Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Homeschooling so far. After 4 months.

Ever since I started homeschooling Emily, quite a number of friends started asking me about it. So I thought, maybe I should write a post. Then I can just post the link every time the question arises...easy peasy ;-)

I am just a noob. I only started 4 months ago. And I am still learning (while stumbling). But I can share with u some of the stuffs that I have learned so far. From the perspective of a mom whose 4 kids have gone through the preschool, government school, private school & homeschooling.

So here we go.

What is homeschooling? 
I feel it is a very loose term. Some people means unschooling. Some people means setting up a school at home. Some people means schooling somewhere else besides school eg homeschooling centre.

To me, HS means life learning. Learning anywhere anytime. It is a lifestyle. It's not just about exams, homework and syllabus. Sometimes the term HS and unschooling is interchangeable.

John Holt coined the word unschooling in 1977 to mean learning that does not look like school learning, and learning that does not have to take place at home. Learning is a result of the activity of learners; it is not necessarily a result of teaching.

Check out more info on HS from John Holt's website "Growing Without Schooling". You can also download the pdf version of his books Teach Your Own & Learning All The Time. Another great websites with lots of HS/Unschooling information is The Natural Child Project, Sandra Dodd's Radical Unschooling & Learning Beyond Schooling. To be honest, there are many more. In fact, loadsssss of them. But these links are enough to give u a clear picture to kick start HS. WARNING: Don't get yourself drowned with the info. U don't need to be an expert to start. Just do it. Everybody learn as they go.

Why do people HS?
Every HS family has their own reason. Some do for religious reason. Some do because they are not happy with the current education system. Some do because their kids don't fit in the current education system. Either they are too advanced or they are lagging behind. Some do because they believe HS is the best way to explore their kids' potential. Whatever their reasons are, it doesn't matter. What matters is why r u thinking about HS? YOUR reason is the only thing that matter. It needs to be relevant and important enough to reassure u from time to time to stick to it and soldier on.

Why do I HS?
I HS Emily due to her dyslexia. If she remain in school, this year she will be in Standard 5. Although I am pretty happy with her previous school, the school still uses national syllabus. In the end, there's only so much the teachers can do to help her. The syllabus is just too much for her. And after experiencing 2 kids going through UPSR, I decided to pull her out from school. Coz I feel the pressure and the humongous work loads will do more harm than good to her development.

Why do I HS one kid? and not the rest? Coz I am still in a mess with my PhD. And I NEED to finish it ASAP!! Usually the HS is done by the mother. (Though I know there are HS dads too). And it's easier if the mother is a full time mom. (Though it's not impossible if u r a part time or full time working mother). And I need to get the hang of HS first. Before I start HS everybody. SO I reckon one kid is the most I can take. One of the biggest hurdle I face in HS is changing my mentality. Coz I am so used to syllabus n exams and standard set by others. It will take time. And if your kids are moving from school to HS, u need to work on their perception, expectation & learning style too. Coz they r so used to being spoon-fed at school.

My other kids have decided they want to be HS next year. It's their personal choice. Though I play a big role in brainwashing them...ha3 ;-)

Luqman is the crucial one. Some people asked me whether it's too late to HS him. Personally, I don't think it is. The main reason I am HS him is I don't think at 16yo a kid should be made to choose whether he wants to be in art or science stream. He should be given the option to explore both. And I feel it's such a waste to spend your teenage years on getting good grades ONLY. Many youngsters nowadays don't know what they want to do in life. Despite their good grades. Nowadays, having a degree is just not enough to ensure a good life. And it's definitely not enough to produce a pious child.

I believe nowadays there are options not to follow the status quo. i.e spend your whole teenage years studying and go through college and get a degree and eventually get stuck in a rat race.

If he takes IGCSE or O-level as a private candidate, he will study at his own pace. Then he will have ample time for other things eg exploring his interest and strengthening his faith. God willing, he will find his purpose in life. It's not for me to decide what he should do. But I pray that by giving him this option, he will find his passion and be happy in life. And make other people happy. And do his part to contribute to mankind.

Is it legal in Malaysia?
Yes and No. Basically my understanding is for primary school kids must go to school. If u want to HS for whatever reason, u need to ask for exemption. For secondary, school is not mandatory. So u can pull out your kids with no hassle. Having said that, I read that some HS parents did the paperwork but there was no follow up from the MOE. So many people just quietly do it. Knowing our government who is busier with "other" stuffs, legal status of homeschooling is more likely to be at the bottom of their priorities. So far nobody gets into trouble yet. More info here.

