Let’s just talk!

“Conversation, like life, has silences and boring bits. This bears repeating: It is often in the moments when we stumble and hesitate and fall silent that we reveal ourselves to each other. Digital communications can lead to an edited life. We should not forget that an unedited life is also worth living.”

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A historical meeting with the MOE for a people-led transformation of Malaysia’s education system

I, together with a few other homeschoolers, attended a townhall round table meeting at the Ministry of Education in Putrajaya today. This was the letter of invitation that got us there:

YBrs. Dr./Tuan/Puan,

Dengan segala hormatnya saya merujuk perkara di atas.

Sukacitanya dimaklumkan bahawa Jawatankuasa Kajian Dasar Pendidikan Negara (JKDPN) ditubuhkan berdasarkan keputusan Mesyuarat Jemaah Menteri pada 6 Jun 2018. Jawatankuasa ini diwujudkan untuk mengkaji semula dasar pendidikan negara dari peringkat prasekolah sehingga universiti. Untuk makluman tuan/puan, anggota JKDPN sedang mendapatkan maklumat dan mengadakan sindikasi dengan pemegang taruh berkaitan cadangan dan perakuan pelaksanaan kajian dasar pendidikan negara………………………..

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Let’s talk!

The Blurp: “We live in a technological world in which we are always communicating and yet we have sacrificed conversation for mere connection. We turn away from each other and toward our phones. We are forever elsewhere. But to empathise, to grow, to love and be loved, to take the measure of ourselves or of another, to fully understand and engage with the world around us, we must be in conversation. It is the most human – and humanising – thing that we do.”

And with this, I was immediately drawn to the book and I put it into my books-to-buy basket without a second thought. Why does this book resonate with me? Well, the stark reality that confronts society today is indeed what the author of this book claims to be: the astonishing rate in which human communication has declined over the years, coinciding with the advent of smart phones that purportedly do all the communicating for us. But do they? From my own observations (of dealing with children and parents, and their family problems and conflicts and divorce cases), and from my own adult children’s experiences in their workplaces – their managers, their colleagues, their friends – and from my own experience with my work-intensive husband (his challenges in managing his work/personal/family time), I am 100% convinced that we are currently right smack in the eye of the storm – the storm of information, entertainment and distraction overload, leading to the breakdown in our relationships, our identity, our self-worth. Here are the arguments the author has presented for us in the first chapter of the book:

On the need for conversation:
“Many of the things we all struggle with in love and work can be helped by conversation. Without conversation, studies show that we are less emphatic, less connected, less creative and fulfilled.”

“We forget how unusual this has become, that many young people are growing up without ever having experienced unbroken conversations either at the dinner table or when they take a walk with parents or friends. For them, phones have always come along.”

I had an 8-year-old child whom I had volunteered to help unschool, due to her parents’ marital breakup, who had initially been very responsive and communicative in our daily conversations. Until she was given a smartphone by one of her parents. In a swipe of a finger, all conversations came to a halt. So did physical play with other kids. It was devastating to say the least.

On the need for conversation with the new generation:
“It is for us to pass on the most precious thing we know how to do: talking to the next generation about our experiences, our history, sharing what we think we did right and wrong.”

“It is not enough to ask your children to put away their phones. You have to model this behaviour and put away your phone. If children don’t learn how to listen, to stand up for themselves and negotiate with others in classrooms or at family dinner, when will they learn the give-and-take that is necessary for good relationships or, for that matter, for the debate of citizens in a democracy?

On reclaiming conversation:
“Reclaiming conversation begins with the acknowledgement that speaking and listening with attention are skills. They can be taught. They take practice and that practice can start now. In your home, in a classroom, at your job.”

On technology:
“……….technology gives us the illusion of companionship without the demands of friendship…..it can also give us the illusion of progress without the demands of action.”

On talking to machines:
“Have we forgotten what conversation is? What friendship is? Is talking to machines companionship or abandonment?”

On intelligence:
“Intelligence once meant more than what artificial intelligence does. It used to include sensibility, sensitivity, awareness, discernment, reason, acumen, and wit. And yet we readily call machines intelligent now.”

“Affective is another word that once meant a lot more than what any machines can deliver. Yet we have become used to describing machines that portray emotional states or can sense our emotional states as exemplars of ‘affective computing.’”

Before the advent of smartphones, it was the tv that took the beating. Suddenly, what was normal (spending time outdoors with friends and doing things together) became the abnormal. And what took its place was staying indoors and staring at the idiot box for hours on end. Today, the idiot box is replaced by the smartphone. Its impact on human relationships is still being uncovered.

