Saturday, January 21, 2012

Denai Alam Recreation Club (DARC)

Kids went horse riding today. The place is pretty decent. And I feel the fees are very affordable. Annual membership for a family is $180.
Member is entitled for joy ride. The girls were ecstatic. It was about to rain but they were lucky to finish the ride just before the rain became heavier. The first to go is Little Missy. I was actually surprised by her confidence. No hesitancy. She just jumped on the pony excitedly.
Her first horse ride. Medina riding Tara. Though she insisted to call Tara Bull's Eye (Toy's story overdose) ;-)
Hajar has been to DARC a few times. And she has been tagging along her friend grooming the horses too. As a member, u can also tag along with the stable workers to groom the horses.
Few years ago,  Emily was terrified of horse. Never has enough courage to ride. It's probably too intimidating for her.
Today, she's riding and having fun. I am not sure whether it's the influence of the sisters or the sign of her maturing. I will just take it as a positive progress ;-)

Besides horse riding, there are other activities available for the whole family.

The gymnasium.
Luqman was pretty upset about the age limit. I am not sure why it's for 18yo and above. Maybe we can negotiate ;-) 

Archery. You can play for a few sessions and pay as u play. Can't remember how much but it's not expensive. They offer archery lesson too. For member it's $60 for 4 session.
 Trampoline. For the young ones. And the young at heart. Very good to destress ;-)
There are also minimotor cross, pool table and splash pool. And I was told every Saturday & Sunday, there will be a free Nasi Padang lunch here. First come first serve.
Kids had a great time. Especially the girls. They have always been fascinated by horses. Though the truth is they are probably fascinated by any kind of animals...hahaha ;-)
I might sign them up for horse riding lesson. For member, it's $120 for 4 session. Each session is 30 minutes. Since Denai Alam is very near to our place, I have a feeling this will be our regular hanging out place on weekend ;-)

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Lost. Loot. Lecture. Lorna Whiston.

I was so looking forward for Saturday. So many great events everywhere. I wanted to go to "HOME" screening by Yann Arthus Bertrand (whoever that may be...ha3). There will also be a workshop by one Stephen McCoy (whom I had no idea who he is too....ha3).

But the little info that I know about the event excites me enough. Enough to let me let Luqman and Hajar skip their tahfiz class. It was in Urban Village, Bangsar. And we couldn't find the place. Went up and down Jalan Maarof & Lorong Maarof few times until we gave up.  I guess we ain't yuppy and hip enough to know every nook and cranny of Bangsar. 

Then Mr O decided to go to IKEA.

Mr O; Let's go to IKEA...yeayyyy!!
Me; Ugghh...that sucksss!! (actually I was referring to getting lost and missing the documentary screening)
Medina; Ummiiiiii......don't say it sucks. IKEA doesn't suck. (BTW, is this grammatically correct anyway??) If u say it sucks, then Allah will make it sucks for u.
Hajar; Oh Ina...sometimes certain people just have different feeling. Like I think durian sucks, but u don't think so.
Medina; Kakak Hajar, NOOOO. U cannot say it sucks. If u say so, then it will really sucks.

OK...Master Yoda has spoken. Anyway that's how we ended up in IKEA. And I made Mr O detour to Edutool Discovery Centre in Persiaran Surian. I got to know about the place from one of the homeschooler. Ordered few stuffs online few days ago, but had not got any reply from them. So I thought maybe we just drop by and check it out since we were in the vicinity. I was very lucky. They were closed because the owner had some stuffs to do. But they happened to be around when I dropped by and she let me in just for a while. Luckily it was just for a while. Coz if I was there longer I probably go bonkus. There are soooo many great stuffs there. 

