the freedom to practise standing and falling and later progressing to walking. We should give our encouragement and support when needed and not be too worried about them falling down for that is part of the process of learning to walk. This approach would help develop self-confidence and independence from the child that is very healthy and positive for future developments.
As soon as the child can hold a spoon, why not let him or her try self-feeding? It will be messy but it is good practice for the child. We adults need to learn to live with a little mess sometimes. Perfectionist moms will only make life more stressful for everyone which is unnecessary because if we just change the way we look at things (eg taking the mess as a good indication that the child is learning!) we would be able to enjoy our children’s growing up years much more.
Some children want to start doing things for themselves at this age like putting on their shoes or clothing and we should allow and encourage that. They would be clumsy and slow at first but practice makes perfect and all they need from us is our patience and support. I have seen with utter horror how some children as old as seven sit and wait for their maids to put their shoes on for them before being chauffeured to school. This will only delay their ability and willingness to be self-reliant and could also hamper their emotional growth as they are always dependent on adults to do things or make decisions for them.
Young children like to imitate what the adults do and when they see their parents or older siblings brushing their teeth, they too would want to follow suit. So go get them children’s toothbrushes and let them have a go at brushing their own teeth. They would definitely feel proud of themselves.
The same goes with bathing. Friends used to be surprised when they found that my girls showered on their own at such an early age. “Would they be clean enough?” they would enquire? Well, if we teach them how to, they would!
Children love to follow what mommies do and most mommies spend time in the kitchen cooking or baking. Kids love to be able to cook and bake because they are hands-on activities that with a little preparation, they too can do it. Baking is a good start as it is not too different from their play activity using Playdough except that this time they can actually eat their creations! Besides baking simple cakes and cookies, children can also learn to cook simple meals like pasta, eggs and rice dishes. They just need to be educated on the do’s and don’ts in the kitchen especially when handling a hot pan. However, starting a fire at this stage should only be done by an adult and their cooking activity should also always be supervised.
With this training in place, children will have a very different attitude towards cooking and spending time in the kitchen because they have experienced the joys of cooking at an early age. Many teenagers have a very negative attitude towards cooking because they have not been exposed to it at when they were younger because Mommy did not want them to mess up their kitchen. And this activity should not be reserved for girls only as boys should be encouraged to do the same. We should not give boys the wrong impression that kitchen work is for girls only. If we expose them early, boys would also have a healthy attitude towards cooking!
During the primary schooling age, most children get into the schooling system which takes up a big chunk of their time with studying, homework and exam preparations. Children should continue to be trained to be self-reliant and not be overly pampered. They should be able to get up on their own using their own alarm clocks and prepare their own breakfast. I know mothers love to do this for their children and so do I! But we should make that an exception rather than the norm because it can be very stressful for mothers to have to do everything from morning till night! Besides it is good training for them. My daughters have learnt to prepare themselves daily for school from having their uniforms ironed to packing their own food there. They also wash their own shoes and clean up their own rooms. If they were to be left alone at home for the day, they would be able to manage on their own and that is what every family should strive to do – training their children to be self-reliant at an early age so that they become responsible and confident individuals who understand what it takes to manage one’s own life.
Parents should also make opportunities for them to earn their own money by giving them projects to do, eg helping out with sales of foodstuff or crafts. When I organize public events, my daughters get paid for helping out with registration and other odd jobs. This way they get a taste of what it means to earn one’s keep. That would set them thinking of ways to earn money within their capacity as children and make them value money more.
As parents we must ensure that the education of our children be holistic and well-rounded and that leads to them being more independent and self-reliant. We ought to transform “I Want” kids to “I Can!” children who will become positive contributors to society. And we can all start from our homes!
If you are considering homeschool, begin with some of these, get our home environment right first. You may need to rethink a lot of things we take for granted.
Chong Wai Leng
(This article was featured in earlier editions of “ParenThink”)