“…..Steve Jobs did not encourage his own children’s use of iPads or iPhones. His biographer reports that in Job’s family, the focus was on conversation: “Every evening Steve made a point of having dinner at the big long table in their kitchen, discussing books and history and a variety of things. No one ever pulled out an iPad or a computer.”

On using Apps for sociability:
“Apps for sociability May increase sociability on apps; what children are missing, however, is an ease with each other, face-to-face, the context in which empathy is born.”

But then, we can always create an app for empathy, can’t we? The author poses this question for the readers: “But does a decrease in teenage empathy suggest the need for an empathy app? Or does it suggest that we make more time to talk to teenagers?”

“Sometimes it seems easier to invent a new technology than to start a conversation.”

“We are at a crossroads: So many people say they have no time to talk, really talk, but all the time in the world, day and night, to connect…..The next step is to take the same moment and respond by searching within ourselves. To do this, we have to cultivate the self as a resource. Beginning with the capacity for solitude.”

On why he doesn’t want to get a phone for his children,
Louis C.K. has this to say:

“You need to build the ability to just be yourself and not be doing something. That’s what the phones are taking away. The ability to just sit there. That’s just being a person…Because underneath everything in your life there is that thing, that empty, forever empty…….Life is tremendously sad. That’s why we text and drive. Pretty much 100 percent of people driving are texting. And they’re killing and murdering each other with their cars. But people are willing to risk taking their life and ruining another because they don’t want to be alone for a second……

So that’s why I don’t want to get a phone for my kids.”


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Which School (or learning center) to send your child to?

“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.

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Understanding what ails us and what we can do to achieve optimal health!

We don’t need an expert to tell us that in our ultra modern age of high achievements and scientific innovations, we are facing a global epidemic in health issues, namely heart diseases, cancer, dementia and many more! And amongst the reasons for them are:

1. Nutritional deficiencies

Yes you heard me right! But how can that be? Nations around the world are getting richer and richer, it is impossible that rich nations and developing nations like ours can have nutritional deficiencies. Yet this is exactly what is happening!

“…….this problem isn’t confined to poor people or poor countries. Nutrient deficiencies are prevalent around the world, in both developed and developing nations. The World Health Organisation reporter in 2000 that vitamin and mineral deficiencies afflict one-third of the world’s people…..and that micronutrient deficiencies remain an underlying cause of death and disease worldwide.”

Generally speaking, about one third of the world population are struggling with deficiencies of iodine, zinc, selenium, thiamine, calcium, retinol, riboflavin, vitamin D, among others. Globally, over 2 billion people are at risk for deficiencies in vitamin A, iodine, iron, folate, and the B vitamins – again, one in three. (Chapter 8: Dietary Supplementation’s Role in the Reduction of Inflammation)

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77 Questions that could change your life!

I came across this heaven-sent book from a recent Popular Booksale in a clearance pile going for rm5 and it’s one of the best books I’ve ever read! It’s bursting with good questions directed at readers who yearn for a better quality of life, but are faced with countless obstacles. These questions make us think deeper into everyday issues which are normally unnoticed, unattended to and misunderstood.

Here’s the content page: Continue reading

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Eat right for your heart!

I’m sharing important information here on eating right to fight the many diseases of modern living. Because this kind of knowledge is essential in keeping us healthy and disease-free, but sadly, public awareness level is still very low, despite the information explosions on the internet, and all kinds of health issues are increasingly high. Why? The answer probably lies in the foods we eat (and don’t eat), and our lifestyles that are increasingly sedentary in nature. So here is the first chapter on eating for a healthy heart ❤️

So, according to this book, and many others on healthy living, here are some common advice:

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Happy Deepavali

May the light of truth illuminates and conquer the darkness of greed, hatred and delusion!

Happy Diwali to all who celebrate it!

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Valley of Hope

It is an honour to be asked by world-renowned artist and illustrator Heng Swee Lim to help translate his book, The Valley of Hope, into English. It’s a beautiful story about courage and love, and beautifully illustrated by the author himself! And the most beautiful thing is that 100% of all proceeds from the sale of the book goes to the Valley of Hope – the beautiful folks at the leprosy Center in Sungai Buloh. ❤️ Do support by pre-ordering the book! thank you in advance! 🙏🏻🙏🏻

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A fun morning with nonsense rhymes!

When I read the posting by Malaysian writer, YK Lim, about his intention to have a small gathering to read his poems from his fresh-out-the-oven book, titled 61 Mostly Nonsense Rhymes For Malaysian Students, my curiosity was piqued, partly because I LOVE nonsense rhymes (!) because they are so much fun to read, and also they are great teaching materials for students of English and creative writing. And so, I volunteered to organise the event and Love18 cafe https://m.facebook.com/Love18.cc/ was kind enough to host it!

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