Did u watch Mr Magorium's Wonder Emporium?? Well, that's exactly how I felt ;-)
So these were some of the loots...teeeheeeeee...PAID loots...most of these items were on sales okay!!! ;-)
A videoscope. The video version of microscope. Complete with scalpel, slicer, glass slides and slide cover, petri dish etc etc etc. All for $39.00.
A microscope. $49.00. Up to 40x magnification. Come with a wooden box and key. And some prepared slides of specimen. And an instruction riddled with some spelling errors which looks so ancient and made it so obvious it's made form China ;-)
Binocular. $25.00
I bought a few more other stuffs. But I thought they were so worth it. Don't u think so?? ;-) Luckily we were in a rush. So Mr O didn't really have time to have a look at it coz I went up to the shop without him. Then we went to IKEA to kill some time coz we wanted to go to a lecture at Section 16 in the afternoon. And I went to Eduthink in The Curve. Erkkk....moving out sale??? Aisehhh...how to resist?? Maybe just go look see look see....
 Inflatable globe. $19.90
3D anatomy of the gut. Plus some quiz cards.
And Luqman think this building set will be very good for Medina. Some LEGO like thingy with remote control.
And no surprise who had his hands on the thing first. And can't stop playing. So much of thinking for the little sister huh???!!
But it's pretty cool. A bit robotic. Can move. And can light up too!! ;-)
Kids are very happy with the loot. Mr O was rolling eyes. I pretend not to notice...hahahaha. Hopefully the kids' excitement will persist. Not just for few days. Persist and translate to love to learn and experiment. Hopefully ;-)
The one who get inspired to paint coz they just got new apron. $12.90 each ;-)
After the shopping spree, which is of course are all for the sake of education ;-) we adjourned to a house in Section 16 for a lecture organized by YMP on Misconceptions in Islam amongst Muslim by Bro. Shakirit.
And somebody made a new friend. And again, the ipad didn't disappoint me. Although at one point, the 2 girls were pretty upset with each other. Both learned great lesson on sharing stuffs. As Medina succintly put it; First we were happy (coz we met new friend), then we were upset (coz we were fighting over the ipad), then we were happy again (coz our mommies told us off and made us sober and wise). Adoilahhhhh ;-)
The lecture was good. The kids found it interesting. Especially Luqman. He was so reluctant to go. It always makes me feel good when my kids rave about a religious speaker. I do hope this kind of exposure will encourage them to continue seek knowledge and get involved with this kind of events on their own. We had to leave before the lecture ended coz Emily had an appointment in Lorna Whiston.
I am looking for a class for Emily. Somewhere where she can have classmates. To smoothen the transition from school to homeschool. The assessment was free. And true to my suspicion, the teacher think she was 2 level below her age. But all the classes were full. And I was reluctant to put her in a class with all the 9yo. I thought that would not be so healthy psychologically. So for the moment, I have to rely on all the homeschoolers' field trips for her to socialize. And mind you there are surprisingly so many trips. So far, I have signed up Emily for 3 field trips in February. And one of the trips, the schoolers INSIST to join. Too interesting to resist ;-) The other option for her to develop her literacy and self confidence is speech and drama. So I have decided to look for something nearer my place. There is a Brubrick in BJ. That would be more practical I guess. Will keep looking. 

It was a good day. Alhamdulillah. Tomorrow we'll just chill. And play with the new stuffs ;-)

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The status quo. The transition. The purpose of education.

Surprisingly this year's first few weeks is pretty smooth. Less stressful. Not as hectic as it used to be.  I have 2 teenagers in secondary school this year. Hajar in S1 & Luqman in S3. Still same school. At least for now. Ms Medina's first week in the new kindy was pretty okay.
First day jitters.
Her new kindy is actually the sister of her old kindy. So that probably helps a lot coz the school environment and the teachers' style are pretty similar. There were mild dramas early in the morning, but that's about it. By the time we pick her up from school around 3.30pm, she will be wriggling with excitement to update us stuffs she has learned in school. So I take it as she is having a good time. Teachers told us she's OK. Just very quiet.
Oh well, I guess she's back into her demure "perempuan melayu terakhir" mode. 

