Archive for the ‘Homeschooler Profile’ Category
23 March 2015
Few people know Evangeline Han, but this young ex-homeschooler has quite a few achievements to her name for a person so young. Currently studying at Oklahoma Baptist University (OBU) majoring in English and minoring in TESOL, this voracious reader was also one of the most active Wikipedia editors filing up to 10,000 edits beginning in 2009 when she was at the ripe old age of 15 years. She admits to a “love-hate” relationship with homeschooling, and it is a testimony that does remind families, especially parents, that homeschooling is a journey that requires serious attention to a roadmap. Read Evangeline’s tale for yourself.
Navigating homeschooling’s ups and downs
By Evangeline Han
Homeschooling was a journey filled with ups and mostly downs. I only appreciated being homeschooled after I finished my first semester in Oklahoma Baptist University. Now, I’m at OBU, and I can confidently say that if I weren’t homeschooled, I would be struggling in college classes. Nevertheless, my homeschooling journey was very rocky, and this is a little glimpse into it.
For most of my high school years, I had a love-hate relationship with homeschooling. The negative part about being homeschooled with American curriculum was that it made me different from my peers. The positives were that I had to be independent, responsible, and able to think critically. However, in my teenage years, I thought that this negative outweighed the positives.
It was true that I was able to communicate better with people from all age groups. I regularly attended a church youth group, and for a long time, the church my dad pastors mainly consisted of older folks. However, all this didn’t mean that I had friends.
In fact, I barely had any friends, and I never felt like I was able to fit in with my peers. Whenever I attended youth group meetings, my peers would be talking about public-school related topics I was ignorant about. Their school experiences were way different from mine. Not only that, only seeing them once a week didn’t help matters. I was never able to form any true, close, lasting friendships outside of my family, and this made me hate homeschooling a lot when I was a teenager.
When I think back on my homeschooling journey, I remember days and days filled with my personal lack of motivation and boredom. Although school is a hazy past for me now, there is one milestone that sticks out in my memory.
When I was about 17 years old, my parents realized that if we continue using Sonlight Curriculum, we wouldn’t be able to get a transcript that is recognized by local universities and colleges. At that time, studying in the United States was not an option because of the costs.
So, it was decided that I would stop using Sonlight curriculum, the only homeschooling curriculum that I actually enjoyed using, and use the Alpha Omega curriculum. They made a deal with a learning centre, whereby I studied at home and took my LifePac exams at the centre.
I saw this change as detrimental for two reasons. Firstly, I cringed whenever I saw the bill we had to pay for me to take my LifePac exams at the learning centre. The fees were always increasing, and I knew how tight finances were for my parents. I didn’t feel that the exorbitant cost was worth it, as I was only going to the centre to take my exams, and all the teacher had to do was grade them. Secondly, I was suddenly placed on an accelerated schedule. Because we had to change curriculums, this set me back, and despite the accelerated schedule my mom put me on, the change still resulted in me graduating a year later than my peers.
To be honest, there were many times I didn’t think this change was worth the struggle. Any student who has been a year or more behind in school will understand my feelings. When those my age were already in college taking Foundation programs, I was still in high school. Then there was also the uncertainty about whether I was able to go to college or not. My parents hope that by getting an “official” transcript, I would have better chances when applying into universities and colleges.
I took the SAT on June 1, 2013 and officially graduated high school on June 30, 2014. By then, we had found out that the SAT was no longer officially recognized as an entrance exam by local universities and colleges. On one hand, the part of me that had always been reluctant to go to a local university or college rejoiced. On the other hand though, I despaired of ever being able to go to any college. After all, I had always been told that college was the only way to getting a good job. However, by a miracle, God opened doors, and I was able to consider studying in the United States as an option.
In the month that followed, I scoured the Internet everyday for universities and colleges. I finally applied to four colleges and was accepted by all four, which was another miracle considering that it was already late, and the Fall 2013 semester starts in August. I chose Oklahoma Baptist University, and after a month filled with a flurry of hurried preparations, arrived in the United States.
Looking back, I know that I would never repeat my homeschooling experience, not even if I was paid to do so. When I was a homeschooler, I was very sheltered and friendless. There were times when I didn’t feel Asian because my American education made me think differently from others my age in church and even my cousins. I craved friendships and a sense of belonging, and I never found them when I was a homeschooler.
Nevertheless, I would be doing my homeschooling journey an injustice if I don’t recognize the role it has played in my academic success here at OBU. Since I was already used to American education, it was easier for me to assimilate into the environment here. Although the first time I ever sat in a school class was my first day of school here at OBU, I didn’t feel the pains of adjustment that my international friends, who went to either public or private schools back in their home countries, felt.
Being homeschooled also taught me to work hard to get what I want. It has instilled in me an inherent sense of responsibility and initiative that comes along with the added independence of living so far away from home. Now, I prioritize my studies in a way I have never done before. The ability to think critically that I cultivated as a homeschooler has also greatly aided me. I finished Freshman Year with a 4.0 GPA and a place in the President’s Honor Roll. Now I’m in my Sophomore Year, and more comfortable with studying than I’ve ever been before.
Homeschooling is not for the fainthearted. It takes immense courage to pursue a journey that many are skeptical about. It takes even more perseverance to finish the journey. Throughout my homeschooling years, there was not one homeschooling family (homeschooling as in actually doing school at home) in Melaka who were our companions in the journey. We were pretty much by ourselves, and the constant questioning from well-meaning family friends did nothing to allay our worries.
Many times, I wondered if we were doing things the right way, and I’m sure my parents wondered the same thing too. However, now, I’m in a university in the United States, and one of my sisters is doing an online degree program with an American college. Two of my other sisters are still being homeschooled. I’d say we’re doing pretty well for people who didn’t really know what they were doing.
I am grateful I was homeschooled because it opened the door for me to gain new experiences. If I wasn’t homeschooled, I know that I wouldn’t be in the United States. I wouldn’t have the precious friendships I longed to have in my high school years, and I wouldn’t feel the sense of belonging I craved for when I was in Malaysia. In the end, all I can say about my homeschooling journey is that no matter how rocky and filled with obstacles it was, God worked it out for my good, to give me hope and a future.
