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Letting Kids Take A Year Out

by Mamapumpkin‏
Posted on 12 November 2014

Letting kids take a year out from school or at any time during the course of their educational path is a great choice that many parents are reluctant to make due to the kiasu nature of Asian parenting in always wanting to get ahead and staying ahead. I can never understand this concept why it is so important for children to be the youngest graduate. Some say to save money. If they can skip a year, parents get to save a year of fees. Some just want their kids to get into the working world as fast as possible to either be ahead of their peers or to start earning as early as possible.

The thing is, at 15 or 16 or even at 20, did you know exactly what you wanted to do with your life? If you did, are you doing what you wanted to do since then? If it all pans out great just as you’d imagined it, you are most lucky! But not everyone has such luck. From the batch of my classmates and peers, I’d say less than 50% are performing what they graduated in. Some did a degree of their parent’s choice because they just couldn’t decide and didn’t know how to decide, some are just going with the flow and carrying on with the degrees they’d graduated with. How many of them are genuinely happy? Happy with sticking to our core degrees and spending the rest of our lives making a living out of it?

We ourselves here have experienced taking a year out merely by accident but nonetheless a good thought out coincidence because my kids are only 10 and 5 this year yet they have already experienced what it is like to not only NOT go to school every single day but were given the great opportunity to explore the world and get to know themselves a bit better. By widening your children’s eyes, stretching their ears, increasing their perspectives in having a broader mind, they get to think more, do more, and ultimately make better decisions about what they like and do not like.

In our year out 2014, after going to school every single day for a good 6 years and a year for my younger kid, the two girls got to experience the following:-

  1. TRAVEL - Traveling to Europe for 35 days straight. We visited France, Switzerland, England, Germany, Belgium and The Netherlands. Had we been at school, the most we could have taken off would be 2-3 weeks but since we weren’t at school, 5 weeks was our Haven. By choice, we did not visit all the touristy sites in Europe because we decided from the start that this was a children’s trip to experience another continent, the weather, the food, the people, learn about currencies, and to observe most of all how people lived other than in our home country. It was an amazingly rich experience for us just spending the whole 35 days as a family unit moving from city to city, having to make decisions, compromise and spend quality time with host families in every country. We visited loads of playgrounds and had a fabulous perfect time.
  2. NEW EXPERIENCES & EXPLORATION – With not going to school, we actually had the opportunity to participate and attend many events that being in school would not have allowed us to do due to scheduling conflicts. This year alone, we got to participate in entrepreneurial markets where my eldest daughter got to learn how to barter, trade and sell. She also got to learn how hard it was to man a stall and work for money. We attended the Home schooling Sports Day which was completely different from a typical school’s sports day where the community just stuck together with support and trust with everyone seen helping one another and not being at competition with each other. The kids got to participate in story telling sessions, yoga classes, baking classes, started Capoeira classes, went ice-skating, made an array of new dishes in the kitchen, learnt how to prepare a full dinner without my intervention, visited Bank Negara, the National Musuem, etc and you know what? The list is endless. They just did so much this year. Seriously, think about it. 52 weeks in a year and not a single one of it at school. So what do you do? All the things you’d struggle doing when you are at school!!!
  3. EXTRA TIME - Being at home every day gave them the extra time to learn new languages and skills such as how to make glue, how to make sago Melaka, how to make Sugee Cake, how to prepare for a public exhibition, how to present publicly, etc. They also managed to hone in on their language skills and dug deeper into any subject of interest such as loom bands and art and model making. With all this time, the world was their oyster and they only needed to drown themselves in anything that they wished. When else would one be able to have such freedom of pursuing their dreams with passion? And the best part? They learned how to do nothing. Yes, a very important skill indeed.
  4. GETTING CLOSER TO SELF – Inherently, I feel that one succeeds in this world when one is comfortable in their own skin. The world becomes clear and there is no pretence on any part when you know who you are, what you are capable of, where you want to go and how you are going to get there. Don’t you think? When you truly know yourself, you get to dictate your own terms on how you will live your life and not have the urge to compare yourself and your life to anyone else like the majority of people do. Having this time out of school undeniably has given my girls a chance to get to know themselves better. It has given them a quiet confidence that no school could ever instil as it is a solo journey of self-discovery. I am very grateful that my kids had this opportunity to give themselves the time and love for the things they are truly passionate about.

Even adults can take a year out and many do! When people are directionless sometimes, they take a year out from the hustle and bustle of work and spend a year traveling or doing other things to decide where they truly want to be. Unfortunately for us, this was also a year that my Mother-in-Law passed away, my Mother passed away and the diagnosis of my heart disease happened, all within this last 2 months. This makes me realise that there is a reason for everything and had we not taken a gap year, the stress of these changes might have flung me towards a nervous breakdown.

So, gap year anyone? It is extremely enlightening and if you ever have the opportunity, don’t think too hard about letting your kids take a year out. It is nourishment for their soul to find themselves and it is only when you know who you are that you can truly succeed in this amazing world.

 

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