Alternative Schooling Without Regrets And The Future of Education.

It’s been a very long time since I blogged anywhere on the cybersphere, especially on learning and education and for three main reasons :

– the letter “e” on my laptop keyboard fell off. To type efficiently I have to plug in my USB keyboard. Don’t love to. And my wifi-connection keeps turning off and I’ve done whatever remedy was out there on the web to no avail.

– I’d rather err on the side of not repeating myself. Some blogs and newsletters are just so repetitive and people blog for the sake of frequency and “SEO” and not the value they provide. I think I’ve said pretty much everything I think about the future of education, language learning and my unschooling experience.

– I’ve been consuming content on my very nice smart phone (HTC One) rather than create content on my laptop.

So, what’s changed?

After 16 years I’m having another baby! My firstborn is already 16 and has been looking forward to a baby for at least the last ten years. I told her that they don’t sell men in supermarkets that I can just buy off the shelf and make a baby with. Also, at 38, and with some limiting beliefs, such as not being sure if I wanted to give up my freedom and lifestyle to have another tyke again and build the next several years of life with the father of the baby, it did cause a block to my fertility.

And having #2 in 2014 got me thinking whether I’d do the exact same thing I’ve been doing from 1998 to 2014 and the answer was a simple. “No”. I’m a different person, the child is a different person from his/her older sister and he/she might be someone who thrives in a school environment.

The father of this baby, in terms of our general views in life, is the total opposite of me. He doesn’t really get what unschooling is. He thinks my firstborn should be in school. He also thinks I’m depriving her by not having a TV in the home. He has a son from another relationship and he wants his son to go to an international school. Or Chinese school. One advantage of not being legally married is he doesn’t have veto powers when the time comes to making major decisions in a child’s life – like, the choice of education.

What have I learned about unschooling now that my daughter is 16 and it’s just one more year before she’s officially “off school” and headed into life?

  1. There is no wrong or right.I know this is such a cliche but it takes a lot of inner-knowing to be able to make your decision from a place of love and confidence rather than fear. A lot of parents are looking into homeschooling or unschooling because they’re worried that our school systems are not going to be able to prepare our children for the future – which, a lot of people still don’t know what it looks like.The only way to homeschool or unschool without regret is to truly know and understand your purpose. Think of it like starting a new business. If you started a business because you want to serve your value and your brand with a purpose and you know exactly what and who it’s for and how to manage it profitably while giving you the lifestyle you want then go for it. But if you’re starting a business because you hate your job and you just want to do something else for money and profit and no other purpose you’re going to be bringing the same fears and limitations into running your new business.
  2. Structure, methods, curriculum, exams– it’s really up to you. What is your end in mind?For me personally, my SPM and college education did nothing for me. I dropped out of college when a few of my lecturers told me I’m wasting my time because I was already ahead of what they were going to teach me. In starting my new passion for profit business recently blending business knowledge and internet as the medium (profit brand and internet marketing consulting) I realized I really was ahead of the curve from what things were like in the late 90s and early 2000s.Whether it’s right or wrong most of us are going to project what our experiences has been like for us to our children. We think, “If this happened to me, I don’t want it to happen to my kids. If only I had known this – so I’m going to do this for my kid now.”But here’s the thing : either way you’re right. The economy of the next 50 years is going to be shaped by a mix of both technology and labor resources. Kids and grand-kids of hippies are going to make Green Tech an area of economy on its own. Knowledge-savvy, highly literate kids will manage and create content. People who are good with their hands are going to continue to make things. People who are good with design, with concepts and visualizations, with measuring and precision,  with art, with music……….as long as one has passion and purpose and has a sense of how value creation and money works our children will come together and create a synergy of their own. More of this in Point 6.
  3. Your decision does shape the choices your child has in life.- And that’s not necessarily a bad thing.My firstborn is very concerned that no one is going to hire her for a low end job without an SPM. But that’s because she has impossible standards for herself. And all teenagers are fraught with insecurities about themselves. I saw an opening  to work at a Subway sandwich shop opening near our place and told her to try and apply for it. She thinks she won’t get hired without SPM. And I was thinking in my head the Bangladeshi guy that served me the other day could barely understand what I was saying and I doubt he had SPM either. I suppose if I were a Subway outlet owner I’d like to save on the levy paid to a foreign worker if a young Malaysian with great working ethics, who loves my sandwiches and is looking for pocket change would be willing to try for a job – and work her way to store manager, even!I don’t know about most people but as a business-minded person I really couldn’t care less about high school diplomas and degrees if the job I require to get done is based strictly on performance and service and does not require years and years of specialized knowledge and competency – like say, an urban planner or brain surgeon.