About the writer: 21-year old Evangeline hails from Melaka and she has 3 other sisters . Her parents Pastor Samuel and Evelyn Han serve in a church. Currently at Oklahoma Baptist U, she is also the Uni’s Student Ambassador. You can follow Evangeline’s writings on her blog, Audacious Reader
8 October 2014
On top of the list of priorities for a homeschooling family is the nurture of values. 15-year old Eliza Tan shares how her own journey as a homeschooled daughter of parents Joseph and Debra Tan enriched her as a person and a Christian teen.
My Homeschooling Journey
By Eliza Tan
MY HOMESCHOOLING JOURNEY STARTED WHEN I WAS EIGHT YEARS OLD. I originally went to kindergarten and attended a private school. When my parents first took me out of school, I admit, I was hesitant about homeschooling at first and kind of resentful at my parents for, I thought, taking me away from my friends.
But if there’s one thing homeschooling has taught me, it’s delayed gratification. I am now 15, and looking back, I realize that I was getting influenced by my school friends, and not in a good way. Although my parents weren’t satisfied with the education system, I would say our homeschooling decision wasn’t that much academic, but it was made mainly to develop my biblical worldview, my values, and my character. It’s not impossible for a public schooler to build strong character, and it isn’t easy to do that in homeschooling either. But in homeschooling, you get more one on one time and you’re able to monitor more aspects of your children’s interaction especially at a young age—of course not bordering on over-protection.
For example, my parents realized that social media is a great influence, and when I was younger, I wasn’t allowed as much freedom as I have today. Now I understand why I had to wait for that freedom, because earlier, I would’ve made a lot of mistakes and be unnecessarily exposed online without my parent’s protection. My parents have taught me how to use media in an edifying way. I definitely appreciate that they don’t give me full freedom all at once before I’m able to handle it, but gradually release it more and more when I’m ready.
Homeschooling has also brought us a lot closer as a family. We get to spend much more time together, do more projects together, and we share our struggles with each other. So often, kids are closer to their friends than their own family and siblings. It’s often saddening to see kids and teenagers seek advice from people just as lost as them and shun the people who love them most. I’m not saying that I’ve not been guilty of that, but spending more time in conversation with my parents has made me open up a lot and also ask and take their advice more easily. I’m very close to my sister, too. We’ve actually done two movies together, and we’re working on another one now. I can see that my parent’s teaching and the time they’ve invested into building a strong parent-child relationship has protected me from certain downfalls in regard to compromising on my values and giving in to the influence of unnecessary peer pressure.
Currently, I’m attending an online Christian school based in America called The Potter’s School (or TPS). “Potter” refers to the Potter and the clay, not Harry Potter. TPS offers live classes—classes happening in real time. I’ve been in TPS for two years now, and I finished my second year of high school, the American Grade 10, in May. The unique thing about them is that they teach from a strong biblical worldview, and not without professionalism. Their classes, in addition to my parents’ teaching, have revealed to me how God relates to every area of life, and I am very grateful for that.Right now I’m taking a classical high school course with TPS that follows the classical method of education, and I’ve found that very beneficial. Being classical, my assignments are full of reading tons of primary sources and my classes have greatly stretched my thinking. My Starting Points worldview class helped me in understanding more about Christian doctrine and theology, deepening my faith, and having a fuller comprehension of God. Classes like my logic and literature class have also expanded my thinking and further developed my literary and writing skills.
TPS has very strict due dates and schedules, too, so no slacking and allowance for late assignment submissions except in the case of an emergency. They also make sure the parents stay informed and involved because they believe that parents have the primary responsibility for their children’s education. TPS is one of the methods you can use for a curriculum. There are a lot of other curriculums out there; you can even mix and match. Over time, my parents have adjusted the curriculums I take to suit my needs and my learning style. I love the fact that TPS classes are live because I like the interaction with my teacher and classmates. And from here, I’ll just take it on to my next point.
One of the most frequently asked questions to homeschoolers is “how do you have friends?” I think there is a misunderstanding in the applied assumption here: being homeschooled doesn’t mean we stay in the house all the time, and just because we don’t see our friends everyday doesn’t mean we’re isolated from society. There are a few extremes. There’s over ‘protection:’ no exposure and no training in this area, and there’s the other extreme of having too many activities. I think the misunderstanding also lies in the definition of socialization. Many people don’t realize it, but their definition most often is spending time with people around your own age. Often in school, children follow the crowd—it’s hard to have their own opinion and stand up for their faith because of the pressure to fit in. In real socialization, children should, instead, be able to interact with people of all ages. This causes them to grow and prepares them for the adult world, where not everyone is the same age. With homeschooling and homeschooling communities, the great advantage is that children get to mix with people of other ages, and not just stick to their own age group.
Especially in the early years when we were more vulnerable, my parents protected us by carefully selecting the right types of friends and groups for us, and by helping us to develop the right mindset through teaching us how to stand alone and to avoid bad company. My parents have also taught us to want friends not so that we can be popular, fit in, or to fulfil our own self-interests, but to focus on serving others and putting their interests first in relationships.
1 Corinthians 15:33 says, “Bad company corrupts good morals.” That doesn’t necessarily mean segregation, but certainly calls for wisdom. Hebrews5:14says, “…solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.”My parents have really guided me in this area of discernment by discussing things with us around the dinner table, during family devotions, and often in the car. We’d talk about current issues, the Bible, books, problems, and so on all from a Christian perspective because the Bible is relevant in the world today.
