Archive for the 'Homeschooling' Category

Aug 11 2010

Organic Learning

Published by under Homeschooling

A friend shared this article with me and I like to post in here for my own future reference

Unschooling is sometimes referred to as an “organic” approach to learning. Some people wonder about this application of the term and may think it refers to a “natural” approach as in organic gardening where artificial fertilizers and pesticides are not used. Actually, I believe the term refers more to a “holistic” approach in which the entire organism is considered and not just individual components. The same can be said for organic gardening; it just happens that this also tends to be a more natural approach. If you are new to unschooling, or have doubts about how it can really work, I can think of no better way to learn more than to try your hand at organic gardening. I find the similarities to be amazing and the results of both to be very rewarding.

Most people think of organic gardening as similar to regular gardening except that you don’t use pesticides and you don’t use fertilizers. People that try this approach frequently see their plants consumed by insects or wilting from lack of nourishment. They’ll tell you that it sounds nice on paper but just doesn’t work in real life. These are people who have seen and tried a few techniques from an organic approach but failed because they did not realize that an overall system is needed. You cannot expect success if you only adopt a few of the techniques.

Any experienced organic gardener will tell you that the key to success is to build a strong foundation, which means to take good care of the soil, not just the plants. Before you worry about growing healthy plants, you need to properly prepare the soil. There is no single way to do this because conditions vary from location to location, so first it is important to understand what you have. Go out and work with your soil. As you dig in it and feel it, you get a sense for whether it is hard and compacted or rich and loamy. By observing the types of plants already growing in the area you can also learn about the pH of the soil and mineral content. You can also buy kits that will help you determine what type of soil you have. Once you’ve done your homework, you can finally start doing some of the real work.

So, now you dig and loosen the soil and work in the compost, manure, limestone and other amendments that you have determined you need. It’s not true that organic gardeners do not use fertilizers. They just don’t use chemical fertilizers, so most of what you add will be more similar to what nature would add and will be slower to breakdown and slower to be absorbed by the plants than their chemical counterparts.

Now you’ve gotten your soil off to a good start, and you’re ready to start planting. Your plants should be germinated in a very protected environment. The potting soil should be sterile. You carefully control the conditions to allow the plants to get a good, healthy start. Before you transplant them, you gradually expose them to outside conditions, giving them a chance to adapt. When they are ready, you put them in the soil you have prepared.

These plants have been given a good healthy start, and the soil has been well prepared. You will now find that they need less maintenance. They will grow deeper root systems and need less watering or fertilizing. Their health will make them more resistant to insects or weather. Their vigorous growth will crowd out weeds. Every year, as you nourish the soil, the plants will do better as they grow stronger, the roots spread deeper, and the soil continues to improve.

With a more conventional approach to gardening, you might get better results initially but not in the long run. Your neighbor uses a chemical fertilizer, and a few days later the plants are noticeably greener and growing faster. He waters them daily, and they stay green and lush even during the hottest days of summer. At the first sign of bugs, he breaks out the pesticides and sprays everything. That first year he may actually have bragging rights to the biggest and best looking vegetables. He constantly tends to the garden and seems to get great results. But if he continues gardening the same way for many years, he may start having problems. That rapid growth encouraged by his fertilizers may deplete the soil of necessary nutrients. Some are trace elements and things we don’t really know about. Chemical fertilizers only provide the major elements required by the plants and do not replace many other nutrients. If overused, they can even leave behind mineral salts that can poison the soil.

The pesticides he has applied have successfully gotten rid of many pests, but have also killed lots of beneficial insects. Bacteria and other beneficial soil organisms may be killed. That means your neighbor has fewer earthworms working to improve his soil. Perhaps there are fewer bees or butterflies to help pollinate the plants. Fertilizer and pesticide runoff may also pollute nearby waters decreasing fish and frogs that would eat insects and their larvae.

Face it. Your neighbor has developed a system that may have gotten faster results initially, but requires constant attention and the application of expensive products. The plants are dependent on that attention and care, and are not capable of surviving well without it. Just look at what happens if he goes on vacation for a while, or moves away and someone with less time and money moves in to his house. The constant watering that produced such lush growth also produced shallow roots. Miss one watering during a hot spell and you can watch everything wither and die. The fertilizers can cause the problems mentioned earlier, but without them the soil cannot support the plants. Miss a couple of applications and the plants start to become sickly. This gardener has concentrated on raising plants instead of a garden.

