This blog hasn’t been updated for awhile because the core members have “moved on” with other things, kids have grown up, etc.

But in line with the Malaysian Education Blueprint – the content writer (me) shall continue this blog to write specifically on education, rather than homeschooling.

However, other people may still come across this blog and be able to provide you with answers. So if you are asking questions about homeschooling, this is still a valid blog to ask and talk about it. And the best way for someone to reach you is if you subscribed to replies to your comment.


HOT – Higher Order Thinking.


When I first started my English Through Art Children’s class (an evolution from my 21st Century learning ESL classroom), I had asked my co-teacher’s assistant what she thought about the program by showing her this chart.

She listened to what I had to say and said, “That’s exactly what I would’ve wanted in my education. But, how can I get to the higher levels when I am stuck at a level of not being able to understand everything I’m learning?”

That was an Ah-ha moment for me.

For so many of our students, parents and teachers they have been utterly convinced that all learning MUST begin with remembering / memorizing / recall, followed by understanding / comprehension and then being able to answer questions correctly.

That is their memory of schooling. And that is how schooling kills creativity. Just ask Ken Robinson one more time.

For context, I do Life Coaching and Training for adults and I have taught teens, children and tots over the span of my teaching career.

Children DO NOT learn by remembering. They learn because they feel safe, secure, are allowed to explore, imagine, interact, ask and be themselves.

They learn because they want to and are given an environment and an opportunity, to be guided into learning yet being given enough space to differentiate what and how they want to learn and pace themselves along their learning curve.

Children DO evaluate and analyze  but they do it not with logic. But the processes are there. And logic comes in gradually after 6 years of age to replace the process of evaluation and analysis made  previously from fantasy and imagination. That’s when the wonder of childhood starts to slowly give way to the child wanting to form the outside world with the will and constructs of his inner mind.

Just yesterday, a 4 year old boy drew me a vertical oval after I drew for him a horizontal oval to circle a word I wanted to teach him to recognize. He explained this about his vertical bubble : “It’s a cocoon.” And so I wrote the word next to his drawing. He started making a connection between letters coming together to form words and words reflect meaning. Before this, he was being taught the Phonics method and had gotten himself confused between letters and sounds and formed the belief “I cannot read.”

In a child’s mind, if you start by asking him to remember a letter or a sound and hoping he can recall them in sequence to form words and meaning, that “logical process” is going to be pretty tough on him. But if you let him create context and meaning and you work with the child around that – you’ll still achieve your goal of creating an “emergent reader”. The child will evaluate and analyze his interactions with the learning facilitator.

And yes, he was evaluating and analyzing my interactions with him. I was attempting to teach him to recognize words by sight because I had assessed that he not only has already confused the name of a letter with its sound, he started forming a belief “I can’t read.”

So, you see, we don’t actually HAVE to move through the Lower Order Skills in Thinking in order to get to the Higher Order Thinking Skills. Bloom’s taxonomy is about WHERE we want to target a specific curriculum. For instance, if I wanted kids to learn their Times Table and numbers from 1 to 100, we will need them to “Remember” instead of them creating a new system of counting! (But that would be cool too.)

But HOW are we going to make them remember and recall better? How do we make Rote learning Engaging and have Stickitivity? Do we want to incorporate the other senses of music, touch, visual and kinesthetic (physical motor)?

Can we make them understand through metaphors and stories?

Can we help them apply through play, art, games?

Every Child is Creative. Don’t Kill It.

A principal of a kindergarten invited me to speak at an event she will organize because she was so shocked at how quickly I could get my 3 year old son to comply when he was about to have a meltdown. She was surprised at what she calls “my creativity”. This is something my co-teacher and I have in different manifestations. I am creative in language and engagement, she is creative in aesthetics and experiences.

Can every teacher be “creative” in order to target different areas of learning to different stages of Bloom’s Taxonomy?

I can’t honestly answer this question until I do a field survey and get a good sample size.

I feel at the root of a lack of creativity is Fear. There’s so much fear about getting it wrong. If I were to be tasked to make teachers models of Creativity and fun learning I will have to regress them back to their childhood and give them some kind of group psychotherapy to discover that inner learning genius before Fear became the driver of their lives.

