Homeschooling or home education is an alternative practice to mainstream education that involves the education of children at home or at places or settings other than school by a parent, a professional tutor, or both. It is a custom that is as old as the idea of education itself, practiced by families across different countries and cultures—even before the introduction of compulsory education laws—for the most part of history. Back then, before the 19th and 20th century when compulsory school attendance laws began being enacted, parents turned to no one but themselves for the training and education of their children. Employing the help of professional tutors was a luxury of the wealthy, and so homeschooling became common practice for most families. But as the trend in education shifted due to educational laws, families began sending their children to public schools, and only a few families continued homeschooling in isolation. However, in the 1960s-70s, as formal education became patterned after the industrial model, intellectuals and educators felt dissatisfied and began questioning its quality at the time.
In progressive Singapore, where the public education system can boast of producing the top students in various subjects across more than 60 countries in the world in a global assessment test for more than a decade, thinking about homeschooling can be rather odd. With its well-developed national education curricula, Singapore may seem like the last place to embrace homeschooling. However, similar to other countries with equally-progressive economies, homeschooling has been on the rise in Singapore.
Back in 2002, the Ministry of Education (MOE) made homeschooling legal in Singapore. But since the Compulsory Education Act, enacted in 2000, requires all Singaporean children to complete six years of primary education in national schools before they turn 15 or else parents will be fined up to $5,000 or jailed for up to a year, parents have to apply first to be exempted from this. And to apply for Compulsory Education exemption, parents would have to provide information about the curriculum they are planning for their child/children and the educational outcomes that are expected to come from it in order to make sure that all of Singapore’s homeschooling families meet core subject requirements per grade level in accordance with MOE’s national education syllabus. When they are around the Primary 6 level, they are also required to sit through the Primary School Leaving Examination or PSLE in four subjects—English Language, Mother Tongue Language, Mathematics, and Science—at Standard Level and meet the same PSLE benchmark as children attending mainstream schools.
What are the benefits of homeschooling?
Most people prefer mainstream education because they themselves being products of it believe that a traditional learning environment is always best for children. However, it is a known fact that not all children are the same, and so not all children benefit from the structure and sometimes rigid nature of a traditional school environment. That is why there are parents out there who choose to educate their children at home, with themselves as teachers or tutors, shaping their children's minds as much as they are shaping their character during their formative years.
Homeschooling, when planned and executed correctly, can be a unique educational opportunity for children and an empowering experience for parents.
An obvious reason for this is that when you homeschool your child/children, you get to spend more time with them as their teacher and parent. This means that you don't need to outsource or hire other people to educate and look after your child/children. You, on the other hand, become more hands-on in their learning as you become their main source of information. Second is that you become more involved in choosing what they learn at a certain age, at a pace that is best for them using methods or techniques that are most conducive to their learning style. This kind of involvement can empower you as a parent and assure you that your child/children receive quality educational content, with the added bonus of building their character and reinforcing core family values—something that teachers at school can't always guarantee. Third, you can allow and encourage them to choose co-curricular activities (CCAs) that they can enjoy or that suits their interests and/or talents—something that they need at an early age to open up and develop their imagination and creativity. Lastly, homeschooling allows you as a parent to monitor closely who your child bonds and plays with—something that can go unwatched in school that at times can lead up to your child being bullied or bullying other children, or your child being negatively influenced by his peers, or him being an unwanted influence on other children.
Who benefits from homeschooling?
Despite the fact that the majority of parents opt to send their children to mainstream schools, there are parents whose children have needs different from that of the average child, or parents whose involvement in their child or children's education is simply far greater than the majority. Mostly, parents who prefer homeschooling are:
1. Parents whose kids have special education needs like Down Syndrome, Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Auditory Processing Disorder (APD), visual or hearing impairment, speech impediment, dyslexia, etc. who will benefit from an adjusted and flexible curricula, or one that is especially designed for teaching children with special needs.
2. Parents whose children show creative tendencies at an early age than, or whose creative tendencies are more apparent than same-age peers, or are evidently more inclined or abled in the creative fields such as music, dance, drawing or painting, writing, photography, etc.
3. Parents who have strong religious values and feel that religion or religious values taught at school are inadequate or do not represent their family's own religious beliefs and traditions.
4. Parents who are former teachers and prefer to use their knowledge and training in education and pedagogy on their own children in order to maximise their child's potential as well as their own.
5. Parents who want to be more involved and more empowered when it comes to the type of education and the educational content their child is getting, which means parents who believe education shouldn’t only be about grades and instead want to raise children with strong values and a passion and curiosity for learning.
Are there downsides to homeschooling?
As with everything else, homeschooling has its own set of pros and cons. The benefits have been mentioned above, and as for its cons, here are a few that parents need to watch out for.
1. Homeschooling can be tiring, as it can be with parenting, working a nine-to-five job, or managing your personal blog, or running your own online shop. Anything that requires commitment can naturally be tiring, especially when you don’t have the security blanket of a school and the help of a teacher, and are constantly with your child. If you as a parent do not know how to set breaks for yourself and for your child/children, or when you do not allow yourself ample "me time" or simply do not know how to rest, it can get difficult not only for you but for your child/children as well. As a homeschooling parent, you are now responsible for setting the pace of your child's education, and as much as that is according to his specific needs, at times, it can also adjust according to your immediate needs.
2. Homeschooling heavily relies on structure, whatever that means for you and your child/children. It can mean going through a "school day" with timed activities, or setting specific topics or subjects to study and pore over in an entire day. Whatever it is, you get to decide and design—given that it meets the standards of learning for your child/children's specific grade level, offers an interesting variety of activities, projects, and approaches in learning, and most importantly, is something that you can commit to and follow through to achieve the education goals you have set for your child.
