Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Our decision to homeschool.

The decision to homeschool. Why and why not? I think plenty of times, I have had people come up to me and ask which school my children attend, and the moment I reply with the word "homeschool", they look at me like I am out of my mind. It is a lesser used word, because the homeschool community in Singapore is a rather small bunch as compared to our western counterparts. Most children start education here as young as 6 months, perhaps not exactly formal education but I know of plenty of parents who start their young in brain training enrichment classes at infant stage. That is how crucial "school" is seen as to most parents here. Hence, my decision to homeschool can be pretty said as frowned upon by those who have not seen the other side of the grass yet, and I am not even convincing them that it is greener!

My husband and I sat down almost five years ago, and thought to ourselves "what would we do with our children now that we are parents." What were our objectives in life? What did we want our children to grow with? And how did we want our children to be? These questions weren't hard to ask, neither were the answers hard to answer. Yet, what followed through was the hardest part of all. We decided that we wanted our children to grow with the comfort of being themselves, supported by us with love, encouragement and motivation. We want our children to grow up making mistakes, and understanding that it is okay to do so, and mistakes are crucial to learning. We want our children to be accepted and to accept, to love and be loved. We want our children to love life and nature, and be happy and flexible in everything that they do. Lastly, we want our children to love family, to know that family is and will be the only constant figure in their lives. Having these conditions in mind, we knew that it had to be exampled by us, led by us, and guided by us. And, that was how we came to the decision of homeschooling our children.

Being in the early childhood industry, I have seen how it works and I know how it works. I am not concluding that schooling for the early years is bad, but it is my personal thought that schooling will not be able to help our family achieve the objectives that we have set out for our children.

ONE. we want our children to grow with the comfort of being themselves, supported by us with love, encouragement and motivation.
In a typical classroom ratio of 1:15, let's face it, teachers will not be able to shower each child with that much love, encouragement, and motivation as compared to if it was one teacher to a child. I know some people would argue that this is not realistic, and it could be indulging the child to have full scale attention, that at the end of the day, the child needs to know that he is not alone and he cannot demand sole attention. Yet, I'd like to indulge my children with this undivided attention, because I believe it is key to building self-esteem and confidence. I can go on and on about my personal beliefs on this but it would come across as too... pushy, so let's just leave it at that. I know for a fact that more often than not, children are imposed to learn in an environment that is accommodating for the rest of the class in a school system and that is something I wish not for my children. Not at this young age at least.

TWO. We want our children to grow up making mistakes, and understanding that it is okay to do so, and mistakes are crucial to learning.
Once again, in a typical preschool environment, the teaching styles differ from teacher to teacher. So far, my elder son has attended preschool at pre-nursery and nursery level, at four different schools. Don't even ask me why FOUR different schools, but just know that I am always at odds and ends with all the schools he has attended. At age 3, he was taught to color within the lines. NO coloring out of the lines because it is not right. How is not right, why is it not right, I cannot fathom. My husband and I are people who do not conform, we believe that coloring out of lines is perfectly okay because it could be a form of expression, a form of creativity even. And then there was once my son wanted to color an apple purple, but the teacher said it was wrong because apples are supposed to be red, or green. We believe that a child this young should be allowed to free his ideas, explain his thoughts, and art is subjective for all to begin with. One day perhaps my son will look back at his purple apple and say "hey that shouldn't be purple, it should be red!", but let him discover it on his own. I want my children to explore their ideas and thoughts, express themselves, make mistakes and know that it's okay to make mistakes. Self discovery is a very important aspect in my children's youth, and in a typical school setting, let's just say there's very little of that happening.

THREE. We want our children to be accepted and to accept, to love and be loved. 
With the above two points, I think you can see where I am going with acceptance in our local preschool setting. Inclusion has never really been followed through although most preschools actually have that listed in their vision and mission because ultimately teachers lead a very rushed, pressurizing and demanding jobscope and it is beyond their ability sometimes to cater to the whims and fancies and needs of every child, especially when they have 15-25 children under them with no assistant teacher in some situations. Having said that, it all really boils down to the teacher-student ratio, and that is not exactly a very happening ratio in our local context in most preschools, no thanks to overpopulation and the lack of manpower in the teaching industry. I don't know but ultimately, I've always believed that love and empathy starts from home, hence for them to learn to love, they need to be loved first and how better than to have a mother's love whilst being homeschooled. I can hug, kiss, and cuddle them all I want during lesson time, that's just my dream come true. :P