So, if I want my child / student to grow up to be a well-adjusted, Creative, highly-functioning adult with great economic prospects, what should I know? What can I do?

Remove fear.

First, do no harm. Create a sense of stability and security for the child. Things happen, I know. Life isn’t perfect. But until the adult or parents can sort out their own issues outside the home, don’t expect so much from the child. When with the child, give them your undivided attention. Life can be stressful and difficult but you have to master Life Skills or you will transfer your fears and insecurities onto the children.

As for the teacher, dissolve your fear of being flagged as a non-performing teacher. Speak your truth. Yes, you have students who are lagging behind because their starting point is lower. Or students who are just slacking off or performing below their potential and it becomes a reflection of your teaching abilities. Just relax and seek help. Seek coaching, seek expert input. Maybe you need to stop doing certain things and try other things.

Some children are innately anxious, nervous, fearful, withdrawn. My daughter was one of them. Do not feel ashamed in seeking professional medical help. It could be a sensory processing issue that can be overcome with a few small changes to lifestyle. With monitoring, intervention and therapy, things will work out for the better in the long run.

Let Early Childhood Be About Play

All learning should be done through play and exploration, not drill and drill, punishments or “being made to sit down”. Set up a classroom with different corners and follow best practices in Early Childhood Education to minimize disruptions that are caused by boredom and eliminate making the child “sit down until  you get this right”.

It isn’t the child’s fault if you aren’t creative. If they can’t learn the way you are teaching you have to teach the way they can learn. You are getting paid as an educator so you have to buck up and get professional help if the bulk of  your job as an Early Childhood Educator is disciplining, punishing, ignoring, feeling frustrated, having to be stern and diminishing the child with, “why can’t you get this?”

Continue To Let Your Children Play

So many people believe that if a student is “playing around” it means they will do badly in their exams.

Actually, it isn’t the “playing around” that is causing dismal academic results. It could be simply avoidance and maladapting to life. There are many examples of students who don’t take their studies seriously yet excel academically.

I can speak from my own personal experience. I wasn’t interested in doing well in school because I was fracturing from so many mini-life-crises. I didn’t see a point in doing well academically. I didn’t see a future for myself. I didn’t want to continue on that conveyor belt of academic life and pass through it and join an unimpressive future as a cog in the machinery of life.

“Forcing” me to stop having a life of exploring my social, creative and emotional outlets isn’t going to automatically make me DESIRE to do well academically. My problems, like that of many students, was not academic or motivation. It was psycho-social and emotional maladaptations.

What I would suggest is give young people healthy alternatives to play as much as they want in as far as it does not harm them physically, mentally and emotionally. That is how they work out what’s stuck inside of them. And parallel to that help them uncover what’s stopping them from having the desire to do well academically. Then offer them rewards and incentives that don’t necessarily have to be financial in nature.


1. All children are born creative. The real Kbat begins in early childhood but more and more kindergartens and preschools are burning  our children out with workbooks and learning with their heads instead of their imagination and senses.

2. The Golden Window of Opportunity is 0 to 8 years old.

3. Higher Order Thinking is a more natural learning curve than Lower Order Thinking. To achieve BOTH scholastic / academic excellence PLUS higher order thinking requires two separate sets of skills.

Scholastic and academic excellence requires competence in literacy and numeracy. Higher Order Thinking habits require models (teachers, outside examples) a supportive learning environment and a non-punitive, self-esteem building culture.

It is possible to have a person who is creative and can offer great insights but is not able to translate their thoughts in a stable and systematic way to create an economic value chain either through formal education or stable employment. These are the “street smarts”.

Remember, we want BOTH : a refined and intellectual mind and a savvy, creative mind.

4. If Higher Order Thinking looks like a “mystery” and “difficult to teach” it simply means you still don’t get it. Higher Order Thinking is not what you TEACH to students. It isn’t what kind of content creates Higher Order Thinking but what kind of DELIVERY. It is a set of outcomes you TARGET your lesson plans and classroom instruction to achieve. It is NOT a bunch of content you force feed down students’ throats through more drills and “difficult, tricky tasks”.