    There is one thing written in the stars that is very clear in my firstborn – she is into money. A lot into money. And she is into how to manage property and their designs and functions to generate greater economic value. Running a franchise one day or a restaurant or food service center fits into that paradigm, among other things. She has an eye for design and marketing. And she NEVER breaks rules,takes them a bit too seriously and follows instructions very well. She errs on the side of not making mistakes. I err on the side of, “Let’s see what this button does or what happens if I do it differently.” She’d make a great employee and a pain in the ass boss. (And yes, I make a hopeless employee and a fantastic boss.) For $5 an hour I really think she’s a steal for any employer out there.

    After all these years I’ve come to my own conclusion that the only thing a child really needs is a sense of belonging, family (love), purpose and joy. The rest concerning life are just details that will work itself out. A child needs to feel they were born to be loved, not born to be compared, pitted against others or used for any other reason.Money is a learnable skill. How to make a living is not something that should float like a cloud above our head. Having learned money I can say that it has been one of the EASIEST aspects of life. What has been difficult for me was to find my reason for having more money in my life. Whatever our decisions are around our children’s future we should NEVER FACTOR IN how they’re going to thrive financially.

  4. Some doors open and other doors close – making decisions become easier.The decisions I’ve made pretty much closes the door for my child to become an academic. A PhD friend of mine lamented my anti-hyper-intellectual stand by saying, “If I had a mom like you I would never be who I am today” and in my heart I went, “Thank God!”

    I have a daughter. And a pretty cute one. I really wouldn’t want her fraternizing on a campus until she’s retirement age, dating undergraduates and graduate students. No offence to people who chose this as a lifestyle, it’s just that I don’t believe in the campus environment myself. I believe in profit and business and driving the economy. I believe in family and the hearth and babies and children. I want my daughter to run a business (or several) that she is passionate about and awaken the slave-driver in her. She has a bossy character (and I deny she gets it from me) and is a perfectionist and she loves money. You can’t teach in a university for the love of money! (I know lots of people do it anyway.) I want grandchildren. I want to see her married and to enjoy having a man – or woman. (You just don’t know these days.)

    The last thing on our minds, when we think about the choices we’d be offering our children in life with the education we give them, is Money. Money is as simple as being able to offer or create something of value and to exchange it. And then you manage and grow money to have more. It should be the least of our concerns.

    Whatever choices you make about your lifestyle and the things you expose your child to right now, all the conscious and unconscious beliefs they will pick up, will shape how they see themselves and the value they can offer to the world. If you travel around the world a lot your child might grow up to choose a form of work that requires a lot of travelling OR do the total opposite – depending on what your relationship was like.

    Since your decision about your lifestyle and what you wish to input and expose your child to eventually affects their choices and options in life play on their innate strengths and interests. It’s understandable that we all want our children to do well in life.

    Our children will do well in life based on only 3 things : Drive, Desire, Passion. A child who is not weighed down by a sense of disconnect, isolation, purposelessness (the causes will require an entirely new post but I believe parents are wise enough to already know what causes a lack of drive in people) will automatically be driven towards goals for their total well-being, including, financial. Behind this drive is Desire. And Desire comes from Beliefs of what they are capable of achieving. And this comes from their exposure, both conscious and unconscious, that shape their paradigm. Passion comes from being in alignment with what’s innate in them and what their purpose is in the world.

    I know all too well people who have a lot of passion but no profitable living. The only reason that is so is because they have the belief that you can’t make money doing “certain kinds of things”. And in a dilemma to choose either or, they choose either or. They choose passion and they justify why they can’t or are not allowed to make money in what they choose to do.