On the other hand, you invested much more time and did more work initially with your organic garden. You focused on feeding the soil, not the plants. You made decisions based on the overall effect on the garden, not just the plants. Therefore, you did not indiscriminately apply pesticides to get rid of a few pesky insects. As a result, you had healthy soil bacteria and worms working to make your soil even better. Your garden may have gotten off to a slower start, but it improves every year. Since your plants were not artificially fed and watered constantly, they have developed deep root systems that help them find the nourishment they need. They are much more self sufficient and to not require constant care.

Thinking unschoolers do nothing with their kids is equivalent to thinking organic gardeners just throw a handful of seeds into the yard and expect a garden to grow. In actuality, both invest most of their effort into properly preparing the environment to encourage proper growth. If you worry that homeschooled kids are too protected and need to be exposed to the real world, would you also recommend transplanting tender seedlings to the garden before the last frost? Isn’t it ironic that the plants that are the most carefully nurtured and protected initially before being gradually exposed to the outdoors tend to become the strongest, healthiest plants, while those that are thrust outdoors too soon often never recover?

Sometimes I see our home environment as the garden and our children as the plants; other times I see our children as the garden and knowledge as the plants. Each perspective has its merits. In either case, one of our goals is to produce self-sufficient learners with deep, strong roots to acquire their own knowledge and to provide a solid base for continued future growth.

Copyright 2003 Billy Greer

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Jan 19 2010

Primary 2

Published by under Homeschooling

It is just the 3rd week of school, not only the homework load has increase but I have noticed that everything is getting tougher too.

JS had spent a lot of effort and time to do her homeworks. She is trying very hard to be neat and learn the best. I am also doing my part to coach her and check on her homework. But still almost everyday, she brings back work that need to do correction. I find her teacher is so meticulous and particular, especially her Mandarin teacher. There’s just so many writing words need to be correct just because some minor stroke is not done correctly and which I have failed to spot.

There’s also a lot of unclear instructions, for example she actually need to photocopy a certain page from the text book and paste it into the exercise book. I suppose the instruction was unclear and she never told me about that, instead of photocopying, she drew the pictures herself.  Teacher gave her wrong , folded the whole page and asked her to redo because she has drawn the picture instead of photocopy it.  In this case, I don’t know why is all the fuss, after all, what she needs to learn is living and non living things in science. As long as she knows what they are.

* WH’s school work is also getting more challenging, which I really need to spent time with him to make sure he is on pace.  Now I have busy nights coaching the both of them.

One response so far

Jan 17 2010


Published by under Homeschooling

I find this maths question pretty abstract for a 7-8 years old. Especially when they have just started to learn to count within 1000. No problem if they have been exposed to golden beads/bank games/large number cards in the Montessori maths at a very preschool level, but not for someone who is just being taught to count within 1000 without concrete materials.

For someone that is not so mathematical inclined, just like my JS, it is even harder for me to explain.

Found a better way to explain to her. Perhaps by repeating working on it, she will remember the trend (the shortcut!)

this is a hundred board, but I have to make my own chips that count by 10 and within the range of 1000.

It is easy to place the chips in sequence, but if randomly pick and place, there is still a tendency of mistake being made.

One response so far

Nov 25 2009

School Holiday = Sleep In

Published by under Homeschooling

I am starting to enjoy the school holidays. Having the 3 kids around me is fun eventhough they do squabble and fight, yelling among them and I have to play referree, but there are moments that is just heart moment, sitting there chatting with them or just listen to their conversation.  Even JL can says things that make us laugh.

One thing we have to changed is to try to get up early. We are getting up later and later. The past 2 days we got up at 9 -ish and today , I got up at 10a.m and the kids got up at 10.30a.m, but we still manage to run some activities after late breakfast and between late lunch.