Higher Order Thinking is about Synergy, seeing Connections and solving problems. For example, I “created” this blog post. It is a result of me evaluating and analyzing the current state parents and teachers are in on this continuum between where the Malaysian Education Blueprint aspiration starts and how everyone is on board by April 2017.

However, I wouldn’t be able to do this if I didn’t have literacy competence.

5. Don’t get distracted by all the acronyms and labels. Higher Order Thinking is simply what you need to not be a robot that can be replaced by Automation.

I’ve dropped the homeschooling co-op ball years ago when the main members realized that we were too diverse and have nothing in common (religion, location, shared interests) that could really bind us misfits together. My daughter is now 19 and I have lost my own enthusiasm for homeschooling.

But I am still on this mission of making education great for the community in Penang. And in this post I will address two topics : HOTS (KBat) and the Dual Language Program.

Question : What is HOTS?

HOTs is simply NOT LOST. (Lower Order Skills in Thinking). Just think about it like this : Lost is where our nation has been in the last decade or two when it comes to education which created a mushrooming of homeschools and private schools.

HOTs is the opposite of LOST. HOTs (higher order thinking skills) is us finding our way back into the 21st Century and becoming world class citizens. Makes sense?

As a nation we are doing that through the Economic Transformation Program.

In terms of education we are doing that through the Malaysian Education Blueprint.

And the Malaysian Education Blueprint encompasses education, social, emotional and psychological well-being from 0 to 18. After that, if you are a lost cause, you just are.

Among the initiatives is to have children grow up in safe, secure environments and have access to quality and nurturing early childhood education. First, do no harm. Don’t damage our children before they enter school. Don’t screw them up before schooling does.

Children with learning disabilities (like my 3 year old son) are detected ASAP and given access to intervention programs and an opportunity to attend special-ed classes alongside mainstream school.

The LINUS initiative (Literacy and Numeracy Skills) is a “no child left behind” policy. It slices achievement like a business environment, every quarterly, and intends to nip the problem in the bud. For those my age (1976) under KBSR you might remember friends who had to split off to Kelas Pemulihan during the Maths, Science and English or Bahasa language classes. The mean students used to call them “Kelas Lembap”.

You might also remember a time when you actually needed to think for yourself because the answers weren’t coming from a workbook or the back of any book. Yes, we are going back to the days of glory where schools produced smarty pants like me!

As the owner of this blog, after sitting down with the academic supervisor of Penang’s Department of Education, I feel confident that as a nation we are heading in the right direction when it comes to 21st Century learning.


The infrastructure and operating systems and chain of commands are all in place. And now…………….for the applications to work. For the programs to animate and energize our teachers.

What Does the Malaysian Education Blueprint, DLP, LINUS and Kbat *HOTs* Mean For Our Teachers?

It means our teachers have to stop doing the following :

1. Read off the textbook / copy off a textbook.

2. Ask students to answer a question that is already inside the textbook.

3. Give fixed homework – an entire form or class doing the exact same homework that they can copy off one another.

Those are just a few top “fave” practices of a lot of local teachers I’m picking at.

So, how can our teachers conduct their classes instead?

Like I do.

OK, seriously, there are videos and training and stuff on all that provided by the Malaysian government. And we need a study to identify resistance and the beliefs around them.

Here’s why I think teachers behave LOST in class and waste their students’ learning potential.

1. They didn’t have great models as teachers. They had teachers who read off a textbook, told them to copy off a textbook and that got legitimized.

2. They didn’t have a chance to attend an exclusive private college or worked in a corporate environment and thus did not have a chance to be exposed to a different way of getting things done better, faster and more effectively.

3. Their fear of being seen as incompetent, weak, not an authority makes them hide behind a book.

But I could be wrong. I actually NEED to do a field study on this. 

If you are a teacher and you came across this blog looking for answers, here is my advice for you :

1. Reach out to your SISC or district officer and ASK FOR HELP. Whether you are facing a career issue (ie you hate being a teacher) or an instructional issue (you don’t know where to start), speak up and get help.

2. Learn WITH your students instead of TEACHing to your students. You are not being paid to be a teacher. You are being paid for students to find meaning in their learning. You are NOT a pengajar or even a pendidik. You are a pembolehcara. Or however the Malay vocabulary goes. You simply facilitate learning.

