The seed of homeschooling was planted in our family back in 2007. It started when a friend recommended the “Singapore Homeschool” Yahoo group to us. Julian was just a year old at that time so we were quietly reading whatever that was posted in the forum to get an idea of what goes on in homeschooling.
The first thing that amazed us when we joined the homeschooling forum was how resourceful and positive these homeschooling parents are towards providing a different kind of education for their kids! In our views, it is much more wholesome and holistic than the classroom-based education that is compulsory in Singapore.
In Singapore, it is compulsory by law for children above the age of 6 and under the age of 15 to attend a national primary school (also known as elementary school in some countries). However, exemptions from Compulsory Education are given to children with special needs, children attending designated schools (such as religious schools) and children receiving homeschooling. For parents who wish to homeschool their children, they are required to apply to the Ministry of Education for a certificate confirming that the child has been exempted from Compulsory Education. For more information on Compulsory Education in Singapore and how you can get exemption from it, you can visit the Ministry of Education’s website on Compulsory Education.
Although a tingling thought to homeschool our kids developed in us, we wondered, “How do we do it?”, “Where do we start from?” and “Is homeschooling suitable for our kids?”
Ironically, we visited a Montessori School in October 2008 when Julian was just 2 years and 3 months old. Being the first Montessori school in Singapore with over 20 years of history, we were pretty excited about the visit especially since one of the teachers there is a friend who introduced the Montessori Method to us before Julian was born. When we arrived at the school, Julian was immediately engaged with the practical life works there while we were given a tour of the school. The benefits of starting Julian’s preschool education there became clear:
- Julian has always been a very active child and always on the move looking for things to do. So providing him with a Montessori environment could fulfill his need for movement and work.
- Having Julian in school also meant that we could have some personal time, which can really make a difference on some days!
We loved what we saw so we decided to start Julian’s preschool education in the Montessori school.
Discovering Sensory Sensitivity
One of the things that we really like about Julian’s school is the close rapport we have with his teachers. This has always allowed us to freely discuss and share Julian’s progress, lighthearted moments and other issues. In the middle of 2009, the teachers told us that Julian gets distracted easily and has not been able to focus well. He tends to constantly surround himself with noise, such as talking, humming or tapping on the table even when he’s working alone. We brushed it off initially thinking that those are things that kids usually do, especially since Julian is the REALLY chatty type. We also deduced that Julian was still adjusting to the early school hours and hence could not focus well.
But as the same feedback persisted for over a year, we couldn’t brush it off anymore. In August 2010, we probed further into the feedback and realized the extent of the teachers’ concerns. So we decided to go with the school’s suggestion to bring Julian for an assessment with an Occupational Therapist.
After 2 sessions with an Occupational Therapist specialized in pediatrics, she suggested that Julian could be Sensory Sensitive based on her observations and the feedback we gave her. She recommended some practical methods that can be effective in helping sensory sensitive children to focus better and manage distractions among other sensory integration issues. Some of these methods include:
- Playing soft music in the background while Julian is doing work.
- Providing a quieter working place where there is less people moving around.
- Providing a “manipulative” to hold on during sessions that require listening concentration.
Since there is no one-size-fits-all solution, the key is to test and observe which methods work in different situations. In order to do this both at home and in school, we got Julian’s school to work hand-in-hand with our Occupational Therapist. We must say we have been very blessed that the school has been really supportive in testing the methods and updating us with his progress!
We’ll dig into the topic of Sensory Sensitivity and Occupational Therapy in another blog post as we think it really deserves a discussion of its own.
School or Homeschool?
Homeschooling! Or is it?
That pretty much sums up our initial thoughts… and fears!
We recognize the benefits of homeschooling like:
- Being able to help Julian manage his sensory integration issues at home.
- Being able to make learning fun by spotting his interest and bringing in activities or good reads to grow his thoughts.
- Most importantly,being able to have more quality time with Julian. As parents, we want to play an active role in Julian’s learning journey instead of simply depending on school.
But we also recognize the benefits of attending a Montessori school like:
- Working together with teachers to help Julian focus better and manage distractions in a school environment.
- Providing the full range of Montessori works that we can’t provide at home.
- Julian having his own circle of friends in school.
To be honest, we have our own fears too! The decision to homeschool calls for a new commitment that requires much time, effort and patience. It calls for self-confidence and humility. It calls for us to step out of our comfort zone of simply relying on the school for Julian’s preschool education!
After many weeks of contemplation, we decided to reduce Julian’s school hours by half. We also moved Julian from the English Montessori program to the Chinese Montessori program that is conducted in a quieter section of the school. So Julian now goes to school on 3 mornings a week, allowing us to integrate homeschooling when he’s not in school.
The first 6 weeks have been very encouraging. Julian began showing a renewed enthusiasm in learning. Incorporating learning through field trips and books recommended by homeschoolers has sparked Julian’s interest to discover more through questions, books and experiments. This renewed enthusiasm has somehow made Julian more enthusiastic about going to school too! We believe the change to the Chinese Montessori program coupled with a quieter environment in school helped! While we can’t single out the biggest contributing factor among the several changes we made, we are happy yet relieved that our first step into homeschooling has taken a positive direction.
So what is your take on homeschooling? What are your considerations? What are your experiences? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!