What's the implication of HS? Will they (can they) go to college?
If you homeschool in Malaysia, it would still be possible to sit for government school exams i.e SPM. The kids can take it as private candidate. But most HS prepare their children to sit for internationally accepted entry exams such as SAT (Scholastic Aptitude Test) or GCE O and A levels. While government universities will not be an option to HS without SPM qualification, local private colleges (twinning or 3+0 ones) do accept SAT or O levels. And I was told UIA accepts O levels and other equivalent tests too. Kids can either self study for their test OR enroll in any tuition centers offering the syllabus.

In this age of making education more accessible, there are also more and more options to do free courses online. And HS kids have the flexibility to take the exam whenever they are ready. Bear in mind, college isn't necessarily the ultimate goal for every homeschooler. For these students, the "uncollege approach" might be just the ticket. You can get more info on uncollege from here.

How do I get started?
Every HS family has their own philosophy. Their own interpretation of HS and their own way of educating their child.This will determine how do u get started. When I attended a HS talk organized by Soon KV & Chong Wai Leng of Learning Beyond Schooling, they spoke about values. Family values that will shape your education philosophy. I like that very much. Values. Most of the time, we spend the bulk of our time chasing something that has no value in our life.

Since HS is a personal choice, u will see different style of HS. There is no right or wrong. It all depends on what u want for your child. Some follow syllabus eg American or Australian syllabus. Some are total unschooler. Means no syllabus at all. Learn through life experience.

Some are in between. Some has structure. Some has no structure at all. But what I found similar is most HS are strong believers of child-led learning. Learning guided and led by the child. Not the teacher (or parent).

For example;
Learning about microorganism can start from the book--> then lead to drawing some common microorganism-->yeast experiment-->making doughnut--> mold experiment--> field trip to Vitagen factory.
It really depends on their personal interest. For me & Emily, learning always lead to drawing, art & craft and cooking coz those are her personal interests.

The possibilities of stuffs they can learn is immense. And learning becomes fun. It doesn't have to follow rigid curriculum. The great thing is kids understand the context of the stuffs they learned much2 better.

Unlike school where teacher gives specific instruction & follow strict syllabus and kids are expected to follow. There is not much room for exploration. And learning is always equals to exams and tonnes of homework. Many kids don't even understand what they learn. Or why they need to learn certain stuffs. Maybe something like this?? ;-)
Pic is from here.

An example of a day in a homeschooler's life. U will realize that they don't study the whole day.
Once u have the flexibility of studying at your own pace, and u take out homework and exam from the equation, u will have more time to pursue your other interests and do other stuffs.

What about socialization? 
This is probably the most common question/concern people have regarding HS. What is your definition on socialization?? This is another video on a day in a homeschooler's life. But it will probably answer your concern about socialization too.
From my experience so far, there is no shortage of opportunities to socialize. Our homeschooling network is very active in organizing trips and activities. There are many opportunities to get the kids to hang around together. I think the real challenge for me is not to over schedule me & Emily rather than the lack of opportunity to socialize.

So, do I think school sucks?? Do I think everybody should abandon school and HS?
It's not for me to be judgmental. And it's not for me to make a general opinion. I think it's a personal choice. It's up to u. If u think the current education system is the best option for your kids, by all means continue. I do what I do based on my experience. Based on my family values. And based on my kids' needs. It might not be the case with your family. With all my due respect.

I don't have the qualification to teach.  
If u ask me, I think anybody can HS. Just like anybody can be a parent. Do u need to be qualified to be a parent? The main thing to ask yourself is "Do u want to do it??" If u do, just do it.

Nobody understand your child better than yourself. Parents are the best teachers. The only limitation is we don't turn out to be a great parent by default. We need to work on it. We need to educate ourselves to be a a great parent. We don't just follow other people. We don't just follow what our parents do. Similarly, the same logic goes with being a teacher.

Once u decide to do, there are plenty of resources. Get yourself acquainted with the network. Malaysian Homeschooling Network on FB is one place u can get started. Networking is essential. U don't have to do all the works all by yourselves. Some HS parents group up and work together according to their expertise. I can testify to u HS parents are very proactive and resourceful. In 4 months we embarked on HS, we have been to places I have never thought of. It's a whole new world to our family.

