Capturing our love for art, adventure and learning
Feeling like a failure is a crushing feeling that many are familiar with.
"Look at so-and-so, they have achieved XYZ, what have you achieved?"
"This thing you are doing? You'll never amount to anything"
"Everyone has done this, why can't you?"
"Wish you could be like your sibling..."
"You MUST do this, I'll be really disappointed if you are the only one in the family that don't achieve this!"
"I will only buy you this toy/thing if you achieve THIS"
We've probably heard these things in different forms at some point of our lives. These are made of bone crushing and spirit breaking stuff. They have the power put us on course towards the excruciating abyss of a lifetime of self-pity and depression. And yet, such thoughts are found in the very heads that it traumatised. So many of us find ourselves continuing the cycle of hurt that we so detest.
We've been homeschooling for almost 8 years. It has been a highly rewarding AND reflective journey. Although it wasn't a decision taken lightly, many questioned and doubted our choice. You see, Debra and I grew up in an immensely stressful education system and culture. It is a land where success and one's value is very narrowly defined. It is a system where many children wake up from 530am and only stop school related activities at 10pm before bed time. It is a country of just over half a million school going kids (7 to 16) but they generate S$1.68 billion (£1 billion/USD1.25 billion) annually for the private tuition industry. Growing number of parents go as far as purchasing multi-million dollar properties to secure places in "better schools" to ensure success for their children. The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) rankings is almost validation of the pressure put on children. Singapore is ranked second in the world for reading literacy, mathematics, and science in 2018. Despite the stellar results, there is a shocking amount of people that grow up feeling like a failure. This extreme fear of not measuring up and not achieving enough is encapsulated in a word so famous that the Oxford dictionary incorporated it: KIASU.
One of our greatest motivation for homeschooling our children is our desire to break this cycle of trauma. We saw and experienced the pain as students and former teachers in the public education system. We didn’t want to raise unhappy children that loathed learning, loathed life and loathed themselves.
These are perhaps the 3 most salient lessons I've learnt from 8 years of teaching my own children and in that process unlearning what I've been told.
1. It is okay to fail.
Not achieving success is a highly uncomfortable experience. Nobody likes to fail. This gives us even more reasons to respond kindly when someone experiences failure. If we were to break the cycle of trauma, we have to learn to accept that failures are experienced. Failure is an experience that DOES NOT define us.
2. Don't compare, compare.
The problem is not comparison. The problem lies in the ranking and judging that follows comparison. It is intellectual indolence to define people simply by looking at their wealth, status or grades. If human life is precious, we must surely agree that its worth cannot be defined by what that life has achieved or not.
It is inevitable that parents compare their children with their siblings or other children. We compare our children too. Comparison should help you see how unique your child is. Comparison should help you understand them as an individual. Comparison should help us discover their strengths and weaknesses and inform us of the best way to facilitate learning.
Comparison is about understanding. Comparison is not for ranking or judgement.
3. Love unconditionally
I hope I'll always make my children feel loved simply because I love them. I don't want them to ever feel like they need to please me with something before they are loved. It is manipulative and narcissistic to give gifts, love and affection only when your loved one can bring a success in exchange. We've seen many instances in our culture where one's worth is based on how much "honour" and "face" value you can bring to your family/parents/loved one. One should never have to experience "love" that is dependent on their achievements.
Love is not self-seeking.
Nobody is a failure just because they experience failure. No one should be made to feel like a failure and have their worth defined by comparison. No one should have to feel like they are a failure that don't deserve love because they did not achieve something.
Our first British Summer is finally here. We've been out and about making the best of the dry weather and long days. Britain is GORGEOUS in summer! We hope you'll enjoy the 60 plus photos that'll come up in this bumper post. More than that I'd like to share a little of why we are surrendering. We are putting up the white flag.
Finally after 6 months, we have touched the sea again. We surrendered to the lure of the sea and being able to dress in shorts/t-shirt again. I think more than that is the fact we are back at a place we visited 10 years ago and were disappointed because it was closed. This is a recurring theme that I'll talk about in detail later.
