Do you have what it takes to homeschool your kids?

27 May 2013

Last year, Haslinda’s family spent three nights in Chiang Mai, Thailand to partake in a short-term volunteering opportunity at the Children’s Shelter Foundation. Here, her eldest son, Muhammad Luqman Avicenna Onn (in brown), 16, is shown joining the orphans in a compost-making session.

By BRIGITTE ROZARIO

There are various methods of homeschooling. Some people tutor their kids at home; others believe in unit studies where various subjects are learnt in relation to a topic; and then there’s learning on demand (allowing kids to learn new things as they develop an interest in them).

For the purpose of this article, we are exploring homeschooling by learning on demand. What this means is that if your child is interested in drawing, you expose him to art classes, meeting and talking to artists and exploring the art world. This doesn’t mean you don’t teach him the basics of reading, writing and counting. However, as the child grows older you would focus on helping him explore his passion and hone his skills so that he will be able to get a job and earn a living.

Mums Chong Wai Leng and Haslinda Halim practise learning on demand. Chong has been homeschooling her three children since the eldest was three. Her children are now 17, 16 and nine.

Last year, Haslinda tried homeschooling her dyslexic daughter who found school frustrating. This year, on the request of her other kids, Haslinda is homeschooling all her children. They are aged 16, 14, 12 and six.

“My eldest son did his Penilaian Menengah Rendah (PMR) last year and got eight A’s. Nonetheless, he wanted to leave school to be homeschooled.

“He and his siblings all asked to be homeschooled. It was the children’s decision. They asked why their sister didn’t have to go to school and they had to.

“To be honest, none of my four children really enjoyed school. We’ve gone through government and private school and it was just a chore to push them to go to school every day.

“Homeschooling has been a natural progression for us. Once we started homeschooling, then we opted for the homeschooling lifestyle. I thought, if others could homeschool, why not us. We also should be given that choice,” says Haslinda.

Chong Wai Leng and Haslinda Halim say you need to change your mindset to be able to homeschool your kids.

She and Chong explain what is really needed to homeschool your children:

1) Do your research.

Before jumping onto the homeschooling bandwagon, parents should do their research and talk to others who are homeschooling their children. Find out all the different ways that parents homeschool their kids so you know what is involved.

“You have to learn about learning – read up a lot and listen to lectures because there’s so much development in learning itself. There are a lot of new developments. Once you understand that learning is not one way and intelligence is not measured in just one way, then the second big question is how are you going to do it? Learning takes place when the child has the self-esteem. It’s just what drives them and what interests them. Give them that time to explore their interests,” says Chong.

She and Haslinda both reassure parents that if their kids want to go to college, they can still be homeschooled. They will just have to target going for the right exams, like the O-levels or A-levels, when the time comes and work towards that target.

2) Families need to be on the same page.

Chong says it’s hard to homeschool your kids if one parent is against it and not involved.

“In one case that I know of, after two years of homeschooling, the kids went back to school,” says Chong, explaining that one parent was not for it.

“The whole world will start questioning you, but if you and your husband have the same opinion and target, you can do it because you can support each other and won’t start doubting yourself and questioning if you’re doing the right thing,” adds Haslinda.

3) One parent needs to be around.

Either you or your spouse needs to be full-time at home or have flexi hours to be able to supervise the kids. This shouldn’t be confused with sitting all day with the kids and making them study. Parents should plan field trips and learning visits for the kids.

4) Change your mindset.

Homeschooling your kids is not necessarily about going through all the school textbooks and workbooks with them nor does it mean having your own tests and exams for your kids. You do not take on the role of the teacher, explain both mums.

She and Chong explain what is really needed to homeschool your children:

1) Do your research.

Before jumping onto the homeschooling bandwagon, parents should do their research and talk to others who are homeschooling their children. Find out all the different ways that parents homeschool their kids so you know what is involved.

“You have to learn about learning – read up a lot and listen to lectures because there’s so much development in learning itself. There are a lot of new developments. Once you understand that learning is not one way and intelligence is not measured in just one way, then the second big question is how are you going to do it? Learning takes place when the child has the self-esteem. It’s just what drives them and what interests them. Give them that time to explore their interests,” says Chong.

She and Haslinda both reassure parents that if their kids want to go to college, they can still be homeschooled. They will just have to target going for the right exams, like the O-levels or A-levels, when the time comes and work towards that target.

2) Families need to be on the same page.

Chong says it’s hard to homeschool your kids if one parent is against it and not involved.

“In one case that I know of, after two years of homeschooling, the kids went back to school,” says Chong, explaining that one parent was not for it.

“The whole world will start questioning you, but if you and your husband have the same opinion and target, you can do it because you can support each other and won’t start doubting yourself and questioning if you’re doing the right thing,” adds Haslinda.

3) One parent needs to be around.

Either you or your spouse needs to be full-time at home or have flexi hours to be able to supervise the kids. This shouldn’t be confused with sitting all day with the kids and making them study. Parents should plan field trips and learning visits for the kids.

4) Change your mindset.

Homeschooling your kids is not necessarily about going through all the school textbooks and workbooks with them nor does it mean having your own tests and exams for your kids. You do not take on the role of the teacher, explain both mums.

Homeschooling means letting your kids learn what they want to learn, follow their passion and do it at their own pace. It does include teaching them the skills they will need to survive in the world, go to university (if they want to and need to) and earn a living.

For example, if your child wants to study medicine, she will need to go to university. This means she will have to pass the necessary exams to enter the local or foreign universities. That will be your target for that child.

However, if your child wants to go into music and become a singer, you could instead spend your time helping your child improve her singing, expose her to singers and people in the music industry and let her improve her skills, while learning how best to market her voice and earn an income from it.

