Thursday, 12 March 2009


Time for another book review!

This time it is an e-book, written by Halimahton Yusof, mother of 4 child prodigies.

Thanks to Anis who introduced me to Halimahton Yusof's website, the official website that sells this e-book.

Maybe it is worth giving a little bit of Halimahton's biodata and the story of her children. She grew up in Muar and had formal education in Malaysia, Singapore and UK. She majored in chemistry but stopped doing her PhD to raise her children. She home-schooled all her 5 children; Sufiah, Iskander, Aisha, Abraham and Zuleikha. Sufiah entered Oxford Univ at age 13 to study maths, Iskander went to Warwick Univ at age 12 (graduated at 15 with first class honors), Aisha entered Warwick Univ at 15 to study maths (now doing her PhD) and Zuleikha received grade A in A-level maths at age 9 (now at age 14 has completed courses from Open University in biology and astronomy). No mention of Abraham, not sure what happen to him.

Chapter 1-8 are basically introduction to teaching your child. To be honest, quite disappointing because generally most of the points are what you already know. Like, you have to know your child and have good bonding with him (of course!), parents have to set good example and be patient and consistent etc. I mean, all good parents know that, and only good parents with enough time to spare (like me) will read the book. I actually had higher expectations from the author. Maybe that is my problem. But maybe it is too early for me to actually say anything, because the book has 28 chapters. So bear in mind, this review is ONLY for chapter 1-8, not the whole book. This series of book review is a present to all my busy friends out there who do not have the time to read yourselves (aku boleh bacakan :D)

The author actually did suggest that some readers may find only a few of the chapters are useful, it really depends on what you are looking for. Well, you cannot satisfy everybody.

Having said that, I actually did learn a few things. I tried really hard to look between the points (memanglaa dah takde keje lain); am I really not getting anything? There must be something in Halimahton that makes her special, that makes her different from any other parent. But before I go into what I managed to learn, I must say that I am actually quite happy with the author's goals for the book- to name 2 of the most important (at least to me):

1. To develop the love of learning in the child that will stay with him throughout his life (I agree, what better tool can you give to your child?).

2. To develop a high attention span and ability to concentrate hard on a single task (I think this is a very important skill indeed-in this world of many distractions, that's why many students sleep in lectures, they can't concentrate enough)

I don't want my children to be supergenius (genius je cukuplah, hehehe)- no, Alhamdulillah if they can become successful people in life and InsyaAllah in the afterlife, but I do hope they posses those 2 qualities above.

So, new info / reminder that I manage to gather from Chapter 1-8 are:

1. Empathize with your child! Try to be in his shoes and imagine him having limited knowledge and understanding of the world around him. I think this is an aspect that many parents take for granted, but many grandparents understand (kan orang tua selalu cakap: alahh..budak memangla macam tu). Parents are usually impatient and cannot understand their children behaviour, but maybe the children are just confused. (patutla Adam selalu tanya; "why? why Mama? why got 2, why not 3? why j has dot above it? why Z has 2 horizontal lines?" ....peningnyaaa nak jawab)

2. Avoid placing restrictions on what you think your child has the potential to learn. Well, have to admit that I do this a lot (budak ni mana tau, dia takkan paham punya..). Maybe this is the BIG difference between me and Halimahton.

3. Removing distractions from the learning environment is more important than it might seem. Only the resources that are relevant to your child's current learning activity should be in his immediate vicinity. Because children are very easily distracted. If a child learns to use a toy or a book one at a time, he will gradually develop a longer attention span. (Kitorang semua benda kat dalam hall yg kecik ni, Adam baca buku tv pun bukak, laptop pun ada je kat sebelah, biskut tak boleh tinggal, Ammar pulak main train).

4. Even a simple toy has numerous characteristics eg colours, textures, shape and the possibility of using it in an imaginative play. So don't disregard a simple toy. If you can explore the possibilities of a simple toy with your child, he will develop the ability to pay attention to details. (aiiyaa..ini memang selalu buat, tak mainla toy2 kodi nih, nak yang canggih je)

OK..that's what I can gather from the earlier chapters. I'm sure there are a lot more that we can learn in the next chapters, well I bought this book because I was attracted to the later chapters, not the earlier ones. But because I'm sooo skema I naturally have to start from the beginning.


m-i-o said...

salam. i'm bloghopping from mynie's blog.

it's very generous of you to share the content with us. i planned to buy the book too but they only received payment via paypal account - which i don't have.

awaiting your review on the later chapters:)

jus call me ida.. said...

ic..baguih2.. teruskan membaca tok kitaorang..
patut lah adik aku masa kecik2 dulu banyak soal sampai naik darah dibuatnya...kesimpulannya..layan.........