For instance, movies are a great, great influence. Most of the time, mainstream movies don’t have biblical morals and messages. My parents used to review movies before showing them to us, if they decided it was appropriate enough. After the movie, we’d have discussions on what we thought about it—what we think is the worldview and the message of the movie. The discussions shaped and sharpened my thinking, and Itruly appreciated that. Nowadays, I usually research on a movie before we decide whether to watch it or buy the DVD. And this filtering goes with all other things too, like books, music, and so on. I didn’t agree with a lot of my parents’ views in the past, I thought they were being too strict sometimes, but now I seriously see the repercussions of viewing an inappropriate movie, for example. It’s not that we don’t watch every movie we don’t agree with—sometimes it really is that bad that we don’t watch it at all—but sometimes we decide it’s okay to view it if we process and filter the movie’s message and worldview. I think conversation in the household is vital to building strong relationships. My parents have encouraged me to open up by providing a safe environment to ask questions and discuss any issue at all.
Personally, my interests are in biblical worldview and media, namely photography and film. I’m very excited to see how I can blend the two together in areas such as Christian films and documentaries, and taking photos with a message. My homeschooling experience has inspired me to have the right motivation and focus for my interests. My parents have also coached me in the process of discovering my purpose and calling, not just in career, but being secure in my identity in Christ and understanding how God created me, knowing my strengths, and learning how I can make an impact. Homeschoolers may very well end up in the same careers as non-homeschoolers, but we have more time and opportunities to develop a life message, a purpose, and a calling.
Homeschooling isn’t a magic pill; it’s not an end in itself, but a helpful means to an end—our ultimate end of glorifying God through our lives – in our thoughts, words, deeds, attitudes, and relationships. It’s not a guarantee that with homeschooling, your family will definitely grow closer, your kids will definitely know how to converse with people of any age, and your kids will be super smart with superior education—of course not. But in homeschooling, you have a greater chance to influence your child’s life by the choices you make and the steps you take. But of course, in order to take the rest of the steps, you have to take the first.
Eliza Tan is 15 and has been homeschooled for seven years. She has just completed her second year of high school (Grade 10) with The Potter’s School, an online Christian school. Her ambition is to attend a Christian college in the US. Eliza enjoys photography, videography, and researching issues related to apologetics. Eliza is the eldest daughter of Joseph and Debra Tan. Joseph is the Principal Consultant of Good Monday Consulting and a certified Character First trainer. He also heads Answers Academy, in association with Answers in Genesis.
Other Homeschooler Profiles you might be interested in are found here:
1 October 2014
THERE’S NO EASY WAY TO DESCRIBE HOW A HOMESCHOOLING CHILD LEARNS, OR HOW HIS PARENTS TEACH. More than methods and techniques – and certainly more than a set curriculum – it is a mindset, driven by an inner conviction that children are natural learners, that they will learn if you let them. Continuing Part 6 of our homeschooling story, our oldest son Ethan offers a backward glance at a journey that ended when he graduated (and got married) last December, 2013.
The Importance of Doing What You Don’t Love
Homeschooling allowed me the freedom to pursue my interests. It taught me that learning was done best when there was passion. Passion, or interest, became the guiding light in my life. And that made me an awful student.
Consider the two wasted years my parents sent my brother and me to Mandarin classes. We spoke English at home, at church, with our friends, and all our learning was in English. I suspect we went anyway because society expected Chinese to speak Chinese, and homeschoolers are prone to peer pressure too.
I remember our beleaguered Mandarin tutor, a college student making some extra money, who tried to motivate clearly unmotivated students with every trick in the book: affirmation, scolding, little treats and little breaks (my brother and I shattered one of his lamps during one of our little breaks). However, what impressed me the most by far were his earnest attempts to convince us that we needed to learn Mandarin because it would help us do business with China, a growing economic powerhouse. The ten year-old me had no intention of doing business with China.
When I was eleven, there was a ballet school in town that began offering free ballet lessons to boys for the first year – due to a complete lack of male enrollment. It seemed like good fun at the time. My brother and I began our lessons along with three other boys: two homeschoolers and one non-homeschooler, united in the understanding that the best things in life were free. When we strapped on our form-fitting dance pants, ballet shoes, white t-shirts, and pranced about the dance studio for the first time, and all the girls stood by and giggled, blushed, pointed at us, something glowed within our tiny chests.
The ballet instructors greeted our prancing about with joy, and all that positive reinforcement worked. We were hooked. So once a week, our mothers shuttled us to the ballet school. As the weeks became months, it became evident our benevolent ballet instructors were not content to allow us to have much more fun. When my brother and I revealed we weren’t interested in doing the exam, much less continuing ballet the next year, our ballet instructor’s face was one of unsurprised disappointment.
Another soul unfortunate enough to have me as a student was my piano teacher, who drilled into my head the importance of playing three pieces every year to pass a music exam. I didn’t start learning the piano with such curiosity and enthusiasm because I wanted to pass music exams. Why continue learning the piano if that was all there was to it, then? Waning interest made my fingers stiff, cold, and the thin, stern line that was her mouth sometimes parted to announce I was lazy. The lessons became this inexplicable hole in the space-time continuum where time took forever to pass. I’m sure my piano teacher felt the same way. I quit after barely passing the grade five exam. To this day I have an irrational dislike for classical music.
I had imbibed, perhaps too much, the philosophy of pursuing my interests. I didn’t learn anything I didn’t want to learn. What was worthwhile was what I was interested in. Discipline as it was known to my peers – schedules, homework, tuition – didn’t work for me. The time tables we drew up never stuck because, for one, I never knew when I’d wake up in the morning. And because our days were largely unpredictable. I did what schoolwork we had whenever I would. People used to tell my parents, or me if they felt like being honest, that I’d have a hard time in college (at least the nice ones assumed I was going to go to college).
When I think now about what I learned, and how I learned what I learned, I feel amazingly lucky that I learned anything at all. When my brother and I were really young, seems like six or seven, my dad imposed a year-long ban on computer games and television because we hadn’t finished our dinner one night. We were young enough to not know to be outraged. And we were young enough to not know to cheat. So, being homeschoolers, we were stuck at home every day without the privilege of computer games or television.
In a desperate attempt to get through the day, we picked up the books about the house. We read. And read and read. We read so much that by the end of the year, we didn’t feel like we’d been deprived of anything. That was when I began reading, and nothing has been the same since. Over the years, what was important wasn’t just that my parents bought books. It was that they read those books with us. It was that we read widely, voraciously. We could talk about books, the ideas within the books, the characters within the books, and often without meaning to, we were learning.
