I think our little experiment in alternative education in the past 12 years is showing results: our 15-year-old Samanta, who was struggling with a learning condition called dyslexia, is now in the top 11 finalists of Showdown 2012! Our 16-year-old singer-songwriter has successfully held several solo recitals to raise funds for her ticket to Nashville this June!
How did we do it?
Here are a few factors that did it for us:
1. We chose not to send them to school. Why? Because this is the 21st Century! Learning and knowledge can be accessed via so many sources. But the best learning occurs in the midst of family and friends. And it doesn’t take so much money, time or effort that is currently invested in schools today! Amrita learnt to play the guitar from YouTube. Sam learnt to read and write by playing online games. And Arian is learning Chinese (and Japanese & Korean!) using some free Apps on the iPad! But they were never alone – their loving family and good friends are constantly close by.
2. With schooling out of the way, they have something very valuable in the whole entire learning process: time! Our kids have all the time in the world to try new things, to fail and to learn from their failures. They have all the time in the world to explore the big question in life: what is my purpose in life? They have all the time in the world to start doing the things that they always wanted to do, like baking, doing art, performing in front of a crowd, or sometimes there is no crowd! but it doesn’t matter, because they are young and the ability to face setbacks at this young age is the best training for adulthood! So, time is their best teacher!
3. Try, try and try! Our kids grow up with the doctrine: never try, never know! Of course this is applied to positive and healthy activities and not the negative ones! So with a fearless heart, they go for anything that fancies them and try for competitions for the fun of it. Between the two of them, they have won quite a few competitions from art and design to singing and dancing! Because mommy always says: “Never try, never know!” Arian finally learnt to ride the bicycle today! He was not pressured to do it, but he kept seeing his friends having fun riding their bikes at the park. Someone’s dad helped hold him for a while and before he knew it, Arian was riding comfortably and steadily without falling! When he overcame his fear of falling, he overcame his fear of riding!
4. Focus on core interest. Notice that I did not use the word talent. The reason is, just like IQ, it is somewhat over-rated. As long as your child has a deep interest in something, pursue it all the way. Amrita did not have a strong voice, and I for one, did not even think that she would want to take up singing seriously. when she asked me one day rather sheepishly: “Mommy, I like to sing but I don’t have a good voice. What can I do?” I just told her, “honey, just keep on singing everyday and your voice will get better and better!” And she did just that and today she can perform comfortably to any crowd and she actually enjoys it!
5. Inculcate core values. Without the core values that our family live by, we would never have done the things we have done all these years. The respect for all life has somehow resulted in Amrita choosing to be a vegetarian, and her siblings to adopt a pro-life diet. Because life is valuable, we have to live it purposefully and meaningfully. This means avoiding lifestyles that would damage our mental and physical well being or to cause harm to others, including animals and other creatures. The importance of a healthy lifestyle has been ingrained in their psyche that any of them can give a talk on that topic! This healthy and positive mindset is the key in helping them make informed and educated choices in their lives.
And we wouldn’t have been able to successfully pull this off if we ourselves do not practice what we preach. So yes, as parents, we need to transform the way we think and the way we live our lives, if we want our kids to be successful and socially-engaged individuals.
We shall be sharing much more of our experiences in our coming talks, Hacking Your Education. See you there!