Learning from Home

(This was an article published in Oriental Daily a few years ago, on homeschooling, loosely translated into English here).

When 15-year old Samanta was asked by her friends at dance, what would her future be if she didn’t go to school, she answered thus: “But I am living the future now by doing what I love best – dancing!” She is the younger daughter of Chong Wai Leng and Soon Koi Voon, one of the pioneering parents who homeschooled their children in Malaysia. They also wrote a book titled “Learning Beyond Schooling – Bringing Out Children’s True Potentials”. They were the first people to start a parenting website in Malaysia called FamilyPlace.

Go with passion!

They chose to homeschool their three children because they wanted their children to grow up with their curiosity and love for learning intact, to have dreams and the time and courage to pursue their dreams. Their oldest daughter attended school for two years ( from year 4 to year 5) during which she made many friends. She also managed to figure out how school works. But to their astonishment, she announced that she wanted to stop schooling and go back to homeschooling. Her reason: there is no meaning in learning when all extra curricular activities were stopped and were replaced by extra tuition to prepare for an important exam in year 6.

So with her ample time at home, she picked up the guitar and started to sing and write her own songs. Eventually it became clear to her that she wanted to be a singer songwriter. She started doing gigs to raise funds to go to Nashville in June this year to attend the Country Music Festival. She managed to raise enough funds for the airfare there and back! Learning according to one’s interest provide the needed self-motivation and drive to accomplish one’s dream. There are many choices out there for those who want to try out other options other than schooling.

Community learning

But they did not stop there with their children. They started a community learning initiative to have other homeschooling families come in to learn together. The idea is to share resources and to provide help and support to one another. To date, five families have committed to the initiative, coming together four times a week to do science projects, creative play, , drawing and many other fun activities together. The idea is to learn from the regular interactions the children have with one another. This is far better than the occasional “hi” and “bye” situations during an organized field trip with other homeschoolers
perhaps. The interactions and relationship with one another is very beautiful indeed!

Learning at home should not be an isolated activity. Parents need to build community that support one another. They believe they have found the solution to the question of socialization. It is not their purpose to convince everyone to homeschool. But it is their hope that more parents can be empowered in their educational choices by knowing that there ARE options out there. Parents need to reclaim their children. They need to reclaim their families – something that parents lose out when they surrender their children to th institution called “The school”

An involved parent, Hoo Chee Keong, gave his views on the concept of community learning. “Homeschooling is not just learning at home. We meet up regularly to do activities together so that our children learn people skills in the process. This is very important. There are bound to be issues that crop up when children play together. When this happens, they are opportunities for learning communication skill, anger management skills and many other important people skills.” Chee Keong, who runs a kindergarten and daycare center in Klang with his wife, also feels that doing it together with other families lessen the burden of having to plan and do everything yourself. “Some parents offer to teach science, another teaches cooking, another teaches creative writing, etc…this combined effort makes learning more fun and less stress!”

Trusting children to learn

It is important that parents discuss with their children, ant decision that would affect them, like the decision to school or homeschool. Children do have the ability to make decisions. It is a matter of whether parents can accept what they really want. It is a journey that parents and their children take together. “We need to grow together with our children. We need to give them more freedom to choose what they learn and how they learn. This way, they will have more interest in learning. Even in learning how to make friends.” he added.

Trusting children to learn in their own time and in their own ways is an important start. This will encourage them to be self-directed learners and not having to constantly rely on more “knowledgeable” adults for help. Children can teach themselves a lot of things if we let them, like learning the guitar or learning to swim or learning to draw! For this reason, it is not imperative that they go to school or college to learn. The world is their classroom!

A music presentation by the kids – always the highlight of their homeschooling!
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