Brighton beach is my kind of beach. Instead of the regular sand, there are pebbles instead. No messy cleanups. Just strolling down the beach and enjoying the sea breeze brought smiles to all our faces. The pier is also an amazing place if you enjoy bumper cars and old school roller-coasters. The British seaside charm is a very unique experience that you can only fully experience in summer. It comes alive in summer and hibernates in winter.
A short drive away down the Marine Parade was a series of white cliffs. The famed cliffs that inspired the song "The White Cliffs of Dover". Although this isn't dover, it still evoked a moment of deep reflection. This was one of the last things we saw before Debra and I left the UK on our honeymoon 10 years ago. It was so stunning we were speechless.
With the dry weather going strong, we planned another trip a few days after returning from the South Coast. With our snack bag and lunch packs done up, we booked tickets to a museum in London and punched in the address on google maps. 1 hour into the drive, we hit the first of several traffic jams on the motorway. A quick time check made us realise that we can't take the kids to the play area and museum anymore. "Plan B then!" I thought to myself. We parked the car and realised that the cable-car station we planned to go to wasn't where we thought it was. It was a 20 minute walk away and we decided against picking a fight with the blazing hot sun. We surrendered. We quickly consulted google maps again and decided to take the river bus down the thames towards the most central areas of London. We were ALL thrilled with the speed and power of the boat as well as the awesome views. It was a special perspective to see the city from the Thames itself.
You may be thinking...the UK can't be hotter than the tropics? Thing is, a lot of British homes and public transport aren't built to deal with the heat. At 27 celcius it can feel like you are suffocating. Fans and air-conditioners DO NOT come standard in houses, buses and Underground trains. It can be a pretty miserable experience if you are in a packed train on the London Underground without air-conditioning. House windows usually come with very small openings. It is mostly a small narrow opening at the top. So we've been flying the white flag lately hoping for the colder days to come back. Life can be SO ironic isn't it?
On this trip, we have also surrendered our money at the Leicester Square Lego store. The selection at the store is massive. If you love Lego, you'll be amazed at the Aston Martin, London bus and Harry Potter themed life sized displays. We decided to get the kids very early birthday presents. Debra got a custom Lego figure that is seriously her alter-ego. Maybe when the kids are grown up, I'll be hanging out with a wife with neon pink hair at the beach. (Scroll down for example...)
After a long day of amazing sights and shopping, we needed a good dinner. I knew Din Tai Fung would satisfy all of us. It has been 6 long months since we last had a Chinese restaurant meal. We surrendered to the "wok hey", chili oil and baos. I think that the experience is a bittersweet one because my late-father loved Din Tai Fung. It was his last birthday meal and last restaurant meal. The meal stirred up memories and we all also wished my mom was in the UK enjoying it with us. It tasted extra good after a long day of braving the jams, crowds and the heat. We did however have to surrender £75 (SGD 126.93, USD 94.60).
The ride back to our car on the Elizabeth Line was a lot quieter and air-conditioned. We were greeted by a mesmerising sunset.
I think this is the biggest and most significant part of our surrender. Earlier, I spoke about the recurring theme of surrendering. At some point, one will realise how brutal life can be. There are moments that will completely wreck havoc in our lives. Just like a traffic jam or sudden closure, it can upset our plans. 10 years ago when Debra and I felt the disappointment of not being able to see Brighton Pier and South Stack Light house, I don't think we realised 10 very hard years were before us.
Whether you call it God's plans, fate or just life, it takes a certain level of surrender to keep going. We need to realise that quite often, not everything can be planned or controlled. We dreamt and we planned in search of a homeland we would find wholesome for a family but the search was long and fruitless. The pandemic and my dad's passing rocked us real hard. The only way we could stay sane was when we surrendered and took one day at a time.
Being back in North Wales at the South Stack Lighthouse was a very special moment.
We would never imagine that we will be here 10 years later with two children. It is extra special because after our trip here 10 years ago, we found out we were pregnant with Matthias. The beauty of Wales made such a huge impact that 3 years after that, I decided name my daughter Gwyneth which is the anglicised spelling of Gwynedd. Gwynedd is the Welsh county where Snowdonia is. That's also where our love affair with mountains began. How our lives are panning out now is beyond our wildest imagination. I believe in surrendering now. This surrender can bring a lot of peace. Putting away the pride and having faith that one day, things will work for our good keeps us going.
