I just got this email from Colin, who’s taken the trouble to get in touch with me. I’m honoured. But he’s grilled me, and here are my responses in bold. I thought I might as well blog them here, which he suggested I do, so others could read them too…
Hi Asim, I was reading your blog about homeschooling your children and I had a few questions for you. I’ve read all of your entries but found no answers to these questions. Maybe you could make a blog entry out of them.
1. What about the formal studies of history, geography, English literature and Art. Clearly your children are destined for similar professions as you and your wife. Do you not think these have any scholarly value?
We could learn everything from Ancient Chinese, Material Science, Modern day Ethiopia, History of Women’s Rights, Abacus Skills, French Art in the 1920’s, Buddhism, Early History of Judaism, Science of Cricket, Sumo Wrestling Techniques, Chess, Fertilisation Methods in early 18th Century, etc… Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could live forever and learn everything? But we can’t. Knowledge isn’t free. It has a cost – time – our most precious commodity of all.
And thus we need to be selective in what we learn (and learn efficiently).
Study for the sake of study? Well, I could spend the next 20 years learning the 1983 Karachi phone directory – study for the sake of study – but I’d call that a ‘waste of time’. Why? Because I can’t apply that knowledge. That’s a view I take – knowledge is useless unless it’s applied. It’s the application of knowledge that is important. You may disagree, many do.
So, what I’m saying, is that my kids are learning things that I believe they will be most likely to apply constructively in their lives. I believe we’ve taught them how to attain knowledge – for example, my two elder children have learned their Physics A-level pretty much by themselves. So if they want to learn about French Art in the 1920’s, or anything else, they can, if they’re interested (not everything has to be useful – you can do things for pleasure too). But I’m not going to make them learn it as part of their curriculum – they’ll learn it if they want.
2. Did you move back to Malaysia for financial reasons to start the home school was it always part of the plan?
The move to Malaysia was to pursue business opportunities as well as provide an environment that we thought would more likely bring up children with strong moral values.
3. Your wife and yourself are obviously of 99th percentile intelligence. What has been your experience of people with lesser skillsets than yourselves pursuing your aggressive timeline. Is it even possible if you don’t have the majority of the skills yourselves?
My wife is intelligent in most ways. I’m not. For example, when I was seven I failed to get into two private schools despite having tutors to help me.
Regarding other kids, I’m currently teaching an 11 year old who failed to get into a pretty normal school in Malaysia because of his test results. He’s learned in 5 weeks as much maths as what schools teach in about 3 months. I’m hoping he’ll do his 16+ exams when he’s 12, latest 13.
4. You mentioned life skills (cooking, finance etc). How do you ensure these have been transferred correctly.
Kids cook great food, the two elder ones have got iGCSEs in Accounting!
5. I imagine your lifestyle has been met with a wide range of criticisms. I, myself feel I failed my children in educating them in comparison. How have you dealt with the fallout from this radical approach.
I doubt you’ve failed your children at all – everyone has different goals.
I don’t get that much criticism! Apart from my parents who are completely crapping it that some of their grandkids may end up not having degrees!
I only saw my father cry in happiness once – when he found out I got my place at Oxford. For someone who came to the UK as an immigrant with nothing but a suitcase, discriminated racially, it was amazing for him to see his son get a place in the finest education institution in the country. Even to this day I feel absolutely honoured to have studied there – amazing memories and where I met Isabelle – those were good times.
But I want my kids to be able to achieve much greater things, and do more of what they’re really passionate about. And that means having to make certain sacrifices…