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April 20, 2015

Malaysia: A Safe Environment to Ask Questions

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.

Eliza Tan

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 filmed 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.

The Tan Family

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. Hebrews 5:14 says, “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 I truly 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. 

Thanks to Homeschool Homefrontier for submitting this article, which was originally published here.

 Other Resources

Learn more by visiting HSLDA’s Malaysia page.