Ooi Li Ann
Most people call me Li Ann or Ann and my family name is Ooi.
I’m an Only Child Parenting Expert. I help parents with only one child understand the struggles we had. At the same time creating a conducive environment which allows the child to thrive with enjoyable, unforgettable learning experiences, yet educational and meaningful so that our son or daughter is healthy physically and emotionally.
When I became a mum, my love and joy of working with children grew. I feel really good when I listen to their laughter and see their happy faces. Since I am blessed with only one child, we always give the best of everything to our son. At the same time, we do not wish to spoil him, nor do we want people to label us as having “an only child syndrome”. Often times, my son tells us that he wants a sibling to play with. We are really concerned about his loneliness and his social skills with peers since his interactions are mostly with adults. Nevertheless, with the right support and environment, I believe our only child will thrive.
My childhood to adulthood…
I came from a simple family, growing up with my grandmother, together with my uncle, aunty and cousins for the first 12 years in Penang then I moved to Kuala Lumpur (KL) to stay with my parents. I have a younger brother. My brother and I had to take care of ourselves (be independent) once we moved to KL as our parents were working.
I started going to preschool when I was 6 years old. During my primary and secondary school years, I achieved relatively good academic results. With my parents’ support, I pursued higher education after leaving school. Back then, we believed that a minimum requirement to get a decent job was at least a degree in any field. After completing my degree in Business Management, I started working as an Accounts Assistant. Less than a year later, I moved into Human Resource Consulting. I started as an Associate Consultant in a boutique consulting company and continued to pursue my Masters degree in Business Administration. Now I’m the Senior Consultant in the firm.
Personally, after working for close to 20 years, I didn’t apply much of my knowledge I learned from school or university. I feel that I learnt the most while working as an HR Consultant, interacting with clients with different set-ups and challenges. Till today, I’m still learning.
My life and role as a Mum
After getting married, I tried to conceive and finally after 5 years, I had my lovely son. Zhen Ming is 7 this year. As a mum who used to have relatively good grades in school, I gave my full and dedicated attention to him and wanted to give Zhen Ming the best education possible so that he could get a good career and be successful in life.
When it came to the best education, the only way I knew back then was just making sure that my son had good grades, got into a good university and built a good career. So, I did a lot of research about the best educational programmes when my son was born with the intention of capturing the optimal period of 0-6 years focusing on both right and left brain development. I started sending him for the best enrichment classes that we could afford. When I noticed that he didn’t enjoy or engage in the class, I started doing more research. At the same time, he also got sick very frequently.
Since my son was about two and a half years old I have engaged the Asian Premier Parenting Coach, Queenie Tan, to help me in my parenting journey. Through her courses and coaching, I started to understand more about child psychology and my view about early childhood education has changed.
Back then, I could not find a good preschool for my son as I felt my knowledge about early childhood was better than most of the teachers in town. Since I was still working (although with flexible working hours), I believed I didn’t have enough time nor the confidence to ‘teach’ my own child. Therefore, I still let him go to preschool with the hope that at least he can learn something and be happy with friends around his age.
Those years when my child was in the preschool, he wasn’t happy at all and it caused severe anxiety in him. As his mum, I felt heartache when I sent him to school. I felt guilty for being unable to spend quality time to bond with him during his first few years and for ‘outsourcing’ parenting to a nanny and subsequently a daycare centre after his school hours.
Although I loved my child and wished to spend more time with him, my inner voice also told me that I had to juggle between my corporate job and family. Eventually my son started telling me that he didn’t want to go to daycare after school. I then spoke to my employer and we agreed on a different employment package I happily took a pay cut , was still able to work for my employer, but now I had time – – – – – .
Sending an unhappy child to school every day made me feel very bad. I wished to pull him out from preschool, but I doubted my own capability. Furthermore, I didn’t get any support from family members about this decision.
Since I wanted to give my son a ‘happy’ learning environment, I decided to put all my knowledge and learning into practice. I attended workshops and applied my early childhood education knowledge to conduct a ‘Holiday Programme’. It was not easy as there was a lot of planning and preparations involved. But the greatest motivating factor was the happiness and laughter from my son and his friends. The children enjoyed the sessions and wanted to come back again. My son was also looking forward to more ‘Holiday Programmes’ as he gets to learn with his friends.
After doing it every quarter, I developed the confidence for being a facilitator and I was happy to be the co-learner with the children. I managed to implement a multi-faceted approach for children’s learning and was able to document the learning process of the children. I was truly a happy person to see the children having fun while learning.
Even though I thought I had mastered the skill and was ready to homeschool my child, I still received a lot of objections from family members and friends. They were very concerned about my child’s social and emotional development if I was to homeschool him. Furthermore, with my part time job, family members felt I was trying to push myself too hard and it won’t be sustainable in the long run. I was feeling very upset as I hit this road block. But I was glad that my employer was very supportive and like-minded parents in the Homeschooling Success Mastermind group supported me too. So I found ways to overcome this barrier. I told myself that I was not going to let my child feel miserable in his life just because the pressure against non-traditional schooling was so great.
I was practically going against family members with my decision to unschool my child when he was at the age of entering primary school. On top of that I also faced another challenge because my child attended preschool for 4 long years. Pulling him out to homeschool him and getting properly adjusted to a homeschooler lifestyle took time. We did a lot of readjusting in the first few months and it got better after that. We joined the local homeschoolers for some events and at the same time also moved into unschooling. This is when I got more comfortable with designing my own curriculum to fit my child’s needs. We no longer followed a very strict lesson plan, but learning became based on our interests. My child not only learnt faster but he was more motivated to learn.
On the 4th month of our homeschooling journey, we embarked on our first worldschooling expedition. We spent a month in a foreign land, learning a new language, culture, experiencing the food, transportation, etc. It was a real eye-opener for us and we also got to know the worldschooling community from different parts of the world.
We have enjoyed our learning and experiences so far and we will continue to inspire more families to allow more time for their child to play, explore and be a happy learner. The needs of the child are to me the top priority. We wish to help our child develop their physical and mental health so that they have a memorable childhood which leads to a happy adulthood in leading their own life.