After each school holiday most parents breathe a sigh of relief as they resume their daily school runs. For some of us, the only change is that we return to strange looks from curious strangers.
When you homeschool, life outside of your house has a certain ‘groundhog day’ quality to it. Here is a scenario I live on a near daily basis:
Random person notices I am in supermarket/playground/bookstore on a weekday with kids in tow. Kids are clearly school-aged.
Person: “Why aren’t your kids in school? International school break?”
Me (or kids depending on whose reflexes are faster that day): “Nope, we homeschool.”
Person’s eyebrows attempt to defy gravity followed by polite interrogation. If I am stuck in line, or feeling particularly diplomatic, I will engage and fulfill my responsibilities as a homeschooling ambassador, without the snazzy sash or tray of Ferrero Rocher chocolates.
The thread is nearly always the same with small variations depending on the country of origin of said stranger. Mostly it can be summed up in 5 stages:
1. Disbelief: I must have heard this mother wrong.
2. Surprise: But why on earth would you chose to do that?
3. Superiority: “Yes well but you have to be so careful because socialization…” – at which point I usually need to excuse myself briefly so I can coral my children who have been introducing themselves to complete strangers and lecturing them on their wanton use of plastic bags.
4. Schooling: This is where I school them in the absurdity of their ill-informed assumptions.
5. Curiosity: The point they reach when they’ve put their judgement to one side. Now they can’t contain their wave of questions and often join in enthusiastically debating the finer points of education and the potential benefits of a flexible approach.
That said, if you are going to homeschool, and research shows that more and more of us are jumping into that wide ocean, KL is a fabulous place to do it!
- The city is small. That means that if you hit it off with a particular family of homeschoolers or someone organizes an amazing monthly philosophy class on the opposite side of town, you can get there without losing an entire day on it.
- A small city means it’s also ridiculously easy to escape it! If you are going to pull your kids out of classrooms, you may as well cram in as many field trips as possible. Malaysia is chock full of accessible wonders for all sorts of learning opportunities, not to mention all the surrounding countries. As the Air Asia hub, a basement bargain ticket is easy to find when you can travel outside peak holidays.
- You can go to LEGOland outside of school holidays. Need I say more?
- The best part of homeschooling in Kuala Lumpur is the community; it is BIG! There are loads of homeschoolers here. To give you a sense, the group I belonged to in Bangkok – a city which is nearly 5x bigger than KL had about 150 homeschoolers, many of whom weren’t actually active. There are a number of Facebook pages in Malaysia, some public, some closed, and the largest one which was inadvertently made secret. This last group has over 1000 members and tics away all day and night with conversations, coops, events and article sharing. It is a homeschooling treasure trove.
In addition to being large and active, homeschoolers here are super diverse and off the charts creative. People love to make and create. A very strong sense of entrepreneurship is being instilled in these homeschooled kids.
Below is a snap taken at a recent maker fair, which filled over 3000sqft with amazing projects, crafts, and presentations by kids on their ‘making’ experiences.
Here is a picture of my daughter at her weekly archery class. What you don’t see in this picture are the picnic blankets behind full of parents and other siblings reading, drawing, and planning their next educational adventure.
Homeschooling is not for everyone but if you are in a position where one of you can dedicate this time or work flexibly from home, it’s an incredible gift for both parents and kids. And no, patience isn’t a requirement when you first start. Like anything else, it is a skill that improves with practice and time.
I have watched my girls blossom and they have witnessed me learn to become a better and more patient mummy. What most of us overlook when we start this homeschooling journey is how much we end up learning from our kids. They are teachers just as much as we are. And I can’t think of a better place to kick start this kind of educational adventure than KL.