I remember writing in my journal, putting down my thoughts about the day, for years thinking I could be as great a journalist as Anne Frank, simply because mom and dad had given me the book when I was six and told me I ought to write something every day. I loved writing, recording, thinking, forming sentences, playing with words. I needed no prompting to continue. I blogged furiously, ridiculously so in retrospect, when I was a teenager. I wrote about books, movies, music, politics, theology – it became a digital journal that other people could read. Writing became a way of processing my own thoughts in the presence of others. And so I learned to write.
With the drums, my parents gave me an incredible amount of support to pursue that earsplitting passion. I took lessons. I practiced on pillows, the floor, my knees. My mom diligently drove me to church at least twice a week: once or twice for practice, and once for the lesson. She did that for a couple of years until my parents made the ultimate sacrifice and brought the harbinger of noise – a drum set – to my room. My family loved me. And so did our neighbors. We didn’t get a single complaint.
One day several years later, my drum teacher told me I was the first student, in all his years teaching, to have made it this far, to have learned everything he could impart. He wanted to prepare me for the final drum exam. I prepared for it, but not for long, not before I thought I didn’t need an exam to tell me I was a drummer. I pulled out of the final exam, and with that, with a warm, final handshake, my drum lessons came to an end. Now, I wish I had taken that exam. The exam might not have told me I was a drummer, but it might have told me what I was made of. The teenage me didn’t want to find out.
So how did that teenager cope when he got to college? This being a liberal arts college, there were a bunch of classes I had to take whether I cared to or not, classes like Life Science, Wellness for Life, and College Algebra. In that sense, yes, I did have a hard time in college. I struggled every night to do simple algebra homework. I pulled all-nighters to get research done. I got busy with busywork (this is not to say I didn’t enjoy plenty of other classes, especially the English and Political Science ones). I was motivated by a powerful fear of failure, responsibility, knowing my parents had forked over a small fortune to get me through college. In short, college taught me to do what I didn’t love.
Now that I have graduated from college, it all feels like much ado about nothing. I graduated with a 3.9 GPA from Hardin-Simmons University, with degrees in English and Political Science. I was never late to class, and the only time I missed a class was when I was stranded in Washington, D.C., during a Model U.N. conference when Hurricane Sandy struck. I wasn’t merely a goody-two-shoes within the classroom, though. I was also an editor for the school paper, the vice president of the International Student Fellowship, had a student worker job in the university’s Media Relations office, and played percussion with the Cowboy Band.
My senior year, I dropped by a theology professor’s office to pick up my final paper, and he asked me to sit down and talk for a bit. He wanted to know more about who I was, where I came from, and what I thought it was that had prepared me to do well in college. I said, with little hesitation, without irony, that I felt it was homeschooling that had prepared me the best – it had prepared me to learn on my own, to not trust anyone else with anything as important as my education. He smiled thoughtfully and remarked: yes, it’s usually the homeschoolers. It’s just as well he didn’t press me for more specifics like “what did you do to prepare yourself?” or “but how did you learn that?” because I wouldn’t have known how to answer.
I still don’t.
25-year old Ethan’s parents are founders of HOMEFRONTIER David and Sook Ching Tan. Ethan graduated with degrees in Political Science and English at Hardin-Simmons University, Abilene, Texas, last December 14, and married Katie on the same day.
14 August 2014
Posted by DAVID BC TAN under: Homeschooler Profile.
Joshua is an eighteen-year-old history buff, amateur writer, and a massive Regina Spektor fanboy. He’s a Christian -albeit a surly, often skeptical one: suspicious of churches but increasingly in love with Christ. He’ll be studying at Hope College, MI. come the fall. When he’s not writing/procrastinating, he enjoys Doctor Who marathons, good cheese, and Simon and Garfunkel. He can’t drive yet, but desperately wants a license to drive a sleigh dragged by a resurrected woolly mammoth through subarctic Siberia someday.
Here’s his story.
THOUGHTS OF AN (ALMOST) GRADUATED HOMESCHOOLER
By Joshua Kam
Huzzah! I’ve almost graduated. The pre-exam-cramming has been crammed, the awful tests have been sat, and the gor-awful after-exam anticlimax has wadded awkwardly in my gut like a black hole. I stand mere inches from completing Marine Bio – yay – to the last class of the year. It’s strange -half of me kept thinking that I still had so much time, and the other couldn’t believe it’s already gone. I felt vaguely like someone who’s misread a map and almost stepped off El Gran Canyon.
To be frank though, that was pretty much the same feeling Mom and I harbored in our throats when we began. I was seven, more than a little traumatized from kindergarten, and determined to be a chef and a Wycliffe Bible translator and a paleontologist all at once. Needless to say I’d always found it hard to fit in. Not because I was particularly smarter than the folk in class -I was just eccentric, I suppose.
But on that first day in homeschool, I plonked myself down with Mom for three pages of science and a bite of arithmetic. The problems were neatly encased in colorful ostriches; I had a vague sense that we were on an adventure of some kind – but to where and to what end I had no clue.
The answer to that came years later as we slowly ironed out the kinks of learning at home. The lovely thing about homeschool is that everything is porous -real life glides into academic work. Class times seep in and out of everything else we have on our plate. You could be playing checkers when your Mom calls you out to study a mantis, sketch its mandibles clumsily on a notepad.
You might be in the middle of science when annoyingly you’re called out to deal with laundry. Was nothing sacred? Couldn’t we do something in its own box in its own time? Now, glancing back into those years, I’m glad Mom imparted something different to me: you don’t box up real life.
This porosity, of course, also creates challenges of its own. Time management was always an issue for me. I did occasionally zone out of my long division problems when chapters of Tolkien called my name. And I do harbor an awkward habit of humming the LOTR soundtrack when I’m working on science. Ask my brother. But I don’t know where I’d be without learning from the integrative approach Mom took to Life, the Universe, and Everything Else.
