“Which School?” was the title that had generated a crazy amount of interest amongst parents visiting our website at the end of the 20th century and the start of the millennium. And that led us to homeschooling (after one parent had suggested that we looked into it) and almost 20 years down the road, we have not looked back (in terms of educating our children). Today, homeschooling has a different meaning – a majority of parents think of homeschooling as learning at one of the numerous learning centres that have sprouted in and around the Klang Valley. We have been mistaken for one of them. So we have had to explain to the many who have written in to enquire about our “homeschooling center”, that we do not run a center – we homeschool at home. But then, that leads to another confusion. The next question we are asked is: “what curriculum do you follow?” to which our answer has always been the same: we don’t do curriculum. We unschool. And that invariably leads to a downward spiral of disbelief and confusion! So we try to use more neutral terms like self-directed learning, or personalised learning – where learning is organic and interest-driven. Well, even this explanation is tough to stomach by those who cannot see learning beyond the four walls of the classroom structure. So here are some of my thoughts on learning that has been derived from many learned sources, as well as from our own personal experiences with our own children, as well as children who had grown up being unschooled.
Before you jump into the deep ocean to find a perfect school for your child, consider wading in a clear stream to piece your thoughts on what learning entails. These thoughts may bubble to the surface:
1. Learning is natural and organic – it happens in various environments but thrives best in those that are conducive for thinking, enquiring and discovering.
2. Children learn differently and at differing pace but they will ultimately learn something when their curiosities are stoked and their fire to learn enhanced, with the gentle support and encouragement on the part of the adults.
3. Real learning takes place in the real world where people participate intimately and passionately to solve a problem, or to create something new from already established works of others, to produce new products or services for others to use or to experience.
Learning does not happen in a vacuum. There are many factors that can perpetuate learning, and there are those that work to kill it (namely, an over-critical and judgemental mind). The most crucial thing is for parents to adopt a learning mindset – one that perpetuates learning by being equally open and curious about the world at large. All children have it – until they get crushed by the standards and expectations imposed by adults, who want to see clones of themselves in their kids. Epic mistake!
What can parents doSo the best thing that parents can give to their kids in order that they are able to be functional and creative individuals is this: Be very curious about what your kids are curious about! If you can do that, half the battle is won! In the meantime, it doesn’t hurt to fill their lives with stories and music and art – and I’m not talking about filling their time with endless such classes! No no no. I’m talking about doing these activities together if you both enjoy them, and going for exhibitions, shows or community events that highlight history, the arts and the environment. Why are they important? Because these are what help make us human – the creation, the appreciation and the expressions of them – are unique to humans and no one else. Unfortunately these human qualities are fast becoming alien to the younger generation growing up on digital technologies. Not that they are bad, but without mindful usage, it does look like they are causing havoc to the human existence in terms of relationships and accepted behaviours. So do your family a big favour by keeping to activities that enhance human communication, expression and relations. These include living skills such as cooking, sewing and washing up. We do not want to end up raising a generation of super smart young men and women who fail big time when it comes to basic living skills and relationships with other humans such as with their colleagues, clients and company bosses. For we are already seeing the trends now – workers who can only work with instructions but unable to function without literally being spoon-fed! Sad sad affair indeed.
Last but not least, give your child lots of room to dream and to experiment and to fail in their various ideas and projects. You can be their cheerleader on the side, but do not fall into the parent trap of trying to do their projects for them. When they fail, give them your shoulders to cry on, and give them your encouragement to try again. They will eventually learn – some, faster than others. Some may take longer. But don’t give up hope in them, for it is your wholehearted trust in their abilities to persevere and to persist in working towards their dream that will be the single biggest motivating factor for them to keep on trying no matter how long it takes to get to where they want to go. And you can’t fake it either. They will know!
And when children grow up knowing what to learn (and no, math is not mandatory) how to learn (by learning the way they know best – visually or aurally or kinaesthetically – and where to learn what and how they want to learn (college is not mandatory either) – they will have embraced the new learning skills of the 21st century: continual learning – learning is constantly occurring, evolving, synthesising. The future workers will be creators, emulators, designers and educator consultants and health and environmental consultants. They will contribute to a future that blends old knowledge with new technologies to heal the world of all the wounds inflicted upon it by the past generations. And this, my friends, should be the single most important aspiration of each and every parent and educator and healer and designer of the world!
So are you still looking for a school for your child? Perhaps you could just look at your own front-door! Backyards will do just great as well 😉
Have a Happy and Hopeful 2019 ❤️❤️❤️