Homeschooling Is Parenting

December 22, 2009

david tan flyAs part of our Interview Series, we talk to David Tan, father of two and a homeschool advocate in Malaysia who has been providing a voice for the many homeschooling families mushrooming in the country.

Like most parents, David would like to see his children achieve their full potential and make a difference to their communities.

When did you and your wife, Sook Ching, decide to homeschool your two boys? And why?

We decided to homeschool when our two boys were about five and three years old. That’s a whole lifetime for our kids as they have never stepped foot into a regular school ever. They’re 19 and 17 now.

Why did we homeschool? The answer is in your face, really. Parents with kids in schools live lives of quiet desperation, suppressing their anxieties, submitting to a system that saps their kids dry instead of inspire; so they keep their fingers crossed and hope for the best. These kids have a big chunk of their childhood taken away, hijacked by an indifferent school system that cares more for a skewed national agenda than their persons. And don’t get me going about the exam and tuition culture.

I’m sure there are a lot of other school-going kids who do well and love school, but that’s only because they do well, I suppose. So many more don’t. Besides, no one ever told them there were alternatives, like homeschool. We homeschool because we think education is more than schooling, and we wanted a way to do that without robbing our kids of their childhood, or losing their affection.

Before you had kids, did you even know what homeschooling meant?

Obviously not. We only came to know about homeschool when my brother wrote to ask if education in Malaysia was compulsory. It was in the late 80s and his family was in the US then, and both he and his wife had started to educate their daughter at home. My niece was seven at the time, I think. They wanted to know if they could continue homeschooling once the family returned to Malaysia. That got us thinking and exploring why they would even think of such a ridiculous idea.

What has your homeschooling journey been like?

Ethan volunteering in the galley of the Logos Hope.

Ethan volunteering in the galley of the Logos Hope.

It has been fun, full of surprises, lots of laughter, memorable. It’s been a real joy. I cannot imagine any other kind of life!

What were some of the ‘high’ moments? And some of the ‘low’ moments?

There have been many high points. We did so many things together as a family. I’m especially pleased that we got the children reading and writing quite early. Their daily journals were amazing snapshots that remain a wonderful testimony of an adventure we do not regret at all. I remember when the boys were 10 and eight, we got involved in an annual writers camp for teens (I was one of the organisers). My wife and I were pleasantly surprised at the way they assimilated with the 20-odd teenage campers and adult trainers, writing alongside older participants and reading their pieces in public.

Then there was one time the boys beat my father-in-law in Chinese chess. They were hardly eight, and one skeptical adult told his daughter that homeschool wasn’t so bad after all.

Low points?  We struggled with discipline as the boys grew into their late teens. I guess you could say the boys changed, but we parents didn’t. Keeping up with their studies (self-directed mostly), making sure they do their chores (we do not have a maid), regulating their screen and media habits, etc. We’ve made peace with all that – and remained friends through the process.

Describe a typical homeschooling day in the life of your family.

What’s typical? We’re not a very scheduled family, not obsessed with keeping to a daily time-table. When the boys were very young, my wife spent mornings reading the Bible with them before going through their studies. They would be at their books about three hours a day (not always in a stretch), maybe more if there was anything that caught their interest. They had their music lessons a couple of times a week. Usually before they went to bed, we would read aloud before I tucked them in. I enjoyed that; what conversations we had! Saturday mornings were spent at Taman Titiwangsa for our weekly jog and exercise, Sundays we would be in church. And in-between there would be visits by all kinds of people who dropped in to ask about homeschool and all that.  So I can’t say if there ever was a typical day.

Elliot, seen here with his mum Sook Ching, plays the cello with the KLPAC orchestra.

Elliot, seen here with his mum Sook Ching, plays the cello with the KLPAC orchestra.

What are your hopes for your children?

I’d like my children to grow up confident and sure in their faith and values. I want them to do as much as they are able, go as far as their abilities can take them, and make a difference in the place they are in, the community, among their friends. Who knows what the future will bring? But as parents and folks who are committed to work towards change in Malaysia, I hope our boys will share our vision as well.

What advice do you have for other families who also wish to homeschool their children?

I would say find out as much as you can. Read, research, meet homeschoolers. Homeschooling is parenting. Both husband and wife have to be on the same page, become involved parents, and they’ve got to learn to be resourceful. Many prospective homeschoolers appear to lean towards alternative education out of frustration instead of conviction. That’s not necessarily bad, but they’ve got to go beyond that. Once you embrace all that’s positive in a homeschooling lifestyle, you stop whining and complaining. If you homeschool out of a ‘how-I-wish-I didn’t-have-to-do-this-but I-don’t-have-a-choice’ mindset, it takes the joy out of homeschooling and parenting. If it’s not going to be worth your time, it’s not going to be worthwhile for your child.

Our Interview series focuses on parents, teachers, role models and children with interesting tales to tell, lives to share and inspiration to give. If you have a suggestion for someone you’d like to see interviewed (including yourself, ahem!), drop us a note at parentingworks AT gmail DOT com to tell us why the person should be featured.


One Response to Homeschooling Is Parenting

  1. Homefrontier » Homeschooling is Parenting on December 23, 2009 at 3:28 pm

    […] Lian of Parenting Works posted an email interview with me on her website titled, Homeschooling is Parenting. The website is pretty neat, with lots of advice and tips for […]

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