The sea bashes the rocks and the winds assault the cliffs but seabird colonies continue to thrive. The rain lashes out but the flowers still bloom. The resilience in nature and its staggering beauty of remind us that out of the immense pressures something good will emerge! If you're facing a difficult time, don't give up.
We ended our time in Wales around Great Orme in Llandudno. Gwyn enjoyed the views so much that she asked Debra and I if we could buy a house there so she can enjoy the views every day. Perhaps darling...perhaps.
We'll see you guys round the corner for the next adventure!
Faster, better and newer is the only way we've been told. Life is lived by treading the narrow lane of doing only what makes you profits, gives you savings and advances your overall career or wealth. We've rejected that very early on with our odd life. We chose a line of work that allowed us to homeschool our kids and worked from home long before the pandemic happened. We chose the road, our mental health and building a core memory with our children.
The "skeletons" of the UK keep reminding us of why we've made this huge move across the globe. We chose this life so we have the freedom to preserve memories and form our identities beyond the prescribed way of life.
I recall when dad first retired, he would spend his days cycling to places around Singapore. He would take long bus rides from one end of the island to another. He would also come home and lament how the Singapore he knew is no longer around. He would tell us of the places he formed great memories at and how they have disappeared. I felt that it was his way of reconnecting with the land and his surroundings after more than 40 years of work that occupied so much of his time. But his attempt at reconnection only brought out a sad sense of disconnect. I was then only in my early 30s but his experience resonated deeply with me. So many places that defined my childhood have been torn down in favour of the newer and better. It explains my own disconnect with the supposed "home" country.
Old places, things and buildings give us a sense of stability in our identity and acts as a reference point for us. The sense of place forms our identities, sometimes personally and sometimes as a collective. When I first stepped foot in Britain and the rest of Europe, I observed how they have kept vast amounts of old buildings and archived artefacts in museums. You can find a museum for anything from transportation, space, natural history, art, science, astrology to lawnmowers. (There's really a British Lawnmower Museum in Southport!) Debra and I often laugh about how the Brits are such hoarders because they keep and preserve everything.
We visited Oxford for an afternoon last weekend and the realisation hit me like a freight train. These worthless "Skeletons" that are preserved do tell a story. That story is continuously told to generations and beyond if we preserve, display and teach about them. Museums, old buildings, old things and skeletons are important because they are depositories of our collective cultural and historical identities. They make us, us.
Preservation of heritage is not just a frivolous nostalgic exercise.
It dawned upon me that these places we visit and form memories at will still exist when I'm long dead. Matthias could be walking into Oxford University Museum of Natural History in 2083 with his grandchildren, recounting his childhood running down the hall of a building opened in 1860 with his sister Gwyn. There in an instance, an invisible thread connects 4 generations, their memories and their ties with the land.
We had a magical afternoon hearing the stories these skeletons and buildings of several hundred years speak to us. We know that we are all gaining knowledge, creating memories and forming our identities.
We were also excited to find some ancient Egyptian artefacts and other artefacts that helped us make sense of history. How did writing come about? What is embalming? It is one thing reading about it, it is another seeing, hearing, being physically present and touching something as a process of learning. Both kids were never fond of museums before we came to Britain. They are now excited about going to one because they make their books and Horrible Histories show come alive.
What are your thoughts? How important is preserving heritage to you?
We say, keep the skeletons (old buildings, places and artefacts too!) and let them speak wondrous stories to generations.
We covered how as Singaporeans we are able to homeschool our kids legally in this post.
We did cover some aspects of how we teach and what we use on our travels to homeschool them. I felt that I didn’t cover the road schooling aspect sufficiently.
Road schooling is basically homeschooling while being on the road (travelling/exploring/roaming).
What’s the difference you may ask? Well here is our odd life as Road Schoolers!