  5. Every child and every family is different. – again, a cliche.- There is ancestral knowledge, family patterns and a host of unique circumstances that make each family different. If a family is unsupportive, unloving, dysfunctional, parents are always fighting, there is disharmony and discord then forget about a better future because your present creates the future. Homeschooling and unschooling works almost exclusively for high-functioning families. That is why there is this perception that one has to be “rich” to be able to afford homeschooling. I agree.”Rich” in mindset and quality of life! There are many children who drop out of schooling systems only to have their farming continued at homeschooling “centers” that follow a syllabus. For-profit homeschooling centers is just another alternative to mainstream “tuition” classes. The whole purpose of homeschooling and unschooling is to extend the values of a family. Values such as harmony, communication, co-operation, support, love, understanding, etc.No family is perfect. Homeschooling families have their challenges with their children too. But some families are simply more functional, conscious and aware than others. If your family has the space, the means and the beliefs to extend your value system into the learning and growing experiences of your child then whatever mix of styles would work out just fine. But if your homeschooling and unschooling is driven primarily by fear and a sense of inadequacy your child would be better off not being an extension of your neuroses, insecurities and dysfunction.
  6. Whatever you decide it’s a selfish decision anyway.- Every single parent I have met, including myself, is selfish. We project our deepest, current needs unto our children. We love them and they are an extension of us and we carelessly try to mould them into us for better or for worse. We want them to have all the things we didn’t, all the things our parents couldn’t give to us, to have the experiences we wished we had when we were their age.In a way, any decision we make to homeschool or unschool is “wrong” because it’s coming from us trying to right a wrong done to us. It’s us trying to complete ourselves through our children. And that’s wrong at some level but necessary as part of our soul’s journey. Some of us dropped out of “promising careers” when we realized that the quality and purpose of life does not come from participating in the rat race and see no point in pushing our kids to get a professional “job”. Having a doctor, lawyer, accountant or engineer in the family is so ten years ago.As high functioning individuals that make decisions mostly from a place of confidence and purpose rather than fear and worry making a selfish decision to want our children to be more of what we are (high functioning and balanced) and less of what the industrial system is, is probably a superior choice.
  7. The Future Economy looks good to me.- After spending over a decade studying real-life economics, international money systems, trends, streets-smart business and immersing myself in technology and education I must say the prognosis is good for the future.The “Economy” boils down to really just 3 things :
  • Are you a producer or a consumer?
  • Do you understand how to create and distribute your value, transact and negotiate it?
  • Can you manage money and do you have clarity and awareness about how things work?

The problem with most people in our world is they build their whole lives around money that is built around being a consumer of a job than a creator of a job. They exchange higher order thinking and creativity for simple rote and routine chain-of-command tasks. And that’s the result of Industrial Schooling teaching them to take orders and follow a schedule. Most people are just dull in the head and stunted emotionally which causes the myopia, scarcity mindset and confused mind lacking clarity and awareness of How Things & Systems Work.

I see a movement where a lot of people are thinking about starting their own business, online or offline, and are eager to invest in learning new skills and new ways of thinking. I see more and more people believing in the idea of effortlessness and spirituality versus hard work and toil. I see a lot of people taking courses on business, investment and money and wanting to take control of their own lives.

And all this is good for the future economy. You know why? Coz when you have more people willing to be prosumers (produce and consume at the same time at a higher, more balanced level), more people willing to manage their money so they can lend to individuals and business as managed investments instead of using big banks as agents to invest (save money in a bank) and borrow from and more individuals becoming aware of how the value-chain works they are going to be more savvy in packaging and delivering their skill-sets and this will create an exponential and unprecedented market for the exchange of skills and knowledge – renewable, inexhaustible, resources that are self-sustaining.

Would I take a different direction in education?

The good thing about having done it at least ONCE is I’m really not as worried going into it the second time. Or third. Or fourth. Not worried at all. There’s no longer the stress about what early childhood method to choose, to start reading early or not, to send to enrichment classes or not, which school to enrol in, what efforts to direct my child’s energy towards, logistics about school and tuition and costs and – oh yes, and concerns about socialization!

Whatever my child wants that is right for him / her, the Universe will provide and all will be well. I trust myself that I have a great balance between flow and direction, purpose and faith, goals and methodology.

Some people are going to project their fears and inadequacies unto me the way I used to on my child. We want an IB education, we want a Green School, we want this and that to “prepare our kids for the future” – as if the future is a war coming upon us. But what if the future is not static and not something we prepare for but something our children are allowed to create without projections and interference by us?

I’m a lot calmer, more purposeful and less result-oriented when it comes to this second child. Don’t we all get mellow as we age? I suppose that’s the benefit of having “older parents” – they are a lot less neurotic and have fewer expectations.


And we’re out!

Being out of a race has never felt this good. That rat-race where children are drilled, tested and ranked for 11 years of their life. We gave ourselves an extended holiday from school until we received a letter from school asking us to inform them of the absence, as a way for them to make sure the child isn’t playing truant behind their parents’ back. We gave it a few days, and then we went to school. The HM was expecting us. The HM was expecting the withdrawal.

I believe the HM has spoken to the Counselling teacher, English teacher, Math teacher, class teacher, etc about why Thea is withdrawing from school. We’d even approached the HM a couple of times before to talk about withdrawing Thea. She has an idea that Thea is bored to death and we have tried our best and Thea would be better off in another school system. She admits the shortcomings of the school, and I was generous in my praise for the teachers and the school administration. I think the HM felt very appreciated. She says she was very  happy to have known someone like me and Thea, that we are very special in our philosophies in upholding the virtues of education.