I don't think I have the patience to do it. I think HS is not for everybody. I think HS needs a lot of discipline.
U don't have to be perfect to HS. Nobody is. Just to set the record straight, I am one of the most disorganized mom. And I can be really crappy too. I think my blog somehow makes me look much better than who I really am. I ain't super mom. There are days when I feel so lazy and Mr O will be cooking dinner. Or we will be eating outside day after day. There are days when I get cranky and scream at my kids. Over petty2 things. There are days when my laundry start piling higher than Mt Kinabalu and my kids need to dig inside the basket to find their clothes. There are days when me & Emily don't do anything. There are days when I feel like I had no idea what I'm doing. There are days when I hate myself. So yes, I have my crappy days too. And I am definitely not a discipline person. I am the Queen of Procrastinator.

BUT if u believe in what u r doing, and why u r doing it, u will stick to it. And I believe Allah will make it easier for me & my family. There are lots of great things that have happened to me ever since I embarked on the HS journey. One of them is to be connected with like minded people. It is so liberating and refreshing.

Will they be successful? Will it work? What if we screw up?
Just like school, there will be success and failure. It is a journey. And it also depends on what u define as success and failure in life.

HS is not new. There are many success stories. Examples of HS success stories.
Christopher Paolini
The Duggars. Some of the older kids are in college now.
Venus & Serena Williams.
Venus and Serena Williams
Agatha Christie. Her parents HS her because she was shy. She's dyslexic too.
Agatha Christie
Jonas Brothers.
The Jonas Brothersare a great band of three who are all brotherswith the ...
Albert Einstein & Rabindranath Tagore.
Pic from here.

“It is as true now as it was then that no matter what tests show, very little of what is taught in school is learned, very little of what is learned is remembered, and very little of what is remembered is used. The things we learn, remember, and use are the things we seek out or meet in the daily, serious, nonschool parts of our lives.”~John Holt~ How Children Fail


  1. can WE have an X-BOX?? :D - your children

  2. try harder children. i know who u r :P

  3. What an encouraging story. I am happy for you, and I am happier for your kids who will thank you for it when they grow up. All the best.
    David Tan

  4. Thank u David. People like u paved the road for people like us. Can't thank u enough ;-)

  5. kak,
    boleh dapatkan email akak?

  6. azilah, u can email me at

  7. hi, very good post on HS. I HS 2 of my kids. Can I share your story on my blog?

  8. Hi Jess, Sure. It's meant to be shared.

  9. Wow. I salute you. I'm a full time working single mother. Although I do think our current education sucks, but I don't think I can do it. Especially not HS my girl all by myself. I won't have a single clue how and where to start. The only option I can even remotely consider is to send her to a HS centre. She is only 16mo and sometime I already have problems getting her to listen to mama. I can't imagine trying to HS everyday.... Good luck and I do admire you!!

  10. Sue,
    It's actually not as hard as what many people thinks. You don't need to teach your kids from 9am-5pm. It's easier because when you decide to HS you already change your mindset about what's the goal of education for your child. You are not following the school's standard anymore. And you recognize that children learn from other means too. Not just formal learning through books. They lear through other emans too eg observation and play. Having said that, it will be tough to do it if you are alone and working. Keep exploring. I personally have my reservation on HS centre. I would rather put my children in a private school. Coz most HS centres are private school sans the facilities. But your child is still very young. Keep exploring :-)

  11. Hi MellyMilly, I am very new to this HS and am just gathering enough knowledge to see I can start one on my own for my 3 or at least 1 of my 3 granddaughters who has a mind of her own. I read with interest your write-up and below I quote what you wrote, and I would like to know how do I associate with other parents - meaning get to know them and are there a mixture of parents - irrespective of Religion.
    Some HS parents group up and work together according to their expertise. I can testify to u HS parents are very proactive and resourceful. In 4 months we embarked on HS, we have been to places I have never thought of. It's a whole new world to our family. UNQUOTE

  12. Ade, join the Malaysian HS Network.

  13. This comment has been removed by the author.

  14. hi Mellymilly,,

    based on your opinion...
    do you think that economy factor or financial issues actually affect the decision of parents in homeschooling their children?

    And in your case, does religious value in school is also one of the factors that you homeschool your child? because sometimes, there is a lack or excessive religious value embedded at school so does that affect your decision to homeschool your child?

    and how do you see the future trends of homeschooling in Malaysia in the future? Will more parents homeschool their children?

    thank u..

  15. Hello. I stumbled upon your post here looking for HS in Malaysia upon our return. Care to update on your success with your oldest son? My daughter will be 15 in 2017 where she'll be thrown into pt3 previously PMR. But I'm not too keen for her to take that and be measured solely on how many A's B's and C's. And my other concern is, how do I keep my sanity when others (family and friends) who pressures and questions our family's decision on HS...