I am starting to enjoy the relaxing mode that we get things done, even when doing worksheet. I am not putting too much pressure on them, as long as we get some work done, they are free to do the things they want.  We manage to slot in TV and computer time well, we do written work, work with material, have free play and JS does what she likes doing best – drawing, making cards, outdoor play (YEAH..the weather had been good in the evening and I manage to bring them to the playground)

Feeling a little lazy to drive out though. Perhaps next week I bring them to the national science centre in Mont Kiara. I have checked on the entrance fee to the wildlife park at Sunway and they don’t come cheap if I were to bring the 3 kids plus maid there. (Have to ask dad if he has got special staff discount!)

This weekend will be shopping for party stuffs…. I think I will be able to accomplish what I have set to do with them. All thanks to that I am no longer and internet addict and I have completed my assignment file..left essay to go, but I know I can get it done on time. I am glad to be able to give them the full attention. The feeling is great. I think I have been neglecting them when I was so busy rushing for my coursework and assignments the past months as well as the years before where I was such a blogaholic…now I think I am slowly getting the balance!

3 responses so far

Apr 23 2009

Homeschool Interviews On Radio

Published by under Homeschooling

Missed these interviews live on BFM89.9 month ago, but good thing there’s a recorded version.

Here’s it

David & Sook Ching Tan (Homefrontier) : A personal account of homeschooling

KV Soon & Wai Leng (Family Place) : About Homeschooling

Chong Wai Leng (Family Place) & Dr Hasnah Toran (Faculty of Education, UKM): Homeschooling children with special needs

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Apr 22 2009

My Home, My School

Published by under Homeschooling

Article about homeschooling featured in The Star

Education as a rigid structure? Many parents have gone the extra mile to customize a best-fit for their child’s education.

Homeschooling is not a foreign topic, rather it has been a method of education from ancient times, before schools even came into existence.

FUN LEARNING: A light moment between Elliot and his father David, during a lesson.

Unfortunately, the idea of homeschooling has not really been given a proper status in the Education forefront, and as a result, homeschoolers have had to depend on each other for guidance and support.

Education Faculty senior lecturer at UKM, Dr Hasnah Toran said that even today, there has not been much research done on homeschooling because it has always remained a subject that is pursued in the interest of parents themselves.

Speaking on the topic at a national level, Dr Hasnah said, “In Malaysia, parents do not have a place where they can seek professional help on homeschooling their children.”

She added that in countries like the United States, there are local advisers to help with the curriculum, and schools are more open to accepting students part-time, where they go in only for the extra-curricular activities, or take one or two subjects in school.

Speaking on behalf of homeschooling parents, Dr Hasnah said that as taxpayers, parents should have the right to proper guidance if they choose to homeschool their children.

However, while she is supportive of parents who want to homeschool, Dr Hasnah acknowledges that there are disadvantages of the homeschooling approach.

“It is my gentle reminder that parents need to expose their children to the Malaysian culture, and the different races in Malaysia. With modules from abroad, there are no elements of our local culture so children miss out on learning about their country and its history.”

Provide support

But having homeschooled her own child due to a learning disability, she understands that there are many reasons why parents homeschool their children, therefore the government should be open to it, and provide the needed support.

“We cannot put parents in a pigeon hole any longer. Sometimes, children cannot cope with a two-dimensional rigid structure that schools apply, therefore we need to open the doors for different types of learners. In fact, at UKM, we have started a course where all future teachers have to take a class on learners diversity.”

Learning doesn’t have to be indoors. Hafiza teaching her children about plants at a park.

Pioneers in the homeschooling community in Malaysia, David Tan and Sook Chin homeschooled their two sons Ethan, 19, and Elliot, 17, and have reaped the benefits of homeschooling.

Speaking from his experience, Elliot said, “When I was younger, I didn’t really see learning as learning. In fact, I played a lot not knowing that I was actually learning from there.”

Tan said that when they first thought of homeschooling their two sons, they did research and were surprised to find that it was so common in the United States.

In Malaysia, however, homeschooling remains in the grey area, making it difficult for home-educators to come out in the open, due to fear of being forced to send their children back to mainstream schools.

“Our education system has not been keeping pace with the changes of society. Times are changing in a world where information is vastly available.