Permanence vs constant change
Most homeschoolers (as the name suggests) are schooled from their homes. Usually there is one homeschool parent at home who is the teacher. They may form groups where they co-teach with other homeschool parents or organise trips/enrichment/playdates. There is some form of permanence in the arrangement and location.
Road schoolers on the other hand are travelling and moving from destination to destination. They are usually homeschooled exclusively by their parent/s while they travel. They meet new people and have new classrooms according to their travel plans.
Road schoolers have to be lean in the physical items they use for school. They cannot afford to bring an entire physical library with them. This does not mean that they have limited access to materials. It means that they tend to go digital. Homeschoolers have the luxury of more storage space.
We carry only...
-A stack of writing paper,
We can't have the luxury of visiting a physical library overseas but we can access Singapore’s National Library’s collection on the Libby app. We can borrow and return books at any time as long as there’s an internet connection. They also use Khan academy (website and apps) often as a supplement.
Reading about it vs being there to experience it
Quite often, we are content to show children the maps and talk about landscapes, animals and history through the text books. We acknowledge that we don’t always have the time and resources to let them go where the lesson is and experience it.
We realised that road-schooling is a very experiential form of learning. We walked among the tea plants and climbed the steep slopes where rice terraces were situated. They didn’t just get to see and feel the tea leaves, they felt the burn in their legs (and on their skin) and realised how tough farming was.
Visual and auditory learners may be contented with watching a video at their desks but that would be a nightmare for others. Road schooling is a kinaesthetic learner’s dream. You’ll get to walk around in search of clues, look at exhibits and feel them (if permitted).
Road schooling kids get more freedom to choose what they will take away from a lesson. Be it a mall or museum, they are learning!
We recently visited this amazing little store in Mytown shopping mall that sells and showcases products that the older generation used to consume. It is like a time tunnel we took to travel back to the past when the idea of play and delicious treats were different.
We also had an amazing time of learning and reflection at the National Museum of Malaysia in Kuala Lumpur. We got to physically walk through a journey of how human civilisation came to be in this region. The different exhibitions led us through the lives of the early inhabitants all through colonial rule, Japanese occupation, communist insurgency and independence. Matthias also realised how much of history was treachery.
Matthias saw how much culture and History Singapore and Malaysia shared.
Did you know the region used to be one piece of land 18000 years ago? The low sea levels meant that we were mostly joined by land which allowed the floral and fauna to travel/spread throughout the region. It's great to learn something new!
E.g. Matthias and I would go on Wikipedia to read about the top speed of trains, the rolling stock manufacturers and information about the KL Rapid Transit system. We also learnt of an AMAZING invention in KL called the BRT. An entire network of elevated roads that are solely for the use of buses to the ply the route like a train. These buses are FULLY ELECTRIC.
Although we are happy of the positive impact of the network on traffic jams and emissions, we also learnt that Malaysia generates more than 60% of its energy using COAL and more than 30% using natural gas. Singapore also generates 95% of our energy using natural gas. All of which are finite fossil fuels that contribute to global warming and pollution. This is despite both countries being situated near the equator where sunlight is aplenty. These aren’t things you plan to teach an 8 year old but one thing leads to another and it makes learning fun/relevant.
Schedule changes, flight delays, accommodation change, climate changes, changing road conditions, different cuisines and the ever-changing circumstance of a travelling life builds resilience.
It is unlikely that one is able to road school without being minimalists. And that in itself teaches a child that they don’t need a lot. We have been living out of two cabin sized suitcases and our small individual backpacks for close to 20 weeks. It is perfectly fine being content with what we have.
Road schooling just provides a rich environment for resilience to be formed.
Not just the kids who learn
This journey of road schooling isn’t just for the kids. Debra and I have learnt so much in this whole adventure. In fact we’ve learnt to be the solution to our problems. It has been quite a journey trying to get Matthias and Gwyneth sufficient exposure to the Tamil language. Tamil books for young children are really hard to come by even if you have full access to the National Libraries. You will find entire levels of English books, probably half a level of Mandarin books, a whole section of Malay books and ONE SHELF of kids Tamil books. The shelf isn’t even usually full.
