Song HyoA: “They mold me into an identity that is perfect for them, but not for me”

It takes time, dedication, experience, expertise, money, resources, and structure to homeschool your children, not just spending dollars on a curriculum that will not help them get into university. You give your children a future that changes their lives.”

Homeschooling has been quite popular in Malaysia during the COVID pandemic as many children stayed at home, but in reality, it was a tough decision to homeschool or send your children to homeschool centers. It takes time, dedication, experience, expertise, money, resources, and structure to homeschool your children–not just spending dollars on a curriculum that will not help them get into university. You give your children a future that changes their lives. If homeschooling does not suit the interests of your children, then just don’t. It might be worse than your typical American or Korean drama.

Due to my ADHD and mild autism, my mom sent me to a homeschool co-op for children with mental disabilities. For the first three grades, I made lifelong friends, did very well in academics, and had a perfect life. But when I reached fourth grade, I was shocked when my friends and I got mistreated for the first time. We were spanked when we made a mistake, got our mouth taped to shut our voices. If we fall and get injured, they will mock us for being weak. I ran away from home a few times because I wanted to be saved, as well as to copy Bible verses and go to church once a week.

I started my period in 5th grade and was so ashamed that I took two weeks home because I was afraid it would enrage my teachers. I lost my first friend because she was so distressed that she acted abnormally. The only kind act that my friend did for me was showing a dead lizard to scare and distract my teacher. I remembered that I was hit by a wooden spoon on my head thrown by another teacher, but did not seek medical attention. My parents frequently visited my psychologist, but the visits have been less frequent as I grew older.

I transferred in 6th grade to another homeschool center but I am still stuck in this world. I was falsely accused of stealing some workbooks from the seniors. My schoolmates were so rich that they could get away from the trouble they caused. I am always in trouble when I defend myself. I was denied an opportunity to play any sport and competitions I wanted. Even though I worked too hard on my modules, the only memorable moments when attending this center were coding classes, STEM-themed field trips, and joining strength training workouts. My social life was turbulent in my secondary school years. I found myself being a marionette with the fake friends who did not respect me, that one of them splashed water on my old laptop and never paid for my new laptop. There was one time I was framed for exploring how vulnerable the homeschooling software is by hacking to access the internet. I suffered from body dysmorphia that I tried to starve to lose weight if dieting and exercising does not help. The only extracurricular activity I did was Taaekwondo to protect myself if I am bullied and to gain confidence.

Grade 9 and 10 are the darkest years I have experienced. I have witnessed my seniors struggling while preparing for IGCSEs. I was the only girl in my class to take science subjects and add math, but I still have most of the subject teachers and the principal’s pet dog on my side to cheer me on despite hearing lot of sexist, racist, and elitist jokes and insults from my homeroom teacher for the first year of preparing for IGCSEs. I discovered writing to cope with the pain and to express my feelings. When I felt not secure enough to write about my school due to bullying, I seek help from my English tution to relieve the pain without toxic judgment.

Then COVID-19 came and affected our schedule. It gets me away from demanding activities that the school forced me to attend as they are virtual, but breaks me as the online hangout was too long for me to endure. After the isolation, my mental health started to deteriorate instantly despite doing well on my past year papers. I neglected my physical health when I studied past midnight. I was worried that I would never get out if I did not have top grades. When I reached the exam venue, I avoided my classmates like plague and studied and hung out with candidates who attended different schools and centers and homeschoolers to heal from the mistreatment in my school.

Then I graduated from homeschool. I only learned the manners of a perfect rich girl, perfect grammar and vocabulary and the Bible despite being the second best in my homeschooling center and having the perfect grades needed to attend college via a scholarship. Despite attending a university workshop and competition, I was pushed to college unprepared like being swept by a hurricane and landing in a foreign place. I have a mindset of college where I made up all the wasted time and to get out of the sight of previous school. I pushed myself to excel in my studies as well as my extracurriculars when I studied A-Levels to the point that I have mental breakdowns especially if I lose in competitions. I was lucky that I got counseling and one of my math teachers who has experience teaching homeschoolers encouraged me. I still continue to read voraciously in the library, have close friends, and get A’s and B’s in my AS Levels. I am not ashamed to take anything beyond the college campus. This year, I managed to save one of the endangered clubs by becoming its vice president.

I was homeschooled in a Christian fundamentalist-based homeschooling environment. From the fourth year to IGCSE, my homeschool years have been turbulent. I attempted suicide and was self-harmed a few times. I remembered feeling depressed and hopeless because of the persistent toxic positivity and perfection. What is even worse is that I studied in small private homeschooling centers, where bullying occurred frequently, rumors will spread like wildfire, and my mental wellbeing was neglected. I was ashamed of menstruation and my sexuality. I was so tired of the double standards in both of my Christian schools, being myself is so hard that I wanted plastic surgery. They may not truly value hard work and personality; they mold me into an identity that is perfect for them, but not for me, and shelters me from the outside world. But these painful setbacks made me stronger, smarter, and kinder. I still love my parents though they fight or feel guilty, but it was not their fault and they worked hard to give me a good life and education. I am working on my A2 levels while helping other homeschoolers to be known and heal together mentally. 

Song Hyoa was homeschooled in Kota Kemuning, Malaysia from 2011 to 2020. For additional thoughts and experiences from other homeschool alumni, see our Community Voices page.

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