“By putting them in a classroom environment, those who have the potential to learn faster may be held back.”

Understanding that parents are not geniuses to help in every subject, Tan said that the homeschooling community practice “co-op learning,” whereby they source for someone who is passionate in a certain subject – be it a parent or teacher – to teach those who need help in that area.

A mother of four, Hafiza Abd Rahman and her husband are web designers working from home, and have children aged seven months to five years.

Although some may say it is too early to decide, Hafiza and her husband have made the decision to homeschool all of their children.

Hafiza said, “During my childhood days, I lived with my grandparents who taught us a lot at home. Even though they did not go to school and were not very highly educated, I learned my life skills from them, and they cultivated many good values in me.”

With such an experience, Hafiza decided to take the same approach for her children.

Personal choice

Coming from a mainstream government schooling education, Hafiza has no qualms about sending children to school.

However, she said that homeschooling her children is a personal choice.

“My husband and I share the idea that love starts from home, and that is also where education should begin, because it is a cultivated lifestyle, and learning is a process that a child should be able to enjoy doing with their parents.”

Ensuring a well-rounded education, she sends her children to extra-curricular classes like taekwondo, hip-hop and ballet, depending on their individual interest.

A believer in homeschooling, she has also gone the extra mile in helping other parents interested in educating their child at home.

“I run seminars and talks on how parents can teach their children at home, even though they are working.”

She said that while full-time homeschooling is enriching to both the parents and children, it does not come without a cost.

“Because homeschooling may have higher financial demands, many parents may not be able to afford the cost of it if they quit their jobs.

To solve that problem, Hafiza suggested that parents with children who go to mainstream schools do a ‘homeschooling programme’ at home, where they spend some time with each other consistently every day.

“It is important to spend some time with your child every day, even if it is only 15 minutes a day.” Apart from that, Hafiza stressed the importance of designating a study area at home, to help their child understand that it is an area where they learn.

“By creating a space for them, they will learn how to respect their parent’s space as well, so when parents have to bring their work home, the children will not feel abandoned as they can be asked to do their work in their area.”

For Stacy Ng* who lives in the Klang Valley, homeschooling has been a familiar topic for the past six years.

A mother of four, she says, “In my first two years of homeschooling, I sent my children to learning centres to get them used to the self-learning system.”

Although all four of her children are now homeschooling, they have all gone through kindergarten to learn basic reading and writing skills.

Character building

Believing that moulding a child’s character is a parent’s responsibility, she says, “My main purpose for homeschooling is to focus on my children’s character building. It is the moral education that I can give them, which they will keep for life.”

She added that while moral is taught in school, it is taught merely as a theoretical subject when it really should be taught through day-to-day practice.

The other aspect of homeschooling which Ng believes is absent in mainstream schooling are teaching a child life skills.

Ng says, “we do everything together as a family, and my children do not get rewards for doing housework because they understand that it is part of their responsibilities.”

“At the end of the day, homeschooling is not all about books, because life is not only about books. We want to build holistic children who are well rounded with good character.”

Homeschooling may be a very positive way of nurturing a child, but undeniably, there are downsides to it, language being one of the main concerns for many.

Since homeschooling is usually done in the English language, those who homeschool may not have a good grasp of the National language.

Ng said, “Although my children may be lacking in their Malay language proficiency, I do not see this as a big disadvantage because the English language remains as the main medium of communication, and if they know basic Malay, that should be enough for them to survive in this country.”

Saying that her family has no plans to migrate, Ng is quite inclined for her children to study locally.

“There are so many twinning courses available nowadays, and many colleges accept homeschoolers so I do not foresee any problems if their Malay language proficiency is lower than the other students.”

While it would be good to have a grasp of the language, looking at the overall advantages and disadvantages, Ng believes that the benefits of homeschooling easily trump the language issue.

Both sides of the coin

If there was anyone who could speak from both sides of the coin, it would be parents Ian and Jane Ng, who have two children in mainstream schools, and one who homeschools.

With three children aged between 13 and 19 years, the couple started homeschooling their youngest son after they found out that he was not coping well in a mainstream school.

“The schooling system was too rigid and tedious for him, so we decided to homeschool and he is now doing very well.”