Homeschooling, the idea of doing school at home -occasionally in my PJs- has all but ended for me. But Home Schooling -the practice of bringing what you learn into every other pocket of your lifestyle, of knocking down the walls between intellectual notions and ‘Real Life'; of weaving everything you know into everything you believe: that stays. And I hope it always stays. I can think of a lot of brilliant folks with PhDs and more achievements on their resumes, but I really can’t imagine anyone more equipped to impart this to me than my mother.
I must add -I did actually find friends. No, not always the loudest friends, or the most facetiously confident. I found people with quiet souls and still hands, but with deep, fierce compassions and minds like sharpened blades. This is just my clause/charm to ward off awkward questions of my societal maladjustment. Heh.
The rest – the flurry of college searching, SAT-sitting, online-classes – all of that was tricky. For a while we were wringing our hands over transcripts, and course descriptions. How would we create a resume? And what on earth would I do for those college admission essays?
In the end, I decided to write about being an estuary -a place where the river and the sea meets. Because my entire education and life had been just that kind of negotiation: adjusting from my hometown to KL, adjusting to homeschooling over the years. I wrote about the eclectic mix of things I studied – Russian lit with Chinese poetry, Japanese tankas with the Great American Novels. I also described things I’d done outside of actual school -acting troupes we’d joined/directed, clubs we participated in.
It took two years of premature balding and dandruff before we finally landed on a quiet, welcoming campus that was more than willing to accept homeschoolers. We did have to jump a couple more hoops -partially in describing my courses. But I think that for a lot of colleges/unis (mine was abroad) they want to see what a homeschooler can do outside of his/her study room. Frankly, that’s the sort of thing that homeschoolers seem to excel.
To parents who are just starting to homeschool their kids -the ones forever peppered by relatives asking, “Are your kids socialized?”- I hope I’m not too presumptuous in saying you’re doing the right thing. It takes chutzpah to tell people you teach your children: that you have your own way of seeing the world and want to impart it to your kids.
It takes chutzpah for a kid to explain to grown-ups that s/he really does have friends, and that they go for movies and fieldtrips, and, scandalously, the occasional chaste date, just like regular Malaysians do. It takes chutzpah doing something new, when in your head (and your parents’ heads) you sometimes just don’t know where this is going, if all these were a stepping stone to something better.
Some months my family was just hoarse with “discussing” whether homeschooling was viable for us. Some months we were just so ready to burn our math books the day I graduated. Our little road to Damascus was rarely lit with bolts of heaven’s shine. Or pillars of fire. The inspiration – and the gratitude- came very slowly, and rather prosaically, like brewed tea. But hot dang, I am glad we made the trip.
28 March 2011
Posted by DAVID BC TAN under: Homeschooler Profile.
Homeschooler Cherish Lo was one of only four students to be awarded full scholarship to pursue her A Levels at Alice Smith International School in Kuala Lumpur. Her remarkable achievement is another one in a string of achievements by Malaysian homeschoolers, and one that is mirrored among homeschoolers abroad. Her mother Sally concludes with Part Two of the story of her daughter’s transition from home-educated to top scholar.
NURTURING A CONFIDENT CHILD
AS CHERISH’S MOTHER, THE MAJOR PART OF HOMESCHOOLING was my responsibility. I was not a rigid, structured teacher; I liked variety and spontaneity so we learned whatever came our way. Dad was the structured one and he taught her Math – systematically, always telling her to practise, practise, practise. The point is, do what you know and let your child enjoy learning along with you.
When my daughter was 10, I went back to work and Dad was left to teach her at home. That meant more Math! I did very little with Cherish then, but she was already reading a lot at her age. Later when we realised she needed more structured learning, we enrolled her for IGCSE O Level in April 2009 for an 18-month course. For the first time in her life, she was exposed to Accounts, Business Studies, Economics and Additional Math. She had signed up for 7 subjects in all, including English (First Language), English Literature and Math, but 5 months before her exams, she took one more subject, Physics. At the time we were advised that to qualify for a scholarship, she needed to have 8As.
We prayed Cherish through the decision, and she applied herself to study diligently. The rest as they say, is history. She did very well and obtained 8As in her IGCSE O Level exams and won four awards (Top In Malaysia for Business Studies; Top In Malaysia for English First Language; High Achievement for English Literature, and first place for Best Across Eight Cambridge IGCSEs).
ALL KINDS OF EXPOSURE
Prior to enrolling Cherish in an IGCSE tuition center, there was a 3-year gap in her education due to crises in the family. My father suffered multiple strokes and my husband was diagnosed with prostate cancer and underwent spinal surgery. Since all I did for Cherish was English while her dad taught Math, you could see why our daughter’s homeschool was interrupted.
In the past we exposed Cherish to all sorts of training courses we felt were appropriate to help open up her mind. She didn’t mind that some of the courses were for adults, for she understood that it was up to her to learn whatever she could. But academically, the IGCSE was the very first time she was subjected to formal studies. Her initial discomfort at being somehow ‘less’ than the regular kids who went to ‘normal’ schools was soon dispelled when she faced them in the battleground of interschool competitions.
At 16, she and her team beat older students from a number of universities and colleges in Kuala Lumpur and Singapore. In one particular competition, the team had to submit a business proposal for a home for the elderly and present it before a panel of judges.
Cherish had never done a business proposal before, but she and her friends soon found out how (homeschooling kids have a knack for finding things out for themselves!). The judges were so impressed with her maturity and empathy for the elderly that one of them personally congratulated her and her team mates saying that their parents should be very proud of them (and we certainly were!).
FROM O TO A LEVELS AT ALICE SMITH
Today my daughter Cherish is doing her A Levels at the Alice Smith International School. She received a full scholarship that covered food, travel, and purchase of books, exams fees as well as some school trips. When we found out that she was one of only four recipients of the scholarship, we were in a daze for a week! We did not expect it at all, and indeed, it was the Lord who provided for all of our needs.