DrWati said...

yes! I'll read and write more (bila tulis review baru boleh ingat-macam tulis nota kat sekolah)

sebenarnya siapa nak boleh je dtg rumah copy masuk thumbdrive (sorry halimahton, tapi dlm Islam ilmu tak boleh kedekut)-kira sama macam pinjam buku.

anis sazira said...

Thanks alot for the review....mmg le mak budak yg sorang ni tk sempat nk baca buku2 lain selain dari buku sekolah sendiri...kadang2 buku sekolah Adli & Sarah pun tk sempat nk bacakan...bukan kata buku, beg pun tk sempat nk bukak...huhuhu...kasihan anak2 ku...

Halimahton Yusof said...

Assalamualaikum DrWati,

It's great to receive detailed feedback like this on the book, as it gives us a good idea as to the kinds of things people want to know more about and what we can improve. (By the way, Google Alerts notified me of your review.) Don't forget that if you have any questions about the book, you can contact us via the form on our website and I'll respond as soon as I can.

In the meantime, though, I'll try to address some of the points you raised. You're quite right about the first part of the book covering basic "good parenting" material. Like you, I consider much of this stuff to be common sense, but I didn't want to omit important information just because I thought it was obvious. People who read our book come from many different backgrounds, and I tried to avoid assuming too much about what the reader does or doesn't know.

As explained in the Preface, the balance method's principles are not meant to be radical or unorthodox. In fact, I think I mentioned that many of the principles are similar to the kinds of things you'll see in the educational research literature. But what's more important is knowing how to implement these principles in real teaching situations (as opposed to the ivory tower ;-)), and this is where practical experience comes in handy.

The other trick is to not use just one principle, but to recognise the importance of combining the principles synergistically to get good results. (Chapter 25 explains how to combine many of the principles into a flexible, powerful teaching system.)

It's a bit like cooking: if you simply eat the individual ingredients for a cake, they won't taste very good, but if you know how to combine the ingredients, the end result will be much better than raw eggs, flour, baking powder, etc. :-) The whole is much, much greater than the sum of the individual parts.

Similarly, the idea in the first eight chapters isn't just to talk about what makes a good parent, but to explain how good parenting skills can be used in the context of teaching.

The details are very important. As an example, the first chapter doesn't simply say: "you need to know your child well... and that's it."

Rather, your entire approach to teaching should be based on your knowledge of your child. If you know your child well but still teach him the same way you'd teach any other child, then the results will be the same as if you didn't know him at all. I consider Chapter 1 to be really fundamental to the rest of the book, as you'll need to use your knowledge of your child when you want to:

* Make learning interesting for him
* Help him to concentrate better
* Decide how to demonstrate something to him
* Help him learn informally
* Plan an approach for teaching him something new
* And so on.

I don't know if this kind of "tailored teaching" is obvious to most people, but it's definitely true that few parents or teachers actually bother with it, even though it is very effective. But if you already tailor your teaching based on your knowledge of your child, keep up the good work! :-)

This is already getting a bit too long, but I just want to say that Chapter 3 is also extremely important, even though it might seem somewhat "obvious". In particular, the point about creating an intellectually stimulating environment at home for your child is crucial, even if you never actually teach him yourself. (Check out Einstein's biography (the one by Pais) for an example of an excellent early home environment.) Yes, most parents will know about this one, but education is about doing, not knowing. :-)

I hope this clarifies matters! Again, feel free to ask if you have any other questions.



P.S. Regarding Abraham, he's actually a very successful entrepreneur, but he likes his privacy and prefers not to have the media spotlight on him; of course, I have to respect his wishes, which is why I only mentioned him briefly. It's quite understandable, as nowadays even the smallest things we write or say are taken completely out of context and reprinted (or misquoted) by the media. It isn't very pleasant, but we just have to live with it!

DrWati said...

Assalamualaikum Pn Halimahton!

Really a nice surprise getting a feedback from the author after writing a book review! (kan best kalau dapat reply dari author lain jugak-thanks Google Alerts!)

haaa people..the author already explained herself..its actually how good parenting skills can be used in the context of teaching.

I'm not sure if I'm actually using tailored teaching for my sons (because I've never taught other children) but I usually wait for their cues on what to do with them. I mean, I just follow their moods.

Thanks for reminding me about the intellectually stimulating environment at home. Really have to rethink about that. (first, have to change Adam's study table-the one he's got now is not very child friendly).

