Homeschooling Cherish: a 20-year journey through life
Posted by DAVID BC TAN under: Homeschooler Profile on 21 Mar 2011.
Recently widowed Sally Ong took a leap of faith to homeschool her only child and favourite daughter Cherish when she was 5 years old. Today, Cherish is doing her A Levels at Alice Smith International School under a full scholarship. She was one of 4 students to be awarded full scholarship. How did she do it? Here’s Part One of Sally’s story:
WHEN CHERISH WAS 3, WE ATTENDED A BILL GOTHARD CONFERENCE IN SINGAPORE. The young people I saw at the meeting were exemplary and I wanted very much for our daughter to be like them. As we prayed to the Lord for directions, He showed us very clearly that homeschooling was the way to go. Not long after, we had the opportunity to spend a week in New Zealand in the home of a homeschooling family. Their family life so impressed us that we began to buy books and more books to take back to Malaysia so I could do my perfect bit as my daughter’s main instructor.
In the first month of our homeschool I followed everything that was recommended in the books. We spent so many hours learning together, it left me exhausted. IT WAS NOT FUN! Fortunately, I met another homeschooling mum who told me to go easy on myself. I had to give up trying to be the perfect teacher-mum and just let my daughter enjoy learning at her own pace, not somebody else’s pace. What a saviour this mum was, and I thank God for sane advice that came at the right time! I started to recover from my fatigue and exhaustion, and began to enjoy learning together.
IT’S ALL ABOUT READING
Initially, we used mainly Bill Gothard’s homeschool materials. We also got ourselves math books from Singapore and English Language books from the US. We had Peter and Jane books as well, but I nearly died of boredom using them. Cherish hated them, and she struggled with reading even at 6 years old. Finally I chucked them away as they were not working for her nor me.
Another homeschool mum advised me to use the Bible to teach reading, and so I did. Using a large-print Bible, I sat her on my lap and read to her 3 times a day. In 2 -3 weeks, she was reading on her own. One day, I saw her read the Narnia Chronicles. Imagine, from not being able to read Peter and Jane, to the Narnia books. I was shocked! Since then she has never stopped. Cherish loved reading. If I bought her a storybook, she would be finished with it before the day was over. This was getting expensive, so I resorted to borrowing and exchanging books with other kids in church. We went to the National Library too, the 3 of us carting home 9 books, to come back again in the next week for another 9 books!
The moral of the story is: get your kids to LOVE reading; somehow it all sinks in. I taught her English, Dad taught her Math. But everything else she learnt from books from the National Library and books from friends in the church.
LEARNING FROM LIFE
Besides books, LIFE itself was our main curriculum. Whatever we saw and heard, whatever happened in our family became talking/learning points. For example, Cherish had a dramatic lesson about life and death when she was 6 or 7. At the time we had a guest in our home who tragically received news that her husband had committed suicide. This guest screamed and screamed in pain and shock. Unknown to us, Cherish was watching this drama unfold. How carelessly we watch killings and deaths on TV. Now the pain of death became a personal encounter. We had to drive this poor sister home and on the way back, Cherish sang a beautiful song about God’s love and care. What death does to the living became a meaningful topic for our conversation the whole of that week.
As you can see, LIFE presents many opportunities for every homeschooling family to cull learning moments for their children. It is NATURAL and not contrived. In this way learning does not become a stressful exercise at all. We did not want to fall into the trap of the ‘education god’ at whose high altar many parents entangle themselves in worry and tension. How easily we forget that education is not about the paper chase but learning and discovering, and always relating what is learnt back to God, family, love, and the nurture of character.
Next post: Nurturing a confident child
Photo: Sally Ong and her daughter Cherish