FOUR. We want our children to love life and nature, be happy and flexible in everything that they do.
Okay this fourth point is actually the most crucial decider that made us want to homeschool. Flexibility. When my children were attending school in the past year, and both my husband and I were working, we led a very rushed life. We rushed to wake up, we rushed through our food, we rushed the kids off to school, we rushed them home, we rushed them to sleep, and the vicious cycle went on and on. And I know too, that they were rushed in school, rushed to complete their art work, rushed through snack, rushed through play and the vicious cycle went on yet again. It is horrible that we rush our children so much that we don't realise how that stops their minds from taking time to indulge, explore, focus and experience and all this plays a huge role in how they are going to grow up in the future. So many people talk about primary school children not being able to focus, not being able to think out of the box, but did they ever retract back to why that happened? One word: rush. It is the killer attitude to growing up if you ask me. As an adult myself, I hate being rushed. I hate rushing. It takes away my opportunity to breathe and take in life as it is. Why do you think we all look forward to holidays and vacations, because that is the one time we are allowed to take time to appreciate and enjoy life the way it's meant to. Let's face it, YOLO.

FIVE. we want our children to love family, to know that family is and will be the only constant figure in their lives.
For most of us, family time is only most substantial on weekends since weekdays are workdays, schooldays and whatever days. While my children are still young, I'd like their weekdays to feel like weekends too, where they can have fun times with us and not give a hoot to anything else. Family time is so important to us that I don't want to put aside time for them, I want time to focus on them, period. If both parents can't do that, then at least one of us is doing that for these young ones. We could have a duo income family, and lead a very comfortable and luxurious life. One with couple of holiday trips a year, one with excess cash to spend on ourselves and one with enough CPF to retire peacefully. But you know what? Money cannot buy time, money cannot buy flexibility, and money cannot buy family. So we choose to live with the lack of good excess money, and learn to live within our means. You know how children at a young age cannot think abstractly, and they take things literally right? Having a mother or father figure with them at every moment allows them to understand that family is the constant figure in their lives. If they spend more time at a childcare under the care of nurturers, or maids, then they grow up understanding the fact that these are the people that are the constant ones. Get it? No amount of explaining or talking can actually remove that idea or memory because children best makes sense of the world through their own deductions and experiences.

A snapshot of our homeschool room.

Anyway, every family works differently, and has different ideologies and aims in life. I am not saying that homeschooling is better than schooling, I am also not saying that being a stay at home mom is more noble than a working mom's job. Like I said, we sat down and considered all these factors before actually deciding to homeschool which works best for our family because of our personal perspectives and objectives. We are very glad we took this route because it saves us plenty of dough too! Sending children to childcare these days are exorbitant, and I know it's never going to get cheaper and it shouldn't too because teachers need to be duly paid.

We had to get our parents convinced that homeschooling works for our family, because school is often viewed as a very important aspect in the Singapore context. A couple of people around us have given us looks with raised eyebrows whenever we say our children are home-schooled, but it does not faze us. Most importantly, we get to spend time with our children every single minute of everyday, and that is what makes us very happy. I get to wake up and cuddle them in bed for an hour every single day before we get down to playing, eating, exploring, sharing, enjoying. It's beautiful, to be able to take in everyday with my wonderful children while I still can, before they grow up, and you know what they say about growing up. It happens way too fast.


  1. I love it. I love it love it love it. I think what you're doing is exceptional. I loved having the kids at home with me when they were smaller and being their mama and teacher. But HS would be too big a leap for me. Also, I'm not getting any younger so they go to school for a bit, and I work for a bit, and we find some balance in that. That's my word for the year. Balance! Also, us being a part for a couple of hours keeps everyone sane in a way!

  2. Nicely-written, mama Nadia. I guess it boils down to what we want for our kids and how we could play our roles to the best of our abilities. Homeschooling is not easy - thumbs up for taking this leap of faith. Looking forward to the lessons too! :)

  3. Hello! I love what you've written and I'm also considering hs because of N's rather non-conformist ways. Love to read what you've done with the boys on a daily basis, it's so different and refreshing!