Now have to get back to reading and some serious parenting!

DrWati said...

apasal pulaklaaa library ni takde biography einstein nihh...

for the first time Manchester Public Library has failed me...

m-i-o said...

dr wati,
boleh copy masuk thumbdrive?!
are you serious?!
wah, i wish you're here:(

anyway, i'm waiting pn halimahton's reply on whether they accept other payment method. kot2 boleh direct banking ke kan...

apapun, please give your review when you're free:)

mummy said...

wooww...Pn halimahton replied!

wei...taruk review thousand splendid suns...kot kot khalid hosseini reply...hehe.

tuh le...kita kene buat bilik proper utk budak-budak niii..

love of learning is important thats why i am quite concern pasal nak hantar aisyah sekolah mana because i think on the hand of the wrong teacher,terus budak tak minat sekolah (ini utk kes yg mak bapak sibuk keje).

hartini said...

wow bas, it's really nice to have author's comment. can't wait for further rv. but, after the feedback given by halimaton, r you going to proceed with the book rv? would be there any prob? like copyright nyer issue... anyway, aku seronok baca blog ko... inspiring... and educational..

DrWati said...

have u asked her on her website?

khaled hosseini? kita komen kat blog dia pun dia buat donno je..

i think love of learning starts at home, not school, sekolah kan tempat formal, even for busy parents, nanti kita letak beberapa cdgn dari buku ni (which i think suitable for busy parents)

errr..tak taula pasal copyright punya issue, but hopefully because of my good intentions of knowledge sharing, there will be no problem, besides, the credits are all on the book and author, probably the reviews will sell more of her book, and reading the review is not the same with reading the actual book, from her comment itself it's obvious i've omitted / disregard a lot of things (that might be important for another parent)

Halimahton Yusof said...

Assalamualaikum DrWati,

Yes, teaching children according to their moods is part of tailored teaching, so it sounds like you're on the right track already! :-)

Beyond this, I always try to figure out what kind of learner the child is (e.g. visual, analytical, or verbal) and decide how I'm going to teach based on this information. For any particular skill or topic, I usually have at least 3 or 4 very different methods for teaching the skill/topic; and then I use my knowledge of the child to decide which method to use.

For example, if I need to teach three children their multiplication tables, I might make diagrams for one child, sing "times tables songs" with another child, and simply write down the sums for the third child. The end result is that all three children know their multiplication tables, but the methods used to get there can be very different.

Also, I often try to use a combination of different approaches with one child to give him different perspectives on the material and to aid his memory.

By the way, you can read part of Einstein's biography on Amazon for free. Just use the "Search inside this book" feature and enter "36" to find page 36; the bottom of page 36 to page 38 contains the information I was talking about. To summarise:

* Einstein's mother brought music into the home
* Einstein's father would read literature aloud to the family in the evenings
* His uncle posed mathematical problems for Einstein to solve
* Max Talmud (a friend of the Einstein family) would spend hours discussing science and philosophy with the young Einstein and gave him books to read on these subjects.

As mentioned in the biography itself, "such private experiences contributed far more to Einstein's growth than formal schooling."


Assalamualaikum m-i-o,

Sorry, I forgot to talk about other payment options in my previous comment. :-) We plan on returning to Malaysia in one or two months, at which point we'll be making other payment methods like direct banking, cash, etc available. Basically, we just need to set up Malaysian bank accounts and then we can add the other payment options.



(Oh yes, feel free to write a review of the other chapters DrWati; it's always good to receive feedback, and there definitely aren't any copyright issues!)

hartini said...

yes bas.... ni yang tak sbar nak bc book review ko...

f8 said...

I'm so interested to know more about this e-book.However,the book did not sell in Malaysia anymore.If possible,could you please share your e-book to me?(qouted from you:sebenarnya siapa nak boleh je dtg rumah copy masuk thumbdrive (sorry halimahton, tapi dlm Islam ilmu tak boleh kedekut)-kira sama macam pinjam buku._=)..btw,do u still active using this blog?

Mamaboyz said...

w'salam f8
i still write in this blog, :) but now i'm at a conference and need to check which laptop i stored this ebook, and oh my, i think i've forgotten the password! will get back to u later, do u have email or blog where i csn contact u?

Noor Azalina said...

Saya pun teringin sangat nak memiliki buku ni. Kenapa ye tak dicetak? Kan lebih mudah kita kat Malaysia nak dapat. Saya pun tak ada akaun Paypal. Dr Wati, is your offer still stand?