(Photo: A beaming Cherish receives her award from Mr John Guy, University of Cambridge International Examinations (CIE), at Holiday Villa on 22 February,2011)
Alice Smith put prospective students through a computer-based entrance exam to assess their suitability but it was not just bright students they were looking for. We were told they also wanted confident young students with leadership potential. Students had to be interviewed by the Principal, Vice-Principal, and Head of 6th Form. In a separate room, another Vice-Principal (head of Pastoral Care) was interviewing me, and he told me that this interview would decide if a child would make the cut. They liked what they saw and heard, and 2 days later, I had confirmation that Cherish was accepted. She was offered a place in Alice Smith on January 2011, which was a term late (their term starts in September) but she is getting through each day, by God’s grace.
Looking back, I am glad that the Lord prepared the way for Cherish to get her scholarship through all the things she was involved in or exposed to during her growing up years. All the courses and competitions in which Cherish participated were documented (it was a thick file) and we included these with her scholarship application. She had to submit a 350-word personal essay – but what can you say in 350 words? – so that thick appendix did the trick!
KEEP ON PRESSING ON
Many moms often ask how a homeschooled kid could do so well. I always reply, how could they not do well, when they are given an environment to bloom naturally? Did I have my doubts? Plenty. Every Monday, as they say! 20 years ago when we were in New Zealand making the decision to homeschool we had the same questions, half-wanting and half-believing if it could be so, and yet it has come true for us.
Once you make a decision, stick to it, and don’t panic. Homeschoolers will always be in the minority, but press on, for other homeschoolers are walking with you! Besides, would you rather trust God for your children’s education or do you prefer to trust the government to do it for you? Keep on giving your children space, opportunity, and exposure, and eventually their God-given talent will emerge. Remember God is with us all. He loves our kids, and he will help us in our weakness and frailty.
Two other homeschoolers received awards along with Cherish as well. They were, Hans Eli Sha Ho, who was Top In Malaysia for Accounting, and Wong Jian Eu who received an award for High Achievement for History
Related stories on the achievements of other young Malaysian homeschoolers
14-year old Balakrishna’s love for physics pays off
They said, by then 18-year old Rachel Spoelman, who has sometimes been identified as a Malaysian by her friends
Passing the Test, by Jian Eu about his transition from homeschool to formal education
According to his ability about ADHD/special needs child Jianwen who goes to college.
Reading to learn, is straight A’s student Brian Tan’s story
The first days of spring, is Ethan Tan’s journey from eclectic homeschooler to scholarship student at Hardin-Simmons, Texas
A mother’s reflection on 3 boys’ education pathways, From homeschool to O Level
21 March 2011
Posted by DAVID BC TAN under: Homeschooler Profile.
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
7 April 2010
Posted by DAVID BC TAN under: Homeschooler Profile.
More and more homeschoolers in the country are turning to O Level as the preferred pathway to college and tertiary education. 17-year old Brian Tan sat for his exams last November and outshone many of his peers. The point is not that Brian did well, but that homeschool is no obstacle to education excellence. Above all, it also demonstrates that whatever homeschool methodology/philosophy or curriculum one subscribes to, being educated at home provides a child the necessary space for nurturing right attitude and inculcating a reading habit, both of which are foundational to future success. A big thanks to Brian and his parents Boon Long and Cynthia who also added their two-sens to the Q&A regarding exam preparation.
Tell us about yourself and your homeschooling experience.
My name is Brian and I will be 18 this August. I have been homeschooling since Standard 5, i.e. 11 years old.
I liked homeschooling as there was flexibility in my schedule. It was always a holiday during my birthday and my family took holidays during non-school holidays, avoiding peak periods. I’ve enjoyed homeschooling which has made education fun. Spending loads of time with my younger brother and parents, I’ve become close to them and my parents are always at hand when I need advice.
Being an art and reading enthusiast since young, I used much of the break time between studies to draw (by hand and on the computer) and to read. I was read to (when younger) and I read a lot of good literature as part of my homeschooling. I also studied at my own pace.
Did you feel left out socially?
I have been involved in many activities that allowed me to socialise. There was Sunday School, my church Care Group, a Junior Public Speaking Club, Art classes, ice skating classes and badminton (both formal training and socially). I’ve been and am still actively involved in Royal Rangers (an international Christian uniformed group) with lots of activities including camping, hiking, canoeing, first-aid, Christian Service, Community service, various hobbies and opportunities for leadership. At 13, I joined the church Youth Group. I also helped in Sunday School.
When I was 15+, I attended a tuition centre for about a year to prepare for my O level and IGCSE. I also enjoyed the socialisation and learned more of the problems and issues faced by my peers. I also made friends in my church Bible Knowledge classes that I attended for 2 years.
Why O Level, and not SAT?
My parents say that the O Level exam is more widely recognised especially in Commonwealth countries. Local private universities normally advertise a “minimum of 5 O Level credits” as entrance requirement. SAT is mainly recognised for entry into US universities but they also accept O Level qualifications.
How many subjects did you sit for and how did you prepare for your exams?
I sat for a total of 7 subjects: Art, and Bible Knowledge (O level); and Math, English, English Literature, Business Studies and Economics (IGCSE). You could say preparation for English and English Literature began ever since I homeschooled using the Sonlight curriculum and some Singapore workbooks. I switched to IGCSE materials in Forms 4 and 5.
I’ve always used Singapore Math, but in my secondary years I switched to Counts 1-5 and the IGCSE text. For Business Studies and Economics, I started preparation when I enrolled in a tuition centre for about a year.
Prior to the Bible Knowledge exam, I attended my church weekly Bible Knowledge classes for 2 years. The classes actually prepare students for the SPM Bible Knowledge paper but I stayed because it was quite close to the O Level syllabus – Luke & Acts. For Art, I had a teacher for a year who helped me prepare for O Level Art.
I was in the tuition centre until the last 4 – 5 months before my exams. I consolidated my preparation at home by attempting a lot of past year exam papers, read examiners’ reports and comments to get a good view of what the examiners look for.
Your results came out early this year in January. So how did you do, and what’s your next step?
