Everyone assumes I am putting Livia in childcare so that I have more time in my hands. I have decided early on to postpone structured learning for her for as long as possible, which means she is not going to school until she is Primary One and she is only going to primary school because our government mandates it. The main reason being that education in Singapore has gotten to such a point that everything is structured and tested and there’s little time given to unstructured and free forms of learning. To be fair, there are many preschools that advocate play and unstructured learning, but the good ones are much too expensive for us to afford.
This will inevitably prompt the question: then how will she prepare for Primary One? Would it make her fall behind? How can she pay attention in school if she’s not prepared for it? They are all probably correct assumptions and I have no problem if any of this happens to her because its perfectly NORMAL and OKAY to fall behind, to not sit for hours without fidgeting, and to be unprepared for lessons that are way advanced for her age group. We decided to prepare our children for life, and not groomed for just academic pursuits that end up narrowing their mind, skills and world views. Whatever she will lack in school, we will make up for it at home at her own pace, and through ways customised to Livia’s learning personality.
I also want to give her the freedom to play, to imagine and to feel free, and the only chance I get to give her this is now before the system demands that she be ranked, categorised and tested. I haven’t fully figured out how to help my children adapt to the Singapore school system, but I will eventually, and I will write about it. I do see the benefits of schooling my children and taking examinations, but I feel standardised and high stakes testing is given much too early in Singapore. When I was 9 and my teacher told everyone they had to take the screening examinations (an exam that screens for gifted children), I asked my teacher is the exam optional and she said yes, and guess what, I decided on my own at 9 years old not to turn up for it. I didn’t even tell my mother about the examination. I figured its kind of stupid to sit for I don’t know how many hours taking an exam and on a Saturday no less when I can be outside playing. I might have missed my chance at the gifted programme, but I want my children to have that same individual mindset. To question things, to imagine different scenarios and outcomes, and not just go along with the crowd. And the only way to nurture this is in unstructured learning and through play.