Debra was initially perplexed and frustrated with this issue. However with much encouragement, she pursued her dream of many years to publish a bilingual book series in Tamil and English for our children.
These books were written with an inclusion of the local context and in future to include scenes inspired by our travels. If possible, we would love to create bilingual versions with English and Mandarin/Malay but we will need help for that.
I’ve experienced a similar journey myself finding materials and stories that may help us in grieving and remembering my dad. The only way I am going to find a book that is specific to our life experience and journey is to write one myself. So I’ve put my English Literature degree to good use and wrote a book of my own in remembrance of my dad.
We hope to have your support when they are officially launched soon!
Road schooling has been quite a journey for us. What are you thoughts? Share them with us in the comments, anonymous message link (on Instagram) or chat with us!
If you’ve landed here on this post you must be a little interested in how a Singaporean family can home school two kids while they travel! Under the compulsory education act, a Singaporean child below 15 and above 6 years of age must receive primary education in a national primary school unless exempted.
The first step to homeschooling is really to ask yourself:
1. Can i commit long-term to my child’s learning?
2. Am i willing to learn and adapt WITH my child?
3. Will i keep an open mind and do what is BEST FOR THE child?
Homeschooling is a long term commitment. For at least 6 years, you will need to make an effort to create learning moments. Don’t do it if you can’t commit to it.
The most common comment I hear from aspiring homeschool parents or people considering it for their children is “I am not qualified to teach my own kids, i don’t know how to teach.” Consider this, we didn’t have widespread formal classroom learning in society until the recent 200 years. Human civilisation has existed for thousands of years when parents and the elders “informally” taught their children language, math, life skills etc…They weren’t paper qualified were they?
Even though Debra and I are former trained MOE teachers, we don’t know everything. Homeschooling will challenge the most qualified teachers if they aren’t willing to ADAPT and LEARN. The key is really just an open mind and a willingness to challenge your preconceived ideas of learning. Remember, every child is different and everyone learns differently!
Here are some steps will have to take before you can legally homeschool:
(We sharing about our personal experience. Rules and regulations can change from time to time. This is not meant to be legal advice)
1. Around midyear the year your child turns 6, you’ll need to apply for a place in a public school. If you intend to homeschool and apply for exemption, you’ll still need to apply for a place in school
2. After you’ve done that, you can write to the MOE compulsory education unit (via email) and indicate your desire to homeschool your child. They will ask for information about your child and ask for personal details etc. You’ll get a bunch of forms to fill up. You are required to school your children FULL TIME. So you can’t be having a full time job and be the main homeschool parent. They will look at the homeschool parent’s credentials as well. They are more likely to accept homeschool parent/s who are graduates.
3. The process really starts when they send you a package of documents. This is the most difficult part. You’ll need to provide your plan for 6 entire years of their compulsory primary education. This involves extensive work prior to submission.
You’ll need to have a syllabus, a timeline of what is learnt and how it is learnt. You’ll have to cover English, Math, Science, Mother Tongue for 6 whole years. You can add on other areas of learning like religious teachings, coding or other areas into your learning scheme. They also ask for a time-table you intend to work with.
Your child must still be able to pass the PSLE (he/she will be required to take the exam the year they turn 12). We chose the MOE syllabus for Matthias because it is something we are familiar with.
This is really the most daunting part for most parents. We are happy to connect and assist anyone who is interested to homeschool their children!
4. There will be a home visit by an MOE officer to determine the suitability of the learning environment. Your child will also be asked a few questions about the home situation, learning with you etc.
5. The officer in charge may write back to you and ask more questions about your learning scheme. They are usually kind enough to provide advice on how you can improve it for approval. Upon a final approval by the ministry, they will send you an official letter stating you are legally allowed to homeschool your child. The whole process usually happens between September and November.
6. Upon approval, you can then proceed to withdraw your child from the school he/she got a place in. You can provide the ministry letter and correspondence to support your withdrawal. It is usually just an email to the school.
Here is how we do school with two kids turning 8 and 5 this year…
There is no escape from worksheets, writing and table work when it comes to learning. We follow the MOE syllabus for all subjects and so we do use MOE text books. We travel with their text books, story books, paper, stationary, learning cards and exercise books.