Stating that homeschooling is not fit for every child, Ian said, “The schooling method should be based on the character of a child. My older son, who is 16, is more of a team player so I don’t think he would be happy to be homeschooled.”

Asked if the children have sibling rivalry or issues of jealousy due to the attention given to their youngest child, Ian said, “No, we do not have that issue because we are a very close knitted family, and as parents, we make sure our children understand why we are doing this.”

Head of Sri Garden Secondary School, Datin Christine Chiu believes that a school is still the best place to bring up a child.

“As an educator, I think that the right to homeschooling should only be given to those who are not able to attend school for one reason or another.”

Chew firmly believes that a child can only experience a holistic and complete education if they go to school.

“They (children) need to be exposed to the world around them. Inevitably, they will be influenced by their friends and not everything is good, but this is where they will have to learn how to screen out the bad things and learn from there.” She said that parents should not be over-protective of their children because there will come a day when their child will have to be independent.

When it comes to theoretical education, she says, “there is no pressure at home and no classmates to compare with so homeschoolers may not get a good gauge on how well they are actually doing.”

·Names with * have been changed.

Homeschoolers speak up

Joewin Lee had a very unusual schooling life. Having gone back and forth between mainstream schooling and homeschooling, he has experienced both ‘systems’ and said that he has no problems with coping, and even completed his UPSR, PMR and SPM examinations.

“The toughest part of the exams were the Malay language ones, but I still managed to get a B so it wasn’t too bad.”

Elaine Wong (second from left) doing an impromptu performance with college friends.

His mother, Jennifer Lee said, “I got him a private tutor to learn Malay, and to cover the syllabus in preparation for the exams because at the PMR level, the Malay language subject was difficult due to its high standard.”

Not giving up there, Joewin continued to sit for the SPM examinations, because he wanted to study law, which required him to take Malay at the SPM level.

“It was not easy. We gave him a choice and he wanted to do it so we let him go ahead.”

Home was school for 20-year-old Eunice Wong, who is currently pursuing her passion taking a degree in Contemporary Music in a private instititution.

Having completed her piano diploma and taken time off to do volunteer work, she says, “I think that homeschooling has benefited me tremendously, as I wouldn’t be where I am today if I didn’t homeschool.”

Given the opportunity to express their interest, Eunice says that her brother who is currently homeschooling, takes art lessons and volunteer to teach art because that is the area he is passionate in.

With so many activities going on in their lives, Eunice and her brother meet people from all walks of life and have a wide social circle.

“People who think homeschoolers do not have a wide social circle have the wrong mindset,” she says.

The official view

The Education (Amendment) Act 2002 states that homeschooling can only be considered under the following circumstances:

·The child must be exceptionally gifted or intellectually or physically disabled and the schools cannot meet this need;

·Family members travel abroad frequently;

·If homeschoolers are to be exempted, parents must ensure that they follow the national syllabus.

2 responses so far

Mar 11 2009

Montessori Materials

Published by under Homeschooling

Before we moved from Seremban, I have my Montessori materials arranged on the shelf in the living room (here). Then they were all packed away for a good 3 months in the box. When we were renovating the house, hub didn’t allocate a playroom for the kids, though I have always dream to have a room that resemble the Montessori prepared environment at home. That did not materialized. I have allocate one part of the cupboard in the guest room downstairs solely for Monte Material.

After 4 months, I found that this is not the most ideal arrangement.

The kids usually do their homework upstairs at the study area. That is our home lesson area and they play downstairs more often. But we have placed quite a number of toys in WH room on the rack. It is quite troublesome when I am tutoring them and need the materials, I have to run downstairs to fetch them and they ended sitting on the study table after used (for convenient sake) and the study table is getting messier.

I have decided to rearrange all the toys and the materials. Brought up almost everything from downstairs except the cultural and PLE materials still remain downstairs. Art and craft supplies has been placed downstairs now.

Due to space constraint, this is by far the best I can arranged. Budget constraint also doesn’t allow me to have the full range for apparatus at home.

