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 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) 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 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.


  1. It is very encouraging when I read more and more from Inspiring people like yourself and other HS families. I have more faith in homeschooling my lil one.

  2. Have faith. U will do great ;-)

  3. Kak...thanks so much!!! :)
    My daughter is just one year and 4 months..but i keep thinking for her and the whole family's future. Akak punya blog has just sparked something inside me.. May Allah give me courage to choose for the best :).