We follow a very simple style of teaching:
1. Teacher lectures
2. Teacher practices with the student
3. Child is assigned independent work
4. Teacher reviews independent work and reinforces learning with student
We intentionally make this style of learning only less than a couple hours a day with the kids. The point of homeschool is not to replicate the public school classroom. Our kids learn throughout the day in different contexts, languages and environments.
Apart from their academic pursuits, we make sure they are learning to love others and themselves. Matthias loves coding and Gwyneth loves to draw. We give them space to pursue there interests.
My favourite part about homeschooling is that we can be flexible about when we learn, how we learn and what we learn. We can do progress faster with Math because Matthias is able to. We can spend more time on Tamil because he needs more practice. We can take a holiday from school when we need it. Their learning is tailored to their needs. We can continue with school through June because we want to.
We learn about the weather systems when walking through the clouds on a mountain. We learn math when we calculate the tax on the restaurant bill or multiply the price of fuel by how much we pumped into the tank. We learn resilience when our bookings get cancelled or plans change. We learn Bahasa when we travel through Malaysia and speak with the locals.
Homeschool is a rewarding journey! If you are interested, drop us a message and we can connect and share more!
We've been chasing the cool weather and mountain top experience for the past 2 weeks on this road trip. Rolling for more than 800km and finding ourselves above the clouds at more than 5000ft, we find solace in the quiet and beauty of our surroundings. If you missed out on the start of our journey, read it HERE!
After an exciting time in Genting in Part 2 of our journey, we drove on towards Cameron not knowing what to expect. I remember taking the arduous journey to Cameron Highlands as a child with my parents in a 40 seater coach on the hundreds of bends. I remember that it was a beautiful place but after more than 2 decades, it has become fuzzy. Debra and the kids have never been to this part of West Malaysia.
We descended Genting and took the highway up towards Brinchang via Tapah. We were a little flustered on the way down because Gwyneth was car sick and vomited on herself. We were stuck behind a VERY SLOW driver who constantly used his brakes haphazardly. My anxious mind went into overdrive worrying about how both the kids are going to cope with the hundreds of bends up towards Brinchang in Cameron Highlands. Debra calmed me down and we took a break at a nearby supermarket carpark. We cleaned up the mess and changed her into new clothes before stocking on some groceries. The bottle of Lysol (hospital grade disinfectant spray) came in handy.
My fears and anxiety was unfounded because all my passengers are champions! We conquered the bends up towards Brinchang over tarmac that has been patched so many times it is almost like the moon's surface. The Malaysian truck drivers we met on the way were nothing less than legends. They drove MASSIVE trucks round tiny bends and were so thoughtful towards those stuck behind them. They looked out for traffic on the opposite side and gave us the right indicator light as a signal to safely overtake.
Enjoy some of the bendy dizzy parts where the roads were still smooth enough to get a video recorded....
Our first reward midway through was this waterfall. Everyone's spirits were lifted by the majestic sight. At this point we had no idea what awaited us at our final destination. This was going to be our 3rd AirBnb apartment since we started the trip. The first one in Johor was dusty, mouldy and nothing like the pictures. The apartment in Genting was clean, spacious but was plagued with loud vehicles racing up the hill on the weekend.
The apartment up in Brinchang, Cameron Highlands exceeded our expectations!
This was the view that greeted us...
We took the rest of the day off after the eventful journey! I'm so extra thankful that the two little ones quickly adjust to new environments and new beds. They haven't shown signs of difficulty adjusting to being 5250ft above sea level nor complained about the weather being 16-20 celsius. In fact, we've all been restful and happy in this climate. In fact, the climate is the reason why we've been chasing mountains.
The only thing struggling with it is our little hatchback on inclines because air is thinner at altitude. This affects the fuel-air mix and reduces performance of the engine. Grateful for the little electric motor helping us scoot along when the engine struggles.
We woke up to smells of espresso in the apartment because we packed our machine and capsules in the boot. Debra and I are unapologetically addicted to our coffee. Haha! Road school continued and Matthias had Tamil lessons, tackled models for problem sums and read the BFG. Gwyneth perfected her upper and lower case letters, practiced reading aloud and basic Tamil vocabulary.
