Jakarta. As senior students finish the last of their examinations to graduate high school and enter their respective dream universities, parents anxiously wait for results and can only hope for the best.
The start of a new school year is never an easy time for parents, whose hopes and dreams for their offspring ride on their acceptance to only the best schools.
In the light of Indonesia’ National Education day on May 2, perhaps it is time we study our own children in order to find the best way for them to study.
Indrawaty Tio, based in Jakarta, is a mother of one who believes education for her child should be customized accordingly. Initially, she enrolled her son, Mateo, at a formal pre-school for a year. After noticing that he could not be constrained to sit in a classroom during the day, she decided to find an alternative. Several of her church friends mentioned they have followed the home school method, so she decided to give it a try as well. After discussing this with her husband, they agreed to focus on Mateo’s character development.
“At first, it was difficult for our parents to accept that their grandchild is not enrolled in a formal school,” she said.
After a couple of years, Mateo showed significant progress and seemed to enjoy his time learning at home.
Indrawaty thinks it is easier to teach her son good habits, such as honesty and responsibility through home-schooling. Indrawaty follows the Sonlight Christian Home-school Curriculum, for which she annually pays Rp 10 million ($860).
“That’s another perk; if I were to enroll my son in an international school, I would have to pay a school fee of Rp 10 million per month,” she said.
Child psychologist Seto Mulyadi said home-schooling is growing strong as an alternative method of education. Parents today are beginning to realize that many educational institutions are far from children-friendly. Student brawls, bullying and drug abuse are among signs that formal education is in danger of failing our children. In many schools, a teacher must deal with too many students in a classroom, so their changes often go unnoticed. Home-schooling emphasizes an individual approach. Seto himself used the method for his own three children.
“In home-schooling, a child is [treated] as more than just a number in the classroom, but as a complete human being,” he said. “We don’t come in as teachers, but tutors, so we can be a best friend to these kids.”
In 2006, Seto initiated an association for home-schoolers and other alternative education methods called Asah Pena. After years of catering to parents and students who practice alternative education, the organization is looking to seek support from education offices at provincial and city levels. To gather ideas and support, the association will hold a congress in Bali next month which aims to educate people on the possibility of combining formal schools with home-schooling.
“A lot of government officials still don’t understand that children are allowed to do that, as long as they are competent,” Seto said. “For example, they can do home-schooling for junior high school, then enter a formal senior high school, or the other way around.”
Anastasia Rima Hendrarini, a single mother and a marketing consultant in Jakarta, never regretted the decision she made seven years ago when she took her children out of formal school. Her first son, Raka, was initially enrolled at a nature school (sekolah alam). When the school was caught in the middle of a dispute, she felt the environment became too risky for her child.
Her second son, Deli, would often refuse to go to school in the morning, putting him in danger of being sent home again when he finally arrived on campus, a policy Rima disagreed with.
“I didn’t think it was the correct way of dealing with children who refuse to go to school,” she said. “And I didn’t see why I should keep my son in a place that doesn’t know how to treat students.”
As a parent, Rima — who later on became one of the founding members of Asah Pena — believes her task is to ensure her children reach their maximum potential. She registered at her area’s education office and stated her intention to conduct home-schooling for her children. As Rima was still working as a freelancer at the time, the first three months turned out to be tough and often overwhelming. First, she introduced the concept of obligations, duties and rights as basic rules to communicate at home.
“When our children are able to understand the importance of respecting other people’s time and rights, it gets easier for parents to do their job,” she explained.
Rima said she likes to discuss every topic in depth with her sons, instead of giving them simple “yes” and “no” answers. In return, she enjoys watching her sons grow up in a different, non-mainstream way. She recalled the precious memory of listening to her children discus AIDS when Raka was 12 and Deli was 7. They knew enough about the deadly disease to be able to define it, explain how it can spread and what social impacts it has on those who are affected.
“I had my concerns on whether or not my sons were able to compete with students in a formal school setting, but listening to their comprehensive discussion, I think we are doing alright.”
According to Seto, parents are natural teachers to their children, so they don’t have to fear a lack of skills or experience to teach. He pointed out that every human being can talk and walk because their parents teach them to. Home-schooling is a constitutional right for children, and it is very doable. The problem usually lies on whether or not parents are willing and able to spare the time to educate their own children.
“There is enough legal support for any parent to do home-schooling,” he said.
However, not all the reactions toward the idea of educating children at home are positive, and a social rejection to alternative education methods is not only felt by the parents. Seto’s youngest daughter, Dhea, has heard her fair share of comments from her own aunt. But the 16-year-old believes she is on the right path.
“My dad never told me to get good grades,” she said. “He’s happy as long as I’m happy doing it.”
Rima said, by practicing home-schooling, she also redefined her own meaning of success.
“I no longer want my children to get good grades and be the best student,” she said. “I just want them to be useful to others and happy with what they do.”