Hopefully this time it will not be too long...last time it took her 1 year to warm up and show her true colours...so come on Zelda!!! ;P

Ironically, I like to be back in the routine. Lazy procrastinator big dreamer like me just need some routine to get me off the couch. The laundry, ironing, early morning breakfast, morning rush, the lunch box, homework, sport's practise etc etc etc. It puts structure in my life. Without them, my 24 hours can be gone without nothing much being done. At least the kitchen is more functional now. I just need a reason.
Trying out new recipes for lunch box. 
Have been slacking with take away and eating outside during the school holiday ;-P
Pretty pathetic that I need things like preparing lunch box to give structure to my life. *shame*

Emily & I are still adapting ourselves to homeschooling. We didn't do much. Bits and pieces. But not much really. I do some Quran with her in the morning. Either at home or in the car on the way to Monash. She uses the ipad apps myQuran. Listen, read and recite. Then the rest of the day, we will go with the flow. If I have to work in the lab, then she will do some self-learning. If I am working from home (READ; usually not much work is done) then we will do some stuffs. Along with running errands, doing chores and working in the lab.

But I have learned few things.

1. When u homeschool your child, u make a concious effort to educate them. Coz, it suddenly looks more official that u r responsible for providing them knowledge. Not the teachers. Or the schools. Or the tuition teachers. You find learning opportunities in random mundane daily things that u do. Things like watching shows on TV or buying groceries in TESCO. Or the weekly trip to the wet market.

She tried to calculate how much money she has left if she buy the Kinder Bueno during the grocery trip yesterday. If I have $10, how much money I have left?
Emily is still struggling understanding the value of money. And mastering the 4 basic operations. Addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. And we realized she has forgotten how to do the complex subtraction. And she probably forgotten bcoz it never makes sense to her anyway. So I told her she must remember to practice some Maths daily. And she was still doing Maths at 10pm last night. During her schooling days, it would be so stressful to get her to do some work at night. In addition to being exhausted after a day in school, the homework is just a killer. For her, me & Onn. Everybody will be stressed to the maximum. So it was a nice surprise for me to see her working on her Maths on her own. I guess life is much simpler and less stressful when u take exam and homework out of the equation.

Homeschooling parents will try to make every opportunity a learning opportunity. Family Holiday. Weekend outing. Daily routines. I am not saying schooling parents don't. Some probably do. But most don't. U don't feel so guilty hanging out in shopping complex on weekend doing nothing but just chilling out coz at the back of your mind, u think the kids need a break after spending days learning in school. Unlike the homeschoolers, there is no weekend. Coz learning to most homeschoolers is an ongoing process. Education is for life. Not for living. Or acing the exams. Or getting into Ivy League college. It goes on until the day u die. And u can only do this if u love learning.

2. Our conversation goes beyond the usual...Have u done this? Have u done that? Clean your room. Finish your breakfast. Hurry up u r late. H-u-r-rrrrrrrrr-y up!!!! How's school? Have u finished your homework? Bathe!! Sleep!! Wake up!! bla...bla...bla...bla. Life is more hectic when u r in school. More tiring. More technical.

3. U can learn anywhere, anytime. Whenever u feel like it. And it's probably more productive.
Emily doing some Maths practice with Rocket Maths after breakfast in Subway.

