Homeschooling is an option that has been gaining popularity locally in the recent few years, but it is nothing new on the international scene. In a nutshell, it is an alternative way of providing your child with a learning environment, outside of the public or private schools in your community.
In lieu of professional ‘teachers’, parents or tutors take the role of primary educator. The home, the neighbourhood, parks and the great outdoors are the classroom. While these children may not have the classmates of their school-going peers, they are far from friendless, as various homeschooling play groups within the community allows them to interact and learn together with friends.
Reasons for Homeschooling
There are many reasons why parents choose to homeschool their children, and contrary to popular belief, it’s not always about the stress of our local school system. Many homeschooling parents are misunderstood as being too controlling or as reacting against the current academic norms. However, their reasons for choosing homeschooling are often varied and valid.
For example, Olivia* chooses to homeschool her large family of six kids mainly because this allows the family to move in the “same direction”. If all her kids went to school, she says, each would have his or her own unique schedule and activities (CCAs, school hours, field trips etc), desires, and cliques of friends, which would then “pull” the family in all directions.
Claire* made the decision to homeschool her only son at the recommendation of his kindergarten teacher during K1. After that, she chose to continue homeschooling because of the flexible schedule, varied learning opportunities, and luxury of sleeping in until the sun came up every morning! She greatly values the autonomy to set the pace of learning, and the many family bonding moments, although she admits that the grading system for homeschoolers is tough on them (homeschoolers are subject to a stricter grading system for the PSLE, although they take the same examination paper).
For Linda*, who hails from the US, but has travelled extensively with her family over the years, homeschooling her four children allows her to build a close relationship with each of them, and has allowed for the flexibility of their family to stay in various parts of the world for extended periods of time throughout the growing up years.
Homeschooling also allows her to customize each child’s learning journey to fit and build on his strengths and interests, while guiding him in his weak areas.
According to the Singapore Homeschool Group, families here often choose to homeschool because the teaching method can be tailored to meet their child’s needs and pace of development. Parents or tutors have more control over the kinds of values that are inculcated in their child, and the day-to-day schedule and routines. The group is one of several centres that provides moral and community support, and organizes social activities regularly for homeschooling families. This kind of support network is extremely valuable to homeschooling parents, especially those who do not have access to kids around their child’s age.
Besides the moral support that such communities bring, the exchange of ideas among parents also encourages creativity, peer sharing (on both an adult and child level), sharing of resources and the opportunity for play dates. There are also many resources to be found online, and the nearest library is often a stone’s throw away in tiny Singapore.
The Other Side Of Homeschooling
On the flip side, there is definitely value in immersing children in the “world’s system” from a young age – letting them handle academia stresses, classroom politics and exam fever, for example. Life skills such as balance, negotiation, persuasion and managing stress are gained quite naturally in the pressure cooker of school life – the ‘real’ world as it were, where someone else makes the rules and second chances are not a given.
Choosing to homeschool purely to shelter your child from the ‘evil’ influences of the big, bad world out there is not a long-term solution. Your child will still grow up, and ultimately, have to grapple with many life issues and situations for himself or herself. Being overly protective or concerned may backfire, if it means the child is not adequately prepared for the experiences and failures of real life.
Then there’s also the self-confidence interacting with one’s peers that a school-going child is more likely to pick up than one who is more sheltered at home or has limited experience with different types of people of different races and religions. The homeschooling family needs to intentionally seek out opportunities for their children to be exposed to different people and settings in order for them to thrive later on in life.
Homeschooling is not for every family. Financially, homeschooling families are not able to tap into the edusave fund, which may be a big factor for some. Furthermore, not every couple may have the time, energy or resources to cope with the preparation and planning needed.
Indeed it is very much a journey of learning and development for the parents, more than for their children. Intellectually, they need to be ahead of their child, and given the constantly evolving curriculum and standards, that’s not an easy task! And being your child’s ‘teacher’ as well as ‘parent’ poses a whole range of challenges of its own. It also takes a huge amount of effort to keep to routines, put systems and schedules in place, track with progress and plan ahead.
Being a parent is already a full-time job, but being a homeschooling parent increases that ‘portfolio’ significantly! The time and energy commitment required is not to be taken lightly.
However, all the homeschooling mums I spoke to shared that one of their greatest joys was building their relationship with their child. Without exception, they were thankful for how the homeschooling journey has helped them connect so much better with their child, especially in the tween and teenage phase. Linda* shares: “I am graduating my second son this May. Both boys were accepted to university and are following their dreams as responsible young men…. I wouldn’t have done anything differently!”
In the end, it boils down to how you, as the parent, want to spend your time, and which system will work best for your child.
There are no easy right and wrong answers – it’s about knowing yourself, knowing your child, and finding out the best way to get to what you want your family to be.
Part 2: Homeschooling In Singapore
Part 3: Is Homeschooling For You And Your Child?
Part 4: The Pros And Cons Of Homeschooling
Part 5: Resources For Homeschool Parents
Part 6: Useful Tips For The New Homeschooling Mum
*Names have been changed
By Dorothea Chow