A school student from Puchong, posting some interesting and sharp questions on homeschooling…….Here are Wai Leng’s answers
How Do you Homeschool?
Here’s more input on HOW we homeschool. It takes a big shift in mindset about learning, so I hope you can look at it with an open mind:)
Homeschooling is an alternative approach to learning that supports each child’s unique learning styles and inclinations. It can be very different from how things are done in schools. It can be rather “bizarre” to the uninitiated. Because it does not follow the schooling system of goals or measurements, it can be quite difficult to assess. In short, to put it simpler, it is like trying to compare taichi with karate – they are both different forms of martial arts, they both bring immense benefit to the practitioner, but they cannot be measured together.
When we take the whole of our existence and experiences as our learning lab, we do not compartmentalize learning like we do in schools. Topics and subjects intertwine with one another constantly. A conversation about the recent earthquake and tsunami for example can touch on geography as well as science and history. While queueing to buy food, we could be doing additions and subtractions in math, or making comparisons between the size of the picture on the wall and the actual size of the burger in our hands.
It is very important that we have these optimal conditions for learning:
1. The environment
We try to create an environment that supports learning ie we set up a good home library where books are easily accessible. We have all kinds of learning materials that encourages our kids to work with, such as to draw, to play and make music, to write or to blog, to garden, to cook, to play, etc.
2. The readiness
The child has to be ready to learn something. If the child is not ready, no matter how hard we try to make him/her learn, it would not be effective. So, we have to be patient for the right time to zoom in on learning. It is OK not to push something to them and let things be, even for an extended time. Because we trust the child to learn.
3. The trust
Learning does not happen in the vacuum. The seed has to be planted before any plant can grow. So what we plant is the seed of love for learning. We water it constantly and fertilize it with LOVE and watch it grow and grow everyday! Because we know for sure that it will grow from our loving care and nurturing. We need to trust children that learning will happen for them at the right time and the right place as long as we provide the Nature and Nurture in a balanced way.
4. The confidence
Self-confidence occurs when one is happy and proud of one’s abilities – this can be in the form of playing an instrument or playing a sport, doing art or cake-decoration, etc. It cannot be forced nor can it be faked. It can only come naturally when the child develops better skills and abilities.
So, on the whole, our “syllabus” consist of:
i. Reading (story books, joke books, world maps, newspapers and online news, etc)
ii. Writing & drawing (journals, songs, poetry, reports, blogs, stories, cartoons, manga, etc)
iii. Presenting (in the form of music videos, dancing, singing, cartoons or oral presentation)
iv. Generating ideas (coming up with new ideas to solve old problems and new problems!)
Getting children to THINK and to think CREATIVELY is an important practice so that it becomes second nature to them. How do we do that?
We give them time and space to think. It is very important that we do not over-schedule our children’s days so as to allow them the freedom to think about things, to let questions arise, and to wonder about them. This is the birth of any kind of INNOVATIVE THINKING! When we suppress them with too much structured activities, we are suppressing their ability to think.
We give them exercises that make them think, eg Think of new or different ways to solve a problem, or better still, come up with a whole new way of doing things, or create new uses from old materials, etc We need to constantly exercise our brains to think creatively or else we will lose the one thing that differentiates us from other beings: the ability to THINK!
The whole reason for homeschooling is to allow children’s learning to be “customized” or individualized. This means we can package learning according to the child’s interest and pace and not to subject them to a packaged curriculum or standardized testing that does little to discover their talents but does much to destroy their interest in learning. Education is not something linear that can be tested or measured to prove that it has been successful. Getting all A’s does not prove that one has fully understood the subjects – but it does prove that one has truly mastered the art of tackling exam questions! Learning should not be competitive – it should always be COLLABORATIVE. We should leave competition to SPORTS which has, unfortunately, been lagging further and further behind as our emphasis on exams have surpassed the importance we once placed on Sports.
This is a highly debatable issue as some parents have daily schedules where a lot of emphasis is placed on studying and following some sort of curriculum that comes with regular testing. We however, do not subscribe to this form of homeschooling. We let the children choose what activities they like to do and from there, we would form a regular routine around their activities. For example, our 15-year-old daughter Amrita has ballet 3 times a week in the evenings; 14-year-old Samanta goes for her Street Dancing classes 7 days a week every everning from 6-10pm, and 7-year-old Arian has Aikido classes 4-5 times a week in the evenings. In
the day, they do activities with a group of homeschooling kids – some of the activities are science experiments, language classes, games and creative writing. They also do music, art and craft.
LEARNING FROM OUTINGS
One important aspect of our homeschooling is learning through outings – we go out frequently to visit forest reserves to learn about fauna and flora, visit science centers (locally as well as overseas) to learn about some of the latest innovations, art galleries to see the different artists paint in different styles, heritage places to learn about history and our diverse cultures, etc. Zoo Negara has an education program that provides customized education about the animals and their habitats – we attend this program once a month. We are planning camping trips in the forest, staying at tree houses and eating local foods cooked by locals, caving at some of the unique caves in our country. These are real learning in the real world that can only be experienced when we get ourselves out of the classrooms into the real world!
Children who learn in this kind of engaging environments would naturally LOVE it!
Homeschooling is not anti-social, boring or disconnected from the real world. On the contrary, it can be very socially-engaging, exciting and connected with the real world! It is HOW we do it that makes the difference.
The EXPENSES? Well, the good news is, it can be as expensive as we can afford or as cheap as we make it to be. One does not need to be rich to homeschool. In fact, most of the families who homeschool are from the middle income group, or just below middle-income. Because the rich can afford international schools and those who cannot afford it but would like to make positive changes can do so with homeschooling. And parents can barter-trade with one another: a parent offers to teach Chinese, while another, science or math, and another teaches piano. This is a very wonderful barter-trading system that is being revived by creative homeschoolers!
Hope this suffices.
*so, how do you homeschool? how would you like to homeschoo?