The idea of keeping your kids with you 24/7 and being responsible for their academic development can be very daunting.
We spoke to 4 mothers who have chosen to homeschool their children, to find out what led to their decision, what homeschool really looks like, and what kind of resources are available for those who might be interested in exploring this route.
Audrey, children age 9, 7 and 3
Audrey shares her journey of how she and her husband decided to begin homeschooling their three children just over a year ago.
“Since the beginning of 2013, we did not send our children for any enrichment or tuition classes outside of school. This means that they fully depended on their teacher to guide them, and I would then reinforce whatever the teacher had taught at home. Slowly, I realised that my eldest was not able to master even simple concepts as they were not fully taught during class, while most of her classmates had already mastered whatever was yet to be taught. We had to face the fact that we couldn’t simply depend on the school to teach and had to reinforce with supplementary enrichment, which has unfortunately become the norm.
Moreover, my child who was a school leader, was tasked to constantly supervise a behaviorally-challenging child who was renowned as the school bully. We saw my child fade away, from a once-confident girl to someone who was anxious and reluctant to go to school. We spoke to her form teacher who managed to intervene and rectify the situation.
The turning point came when my eldest came down with chicken pox during the school year, and I had to coach her at home since she needed to be under quarantine. She enjoyed it thoroughly and commented that she wished she were homeschooled. It was then that we started giving the matter serious thought. As we prayed about this decision, doors began to open and a deep conviction drew. We finally withdrew our children from school at the end of 2013, and have been homeschooling all three of them since then.”
The case for homeschool
One of the biggest draws of homeschooling is the autonomy to customize a curriculum that is ideal for your child’s interests, aptitudes and readiness for learning.
“When you can tailor learning such that it goes according to your child’s own pace, the child will not feel any undue stress. I can always spend more time in the areas that my kids are weaker at by customizing a curriculum and giving individualized attention to any one child. I believe that it is important to develop a child’s interests such that he will be self-motivated to go and find out more information for himself, rather than being forced to do so,” says Peng Peng.
To inculcate moral values and develop character in children is a lesson that is more easily caught and taught, and homeschooling affords parents many opportunities for teachable moments to take place.
Felicia shares, “We believe that the main responsibility of raising and educating our children rests on parents ourselves. Homeschooling provides us more opportunities for one-on-one interaction and this helps us build a more meaningful parent-child relationship.”
Peng Peng highlights the fact that the values system in mainstream schools may often detract from the values parents want their children to pick up. Her personal preference is to send her children to school when they are old enough to discern right from wrong, and strong enough to reject negative influences from peers and society.
Some may feel that, by homeschooling your child, you are reducing his chances for social interaction which he would get at school. However, Peng Peng explains why the opposite could very well be true.
“In school, only the recess time is a time when the kids can play. But it’s also a time when the kids are expected to queue up for food, eat, go to the toilet, go to the library etc. As a result, interaction is fairly limited in public schools during recess. In the homeschool context, whenever they meet up with friends for co ops, play dates or other activities, it is truly an extended time of free play and interaction.”
On taking the first step
While homeschooling is becoming more popular in Singapore, it is still not the norm. As with every major life decision, every parent has had their own share of fears and challenges in choosing this route for their children’s education.
“Thoughts about ‘Am I good enough a tutor?’ or ‘Will my children miss out if they don’t go to a mainstream school?’ have definitely crossed my mind. I’ve even wondered if I’m depriving my children of a “normal” childhood or education by not sending them to school. However, the learning and friendships we’ve forged with the local homeschooling communities have allayed my fears,” says Felicia.
From talking to these women, it is apparent that many of their fears about their own ability to school their children have been allayed through time and experience.
Paulin shares, “I was worried about whether I was sufficiently equipped to homeschool my kids. We eventually found a curriculum that met our needs. Once I taught my kids to read and write, they were very much able to learn independently, as the curriculum was well structured and self-directed.”
Then there are also some practical concerns for parents who are making the switch to homeschool.
For Audrey and her husband, they decided to do away with the family’s domestic helper when she started homeschooling the children. That was a steep learning curve for Audrey, as she had been a full-time working mother before this – it was a huge lifestyle change for everyone. They went from a comfortable double-income household to her husband being the sole breadwinner, so they had to tighten their belts and be more frugal.
Husband Support is Key
All four women agreed that their husbands’ support has been key in the homeschooling journey. Indeed, this is a major decision that husbands and wives should make together, as it has major implications for various aspects of family life and values.
Husbands often take on an active role in the homeschooling process, for example, bringing their children to co-op gatherings on the weekends, or working together on special projects.
Friends from the homeschooling community provide much needed support for each parent. For Audrey, she has made several close friends in Homeschool Singapore (a Facebook group), and the “communal kampung spirit that exists in this group is priceless”.
Homeschooling parents can register with the Singapore Homeschool Yahoo! forum group. There are three groups – preschool, primary level and teens. Many parents organise field trips and co-ops through this platform. It is also a good place to ask questions and get advice from more seasoned parents.
Paulin also shares, “Being in a community of like-minded parents has been tremendously helpful. We have organised things like public speaking classes, choir, art lessons, and even a concert to showcase our children’s talents.”
For Felicia, she has found online resources, such as educational websites and homeschooling blogs, very useful, as they provide free access to all sorts of information and ideas. In fact, she herself shares snippets of her life and blogs about her homeschooling adventures.
Points to Ponder
If you are considering homeschooling your children, here are some nuggets of wisdom to bear in mind as you make your decision.
- It is very important that both husband and wife wholeheartedly agree on this route.
- Be very sure of the reasons why you want to homeschool and stick to your decision. Remember that there will always be naysayers.
- Know the legal issues of Homeschooling in Singapore
- Find like-minded community for support.
- Know that you don’t need to be a qualified teacher to qualify as your child’s teacher. As parents, we don’t know it all. It’s the attitude that counts, and it’s important to show our children that we, too, are constantly learning.
- Get out of the house! Learning doesn’t only come from books or assessment books. Get to know Singapore beyond the textbooks.
- There will be bad days as well as good days. Know that you are not alone, and that you can always do better the next day!
Part 1: Should You Homeschool 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
By Dorothea Chow
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