4. Homeschooling is not just about curriculum and learning. It's a lifestyle. So it will take time. For us. Everybody is adapting. First few days of school, the schoolers made some envious remarks.
Luqman; "How come she look so fresh???" "What has she done today???" (probably annoyed coz he was so exhausted from the sport's practise and all he can think off is to zonk out)
Err...so what do u expect?? U want her to look stressed???
Hajar; "Why is she getting all these stuffs?? (referring to the new stationaries)
Oh well, homeschooler need stationaries too right?? (though yes I have to admit it's my bribery tactic.....in my desperate attempt to motivate her ;-)) 
Medina: "Why can't I homeschool??? I want to stay home too!!" (early morning drama)
Hmmm.....sorry. Yeah...I do feel guilty for the different treatment. I wish I can home school everybody. But your mommy is one very disorganized woman. Let her try this out first. If it works, maybe we can do it for everybody okay???
5. Learning become more integrated. One of my favorite lectures during Twins of Faith 2011 was the lectures on education. By Dr Bilal Phillips and Sh. Hussein Yee. All real knowledge comes from Allah. We shouldn't split the subjects. It should be integrated. And learning should improve your faith. If it doesn't, then u need to check your intention. It might not be the right intention. Going to school bcoz my mom says so, or bcoz I have no other choice, or bcoz I need to score all those A's to make myself worthy are just not right. The process of seeking knowledge is an ibadah. The application of the knowledge should be an ibadah. But this is not how many people think. This is not how our kids think.

It makes so much sense to me. I give u an example. Kids learn time in Maths. I think since standard 2 or 3.  How to tell time, read the clock. And drill themselves through some laborious mind boggling time related Maths problems. They learn how to measure shadows in Science class. They also learn about the process of day and night. The equinox and the solstice dates. The four seasons. And they learn surah Al-Asr in their religion class. And probably learn about prayer time & praying 5 times a day too.

Everything is compartmentalized. Maths. Science. Religion. History. Geography. Language. And all will come with different set of exam questions. Kids will memorize past year questions and ace their exam. Just that. And they are just glad exam is over.

The fact that all the knowledge are inter-related will most likely never been realized by the kids. And if it's not in the exam scope, after learning all these, do u think the kids will be interested to explore further stuffs related to time like the history of time, sundial, sand clock, the difference between solar year and lunar year, the wonder of time travel etc etc etc etc? Done correctly, learning about time could humble u on the greatness of the Creator. And with homeschooling, it is more possible to do that.

Dr Bilal Phillips elaborated in length about the type of knowledge. The most important area of knowledge is the basic knowledge of Fardhu Ain.
Who is your Lord?
What is your religion?
Who is your prophet?
These 3 questions encompassed the most important areas of knowledge. Next is the knowledge about living. The Fardhu Kifayah. Which is most likely what most kids learn in school. It is so important as the main person responsible for the kid's education, we understand the order of priority of the knowledge. Coz in today's world, we tend to give more priorities to the knowledge of fardhu kifayah than fardhu ain. Coz having kids who is a doctor or an engineer, or go to boarding school or Ivy league universities is a status symbol. It's a measure of success. To some, it's the ultimate measure. It makes us feel good. Damn good.

We keep complaining about our education system being too exam oriented. We blame the schools and the ministers. But the parents are equally screwed. Kids start going to tuition as early as 7yo. We enroll our kids in all sort of extra classes. Tuition. Music. Martial Art. Sports. Which come with all sort of extra grading, test and exams. Life suddenly become so regimented. Everything need to be measured. All for the sake of beefing up the kid's resume. And the parent's resume. Kids become our life's trophy. I can never justify my kids going to tuition at night after a whole day in school. As much as I want them to excel, I have always personally feel guilty of overdoing it. I feel like I am shoving too much down their throat. The kids need a life.

Trust me. It's pretty sad to hear from a 25yo young man "I have no life". A young man who aced his exams, completed his degree in one of the top universities and currently furthering his study (with a scholarship of course). And I know he's not alone. I have heard it often. And I guess that is what happens when we have the wrong priorities.

6. It might not seems like they have learned much. Coz homeschooling parents are just like any parents. They have their challenges. Jobs to do. Errands to run. Chores to be completed. And days u r not feeling so great. So u try your best to teach in between all those stuffs. But in those little2 things that we teach the kids, they probably can make more sense of the knowledge. And enjoy the process much better.