“The one who needs to change their mindset is not my kids, but me,” admits Haslinda.

She explains it has been a bit hard for her to change her mindset on what learning is about because she studied under the Malaysian school system. She is so used to the concept that kids must open their books to study and they must constantly be doing something.

When Chong first started homeschooling her kids, she made her daughter write words line by line. At that time she was adamant that her daughter must know her spelling and the only way to learn was to write the words. The truth was that her daughter did write the lines of words but she wasn’t learning what her mother wanted her to.

Both Chong and Haslinda say parents who want to homeschool their kids need to do more than think outside the box; they have to throw the box away!

Kids can start training in the field they have a passion for from the time they are small, say the mums.

5) Get your mind out of the rat race.

Haslinda admits that even though she’s been homeschooling her third child for a year now and the rest of the kids since the beginning of the year, it’s still hard to have that shift in the way she thinks. As she and her husband are in the rat race themselves, they have to check themselves and remind each other that it’s okay if the kids look like they’re not studying. The children will learn from life and the people around them.

Contrary to popular opinion, most kids won’t spend all day watching TV if they have a choice. Haslinda points out, “How much television can they watch? After a while they do get fed up.”

Chong adds, “When children are given the space and the freedom to learn at their own pace, you will find that the recovery of their interests in their eyes is real. I’ve seen so many cases where the sparkle in their eye which had dimmed was recovered when they were homeschooled.”

According to her, less than 10% of kids in school benefit from the way of learning that is emphasised in school. The rest are not up to par, considered mediocre or less than mediocre and will go through their school life feeling like they are not good enough.

“I have seen improvements in the kids which I didn’t see when they were in school. When the kids are not confined in a school environment, and you give them a bit of freedom and a conducive environment for learning, surprising things will happen.

“For example, my dyslexic daughter who had been struggling with language in school, still doesn’t like reading. She’ll pretend to be reading because the others are reading. But, recently I saw her writing to friends. It will never pass the standard but she is willingly writing to her friends. Now she can write and loves writing. It’s not perfect but she is writing her own stories. This happened after we took her out of school,” explains Haslinda.

She points out that in school all children need to learn at the same pace or face being left behind. This is what her dyslexic daughter faced. The school system cannot accommodate the different pace of learning of each child, and it ends up being frustrating for the teacher, child and parents.

6) Get over your fears.

It can be quite scary when other parents ask you what do you do with your kids and you say, “We’re doing nothing”. This is applicable for those who intend to let their children lead in learning. Some days, it may not seem apparent that the kids are doing anything or learning much. The truth is kids learn at their own pace and they will learn from the field trips and lectures that parents plan for them, and from the environment.

“For Asian parents, it’s very scary,” admits Haslinda.

According to her, friends and family like to ask homeschooled kids what they learnt this week. “We now have to prove to people that we are doing something, and that’s hard. They don’t ask the kids who go to school what they learned, but they will ask the homeschooled kids. It’s like we have to prove ourselves.”

However, with the field trips and lectures that she arranges for her kids, Haslinda says they are learning and achieving more than they did when they were in school.

Even though you think you have changed your mindset, you will still be overcome with fear from time to time.

7) You don’t have to be a saint.

“The misconception is that you have to be a saint. Get real. I scream at my kids all the time,” admits Haslinda. “It’s just a matter of whether you want to do it and if you want to do it, you will find a way, and you will make changes in your family and lifestyle to allow that to happen.”

Actually the pressure is much less from when they were going to government and private school, says Haslinda.

“I don’t have to wake up early in the morning, drag myself to the kitchen to make breakfast, and pull everybody out of bed. We can take our time and leave the house at 9 or 9.30am. It’s not as stressful as when they were in school,” says Haslinda who is currently completing her PhD at Monash University.

A lot of people think that homeschooling involves sitting with the kids all day and teaching them what they would learn at school. Not everyone tutors their kids at home.

At most, the kids can only study one or two hours. They can’t really study for longer than that, inform Chong and Haslinda.

You have to develop some structure. But it’s not that much work compared with when they are at school. Parents don’t have to spend time catching up with homework and preparing the kids for tests and exams.

8) Connect with the network.

No, not the Internet. Connect with other homeschooling families who will inform you of the lectures and opportunities to learn around you. This is also where the children will get their social interaction from.

“There are many resources to advocate learning,” says Haslinda.

“That’s where the community comes in. You have a community of like-minded people and you connect your child with specific people. This is very important. We are not doing this in isolation. We connect children and families to people and programmes that will be beneficial to them,” explains Chong.

9) Don’t overschedule.

While parents are enthusiastic about homeschooling and exposing their kids to as many lectures, visits and field trip as they can, they should remember not to overschedule.

Chong explains that usually when parents first start homeschooling the tendency is to pack in a lot of field trips and lectures in each week. “You will see that most young parents who homeschool overschedule. After one week, they’re exhausted because there are just too many activities,” she says.

Conclusion

“Once you adopt that mind shift, you actually know that all children have their own gift. Even if they can’t flourish academically, you know that there must be something that this child can do well. You just keep supporting them and that talent will come out soon. It doesn’t come out immediately.

“It is painful to wait for it but kids aren’t instant mee. Their talent and passion will emerge – if not sooner, then later,” says Haslinda.

Homeschooling takes perseverance, commitment and dedication – on the part of parents. As for the kids, they just need to be given the space and opportunity to learn.

 

Taken from Parenthots (www.parenthots.com)

 

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One Response to Do you have what it takes to homeschool your kids?

  1. iejask says:

    Haa! it does give me a different view on homeschooling. Although I’m not thinking of doing it the moment, a friend of mine is doing it, and I always wonder if it will really work in our environment. I supposed you need to have a lot of patience, not only towards the kids, but also towards other people who doubt it. 🙂

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