Homeschooling and unschooling are really quite trendy in Singapore right now, especially among certain clusters of parenting communities (whom, I don’t really want to identify in this blog but you can ask me privately). Homeschooling is fairly straight forward idea where you school your child at home but most people are still unfamiliar with unschooling. This is quite a good piece on unschooling if you are scratching your head and wondering what it is.
My husband and I weighed our options when it came to deciding whether to enrol Livia into preschool. I’ll be honest. We were really atas with the schools we wanted her to go and we just couldn’t afford any of them, especially with the triplets – our preschool costs are not staggered since they are of the same age. So I thought why not just homeschool Livia until Primary 1 and then I just have to do it one more time with the triplets and then I’ll be done with preschool altogether.
Many people believe well its just ABCs and 123s, how difficult can it be. This early childhood thing is actually pretty complex and I can see why a degree or PhD in Early Childhood education can be valuable if you are homeschooling or unschooling. Nevertheless, I did my own research:
So I read many books.
I read all the top homeschooling and unschooling blogs.
I researched on the things I needed to prepare for homeschool.
Let me just say this: it was tedious beyond belief and very, very expensive. You will need to be fairly privileged to be able to afford to homeschool your children. I mean first of all, one parent HAS to stay home to be able to homeschool or unschool. You will also need plenty of resources to unschool a child because so much of unschooling takes place outdoors. Just a cursory glance at homeschooling and unschooling blogs will tell you much investment is made into transforming a room into a classroom. And I am a little dubious about parents who are not formally trained in early childhood (including myself), or languages, or linguistics, or Mathematics, or Science to take the lead in wholly educating a child, especially if they are homeschooling beyond preschool. I find that what many of them end up doing is sending their kids for enrichment classes on the side to make up for the areas they lack – again this requires more money.
You might say, well lots of homeschoolers DIY to save costs. The problem of DIY is most of the DIY-ing falls squarely on the parents. On top of all the parenting and household responsibilities a homeschooling parent already has, they still need to DIY a lightbox, or DIY an alphabet moveable box? Its such an unnecessary and additional burden.
On top of that, if I did not join a co-op or a homeschooling community, my girls will have nobody to socialise with, so I also have to schedule playdates and playgroups. I feel that they will miss out on the fun of making a friend spontaneously because the nature of playdates and playgroups is such that you end up just socialising among your inner circles who basically share the same values, social background, social class and dare I say even ethnic background.
Everything that bothers me about homeschooling and unschooling is pretty much summarised in this article. In essence, when you homeschool and unschool you children you have a fundamental distrust in public service. To be fair I understand why many parents wish to do it: the Singapore academic scene is intensely competitive and standardised test-heavy. Many children will probably not fit in well. But as the article urges, rather than lobby and negotiate to change the system, it is much easier for parent’s who are unhappy to pull out and create their own school system. Now the thing about living in Singapore is if both your parents are Singaporean you can’t fully unplug because even if you homeschool or unschool, you will have to submit your curriculum for review by MOE and opening up your home to MOE home-visits to make sure your child is on track. And ultimately, its still mandatory for your child to sit for the PSLE at 12 years old. Singapore is oddly “egalitarian” in this sense.
I have many, many problems with schooling in Singapore. But given my social class and our income bracket, we are more than happy to send our kids off to Primary 1 when the time comes. I don’t see ourselves homeschooling beyond the preschool years unless our primary schools have really failed and and discouraged my children. I plan to be optimistic that they are going to enjoy public schooling, it may or may not be difficult, we will try not to participate in senseless competition, and we will take it one step at a time.
I am also not entirely sure how this homeschooling preschool thing will go. And if this is something you will be interested in doing for your child, I hope my blog can help you set up your own preschool at home even though I fundamentally disagree with the idea.