Emily struggles with fraction. And comprehension. But she loves cooking. So I pulled her in to help me make the brownies. She's more than happy to help. And she didn't even realize she's learning.
She learned fraction through the recipes. And understanding the instruction. And organizing her work. What to do first. What to do next.
She's still confuse on the fractions, and tablespoon, teaspoon, and cups. But now it's less abstract to her. Not just some figures on the Maths worksheet. And she ain't complaining. Oh well, we can just do more cooking and baking..hopefully eventually she will get it ;-) I guess it doesn't really matter if u make the process of learning more fun.
Even the schoolers can't resist to learn and join the fun ;-)
 And the product is more rewarding.
Even swimming has to wait ;-) 

7. I thought homeschooling is the road less traveled. It will be very scary to do things differently from the rest of the world. I was not quite right. Yes, it was not the "norm" but there are quite a number of people who have chosen this road. And they are a bunch of very positive people. Very inspiring. And they have been very supportive. Ever since I made it known to the world I am homeschooling Emily, I have been getting FB messages, emails and phone calls loaded with information and encouragement from people. Some are friends. But most of them are newly found friends. People that I have not even met. The only thing that connect us is the belief that we should be responsible for the education of our children. Not the school. Or the teachers. Or the ministers. Or the policy makers.

So maybe taking the road less traveled is not a bad idea. Sh. Hussein Yee strongly believe we should not follow the majority. We should seek knowledge from the source. And I found this quote that I like so much. How fitting ;-)

"Never, never be afraid to do what's right, especially if the well-being of a person or animal is at stake. Society's punishments are small compared to the wounds we inflict on our soul when we look the other way." 
~ Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Hola 2012!!

I have a lot to cherish and be grateful about 2011. It has been a year of small, small progress to me and my family. I used to have a generic resolutions every year. Year in year out. The resolutions remain just "a list". For many2 years. The list gets longer every year. Although nothing much is being done. So logically, nothing much has changed. It was not healthy. Frustrating to say the least. To keep on wishing and do nothing.

In 2011, we have finally moved on. I might not be able to strike anything off yet but at least I have little2 ticks next to many items on the list. The little tick means "I am not there yet...but I am working on it...and am definitely on the way!!" And for that I am very grateful coz finally I can change my resolutions this year. Instead of having the same old same old ones, my resolution for 2012 is....to keep the momentum going ;) InsyaAllah hopefully I will eventually strike off few things in the list.

There are things I would like to continue doing. Like the demerit system.
It is still working. After 8 months of implementation...wooot!!!! Even Medina think it's working ;-) Some rules have been tweaked. Here and there. But it has helped us greatly in having some structure in the house. So this is definitely a keeper.

Luqman & Hajar's tahfiz journey has been slow. Slowly but surely. They have not completed the whole juz 30, but both are currently memorizing An-Naba', the last surah in Juz Amma.
To be honest, nothing to brag about coz kids their age would probably have memorized the whole Quran. Not that I intend to brag anyway. But I believe everybody has their own journey. And considering they have only started last year, and pretty late in comparison to other people who embarked on this journey, I am pretty happy. I pray Quran will continue to be an integral part of our life. Not just a holy book on the shelve.

Kids continue to explore their strengths. And they slowly blossom. It has been a year of small, small achievements. In various areas that hopefully will help them excel dunia and akhirat.

The one who finally find the courage to shine and let the world see what she's capable of doing.
I still watch her concert videos from time to time. And it never fails to make me smile with a tinge of pride to see the confident girl she has become ;)

The one who finally decides it's time to get off the couch.
And out of the virtual world to enjoy life in the real world. Thanks to 2010 FIFA World Cup, and some good friends who are football die hard fans, he started playing football last year. As a substitute. In a winning team. Nothing much really. But it's good enough for me.

The ambitious one who is passionate about many2 things.
And finally joined Medina & Luqman as the voracious reader. Thanks to the stress of UPSR, she finally found out she loves reading Harry Potter. And has been reading ever since. She had a few great life lessons this year too. And she has been bugging me for weeks to let her do horseriding seriously. Adoilahhhhh......one...thing...at..a...time...girl!!