I obtained 7As. In the IGCSE, I obtained As for Business Studies and Economics and A*s for Maths, English and English Literature. In the O level exam (where A*s are not awarded), I obtained As for Art and Religious Knowledge.
My next step is to enrol at the One Academy in Bandar Sunway to pursue my passion in Creative Arts and Design. I’ll be doing a Diploma course in either Multimedia or Animation before going to one of their affiliated overseas universities for a degree.
How would you advise other homeschoolers to prepare themselves for their exams?
O Level /IGCSE normally require 2 years of preparation. I would recommend some tuition classes especially in subjects one is weak at, or where parents are unable to help. The 2 years could consist of a mixed bag of home school and tuition classes.
The tuition classes will also be a good transition from homeschooling to college life as one will be exposed to group discussions and group dynamics.
Finally, intensive practices of O level/IGCSE past year question papers, reading mark schemes, examiner comments and reports a few months before the exams help a lot.
However, homeschoolers should get a good grounding prior to the last 2 years before sitting for the O level /IGCSE.
Pre-O level/IGCSE preparation:
- For Maths/Add Maths, a good program is Singapore Maths from Primary until Form 3 (e.g. Singapore Maths Counts 1-3 or other Singapore Maths texts).
- For the Sciences (Biology/Physics/Chemistry), any Primary program will do but try to do Singapore Science for Forms 1 and 2 or the UK’s equivalent (Cambridge Core Bio/Physics/Chemistry).
- For English/Literature/History, the preparation program is a lot more flexible. Sonlight’s Core curriculum is excellent.
- For Economics and Business which are generally study subjects, homeschoolers should not find these a problem if they’ve acquired good reading/comprehension skills.
- For O level Bible Knowledge, do attend, if available (and normally free of charge) BK classes for SPM students conducted by churches. Syllabus is 90% similar.
Generally, a good base in homeschooling – “Learn to read and then read to learn” – will give homeschoolers the ability to learn independently in the later years, with some guidance from parents/tuition teachers.
Top Pix: Brian holds forth at a debate
Bottom Pix: Brian (left), Mom Cynthia (centre), and younger brother Kevin (right) agree that homeschooling is fun
Related posts on homeschoolers and O Level
…….and a related post on developing a reading culture at home
11 November 2009
Posted by DAVID BC TAN under: Homeschooler Profile.
18-year old Rachel Spoelman has been called an actress, a writer, a college student, a Malaysian, an American, a genius, a sister, a char koay teow lover, a Milo addict, a geek, a purple-haired backwards guitar playing cowgirl, and an inside-out banana. Perhaps she is all of these things, perhaps she is none of them – that is for you to decide. 18-year old Rachel is presently in her second year of studies at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA. She is taking an Asian Studies Major. In this essay, Rachel tells us why she’s glad to be homeschooled
I WAS A HOMESCHOOLED CHILD. When my mom and dad first told their family and friends that they had decided to homeschool their kids, the relatives all thought that Mom and Dad were crazy. They came up with many objections. They said that Mom couldn’t do it, and that even if she could teach me the elementary school subjects, that she, without a college degree, would never be able to handle teaching me when I reached high school age. They said that she was making a terrible decision for her child, that because of being kept at home and being homeschooled, that I would never develop socially, that my social skills would always be far behind those of my peers. They said that I would lack the opportunity to participate in the sports and extracurricular activities and service that I would have if I went to a private Christian school. They said that I would never be able to go to college if I didn’t have a ‘real’ transcript from a ‘real’ school. They said that successful homeschooling couldn’t be done.
But my Mom did not let everything they said stop her from doing what she felt was right for her family. She started teaching me the alphabet when I was three years old, and has never looked back.
Thirteen years later, we have found that they were wrong. I have now graduated from my homeschool high school. I have been accepted to college, I have served at my church, teaching children’s and youth classes, helping with VBS, and visiting elderly people in nursing homes for as long as I can remember. My Mom laughs when she remembers those people who told her I would have no friends if she didn’t send me to school; she thinks I spend far too much time having fun with my friends. What is more, some of those close friends are my younger siblings. That’s right, my Mom has had six younger children than me, and is homeschooling each one of them, so that all of us kids can stay together everyday and not be separated like we would be if we were sent to school. We have grown up all going to school together in the schoolroom in our house, and we have loved it.
I am so thankful for the decision my Mom and Dad made all those thirteen years ago. Sometimes people may say all kinds of things of discouraging things about the decisions you make or things you do in life, but I’ve learned that those ‘people; might not know everything there is to know. After all, they all said Mom couldn’t do it, that she couldn’t homeschool her kids, but today I am so glad that my mom did not listen to what they said!
This essay was originally published in The Random Writings of Rachel, and is reproduced with the kind permission of the author. To buy a copy of Rachel’s first self-published book, please email rdeen_phillips(at)yahoo.com
9 September 2009
[Malaysian homeschooler Balakrishna M. Pillai is 14-years old. But as he is apt to say, “Don’t hold my age against me; judge me by my knowledge and skill.” Indeed. This young man and a team of students he led was awarded first place in the international Global Challenge 2009 competition for students in the Best Global Business Plan Category (see previous post). We’re thrilled and pleased for Balakrishna and his parents! Recently HOMEFRONTIER caught up with this homeschooler-in-a-hurry and interviewed him via email]
1. Tell us, who is Balakrishna M. Pillai?
Homeschooled. Secured the New Zealand Certificate of Educational Achievement Levels 1 and 2, about 2 years ago. I am 40 credits away from getting Level 3. Put off completing NCEA as I want to pursue an education in USA. Completed the SAT last year, my first public examination. I got full marks in SAT II Math and scored 30 marks shy of a full score in SAT II Physics.
I am by nature a very curious individual. I like to fiddle and take things apart and very often do not succeed in putting them back. Every button I see needs to be pushed and every switch flicked. It is no wonder my parents figured I would not survive school. I think perhaps they were more concerned for the teachers. Being homeschooled allows me to study areas which fascinate me. I am fascinated with Physics, more specifically theoretical Physics. Hopefully I will get an opportunity to attend a university. Unfortunately I am 14 years old and have got a fair bit of waiting to do. That is the most excruciating part.
