Friday, June 14, 2013

Eleven: You're too old to be so shy.



So. Story behind me learning this song and obsessing over almost every song sang by Daughter:
I probably forgot to tell you this, but I recently started guitar class. Most of you might argue that I already know how to play the guitar and have been playing for the past four years, but I my sister went for class first and then said "I can't do both acoustic and electric, it's too much. Can you take my acoustic slot?" and I said "Okay".
The first song I learnt in class was 'Hey There Delilah' by Plain White T's. It wasn't too difficult because it was actually one of the songs I learnt by myself before, but never got to finishing the song until recently. Then, my teacher let me pick a song to learn and I was so excited. Since I was obsessing over Daughter, (they are really awesome although most of their songs are pretty sad, they're still awesome) I asked if he could teach me 'Candles'. I printed out the tab and brought it to class. Class only lasts 30 minutes, so by the time my teacher listened to the song and tried to figure it out and by the time I tuned my guitar down (because the song is not in standard tuning) 30 minutes was up and we didn't even get past the intro.
Then, I had a performance (which was so much fun) and so I skipped class. After that was term break and so for three weeks I was guitar class-less.
Then on Tuesday, which is when I have class I remembered I had to practice. So about an hour before class I started frantically trying to figure out the song because I had not practiced in three weeks. I managed to figure out where we went wrong; on the 5th string, I should've tuned it down to G instead of leaving it at A and that seemed to solve all of my problems with the song.
I got to class and before I finished playing the verse, my teacher stopped me said that he doesn't know how the song really sounds and therefore couldn't continue teaching it to me. (But I learnt the whole thing!) He said that loading the video on Youtube was too tedious and I should bring the song with me next time. The thing was that I don't download music illegally and I have yet to buy their album because they don't sell them at Rock Corner.
I spent the rest of the lesson learning 'Rolling In The Deep' by Adele instead.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Homeschooling 101.

After my Open Mic 101 post, I think I shall do another! There are a lot of questions about homeschooling going around lately, so I thought I'd write a quick guide to homeschooling from a homeschoolers point of view instead of a homeschooling parents point of view. I'm homeschooled, and I get asked tons of questions by people my age and even their parents sometimes, about what homeschooling is.
Section A: What is homeschooling?
There are actually a few kinds of homeschooling, and I took the liberty of organising it by the level of structure: 1 being the most structured for a homeschooler and 4 being the least.

1. Homeschooling in a learning centre: I think it's more like an alternative to regular school where there are classes, timetables, exams and all that.

2. Homeschooling at home: Essentially just studying at home. Mum and dad's the teacher, occasionally other tutors as well.

3. Community-based homeschooling: Learning with other families and not just your own, learning together in a group which is less formal compared to homeschooling in a learning centre.

4. Un-schooling: Anything and everything goes. Absolute freedom. Study about bugs for an entire month? Sure!

Now that you know what homeschooling is, I'm guessing you might want to homeschool or homeschool your children, because you are reading this blog post. I'm no expert, but I'll tell you based on what I know, if you don't mind. Note that this is just my opinion. Once you've read mine, please form your own opinions and decide how you want to go about your homeschooling journey. Here are some questions my parents and I get asked a lot. And I mean a lot. 
That leads me to...

Section B: Frequently asked questions.

1. What curriculum do you use use?
I feel that this is like asking someone what pencil they use to write because no matter what kind of pencil, the words are still written. Whatever curriculum, you'd still learn.
My siblings and I don't follow any curriculum at all. I do enjoy learning from Khan Academy though. For pre-schooled or younger homeschoolers though, my mom and dad advocate the curriculum of play. Yup, just play until they're ready to learn. It saves a lot of stress of trying to get little children to sit down to write when they are already learning so much from playing.

2. OMG homeschoolers are anti-social, aren't they?
That's what my friends thought. And they weren't afraid to tell it to me either. Just because we study on our own most of the time doesn't make us anti social. I'm shy, but not because of homeschooling, it's just the way I am. I actually find I have a lot more opportunity to interact with people of different ages being homeschooled because the people I learn with are not all the same age and level like in regular school. That gives us the opportunity to help one another and learn from each other. There are tons of networks of homeschoolers online, so there's no way possible you'd feel like you're alone :)

Here are some homeschooling blogs in Malaysia, if you are interested in finding out more:

http://learningbeyondschooling.org
http://homeschoolhomefrontier.com
http://malaysianhomeschoolingnetwork.blog.com

Also, if you'd like to hear from homeschoolers/unschoolers themselves:

http://karencuppycake.blogspot.com
http://sleepyheadsonly.wordpress.com
http://hafidzyoungscientist.blogspot.com

3. What are some homeschooling success stories?
Does anyone ask that question before they sign up for regular school? There are many success stories of people who have dropped out of college too, but it doesn't mean we'd do the same. I guess the success stories of homeschooling is like proof to doubters that what you're doing is right and that you're on the right track, like some kind of reassurance for them and yourself. I think a homeschooler or regular schooler is successful when they are happy. Happy with who they are, and happy with what they are learning.