3. The reality is that a Teacher Training Program by itself can never prepare you for real life classroom teaching. And I understand the sense of feeling like you are working as a solitary unit within your department, having no like-minded and intellectual peers and faced with a culture that may not always be supportive.

GET COACHING AND HELP from your SISC and others. At the moment of writing I have not yet set up a non-profit to support our teachers and parents but unless you have reached out for help you will not get it. In the meantime, you can email me at (all correspondences will be private and confidential.)

It has wings but it doesn’t fly.

Posted: June 30, 2012 in General

(No, it’s not a chicken.)

Long hiatus – but that’s what you get with voluntary services like blogging for this cause. Voluntary service :  they’re unreliable and intermittent at best and poor quality at worst. Have any thoughts you’d like to contribute that would perhaps illuminate the path for others? Send me your message by email and I’ll just add you as Author.

One of the greatest contributions of this blog is that it shows up in Google search for the terms  “homeschool Penang” and every few months a non-Malaysian family or a Malaysian family who is moving back to Penang finds this blog, gets in touch with the administrator (sadly, that means only me) via email or comments feedback, gets an invitation to hook up via facebook and if these families are feeling really generous, they’d SMS me and meet me up at a McDonald’s or Starbucks and buy me a coffee or something. 🙂

Right. Some updates.

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Just in case some of you missed out on the comments posted on 21PLC, here’s a summary for you to get a feel of what’s out there in the ether :

I can see the benefits in having a ‘club house’, but think renting it may not be worth the hassle, unless it’s very cheap. Actually, a large room or out-house in someone’s house specifically put aside for this would be better. If it had access to a simple kitchen and a washroom, all the better. Then it could be used for events such as a ‘youth club’, work shops, a library, co-ops, etc.

A community room or centre has been something we have often dreamed about here in Singapore, but space is so limited here, that it hasn’t been practical. What we therefore do instead is meet at each-others houses for co-ops, study groups, playdates, workshops and talks. Apart from these, we organise outings and larger events (usually in the function rooms of members condos) for our annual events such as buy and sell day, concerts, curriculum, geography, science, history, etc. fairs.

My input : Getting a 2,000 sq ft area towards the south side of Penang island may not be too expensive, about RM1,500 empty to Rm2,000 fully furnished. If we have at least 20 children participating that works out to only Rm75 ++per child per month. Besides, not ALL 20 kids will attend one single class at the same time, 8 hours a day. Spread out, this space could be usable. 

Large property, i.e. large enough to have a large room or outhouse in Penang is an almost impossibility as most of us H/S parents are either new money or no-money. Renting a million dollar house for almost nothing is a much more likely possibility. 

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Posted: August 6, 2011 in General

A full-day co-op would look like this :

X-hour to X-hour.

30-40% of time per week is allocated for formal instruction. (Paid teachers).

30% for peer-to-peer  / parent-led / student-led learning (Paid parent). – (Project based learning, etc)

30-40%  – outdoor activities, living skills, outings, free and easy.


Parents coming in for part-time pay for classes and would look like this :

Click to visit Williamsburg Classical Academy site

Or click here :

Since this site is only for members of that community you can use my ID to take a look at how they schedule their classes. You can also check out the classes they organized the year before. Please sign up for the workshop we Penang will be hosting as we invite our guests to fly over and share their expertise with us.

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Let’s get it started

Posted: August 5, 2011 in General

What’s your idea of homeschooling?

I think different people are going to come up with different answers so I’m just going to throw a ball out and see what comes back.

Here’s what I’m thinking and it’s not an exhaustive list and it’s very open to discussion (when we meet face to face before August is out).

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I recently attended a fabulous seminar and among the many messages I received, one poignant one was to ask that we “celebrate every success, even little ones.”  I didn’t realize how important it was to acknowledge ourselves and to value our efforts and contributions. It’s really about appreciation and gratitude. Not only do we take life, others and occurrences for granted we often take ourselves for granted as well.

