Traditional systems that emphasise learning by memorisation, and characterised by strict homework routines and monthly report cards are certainly not for everyone. If you believe children are born with absorbent minds that are better served with self-directed learning that is both enjoyable and focused on addressing future challenges, then alternative schooling might be the answer.
In her home state of Terengganu, Helena Tan, a mum of three kids (aged seven, five and two and a half), decided to employ alternative schooling for her children, as she believed it would raise them to be more resilient. The five pillars of Resilience are Adaptability, Resourcefulness, Perseverance, Self-Reliance, and Daringness. Helena believes these pillars are important keys to success and will benefit her children throughout their lives.
“I want my children to learn at their own pace and discover their talents and strengths earlier in life so that they can ultimately be more resilient in the future,” she explains.
“When I teach them, I teach based on their strengths which means both student and teacher are constantly reflecting on the lesson, so we can emphasize our good traits while being aware of our weaknesses. Ultimately, I don’t want them to be too stressed but instead, enjoy their learning.”
“I can instill good values in them and control the content they learn. I can control the content according to their individual talents,” she adds.
By taking charge of her children’s education, Helena is able to implement the five pillars of Resilience in all of her teachings to her kids on a daily basis.
For instance, back in her hometown of Terengganu, the community for alternative schooling is small, so Helena ensures her children get to explore the world beyond their locality.
“We travel a lot to Kuantan and KL to expose the kids to more activities,” she adds. In fact, Helena is modelling Self-Reliance to her children by taking control of activities and excursions. This means her children get a front-row seat on learning to make their own decisions for individually and for their immediate family.
Through alternative schooling, Helena has also learned that her kids are surprisingly adaptable and can fit themselves into any foreign situation with ease under the right guidance. They are constantly interacting with new children and new adults who enter their circle, all the while learning to play along and sort out conflicts as they present themselves. Hence, Helena knows she is on the right track with her kids in building resilience, because they will have more experience when dealing with social and emotional conflicts later in life.
How can alternative schooling build a resilient child?
Apart from being able to let her children learn at their own pace with an alternative schooling syllabus, one of the main convictions Helena has for alternative schooling is being able to choose the subjects her children learn. With a fast-changing world we live in, technologies are transforming at lightning speed, so educators and pupils must keep pace by taking on the latest material in preparation to join the workforce for the future.
“We are currently using a US curriculum but we are soon transitioning to another system which will be more robotics and coding based, as humans will interact with computers in even greater ways in the future. Though we don’t expose the kids to much mobile usage or TV, we do believe that they should learn more about the digital world,” Helena says, adding that even if her children decide to progress outside of computer science, coding helps a young mind learn problem-solving, organization, mathematics, story-telling, and designing.
The new system focuses on computer programming languages will allow Helena to slowly expose her children to technology so there is no over-stimulation from technological overload.
“There are a lot of online programmes that promote self-learning. Kids, by nature, know what they want and if they are interested, will pursue learning more than we can teach them in a traditional syllabus,” Helena continues, noting that as much as 60% of the learning is a hands-on process where children learn by doing.
With alternative schooling, the kids are exposed to a lot of experimentation and space to follow their passion. “With a syllabus that includes robotics and coding, the children are given more construction-based toys and learn more hands-on rather than through books alone,” she adds.
Resilient children are those who don’t have to rely on external sources to solve their problems but are able to weather through challenging situations on their own, practising Resourcefulness, Self-Reliance as well as Perseverance.
Not without its challenges
Of course, alternative schooling does come with its fair share of challenges. Though Helena admits, the challenges lean more towards the parents than the children.
When parents give their children the opportunity to learn from an alternative syllabus, they can totally shape their learning experience. However, this requires a great amount of patience and commitment from the parent’s end.
An important tip to note that Helena imparts with parents who want to try alternative schooling their children is this: “You need to know why you are offering a different system to your kids. You will want to give up many times. So, you need to remember the conviction why you want to give your kids an alternative system.”
What do you want to see in your children in the future? Do you want them to strive for academic excellence? Or do you want them to develop a strong and resilient character, a person who doesn’t shy from challenges or obstacles and rises again from initial failure?
Helena believes that raising her children through an alternative schooling system is raising them to be resilient. This means strongly inculcating the Five Pillars of Resilience, to enable her children to take on the uncertainties of the future, and to flourish under difficult circumstances.
“We teach them the purpose of their life in this world and we build their confidence. We show them how to be responsible towards themselves for their future growth, and how their actions affect others,” Helena concludes.
*AptaGro™ is not partial to any schooling system. This article aims to emphasize “Resilience” as a crucial component for wholesome academic development. For parents who wish to home-school their children, please consult with the Education Ministry, in line with the Compulsory Education Act implemented in 2003.