4. What if my spouse/parents/friends/family/neighbours/classmates don't agree?
Show them this blog. Haha I'm kidding.
It might take time, and if you can't homeschool, make the best of your time and explore the wonderful world of learning outside a regular school. And be positive. My grandparents used to constantly interrogate us; "What are your parents teaching you?" and they'd say things like "You should go to school." now they seem okay with it. Although my grandmother would be delighted if I decide to become a doctor or something along those lines. (Doesn't seem like thats going to happen though...)

5. Exams and college- How do you go about doing that?

When I tell people I'm homeschooled, they reply:

"What?! You don't go to school??"
"Is that possible?"
"What about UPSR?"
"What about PMR?"
"What about SPM??"
and then inevitably...
"What about college??!!!???"


There are actually many homeschooling centres preparing students for the IGCSE's. There's also SPM, SAT's and so many more that can help someone get into college. You could also self-study the subjects you want to take and enter as a private candidate. There is also a movement called Uncollege, which is an alternative to regular college. Because regular college is just too mainstream.
WARNING: Watch out for what I'd like to call 'Panic Mode'. 'Panic Mode' is a point where parents freak out and think their children have not done enough as they approach their teenage years. They'd start frantically looking for alternatives and sign them for IGCSE programs or other programs, and sometimes too early. Please discuss with your child if this is what they want to do, or more of what you want them to do before you sign them up. There's also no age limit, so even if you're 20 and want to take IGCSE's it's not "too late" despite what many people say.

There is no standard way of homeschooling and I think thats the beauty of it; you get to decide. You could even be like a double agent by going to both regular school and homeschooling at the same time (I tried that for a while until I found music and couldn't possibly think of anything else). As much as the future is scary and unpredictable, try not to over-plan your homeschooling journey. I think it is important to communicate and not just assume. Listen to what your parents/children have to say because you may be all for regular school, but your parents might want to homeschool you. So explore your interests. Draw, or dance, or figure out mathematical equations. Oh, the possibilities are endless! Homeschooling an adventure. An adventure of self-discovery and becoming who we want to be, becoming independent.

Thanks for reading! And if you have any questions, I'm on ask.fm now: http://ask.fm/AmritaSoon

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Ten: TDC 15

It's 3 in the morning. Good morning! Time to update you on the happenings of... CAMP. 
To say that I enjoyed it would be a rather short and brief answer to say the least. Then again, as a long answer I could write you a book. Just to let you know, this was not one of those 'its-a-school-holiday-so-mum-shall-sign-you-up-for-every-possible-holiday-program-that-may-or-may-not-be-just-exploiting-you-of-not-only-your-time-but-also-your-money' situations. I went voluntarily. After my first experience of a camp that my parents didn't organise (which I had blogged about and carelessly forgot to click on the "publish" button but I remembered now, and you can read it HERE) I decided that I enjoyed the whole experience and would actually want to go again. I decided to call some friends to come with me, for it would guarantee way more fun that way. So almost all of us from the camp my parents organised came. When our forces combine, we have the ability to be a riot.
Because I had an audition to go to, I came late and conveniently avoided the awkward "Day 1" silence when nobody really talks to each other. First thing I had to do was to stick my face into a tray full of flour to get candy using only my mouth. Having my picture taken made it even more disconcerting. Okay, maybe I am overreacting a little. It was all really for good fun though.
Over the next few days, (inevitably) I had a lot of fun. And just like the other camp (if you haven't read my previous post...) it was packed full of activities. Puja and meditation was brief, and I really disliked meditation before this camp. I always found myself wandering corners of my mind during meditation that I didn't want to go to or getting distracted easily. Much to my surprise, I enjoyed this session quite a lot actually. We were instructed to visualise metta, or loving kindness as a light instead.
I made many new friends and many wonderful memories. I am so incredibly grateful to the committee and organisers for this camp, because I don't think I would be who I am now without these experiences.

Should've-posted-this-in-December-but-oh-well-here-it-is: YDC 21.

