Are you thinking about homeschooling or even “unschooling” your child?
Editor’s Note: As the Coronavirus pandemic continues to wreak havoc on the world, more and more international schools in Singapore are extending spring break and asking students to stay at home. With the potential that all schools could be canceled we thought it would be timely to share these homeschooling insights from a Singapore mama. This article originally appeared in 2017.
Homeschooling is a route many mamas in Singapore have taken for their kids (That Mamas Mama of 13 Tammy Hitchens and Special Needs Mama Joanne Pasquale, for example). Whether it’s due to the costs of international school or because certain kids may not be well catered-to in the standard schooling system due to special needs or a myriad of other reasons, the benefits of homeschooling are certainly alluring. But it’s also a lot of work for whoever is appointed home educator. Silvia Hajas, an inspirational mama and real-life hero, talks to us about her family’s decision to homeschool their daughter.
The decision to homeschool was largely driven by the financial outlay required for international schooling attendance. After sinking $30,000 into an international preschool for 18 months we realised it was not a long-term feasible exercise nor a valuable one for our family’s needs.
Taking the homeschooling route was a learning curve for myself as the appointed educator at home. The first year was geared towards using workbooks purchased at Popular Bookstore focusing on English, Maths, Art and PE. Whilst I wish I could say it was smooth sailing, as the months progressed we found much of the original approach stale and boring. Trini and I work well together and she’s an excellent child to teach at home, however, we needed more stimulation from the material we were using.
By the second year, we relaxed the schedule and whilst we still used some workbooks it was only half of the time. We found ourselves leaning towards topics of interest and creating projects around that. For instance Trinity developed an interest in Ancient Egypt. With that in mind, I sourced online material, books, videos and audios relating to the theme. We immersed ourselves into all things Ancient Egypt and when we finished, Trinity had a compilation of A4 sheets filled with text, drawings, images, wordsearch and crosswords. A trip to the store for spiral binding and Trinity had a lapbook to flick through. The project was completed with a presentation, imagining that she was an Egyptologist having a chat to her guests (her daddy), followed by a fundraiser where pieces of artwork were available for purchase. Of course, her daddy didn’t make it easy for her and took her through negotiation exercises and mathematical calculations.
We are now in our third year and have discovered that the workbooks are of little value to us. We have changed our style by creating a child-led interest-based approach. I act as a facilitator and partner rather than teacher and together we’ll pick topics of interest and immerse ourselves into it until we’ve had enough. A typical day will take about 3 hours because of the one-to-one approach but sometimes it’s less because it’s not working and sometimes more because we are distracted with our pursuits. This flexibility allows Trinity to pursuit various sports, lots of play and hanging out with friends.
We are uncertain of where homeschooling will take us but we are satisfied with our current situation. We found that an interest based, slow and steady approach has a larger impact on my daughter’s learning. We are diverse in our reading/audios by looking at historical characters or events, we may follow educational YouTube channels, we have fun with quizzes using the World Map adhered to our wall or we may use “Maths in Action” which is my way of teaching my daughter maths that she can relate to as opposed to rote learning or worksheets.
Trinity is a balanced child with varied interests. She is a keen gymnast having participated in international competitions and continues to do so, swims weekly and participates adhoc in local competitions and when time allows she is either doing athletics through ActiveSG or Little League – a weekly parent organised event in our condo. We participate in many family fun runs like the Safari Zoo, Santa Run or POSB and this year Trini participated in her first parent/child aquathlon on Bintan Island.
We have a large circle of friends in our condo which takes care of her socialising needs besides her extra curriculars where she meets other kids. Whilst she’ll read anything you present her with there’s no denying she loves the Wimpy Kid and Tom Gates series. For a more serious read we’ll work through Who Was Series and the Usborne books we get from MPH. Her reading library is bigger than ours put together.
The beauty of homeschooling though is if a day just doesn’t quite work out as planned you can stop and switch to something else. We have had days of near disasters with maths and instead of pushing and distressing her further, I will switch either to art or an outing. Spending as much time as I do with Trinity, I get to know her way of learning, switch and cater to suit her needs, be empathetic and patient when something doesn’t click and the best of all there is no pass nor failure. If she doesn’t get it right because she doesn’t understand it’s okay, we can keep working at it until it makes sense. There’s no homework because I’m already working with her. I know what she understands and what she doesn’t.
However, homeschooling is not for the faint-hearted nor the impatient. I spend many hours researching, sourcing material, educating myself about alternative education and being a rich resource and facilitator to Trinity. I wear multiple hats to fulfill the roles of mother, teacher, mentor, facilitator and working partner. After nearly 3 years, I am comfortable and satisfied in our direction and wouldn’t have it any other way.