We visited the local markets/Golden Hill night market and got REALLY fresh and tasty groceries! Debra cooked tasty home cooked meals for us! All of us have got gluten/wheat intolerance and it really isn't that easy to get gluten free meals in this part of the world. Even in the major cities like Singapore and Kuala Lumpur, we struggle to find affordable gluten free options. Debra will be adding her touch to our blog on a post about FOOD this week! (Food makes her smile wider than her husband can LOL!)
We chose not to pluck our own strawberries because it costs 4x more to get the same amount of strawberries. We bought them at the market instead. Just look at how red they are!
One thing we always do on our trips is to intentionally choose to travel slowly. We can pack our itinerary and return needing another holiday but we choose to weave our lives in with our journeys and take it slow. It allows us to take it in fully and really make lasting memories of it.
"Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not."
- Ralph Waldo Emerson
You cannot visit Cameron Highlands and not visit the tea plantations. This place is just steeped in history and....TEA.
Fun fact: A DRINK was a driving force behind colonialism.
Tea was a powerful driving force that drove British colonialism in India and beyond. It brought great wealth to the empire because the British/Europeans were CRAZY about tea. To think that one would travel halfway around the world to ensure supply of a drink is unthinkable. In 1929, a British entrepreneur surveyed Cameron Highlands and started tea growing and processing. He changed the landscape of this amazing place forever. 93 years later, his company Boh Tea still thrives here. In more recent history, Communist terrorists once hid among the vegetation during the Malayan Emergency.
We spent a morning each at Cameron Valley Plantation and Boh Tea Plantation. The views just blew our minds. It reminded us that West Malaysia is beyond the glitzy cities and exciting resorts. For those of you who are old enough to remember, the rolling hills/clouds reminded us of the Windows 97 wall paper....haha! But honestly, it is way better. It is comparable with the rolling hills in New Zealand.
I thought I should warn city drivers who are less aware of the "wilder" roads here. As with many roads in the Cameron Highlands, it can be dangerous to drive in wet weather because of reduced visibility, slippery roads and possible landslides. Landslides are a natural occurrence anywhere with cliffs, mountains and valleys but it is made worse by deforestation/human developments. We do see the authorities are making great efforts to mitigate these landslides through reinforcing cliffs with rocks, concrete or plants. I hope people will continue to make efforts to sustainably develop the Cameron Highlands because it will be such a pity to lose this precious gem in peninsula Malaysia.
Cameron Valley Plantation (Teahouse 3)
We visited all the plantations in the morning (9/10am) to avoid crowds and traffic. If you are able, come on weekdays that aren't school or public holidays. The roads in Cameron Highlands are mainly one lane for each direction so it can get quite congested. We temporarily ignored our gluten/wheat intolerance and indulged in scones with cream and jam. Of course our guts weren't very happy after that but we all had BIG smiles!
We decided not to pay RM3 each to walk through the plantation and opted for the 4X4 tour through the plantation in classic Land Rovers. Adults pay RM18 each and kids below 110cm pay RM12 each. Oh the landies just brought back memories bouncing behind an SAF Land Rover in my Army days. The quintessential diesel fumes + smell of burning oil will be something of the past as we all start to drive hybrid and electric cars. The kids were absolutely THRILLED bouncing behind the landie. The driver was one with his machine and could probably drive through the plantation blind and FAST. The food and experience here was better than the Boh Plantation.
The views weren't the best but even the carparks are picturesque. You can build Gardens By the Bay 10 times larger and more impressive but nothing beats the raw beauty of nature.
Boh Tea Centre
The plantation is situated deep away from the main road. A bumpy small single lane road leads to the plantation. You have to be vigilant and slow down at bends because many sections of the road are only passable by one vehicle at a time. When in doubt, just give way and let others pass. You go over the edge, it is a long way to tumble down. After about 10 minutes down this mountain road, you'll see a huge carpark where you'll definitely spend time taking many photographs like we did!
