We have 25 questions about homeschooling and how we home-school you always wanted to ask, answered (mostly by Wai Leng)!
So here you go! We hope your find this useful. (Credit: Questions drafted by a student in Puchong doing a research on Homeschooling)
Tell us about you and your family ?
We have 3 kids: Amrita (turning 15 this year), Samanta (turning 14) and Arian (turning 7).
1. Do both of you work ?
KV currently works mainly from his home office, while Wai Leng works with our children at home. So for us, this is an ideal arrangement.
2. Why did you take up homeschooling for your children ? From where did you hear it from ?
We feel strongly that parents need to play a bigger role in educating their children holistically as well as spiritually, and homeschooling provides that freedom and opportunity for us to do so. We first learnt about it before we had children, when we hosted a family from the US who was attending a peace walk together with KV. They came with their teenage children who travelled with them all over the world with his laptop, (paper) notebook and a camera – the world was his classroom!
Interestingly we just re-connected with this young American boy (not so young now) via Facebook!
3. When did you start homeschooling your children ?
I would say that as soon as they were born, their home-education began! It is a learning mindset that we need to adopt, rather than a purely academic one that schools today are leaning heavily on. The learning mindsets are:
- The curious mind – Allowing children’s natural curiosity about the world around them to arise and hence their never-ending questions! It is through relentless questioning that we seek answers to those questions that ignite our interest and spur our energies toward achieving our goals.
- The imaginative mind – Encouraging children to use their imagination by sparking them with wonderful stories from good books and good movies. Great ideas arise from great imagination! And this is true of scientists as well as artists and hence, ought to be encouraged whole heartedly by all parents and educators who care about children’s creativity in learning.
- The thoughtful mind – Capturing children’s thoughtful moments when they might have sudden “enlightenment” about deeper reflections about life and beyond. Children are capable of coming up with deep thoughts on life issues if they are given the space to wonder and ponder about them. This means not over-burdening their daily routine with highly structured learning, but to balance it with non-structured playing as well as quiet time for reflecting and even meditating for calming the mind.
These are important if we take holistic education seriously whereby we place great value on nurturing thoughtful and hopeful individuals who can contribute purposefully to the world. Schools are producing more and more highly consumptive consumers to feed the capitalistic society. This directly causes a great deal of stress and problems, mentally, socially as well as spiritually. When students are geared towards getting good grades (straight A’s) to get good jobs (4-5 figure salaries) to have a good life (big house, big car and big spending power), this will only perpetuate a lifestyle of self-indulgence if they are not balanced with a more holistic approach to living and learning.
4. Have you seen any difference ? Before & After homeschool your children. Academic/Personality.
We place greater emphasis on experiential knowledge over theoretical knowledge. Hence our children do a lot of hands-on learning where they make use of all their 5 senses to explore their world through role-playing, music-making and composing, drawing, cooking and baking, dancing, swimming and martial arts. The main difference with children who have more time and space to explore learning in various different ways is that they are more creative and more daring to try new things compared to school-going kids who tend to think in the box and are less willing to experiment with new approaches to learning or to do things differently from others.
5. Are you aware it is compulsory for a child to finish primary education in Malaysia ? What is your view regarding this matter ?
We feel that applies to families who do not place education highly for their children, or who cannot afford to send their children to school. But in the case of parents who are educated and who know their parental rights over educational choices for their children, it is an entirely different matter. Parents who choose to homeschool their children not only place education highly in their list of priorities, they are also able to choose better alternatives for their children, especially those with unique needs that schools cannot fulfill.
6. Do your children sit for any test ? Local/international test ? via online ?
Educators the world over are seeking alternatives to standardized testings in order to assess students’ skills and knowledge in a more complete and inclusive manner because over the decades of testing, it is found that this method alone does not reveal the complete skill-sets or talents or potentials of the student. Alternatives to standardized testings are to be found in project-based reports, as well as taking into consideration all other skills of the student such as in sports, music, art and even nature studies. Volunteering in social, animals and environmental projects are highly encouraged. Howard Gardner’s research work on multiple intelligences provide a great deal of ideas and alternatives to scholastic testing. His books “The Unschooled Mind: How Children THink & How Schools Should Teach” and “Multiple Intelligences: The Theory in Practice” provide the much-needed expert case for change in the way we educate our children for the future.
7. What is the syllabus like ? How do it different from the government school ?
We compose our own “curriculum” which is very organic – which means that it can grow and change according to the needs of the children- as compared to the school curriculum that is fixed and unchanging. Growing the curriculum means feeding the “seedlings” (the children) what they need to grow healthily and happily:
love – loving the whole child and not just tiny aspects of the child,
healthy food and lifestyle – eating the right kinds of food for optimum growth and cutting down on unhealthy habits,
holistic education – educating the whole child with greater emphasis on self-knowledge, other-knowledge and world-knowledge.