Buddhist camp: Five days. Four nights. Far away, with a bunch of strangers. What did I get myself into? I was afraid. Very much afraid. I don't see myself as a very religious person, but "Go hang out with people your age!" mom said. "It will be fun!", as I showed her the registration form my classmate, Cheryl passed to me the other day. In my head I didn't want to go. I decided to let fear decide and influence my decision. Then again... Face your fears right? So, I signed up. And I was dreading it a little.
I'm really confused right now trying to sort through exactly what happened those few days because our programs were filled to the brim each day and I'm trying to get the sequence of the activities right.
26th of December couldn't have come any faster. I scrambled to find a sleeping bag and packed as lightly as possible. I soon realized I had packed too little because everyone else had big huge bags and some of them even had wheels. I thought we were going straight to Dusun Eco but we were to spend the night here at the temple first. We were given a short introduction and ice-breaker sessions and then dinner. Talking to new people I have never met although we live a relatively close. I could almost hear my heart pounding. Then we were introduced to our groups. I'm terrible at remembering names, so thank goodness for name tags. The theme of this year's Youth Dharma Camp was the Dawn Of A New Self and we were given tribal group names. I didn't know what kind of new self I was about to discover from this camp though. The floor where we slept on was cold and hard but it was clean. And a little hollow. We spent the next few days in Dusun Eco, sleeping on double bunk beds complet with sand and bugs. An orchestra of insects sang for us the entire duration of the time. We played all sorts of games. The organizers made us run all over the place searching for clues. From the moment we woke until the moment we went to bed were filled with activities. Never have I been to a buddhist camp like that. We weren't given time to miss home. At all. We went from a bunch of strangers to good friends within the first few days. You could burst into song at any time in the day and you wouldn't be weird. How fun is that?
The second day, we were given a map of the place and were required to go to selected place to complete tasks to get materials to make a vodoo doll. My first thought was: why do we need to make a vodoo doll? I always found those things scary. We were supposed to go into the forest area and complete an obstacle course while two group members sang songs. And to get to that forest place we had to walk up and down many flights of stairs and steep hills. When we got there, we didn't see any obstacle course so we went back and retraced our steps. Turns out it was the right place after all but we had to go deeper into the jungle area. Okay. That wasn't too hard. Next one. Flip a coin. Each person had to flip only once and it had to be heads and then tails or you'll have to start again. Sounds easy, but we spent nearly an hour at that station. Then we had to fold paper planes and throw them down and it had to go through the hula hoop. Okay. Did that. Then we had to find bottles of marbles but only those with a particular number of marbles and the bottles were thrown into the water. Okay did that too. There was no time left to do the others so we couldn't get the very special coconut shell. But if all 8 teams got that, then it wouldn't be special, would it? So ours was really creepy with a balloon for a head, wrapped up in cloth and dripping with red paint for blood.
After this, I can't remember what we did on each day. In my head it all felt like one very long day. We played another game called 'The Game Of Life' which was essentially telling you how cruel real life is. We were given two main tasks and that was to help one group and to sabotage another. To do that, we needed money. To get the money, we had to complete projects but the team had to be confined to a specific area and only the leader was allowed to go about outside. It was a trick, I could feel it. I also realized everyone in the camp were all very strongly opinionated and not many were willing to listen to other's opinions properly. I knew we had to focus on what was important, which was to complete the main two tasks, but we got blinded by the money and the bribing and the other groups we shouldn't have made alliances with. So clearly, we lost but with an account full of money that we didn't spend properly.
There was also another workshop. We were taught that we have a choice. We have a choice to react and we have a choice not to react. It was about thinking and feeling how to not let your emotions take over, analyzing where they are influenced from, whether it's from the outside or from the inside, how you can choose not to be influenced or affected by them. I found it very fascinating but felt bad that so many of the participants were nodding off.
Next was a captain ball match. I like captain ball. Only this time there was a catch, its in the water. The freezing, ice cold water. Perfect for the accident prone people. One of the girls got a very bad cut on her toe from a tile in the pool and many of us got bruises that we couldn't remember how we got them.
We were also supposed to go for a night walk but it was raining so it got postponed and the new plan was to watch a movie and then go for the night walk. My guess was it was going to be some kind of buddhist movie like The Cup or something. Then the show started and it was a ghost movie. I hate any movie that is scary and it was by far the scariest movie I have ever seen in my entire life. Everything about that movie was scary, even the credits. As I'm typing this, the parts of the movie I watched with my eyes opened are flashing through my brain.
After that traumatizing event, the facilitators sent us out into the wilderness for a midnight game. With only one torchlight per group, we had to go to stations, at night and collect alphabets to form a few words. We were sent out one group at a time into the dark to search for these stations. I looked up to see the full moon shining hauntingly at us. The scenes of the movie were replaying in my head along with all the Criminal Minds episodes I had been watching before I left for camp. In my head I thought of all the ways we could've potentially been killed. Needless to say, I was terrified and so was everyone else. We walked up to the highest point to find someone standing alone staring at us like we were food, dressed up as some kind of ghost with her long hair covering her pale, blood stained face. Every station after that was either just as scary or worse. Mangled doll body parts were scattered and we had to search for them. We were chased by zombies with blindfolds and made to walk a suspension bridge. Can you imagine the fear that was running through my veins.
Anyway....
It ended up being a lot of fun and I'm home now, listening to my little brother's monologue of every single character's line in Spongebob, which means I have lived to tell the tale.
I'm home!