One response so far

Feb 25 2009

Teaching Numbers

Published by under Homeschooling

Some activities we have done and still doing for 2 months already

Cards and counters

He has no problem lining up the number card in sequence. He is able to placed the counters up till five and from six onwards he needs to go back and start counting from one again. He cannot name the numeral from 5 onwards. Did 3 period lesson, always have problem when comes to the 3rd period which is the naming part. No problem pointing to the number I called out for.

My other approach now is to teach him the numeral name in Chinese, perhaps he finds it hard to register and pronounce the sound “f” for five.

Spindle box

Tested him a few times, each time he is able to place the correct amount of spindle in the box without any help.

No problem with red rods and number rods

Working with mega blocks and number cards

Initially I thought instead of using the counters, I shall try something that can attracts him, which is his toys. All I wanted him to do was just place the correct amount of blocks in correspondent to the number on the cards. But he came out with a more creative way. For number 1, he only put ONE block and ONE level. number 2, he puts two levels of blocks and so on. He did the addition and leveling the blocks himself until number 5 and from number 6 onwards, he needs reassurance.

Working with alphabets. Some recap work for what he has done and learned in school.

Now , I am not sure if he is dyslexic or he is just ain’t ready. Two days ago, he is able to flip to the correct place and read the Chinese words for me, so shall I just be convinced that he is not ready, the teacher is right that he is actually learning school and stop feeling stress up?

I kept telling him he has to learn all his number, so that at least he can call us on the phone. I am scaring him that if he doesn’t learn the numbers and if the bad people catch him and he wants to call us to look for help, he won’t be able to. He wants to learn, like he would ask me how to spell certain words, he likes to do home work but the work is not registering in his mind.

8 responses so far

Oct 05 2008

Off Homeschooling..

Published by under Homeschooling

Both the older kids are staying at home now and no longer attending school. At least not until the start of the new school term next year. I’m still pretty lenient with WH but with JS I have certain level of expectation from her, after all she will be going to the mainstream school and join the other children next year.

I try as much time as possible to homeschool her, but sadly, my time is so limited.  It has been a very busy month. I just don’t know how, even I have prioritize the things that I have to do with the kids, letting go my own time on blogging and work ( I have let go quite a few task that I managed to secure) and yet, I still do not have enough time to fully homeschool her.Time just slipped off without me noticing.

What we do is more towards the unschooling approach ( I truly miss my materials that has been packed away, homeschooling will be more fun if I have my teaching aide and materials at hands), but there’s still some kiasu-ness in me that I’m afraid this kind of approach is not good enough for her to know what she’s suppose to know before going to P1.  That’s why on the days that I really stay home and do not have to go anywhere, I still try to have lesson close to what a school timetable would be. But still most days, it’s not like that and because SIL and Hub doesn’t see that JS is really spending time sitting down on her work, they are worried that she’s not learning. I dislike SIL’s comment that JS’s BM is very bad. I think she fairs pretty well as it’s totally not our mother tongue.

What made me very sad was that Hub said this angrily in the car last night ” I DON’T BELIEVE IN SUCH A THING CALL HOME LESSON OR HOME SCHOOLING”

It hurts so much and I’m very disappointed. In a way , I am comparing  with those who are homeschooling their child and have supportive spouse. Even my buddy‘s hub is supportive on her decision to homeschool her boys. My man is still a very conservative and traditional type, I’m sad that he’s not opening to option like this.  At least be  supportive for this few months, after all  I didn’t say  (didn’t even dare to dream) to homeschool my JS till university level, after all , she will still be going to school next year.

3 responses so far

Jun 09 2008

Science Project At Home – Volcano Eruption

Published by under Homeschooling

This is one simplest and easiest science experiment we done at home during the school holiday. Because I’m so lazy had so little time to spare, I didn’t make up a nice volcano with plasticine/dough or paper mache. What I did was just use newspaper. It didn’t look nice at all , as it’s done up in less than 5 minutes for the children had great fun.

This is our “Volcano”!!

Pouring vinegar into the “volcano” to make the eruption

They finished up one whole bottle of the vinegar. :D Keep wanting to repeat this activity. This is such simple activity, all you need is newspaper, bicarbonate soda as well as vinegar.

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Words Of Wisdom

You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth

~ Khalil Gibran, The Prophet
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