When adults engage the children through conversations about all kinds of topics from environmental conservations to countries at war, children gain a greater insight into the workings of the world and begin to see their place in the world – a world where they can enjoy in as well as contribute positively to, they will start to engage in learning activities with greater meaning and purpose.
A conversation about preserving our heritage, could perhaps ignite an interest in our local history and hence the family could embark on a journey to historical towns to record the places and people that shaped the town. The children could draw and sketch the scenes that they visit, research the stories behind them, compose a poem or narrate the stories on their blogs, interview people for their stories, etc. The possibilities are limitless!
Most importantly, our learning environment allows our children to cultivate the ability to learn.
8. From the articles in internet, one of the disadvantages of homeschooling is that children do not get to socialize much. Do you think your children are facing this problem ? Do they get to meet up with other friends ?
School-going kids go to school on a daily basis and hence are in the midst of a group of same-aged kids whether they like it or not. This is a form of social engineering because in the real world, no where else do we have a situation where only the same-aged kids are put together in the same room for whatever purpose! What kind of positive socializing can we get out of this arrangement? It is no wonder that there are so many cases of bullying, gangsterism and peer pressure in schools. On the other hand, homeschooled kids, especially if they are from small or single-child families, may need extra effort to seek out playmates or learning mates. This is where a playgroup or a community learning group come into the picture to complete the homeschooling experience.
9. How many hours do you spend with your children on their studies ? Do you guide them ?
For the older kids, we give them projects and assignments to do, which they do on their own and submit them at a given dateline. For the younger kids, we engage in conversations to let them express themselves. We also have reading sessions where we read to them interesting stories from the children’s classics or well-known children authors like Dr Seuss. They are encouraged to write their own stories or poems and even come up with their own versions of the popular fairy-tales or fables! They also get to act them out in plays and in the process be very creative in making props and designing the costumes! Parents are there to guide and help out when needed.
10. Do you send your children to others classes ?
For example, music classes…
Amrita goes for ballet classes 3 times a week. She taught herself the guitar and plays everyday in her room. She also writes songs as her hobby (she has close to 100 songs in her song-writing book!) and she enjoys performing them to others whenever she gets a chance to, like during singing competitions, or concerts or just informal parties.
Samanta does street dancing and goes for classes almost everyday – she learns the Hip Hop, B-Boy, Whacking, House Dance and many more! She also does competitive swimming.
Arian loves the martial arts and is an aikido proponent. Recently all three of them started learning tai chi!
The girls can play the piano, violin, acoustic guitar and electric guitar. They also love to sing and sang in a Buddhist Hymns album which I composed. Arian is learning to rap like Eminem!
11. From what I’ve read, homeschooling allows the children to progress at their own pace, do you think this will actually help them ? No competition/stress on study, does it reflect on their studies ? better ?
We feel that learning should not be competitive – it should be collaborative whereby children learn to work together as a team and learn to help one another rather than compete with one another. Competition should come from sports where it can truly bring out the best in oneself through dedication, discipline and development in mental and physical strengths. Learning needs to be age-appropriate especially for younger children. When they are ready to learn something, they will be able to understand it without much problem. But when they are not ready for it, and we keep pushing them, problems would arise such as resistance, or a sense of failure in them. Take learning to read, for example. Many parents fret about that and expect their children to be able to read by the age of 7. True, for most children they can, even at the age of 3. But for some kids, they take longer to make sense of all the alphabets and sounds but with positive encouragement, they WILL learn to read one day.
12. What are your plans for your children’s tertiary education ?
If they want to pursue that path, we will support them and help them prepare for the necessary entrance requirements. But we are also very much aware of the many other paths available to them, such as starting a business, using their many talents like designing, singing and dancing, or pursuing martial arts and starting a school for it, etc etc. There are so many options available. The question is: what do they want to do with their life that would give them happiness and self-satisfaction? So many people go through tertiary education, come out, get a job and then find out that is not what makes them happy. Some make a change mid-way. Others stick on to their job but their hearts are not there.
13. How to you manage your time ? on both your career and taking care of your children ?
My job is to shape the lives of my children and hence everything that we do, from the mundane to the not-so-mundane, have an impact on them. It is important for children to see how their parents work – be it doing house work, teaching a student, or preparing for a presentation, or conducting a meeting. We spend a lot of time with our children, naturally, but that does not mean that we do not have time of our own. Because our children are mostly self-directed in their learning, they can do a lot of things without our help which frees us to do our own thing.
14. Do you set a time table for your children ? Will your children spend too much of their time enjoying themselves ? Facebook, Tv, computer games, do you stop them from excessing facebook and watching movies ?
Contrary to what most people think, homeschoolers do not watch TV or play computer games all day! We do not draw up a time-table for them but generally they have a daily routine that they naturally fall into, which include doing their laundry, the dishes, walking, feeding and cleaning the dog, and other house chores. And yes, they do go on Facebook and watch movies at home, but they know their limits and have a built-in self-monitoring system. Because when they grow up with freedom as a given, they do not feel deprived about such things and do not have the need to over-indulge themselves. Those who live with freedom have no need to seek it. Those who live with restrictions yearn for it. Those whose freedom is denied fight for it.