The reason why it’s important to celebrate our successes, no matter how small, is because what (you) appreciate(s), grows. Literally! We’re not just talking about the value of real-estate or the interest rate on our mortgage! 😀 –  Let’s imagine two identical pots of the same plant being given to two different neighbors. Neighbor 1 appreciates the gift. Neighbor 2 obliges you and does not reject the gift outright – you know, to give you face and not to appear rude. Fast-forward 3 months later which plant is more likely to thrive? Which gift will grow? The one that was given to someone who appreciates it or the one who was given to someone who forgot about it the moment they received it from you?

I’d like to encourage everyone reading this to celebrate 2 successes :

  1. that you have a beautiful child that chose you to be his/her parents.
  2. that you have come upon the awareness that you need an alternative way of thinking about learning / that you are already involved in alternative learning.

I’d like to thank some people who showed their love and support even if it’s just over the internet for the ideas propagated over this blog. In recent days we’ve received 3 very encouraging comments, one from Mabel Ong on It Will Grow as It Grows and two more comments on More People Need to Get on Board.

All these individuals, including those of you reading this, have contributed in one way or another in attaching the idea of a homeschool co-op in Penang in the minds of a dozen people or more. If this was conception then all of you are the nucleotides of a DNA as well as all the parts that make up a cell. There’s no conception yet – just ovulation! So let’s appreciate this fact – that the co-op is in ovulation and let’s celebrate the fact that everyday we’re moving closer to that possibility of conception and birth.

Sometimes, just like conception and gestation,  it requires a period of time to elapse before we can see how our “shot in the dark” will pan out. The workshop KV and Wai Leng organized at the Lake Club some time back was such a shot in the dark.  I didn’t get any feedback on the event. Not until a few weeks ago!

Little drops fill a bucket – so let’s celebrate every small success you make in your path towards a better and more meaningful parenting and learning experience for your child.

Thank you for always taking the time to read and giving your imagination and thought vibration towards such a co-op in Penang one day – in whatever shape and form it takes.

To your parenting and life success!

From someone who wrote it on

……. just out of curiosity, I saw a banner for a Homeschooling Academy on the fence of St Nicholas’ Home.  Is that in any way related to the homeschooling center that you are discussing to set up?

I’d like to take this opportunity to make it very clear that the homeschooling “center” (FYI, this center can be mobile) which discussion was initiated through this blog is a co-op and thus not an individual endeavor nor a private entity therefore I  (Sloane here) cannot be credited for planning or setting anything up.

The co-op is something that is going to come together because a bunch of parents are willing to make it happen. I’m just the messenger. And I’m only the messenger because I have a thick face and bullet-proof robe that I had borrowed off Chow Yun Fatt now that he’s no longer a monk. 😉

But seriously, though, I’m the messenger only because at the moment I seem to be the best person to take up this unenviable task of getting people to organize themselves. First of all, I’ve spent quite a lot of time in Penang. Some of you are just returning, some of you have only been here a few years.

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I met the founders of LBS in their first meeting in years. They had taken a break from the H/s initiative because the author, Wai Leng,  had had a third child. The meeting was held at a Buddhist Center in Kota Kemuning, Shah Alam. Until today I still consider it a miracle that this Penang woman had managed to find her way to the middle of nowhere using a series of modes of public transport from Penang to Shah Alam in one single day. And we know how unreliable both Malaysian signs and public transportation systems are. The meeting was attended by less than a dozen parents. Each of us paid some money to contribute to the cost of the meeting. I forget how much. At the end of the meeting I told KV, “Look, you need to do these kinds of meetings frequently and all over Malaysia. We’ll email each other. You’re coming to Penang next and yes, bring your books. It’s hard to find them in bookstores here. More people need to get on board.”

I hosted the next meeting in Penang at my then-center which drew just over a dozen Penang people. And as KV and Wai Leng and I became more acquainted we started discussing what else can we do to support other parents like ourselves? At that time I had offered my 2,000 over square foot well-equipped learning center (library with both teaching resources and hundreds of children’s books, piano, dance studio, air-cond classrooms, pantry, bathrooms, cabinets, furniture, rows of shelves, drinks machine, etc)  to any homeschooling group in Penang for no charge. The h/s movement then was young, none of the parents that attended the meeting that day never came back.  Nobody took up the offer to use my center. (My poor PR skills….sigh.)

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