To get to the Tea Centre, one will have to climb 100+ steps up the side of a hill before you'll be rewarded with incredible views and tasty food.
We didn't manage to have a factory tour because of maintenance works. Another reason to come back again! We did however get amazing shots of the place. As an avid photographer, i still feel that the best photographs cannot substitute seeing it with your own eyes. The fresh cool air, warm sun rays on your skin and just feeling really small in the wondrous vastness of the landscape. Simply priceless.
We have one last leg of this amazing grand tour. Having chased the mountains, we are all kind of hungry. So that's your clue! Caught a really sweet moment between these two. They are such darlings when they aren't bickering!
If you have young children with allergies or are planning a June holiday road trip, we'll be sharing more about cooking on a holiday and our favourite food places in the next two instalments!
We are happy to connect and share in detail about our trip if you have questions! Click on the red chat button and we are happy to chat!
WHY ARE YOUR KIDS NOT IN SCHOOL AND AT A THEME PARK IN APRIL?!
Because we are SPECIAL! 😂
Almost 8 years ago when Matt was born, we were MOE school teachers. We've seen so much of what school is for the vast majority of children in Singapore and decided it wasn't for our kids. So yes, we have gone through the difficult process of getting officially exempted from school and approved for homeschooling. (We are happy to connect with anyone who is considering homeschooling and share how we navigated the entire process! Just click on the chat button!)
Homeschooling, Road Schooling and Unschooling is exactly what are doing with our kids turning 8 and 5 this year. Let's define this for those who aren't familiar with it:
Homeschooling: Children are schooled at home, usually by a parent or parents at home.
Unschooling: Instead of following a rigid traditional syllabus full time, learning is self-directed by their interests. Although we try to do this as often as we can, we are still bound by the fact that our children will have to take their PSLE exams later on. So we do engage in curriculum-driven learning to ensure they will be ready for the statutory requirements.
Road Schooling: Yes it means what it means! We've packed up our lives and are working out a life of schooling on the road as we travel, work and learn!
THIS SOUNDS IMPOSSIBLE!
Learning can be done ANYTIME and ANYWHERE. Many of us have been made to think that learning only happens when a student is seated quietly in his chair behind a desk while a teacher talks on. The fact is, very little meaningful learning is really happening. The BILLION dollar tuition industry in Singapore is the greatest single piece of evidence that proves this.
IT HAS BEEN A GREAT WEEK OF LEARNING!
We've based ourselves in an apartment for the past week in Genting Highlands. We've driven the winding roads and marvelled at the beauty of the rain forest and cool weather! We learnt about altitude and how Bukit Timah Hill is 164m and the Genting resorts were 1645m above sea level. When we walked among the clouds and feel that sense of wonder, we learnt that clouds are AEROSOLS - a suspension of air and liquid droplets! We enjoyed the sounds of the forest and researched on a variety of flora and fauna including ORANGE MOSS! (We've only seen the green ones!)
I've learnt as an adult that what we do to nature profoundly affects the future custodians of Earth - our children. Gwyn was visibly upset when she saw the construction team across our apartment cutting down the trees and preparing the ground for construction. She kept saying "they are ruining MY forest! MY forest!".
WE CAN LEARN WHEN WE ARE HAVING FUN AT THEME PARKS TOO!
The children have learnt a great deal in the few days we've visited the arcade and theme park! We've learnt to plan our time, budget and route around the place. We've learnt to be resilient when our feet are hurting having walked more than 10 thousand steps in an afternoon. We've learnt to be patient and gracious when papa led us the wrong way and we have to walk back up the steep hill. We've learnt to maximise fun with the limited tokens we have in the arcade card. We've learnt that it is okay for children to be afraid of loud noises and wearing the ear muffs help them cope + protect their ears from excessive noise.
THE WORLD IS OUR CLASSROOM
We know that learning can happen when we sit down and complete our workbooks. But learning happens in more ways that we can ever imagine. On this grand tour, we learn whenever we feel the wind in our hair, the exhilarating rush on theme park/cable car rides and journeys across the world.
Learning is not the product of teaching.
Sharing our love of art, travel and learning with you.