The one who is going to be homeschooled this year.
Yeah!! I finally have the courage to start homeschooling. Something that I have been dreaming of doing. And probably have overloaded myself reading about it for years but never have the courage to do so. I am nervous. And excited. My goal for her is very modest. I think once u take the exam out of the picture things become a lot simpler. I will focus on her mastering the language i.e reading and writing. And lots of Quran. In Twins of Faith, I was so inspired with Dr Bilal Phillips talk about education. About integrating knowledge towards increasing your faith towards the Creator. If by end of 2012, I can turn her into someone who loves learning, I have succeed. Hoping for the best.Wish me luck ;-)
Emily is getting better with the violin. So we will continue her music class and her ensemble practise. To see her self confidence soars is priceless. She ain't Vanessa Mae. And I have no intention to turn her into one. But it's a sweet bonus to see her achieving a few milestones.
Music has helped my kids discover their strength and express themselves. They love to play the instruments. Besides violin, Emily is dabbling with the piano. Just for fun. Hajar is getting better with the piano. So does Luqman with his guitar. And I just want to keep it that way. No exam. Definitely. Just let them enjoy the music. I know there is many thoughts on music in Islam. But I believe in moderation. And my kids are fully aware the difference between good music and trashy music. I personally believe it can be a powerful tool. Yusuf Islam & Maher Zain have spread their message through their beautiful music. Probably more powerful than the conventional ways. So why not?

There are few things that we do as a family that I would like to continue. And do more. Like going to the mosque. And the lectures. And hopefully more excursions. Yeaah..those are keepers.

2012's eve was a mix of great things and not so great things. It's kinda family tradition for us to check in somewhere on New Year's eve. It's pretty nice to kick in the new year somewhere I don't need to worry about cooking and cleaning up. And kids can watch the fireworks in their pyjama from the hotel room. Sans the trouble of going out. Sans the mad crowd.

But this year I made a boo-boo. I thought I booked Royale Bintang Damansara when it was actually Royale Bintang Kuala Lumpur. There was really nothing much that can be done coz the room was already paid. So that's how we ended up in Bukit Bintang on New Year's eve.
 
The crowd in Pavillion. It was crazier outside. And on the street. The crowd & the noise was beyond mad. Everybody was in the mood of partying. Except us. We were obviously in the wrong place. Everybody was grumpy. Not to mention Emily was not well. And the crowd just made it worse.
A delicious pizza and a very grumpy man...ha3. What to do lah!!! ;-)

Eventually, we did see the fireworks. Though it was not from the right angle. But it ain't fun anymore. Maybe next year we should retreat to somewhere quiet. Or just enjoy whatever firework we can see from our balcony.

We started 2012 with Emily passing the stomach flu baton to Luqman. Sigh. He started vomiting at 4 am. And has been unwell ever since. We checked out quite early the next morning. It was a beautiful morning. So on the way home, we decided to enjoy the weather and stopped by the KL Bird Park.
Emily: The parrots scratched my hand
Medina: It didn't scratch me. Maybe they like me. And they don't like u kakak Milly.
I am not sure whether that is wisdom or vanity ;-)

Followed by a trip to BookXcess. Kids decided to spend some of their December money on books. And I have to argue for 10 minutes with Luqman why he cannot buy Kiss Marvel Comic. He think it's harmless comic. I have serious problem with him reading anything related to Gene Simmons. Oh well!! Mother knows best!!!! ha3 (I am seriously overdosed with Rapunzel)

Happy New Year people.
May God bless u with lots of joie de vivre. And may all of us find our purpose in life, the reasons for living. Worry less. Smile more. Give more. Learn more. Scream less. Less processed foods. Less fast food. More healthy living. Random good deeds. Treat my family with more respect. Yeahh..it will be an awesome year!! ;-)