2. Your parents Murali and Juliana Pillai have done a great job educating you at home. What’s it like to be an only child and a homeschooler?
I must say I have had a wonderful education. I choose what I want to learn and I never had to worry about exams until late last year. So I pretty much enjoyed the process of learning at my own pace. I much prefer this to going to school. The system would have sent me to the Tanjung Rambutan Institute for the Study of Mental Illnesses. I enjoy being an only child and I don’t think I am none the worse for wear for being an only child.
3. Could you tell us how you developed your passion for Physics?
When I see a mountain I admire its beauty. And then I stop and ask, “How do the sub-atomic particles that make up the atoms that make up the molecules that make up the rocks, snow, and ice that make up the mountain interact to make up the mountain?” I have, and have always had since I was a child, dozens of questions about the inner workings of the universe swimming around in my head. Studying Physics may bring me closer to answering these questions and satisfying my passion to find out how the universe works.
4. With all these questions swimming around in your head, do you have time for anything else besides Physics?
I am constantly working on physics problems, so there is no moment when I am not busy with physics. I like photography, painting, scuba diving, and going on nature walks and when I do these activities I am thinking about physics. I did too drag my parents up a mountain in New Zealand! I also occasionally walk through glass doors, usually resulting in a visit to the hospital.
5. Well, your passion for Physics paid off. You got more than just a crack at an international competition for students, the Global Challenge. How did that happen?
I was invited by a Malaysian student to participate in the competition. The competition is a science, technology, engineering and mathematics intensive program. It is open to high school students so generally students who are 15-19 years participate, but as you can see it is not a hard and fast rule.
The Global Challenge requires students to work in teams of 4 and invent a device that can reduce the effects of climate change. The team is then required to prepare a global business plan for that device. By so doing the participants are exposed to real life considerations like manufacturing, marketability and profitability of the product. The Business Plan has to prove that the device works, and that it is marketable, and can generate a profit.
6. Tell us about your submission. You must have put in a lot of work; what did you actually have to do?
There is a lot of reading and you must have a wide breadth of knowledge. Packaging the whole idea is also very challenging. I made my presentation differently and kept the reader pretty much in view. A lot of effort went into it and although I had a team I did everything from the conception of idea to writing the whole business plan. That was primarily because I had the luxury of time on my hands while the others were really hard pressed for time given their hectic schedules. So my first draft was pretty much the final work.
When Yu Yu, a returning participant in the Global Challenge invited me to participate in this challenge I was skeptical if I would enjoy it. I must confess while I am aware of the problem of global warming and climate change, like millions out there I cannot see myself doing anything which could solve the problem. In short, it is not top of my list of priorities. My passion is Physics and I could not see very much Physics in this competition.
7. You were ‘skeptical’ but you went on ahead anyway. And you picked up new experiences, learned new things, made new friends. How do you feel about that?
I said yes since I had nothing better to do anyway and now I am glad I did say yes. To say I learned new things would be an understatement. I am sure an expert reviewing the work done for the Global Challenge will find more holes in it than you would find in a piece of cheese but I sincerely feel it is a good start. For the first time I see the relevance in things like industrial analysis, market analysis, political and financial feasibility. I would not have given these areas any notice at all previously, so all said and done, it was and continues to be an enlightening experience. It was good teaming up with young people from America.
I learned they are under as much pressure as youths who go to school in Malaysia. I enjoy talking with Ivan (my team mate). He is constantly advising me about college in USA and that is nice. I appreciate that and will always remember that. I enjoyed working with Yu Yu too and we had some fruitful face-to-face meetings in the early stages. While Ivan is chattier, I found Yu Yu more laconic and I still have difficulty understanding what she says. In the later stages there were some tense moments and differences of opinion between us and I dealt with them as best as I could.
8. Were your parents involved in any way?
I would like to thank my mother, who has sprouted several gray hairs due to this competition, even though she was not directly involved, and my father, who came up with several ideas for this competition (none of which were actually workable). What is important is both my parents are always there to lend support, encourage me and cheer me up when the chips were down.
9. That’s wonderful! Now, could you tell us a little about the idea behind your team project?
About my idea: In an average day, a human expands an enormous amount of energy going about his daily activities. Consider for a moment our daily activities such as walking, sitting, opening and closing doors and the like. Most of the energy expended on these tasks is wasted without us giving a moment‘s thought.
What if we could capture this energy and put it to good use? With this in mind the MEG was conceived. The MEG, an acronym for the Multipurpose Electric Generator is a device in the form of a tile that consists of a flat plastic plate with 5 magnets attached to its underside. A coil of wire is positioned directly under each magnet.
When pressure is exerted on the plate, the magnets are thrust into the coils, creating an electrical current in the coils through electromagnetic induction. This electricity is captured and stored, ready to be used in any application. It cannot be denied that the energy generated by the MEG is small. However, small amounts add up just like tiny drops make a mighty ocean. The versatile MEG can be placed in any location where pressure is frequently applied by humans. It can be placed on floors of homes in areas where there is the greatest activity or frequency of use, for example near toilets and staircases.
10. That won you first place in the business plan category. Congratulations! What was the award you won, and do you have anything to say about it?
It was an all-expense paid trip to Vermont to attend a week long summer program at the Governor’s Institute of Vermont, USA. Winning the competition was no big deal, but it is very nice to get a free trip. However, I did not like the summer program at the University of Vermont. It was more Engineering-based than Physics-based. I preferred my stint at MIT in Massachusetts which was a 6-week physics course on linear algebra and quantum mechanics.
11. Finally, what advice do you have – if any – for homeschoolers who have problems with subjects like science?
You must develop a passion for it and that passion comes from understanding it. I would say just learn and do not obsess with grades and being better than others.
Balakrishna is presently offering his services as Physics tutor to anyone but he much prefers teens. He is also selling away some of his Physics books and you can take a look at his booklist on our NOTICES (September) page. Email Balakrishna personally at balakrishnapillaim(at)gmail.com