Hard life: Students at a private school in South Jakarta sit in a class. The punishing schedule applied by state schools has prompted parents to teach their children themselves or hire tutors at home. This homeschooling method gives children a chance to further explore their own interests. (JP/P.J. Leo)
For 10-year-old Yudhistira Gowo Sumiaji, the freedom he gained by planning his own school schedule helped him learn to love school.
“I usually start my day at 8 a.m. and finish at around 11 a.m. I study math, English or draw a comic strip on my computer and edit some pictures with Photoshop,” he said.
His other subjects include cooking, arts and tutorial sessions from the Internet.
Every day, five days a week, he has seven sessions that he schedules himself.
“What’s good about this is that I can get up at any time in the morning without worrying that I will be late for school ... home is my school,” he said.
Yudhistira’s father, Sumardiono, said he chose homeschooling because conventional school was too rigid for his son, and its punishing schedule was too much for a 10-year-old.
“I’m afraid that will only cause our children to miss opportunities to know and explore their interests,” the father of three said.
Sumardiono said that most conventional schools turned a blind eye to student diversity, assuming that all students have the same capabilities and skills.
“Besides, through homeschooling, we can avoid bullying, peer pressure and brawls,” he added.
Sumardiono and his wife teach their children by themselves, using guidance from various homeschooling materials provided on the Internet.
“We want them to think critically, to be active and not be afraid to question many issues,” he said.
They track the progress of their son, posting it on the family website, and have set up a blog for Yudhistira to post his test results and essays.
To assess Yudhistira’s progress and competence, Sumardiono said that he uses regular textbooks as reference materials and lesson sources.
“Yudhistira has passed the equivalence test for the final examinations for sixth grade,” he said.
Yayah Komariah, another parent, said that her kids have more fun learning.
“We can learn about many things anywhere — at the park, on the street, in the kitchen, anytime. It’s more fun,” she said.
Yayah may use curriculum from the Education Ministry as a reference point, but she tries to keep the lessons flexible and fun.
“That way, they have more time to explore their passions, and the desire to learn comes naturally from them, not because we, the parents, force them,” Yayah, a former teacher, said.
Seto Mulyadi, chairman of the Home Schooling and Alternative Education Association (ASAH PENA) said that homeschooling should not only mean studying at home, but also involve an alternative education in which children can study in a friendly environment free from stress.
“More parents today teach their children by themselves, hire tutors, or enroll them in schools that use the ‘at home’ approach,” he said.
He said parents began to realize that, with homeschooling, their children could still attend college and would have the same opportunities as those who attended formal schools.
“Homeschoolers can take the equivalence examinations for each level of education,” he said, adding that many homeschoolers even went on to medical, law and business schools.
The 2003 Education Law, which regulates homeschooling as an alternative form of education, recognizes three forms of education: formal, non-formal and informal. Those partaking in non-formal and informal educations can take three equivalent tests: package A for sixth grade, package B for ninth grade and package C for 12th grade.
However, Seto said parents of children embarking on homeschooling should also take their children’s social lives into consideration.
“They should be creative enough in finding ways that will allow their kids to interact with other kids,” he said.
He added that enrolling children in various types of courses or community programs could help homeschoolers connect with other people.