A response to “Homeschooling may not be holistic after all.”
The Rakyat Post put up 2 articles: Homeschooling: A Good Alternative and Homeschooling: May not be Holistic After All.
Here’s our response to the second article – Homeschooling: may not be holistic after all.
First of all, allow us to put things straight from the start. There is home-education (or homeschooling) where parents take on the responsibility of educating their own children, and there is center-schooling (popularly called homeschooling centers) that function very much like tuition centers, which is gaining popularity in Malaysia.
When we talk about homeschooling, we are referring to parents who make a conscious choice to educate their children at home, and not center-schooling where parents opt to send their kids to in place of schooling.
Parents who opt for the former, do it out of love for their children’s learning and their desire to be active participants in their children’s education. Because research has shown that parents are children’s first teachers, not “pseudo teachers” as the article claims, simply because of the special parent-child bonding that makes learning, loving and living inseparable.
Parents who choose to home-educate their children often do so after lengthy research and gaining understanding and insight into what home-education entails, and the pre-requisites are often quite simple:
1. Do parents have the right motivation to help their children learn to their best abilities?
2. Do parents have their children’s best interest and happiness in mind?
3. Are their children inclined towards self-paced, self-directed and self-motivated learning?
There are obvious differences in the way learning is done at school and learning that is intrinsically interest-driven at home. Some of the differences are:
1. Learning at school follows a strict schedule and is syllabus-driven, and strives to mass-educate a student population in the hundreds and thousands.
Learning at home follows a flexible schedule and is interest-driven, and strives to personalize it’s content according to each child’s learning style and pace.
2. Learning at school is state-controlled and predetermined by educationists who measure learning outcomes via standardized testing several times a year.
Learning at home gives learners autonomy in determining what they want to learn and how, and are not measured by tests but by the happiness and interest levels shown by the learners.
3. Learning at school is a well laid-out path to a future in becoming a good employee in a widely capitalistic society, or a good civil servant in the government sector.
Learning at home follows an unchartered path to a future that no one can safely predict, which gives the learner ample training in pioneering new ideas and enterprises with a social conscience.
The article has several major flaws in its choice of interviewees and questions. Below are just some of the obviously wrong views:
“Not all parents can become good educators, and without proper skills and knowledge, home-schooling can complicate a child’s life in many ways,” says Principal Consultant Child Psychologist Dr Chan WengLok from the International Psychology Centre.
This is not a fair statement because it can also be posed to school teachers who have gone through teachers’ training colleges. Countless children’s lives have been complicated by needless school-related stress due to bullying, standardized testing, and the pressure to conform to perceived norms. If we continue to view the education of the child as pouring knowledge and information into them, instead of allowing children’s curiosity to spur learning, we will always remain stuck in this paradigm without any shift in how learning can be effected in the 21st century. The focus should not fall on the adults – the focus should be on the children. By trusting children’s ability to teach themselves, we will free ourselves from the old mindset of having to teach them everything! For this is the cause of all our schooling problems – by having the assumption that children need adults’ intervention in order to learn.
The Hole-in-the-Wall project
There was an experiment done in a village in India whereby a computer was placed for a group of kids to explore on their own without anyone to teach them how to use it. Within 4 weeks these kids managed to learn how to use and navigate it on their own. This experiment proves the theory that children have the natural ability to learn on their own!
However, what children need from adults is their guidance towards living a life imbibed with good values, compassion and character. And parents have a big role in shaping compassionate leaders and responsible citizens of the future!
But it is rather perplexing to hear what Datin Noor Azimah Abdul Rahim, Parent Action Group for Education, or PAGE, chairman has to say about homeschooling: “home-schooling can be risky as children will grow up to be academically inclined”.
“academically inclined? Whatever that means!
“Their social skills will not be honed. Their sense of patriotism will be low. Even if they study with a group of children at home or at a particular centre, they miss out on school team projects and co-curricular activities as they are not able to explore and shine as leaders in uniformed bodies, clubs and societies,” says Noor Azimah.
Our question to this is:
Are these her personal opinions or professional insights?
Why interview someone who fights within the schooling system and who probably has no meaningful socializing experience with home-educators? Because those who do interact with home-educated children understand that these children have excellent social skills, leadership qualities and great love for the country! List of world leaders who were home-educated included the following: Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Edison, Robert Frost, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Florence Nightingale, Franklin Roosevelt – just to name a few. One of today’s most successful music personalities who was homeschooled: Taylor Swift. Need we say more?
Another person who was interviewed was private educator, Suresh Saminathan, who posed some strange questions: “How do you teach patriotism and provide cultural grounding to children who are confined to the comforts of their home or a particular community or centre?…..,, these students will come out with a different mindsets. We will be creating another class of people who can be easily segregated and discriminated upon in society and the workforce.”
Point #1: Not Cocoon
Homeschoolers are not cocooned nor confined in the “comforts of their home” – they take great trouble to go out into the real world to learn about real history and cultures!
Point #2: A Different Mindset
A different mindset they certainly possess – one that is inclusive and pervasive out of pure curiosity and a deep-felt love of their country! But certainly not to be classified or categorized as “a different class of people to be segregated and discriminated upon in society and the workforce!” The commentator must have gotten his history confused with the class system of India!
Point #3: If Patriotism can be taught, it is not Patriotism
Patriotism arises when citizens young and old, feel that their beloved country values and respects their contribution. It does not arise with the compulsory and obligatory singing of the national anthem or the recitation of the Rukun Negara. It arises naturally and strongly in each and every citizen’s heart out of genuine love for the country and its peoples – whether or not one is public schooled, homeschooled or center-schooled. And parents again play a crucial role in imbibing this sense of patriotism in their children by the stories they tell them about their forefathers and how their hard work and sacrifices have ensured better lives for the current generations.
So instead of debating whether homeschooling is good or bad, right or wrong, legal or illegal, holistic or not holistic, we should view it as one of many educational possibilities that contribute positively to our diverse and growing knowledge society. We should focus our energies on making education more accessible, more democratized, and more relevant to the current and future generations. Learners in the 21st Century have digital technology to help make learning so much more speedy and accessible. The dawn of Knowledge-Economy is upon us which is changing the whole education landscape into a virtually limitless and borderless entity. The tripartite relationship between schools-parents-community will be even more significant if all stakeholders can pull their knowledge and resources together to nurture great creative minds for a knowledge-rich nation that can stand tall amongst other great nations!
But only when we all wake up to the fact that education can no longer be a tightly controlled entity. Diversity in educational choices is the way to go for the continual growth and development of our young talents!
Chong Wai Leng & KV Soon
You might also like to read responses from Haslinda and Joshua HERE
Wai Leng and KV,
Good reply to the Rakyat Post article! I especially like your points on the issue of patriotism. Many things said or done in schools purportedly display patriotism and often they are only just that and nothing more.
It is always more comfortable to stick to well trodden paths (the mainstream?) than to expend time, money and effort to explore other possibilities. Unschooling, homeschooling and even centre-schooling all provide many things that the mainstream school system cannot or will not provide.