15. I’ll always seek my friends and even teachers for help when I face problem in my study, When your children face problem in their study,where do they go for help ?What if … what if you don’t know how to solve it ? for example, a math question.
We must understand one thing about parents taking the role of teachers: we are not expected to know everything – no one is! Our role is a facilitator and advisor, and when there is a problem that needs to be solved that is beyond us, we look for someone who can. Or nowadays, whenever we need to find out something, we google it!
16. Advantages of homeschoolingis that there is no spoon feeding from teachers. So, how do they study ? Is there homework ?
It really depends on the learning style of the child. My elder daughter Amrita enjoys structured work and is happy when given lots of homework. But my daughter Sam is the opposite so I have to think of ways to engage her interest and structure work that interest her. Learning with a group helps a lot as I can assign work to the group and everyone is more motivated to do them.
17. Do your kids share their joy & problem with you ? Or, do you sit them down and chat with them ?
Being with the kids almost 24 hours a day on a daily basis does have its advantages, that is, we really know what goes on in their heads and hearts. They have no qualms in sharing their problems with us. We try to work them out together by sharing and discussing, evaluating and making the right choices by them.
18. What are the co-curriculum they are involved in ?
Besides the dance classes and martial arts sessions, they also play badminton once a week with the CLIC (Community Learning Initiative) kids.
19. What is your view on government school — the teaching method ?
The teaching method is still very much top down – the teacher teaches and the students listen. In many developed countries, the approach has changed towards more project-based and creativity-centered learning, where the teacher facilitates rather than dictates the class. And the use of digital technology in class is very much more widespread as compared to here where computers are locked up in the computer rooms and only used once a week during computer class. There is a dire need for more dynamism in the learning environment where students can express themselves more and be taught to think creatively, not just logically.
Children need to learn to learn, find themselves and their potential – ultimately their lives is to live in happiness.
20. Do you think homeschooling is an effective way for your kids compare to attending government school ? Why ?
We cannot be the judge of that since our children never attended government school. But the 2 years that Amrita was in private school is a good indicator of the effectiveness of homeschooling. She joined at Std 4 to Std 5 just to experience what schooling is like. For someone who never attended school until then, she did pretty well. She was top student in class, voted Student of the Year, was a Star Student and won many awards and competitions – all within a year of schooling! Homeschooling helped to ground her in her thinking and learning approaches.
21. Why do you think homeschooling differ from the mainstream education system ?
For the very fact that we can pick and choose what we want to learn and eventually specialize in. Why should others decide for us what is best for our children? Different children have different learning needs. Homeschooling allows greater flexibility in adjusting the content and learning approaches that suit the child. And when learning is not about passing exams, it becomes much more fun and meaningful for everyone involved. We do not have to argue our case or fight for the right to choose a certain language of instruction for a certain subject. We do not have to contend with distorted facts and engineered content of school text books. In short, we can acquire a more complete education by not going to school!
22. Do your kids ever question you about why are they not attending school ?
No. They question why kids need to go to school! More and more children are choosing not to go to school as we progress in the 21st century. Why is this so? We must ask ourselves.
23. If you have to say one of the most advantage of taking up homeschooling ? What will it be ? Why ?
The freedom to learn and the freedom to think without a higher authority telling you what to do, which is often not to the best interest of your child.
24. How about the disadvantages that you think when you started homeschool your kids ? How do you overcome it ?
You get the best from your kids and you get the worst too – it is the whole package. When emotions run high, it can get very intense and you ask yourself why? “Why didn’t I just take the easy way out and send them to school!” But you take a deep breath, calm yourself down, and you tell yourself, “This is the real world where kids can get difficult and emotions can go haywire. This is NORMAL!” Talk about it. Cry over it. Then get over it! That is how we deal with it. How many kids at school get to talk about their feelings? Or to express them?
25. Do you realize that homeschooling is getting popular in Malaysia today ?
Looking at where the education system is heading (and it is not up!) it is no surprise that more and more parents are opting to homeschool. While we want to achieve First World status in 2020 (which is less than 10 years away), we have yet to elevate our education system to the level of excellence or global competitiveness. On the contrary, we seem to be heading the opposite direction. Many parents feel that they are getting a raw deal when it comes to education here. Those who can afford it send their kids out of the country as soon as they can. And they are not coming back! So how are we to retain our talents and to reverse the brain drain? Parents who opt to homeschool are actually helping the schools because they are taking responsibility for their own children.
Schools have less kids to worry about!
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thanks for taking the time to answer these questions WL (and KV) AND for sharing it with us. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this before but it was after meeting you that I became confident to homeschool. So thank you for always taking the time to help newbies like me!!
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