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Thu, Jan 07, 2010
New Straits Times
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Talking her way to geniuses
by Ili Liyana Mokhtar

KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA: Her five children were not born special but all of them entered universities when they were aged between 12 and 15.

Halimahton Yusof attributed this to her "balanced method" of teaching. Her eldest, Abraham, was 13 years old when he received funding and training from the Rover Junior Tennis Initiative for top British junior tennis players.

Aisha was 15 and Iskander 12 when they enrolled in a university.

Sufiah was 13 when she entered Oxford.

Zuleikha, 14, is now doing a degree in biology and astronomy at the Open University here.

Halimahton was recently appointed consultant to the Permata Negara and Permata Pintar Programme, of which Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor, the prime minister's wife, is patron.

She said she only realised that her "balanced method" of teaching children was really effective when Iskander started showing signs of brilliance when he was just 2.

"He was able to understand the concept of time by then. He knew there were 60 seconds in a minute.

"I would tell him to wait two minutes while I cleaned the house and he would start the countdown from the bedroom," she told the News Straits Times when met at her home recently.

At that point, Halimahton felt that she had stumbled upon a system that could help children excel in their studies.

The 56-year-old from Muar said she had unknowingly used the system earlier with her other children with exceptional results.

Halimahton spent 34 years in Britain. She holds a Master's degree in Chemistry from University of Hull.

Her method focuses on spending time with the children and having a designated "learning time" daily.

"When I taught my children, it was never formal. We would just talk. We would spend two hours on school work. Then, we would be outside but turn everything into an educational experience."

Halimahton feels that it does not make sense to teach all children and all subjects in exactly the same way.

"I'm quite happy to adjust my approach according to the subject and the child's personality.

"Contrary to popular belief, I don't think it's healthy to be obsessed with children's results."

Iskander, 23, who graduated with first class honours from the University of Warwick's four-year Mathematics programme at 15, feels that his mother's approach to teaching is unique.

"I often observe her interacting with children as if she is just playing or talking to them when she is actually teaching them Mathematics formulas, chemistry or language. It's amazing to watch her."

Iskander is now helping Halimahton start her own classes for babies, toddlers and their parents. So far, 30 parents and their children have signed up for the classes which are conducted daily, with a fee of RM55 (S$22.50) per session.

"I'm conducting the classes with parents as I feel that parents are the most important teacher a child will have," Halimahton said.

The classes are kept small with six students in each. Parents are taught and given tips on learning activities that can be carried out with their children from birth.

Halimahton said, ideally, parents would bring their children to meet her so that she could assess their personalities and see for herself how the child interacted with their parents and their surroundings.

Halimahton said parents often told her that their children had problems studying or learning. "Often, the problem has nothing to do with the child's actual ability.

"It could be the result of some other issue in their environment or it is a behavioural problem that needs to be addressed."


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