How to prepare for your child’s homeschooling
If you and your significant other are looking into homeschooling for your child/children’s education, here are a few tips to help you get started on your family’s homeschooling journey.
• Read homeschooling blogs. There are plenty of blogs out there run by mothers, parents, former teachers, or homeschooling advocates who personally share their experience and advice on the ins and outs of homeschooling. These people are those who have “been there and done that” in terms of home education, and some of them are families who have become homeschooling “success stories.” One great example is Singapore Homeschooling Association, an official non-profit association that talks about homeschooling and homeschooling-related topics such as curriculum recommendations, educational resources, and credible tutors or teachers. Another one is A Piece of Cake, a blog run by the Ong family and offers insights about a real family’s homeschooling journey. Homeschool Singapore is still another informative site that promotes homeschooling in Singapore and is known for their “Not Back to School” picnic, an event that brings together homeschoolers on the first day of public school in Singapore and aims to gather the homeschooling community.
• Look up the Internet or search social media sites for support groups, or ask your district if they have a local homeschooling community. This way, you can load up on useful information and tips that can help you make the decision whether to go for homeschooling or not. Support groups are a good way to get a sense of how something works, and the same is with homeschooling, so you get a glimpse of the issues that families who homeschool usually encounter. Facebook pages like Homeschool Singapore (a social media offshoot of the homeschoolsingapore.sg website), Singapore Homeschool Support, and Singapore Homeschool are just some examples. A homeschooling community would also be helpful since you can ask people from your very own community or district about the pros and cons of home education.
• Read about different programmes or curricula that work, or find ones that you think will suit your child's learning style. There are tons of downloadable programmes or curricula on the Internet, and though some require payment to download the programme, most offer free trial so you get to try the programme or the curriculum first. Some online programmes worth checking out are Stanford’s Education Program for Gifted Youth (EPGY), eLearning K12, and International Virtual Learning Academy.
• Inform your loved ones about your decision to homeschool your child, as this can sometimes become a source of disagreement or tension in families who have predominantly traditional values. Grandparents or older relatives can sometimes question this decision as they might not see the point of doing it, considering that they sent you or a whole generation of children to school and they all turned out well. More importantly, before you do this, make sure that you and your significant other have talked this decision through and are fully committed to it, as homeschooling is a commitment that you and your partner should follow through to be able to work for your child/children.
• If you have read all the advice and information that you need and find that you and your partner are already decided about homeschooling your child/children, then now would be the time to apply for a Compulsory Education exemption at the Ministry of Education.
What are some of my options?
Founded in 1894, Wolsey Hall Oxford is one of the longest established homeschooling colleges in the world offering courses in Primary, Secondary, IGCSE and A-Level subjects to homeschoolers in more than 100 countries. Wolsey Hall Oxford caters to the growing number of families in Singapore who homeschool their children from Primary right through to Secondary including IGCSEs and on to A Levels, both Singaporeans and expatriates.
Enlightium Academy is a Christ-centered, accredited K–12 online program with instruction based on the Biblical view of God and the world. Their aim is for families to share the abundant spiritual impact that Enlightium can have upon children, the strong pattern of learning that will develop in basic academic subjects, and most importantly, the opportunity to honor God in every part of life and learning. It calls itself a "next-generation online home school that sets the industry standards for quality education" with a focus on the Christian religion and its teachings and traditions. So for parents who want a more religious and less secular approach for their child’s home education, this is definitely an option.
Easy Peasy All-in-one Homeschool is a website that offers free online Christian homeschool curriculum. It has courses and learning materials on a wide array of subjects—ranging from Math, Science, Reading, History, Art, Bible, etc. It aims to “enable families to homeschool who thought they couldn’t because of a lack of finances, a lack of time, or a lack of know-how.” If you are looking for an all-around homeschooling source with a religious focus, then this is an option for you.
4. Home Campus
Home Campus was created to provide children with a campus at home--a homeschooling programme with a focus on maths. Home Campus aims to assist parents in helping their child build a strong foundation in primary-level mathematics. They offer Singapore Maths courses and learning materials for Primary 3-6, with topics divided per chapter. For example, for their Primary 3 maths course, Chapter 1 is Whole Number, Chapter 2 is Money, Chapter 3 is Time, Chapter 4 is Length, Mass, and Volume, Chapter 5 is Fractions, Chapter 6 is Area and Perimeter, Chapter 7 is Angles, Chapter 8 is Bar Graphs, and Chapter 9 is Perpendicular & Parallel Lines. This makes teaching your child easier because it comes in bite-sized pieces that you can still adjust according to his learning needs.
iMath is a an online math community that offers live one-to-one online tuition to Primary and Secondary students who need help with their math performance in school, or who simply want to master maths to get a leg-up on their national exams. For parents who homeschool their children, iMath can be a valuable resource as it can support your child’s math learning by having an online tutor who is available 24/7 and can be reached from home. Maths is no easy subject, and there will be times when teaching your child/children maths can get challenging or complicated, and so a tutor on-standby would always come in handy. With iMath, you don’t have to find a private tutor for your child/children and find a schedule that would fit your child’s homeschooling activities—you simply need to download the iMath app or go to the iMath website to book a tutor right when you need one, and reach him through your computer or electronic device to commence the session. Moreover, with iMath, you don’t always necessarily have to book a tutor—you can simply take a photo of your child’s activity and post it on iMath’s Community Wall if you are both having a hard time figuring out the problem and solving it—something that happens from time to time, especially with a subject as challenging as maths! And so give iMath a try today—visit the iMath website or download the mobile app through Google Play or the App Store to see how it can make homeschooling easier for you and your children.