Of course she knows nothing about my objections to schooling as a totalitarian mechanism in ‘shaping the minds of our young’. And I don’t think that’s important. Schools can sometimes be the only safe place left for children who come from very poor economic backgrounds. We shared opinions on how the school is striving to be the last sanctuary to teach children how to have actual moral values, to have a higher level of literacy, to be nurtured where at home they would be neglected completely in a family of several siblings.

I believe it’s hard to convince people that schooling is bad for our mental health. And I don’t intend to. The truth is not many people out there have the insane drive to push education to a higher level. They had to struggle through school and their children are too. Struggling through school extends to their struggling in life to make ends meet, struggling to send their children to school in the hope that the children would not have to struggle like them. For sure this belief is misguided but not everyone can probe our current existence the way my mind was given to.

When I teach, I aim to teach not merely the contents of the book and the structure of a language.  I am using language teaching as a platform to plant seeds of big dreams, enthusiasm, learning to learn skills, knowing how to motivate yourself and creative thinking, to view things from more than one narrow, traditional perception. I am, essentially, connecting my learners to their world, so that they will own the feeling that the world is their oyster. I believe this sense of enthusiam and passion, instead of fear and insecurity, is the key that can end the cycle of fear and struggle. Life can be lived with challenge and enthusiasm or struggle and insecurities. It is a simple choice that is difficult to internalise.  But then again there is a conflict that arises in me when it comes to teaching these things : It isn’t my place to teach these things. I should be teaching facts and skills not teaching thinking and being. That is supposed to be the role of the Home.  That is why they are being sent for learning – that we teach them what their parents could not.

Those who are capable, those who can downgrade their lifestyles so that one parent can stay at home, or both parents can work flexi hours, should do so. Those who are confident, literate, skillful –  should educate their children. Those who are affluent should hire the best tutors and also be directly involved in moulding the character of their children. It would seem like I am propagating an elitist attitude – those who are academically or economically capable, to separate themselves from the working class. To the contrary.

Downgrading individuals with great potential to fit into the lowest-denomination of an egalitarian society is not going to do anyone any favours. If you aim and focus on the curb, you’re going to drive into it. We need to self-direct our future. When the group of academically and economically strong start achieving greater potential in their humanity, they will set the platform for a higher denomination for the rest of society. It is not likely that highly intellectual and affluent people will intentionally create a divide to exploit the poor. The great sense of empowerment, confidence and fulfillment that they have achieved would inspire in them great feelings of benevolence and generosity towards the rest of the human race. We can take a look at history and say that something like this has never happened before and invalidate the premise I am talking about. But it is because history keeps repeating itself that we cannot be mere consumers of history – we have to be observers and drivers of a new history we will write for our human race.

Throughout history, it is the ignorant landowner and the victorious invaders that have set up monarchies and systems which exploit the lower levels of society. Never before in the history of man have the awakened and inspired take over the rule of society. In today’s political landscape, we can see a few activists who have awakened to take up their role as leaders. Slowly, we will replace the  ignorant and morally corrupt ‘landowners’ who have used money to create money and sustain a decadent dynasty living off the labours of the more ignorant. Slowly, we need righteous people to awaken and claim their throne instead of sitting by the sidelines watching corruption and hegemony exploit and repress the people while shouting for “JUSTICE, JUSTICE”.

If those who can do not awaken, if those who can do not inspire action by taking action, the momentum of the dark energy of those who are corrupt will blanket us like a dark shadow that covers us even during the day. While we sit in our armchairs and dish out our philosophies and observations, who do we think are our readers? The exact people who think like us? It is one thing to get our philosophies out there through the written and spoken word but I have a feeling that time is running out. The darkness is closing in upon us, multiplying faster than our ability to muster our courage into action.

While all of us, the intellectual and philosophical kind, are being the sort of people who cannot organize others and create a platform, while all of us are being afraid of being corruptible, those who are perfectly corrupt are fighting for positions to LEAD us. If the herding dogs will not herd the lamb, the wolves shall lead them to their ends.

Would I have been able to contribute more if I didn’t have so many issues against Malaysian schools and how they are run? Would I have been able to do more for Thea and others if I had volunteered to run a literacy programme inside the school instead of pulling Thea out? Was I short-sighted, the way I always seem to be? Would I have made a bigger impact if I had stayed in the ICS system or volunteered at Thea’s school? These are battles I wish I could fight but I did not see a path with a shining light leading me there. It might not be where my battles are to be  fought.

I took one action – taking Thea out and hoping that preserving her sanity, mental and physical health, will at least free her to discover some currently hidden purpose of being here. We will know in another 20 years.