My mum and a few friends commented recently that my boys are really free and all that they seem to do all day is play, draw and read.
They gave accounts of relatives' and friends' kids who spend hours every day labouring over assessment books or tuition homework after finishing their school homework. This is nothing new.
I can see how puzzling it must be to them to see the contrast between other kids and mine and how it must be incredible that M, at Primary 2, is still able to spend a good 5 - 6 hours on a weekday just playing, drawing and reading whatever he likes. On weekends, he spends virtually every waking hour doing the same if we aren't out and about. Leisure time is even longer for N, since at K2, he has only 3 pages of homework once a week, which he finishes within 5 minutes every Friday.
This is all part of our plan, right from when the kids were little.
By laying a strong academic foundation when the kids were younger, hopefully we will delay the need for tuition. Better still, they will not require tuition and extra classes and still be able to excel academically.
Like most things, I value quality above quantity, so I ensure the boys are also not loaded with much written work after school. On average, M spends 2 to 3 hrs weekly on good quality written work and half that time for Chip, so there is ample time for hobbies and relaxation.
It's been all good so far and both boys have returned home with stellar academic performance and reviews according to the teachers' feedback at the Parent-Teacher-Meetings and report books.
But I am never the kind of parent who just accepts the reviews without some probing. I questioned what was not written and I am always interested to know how the kids will be stretched at what they are already good at and helped in areas of weakness.
However, after the Parent-Teacher-Meeting with M's teacher in end May, I have to admit I began to entertain thoughts of homeschooling my kids till PSLE.
A few years ago, when I was seriously considering homeschooling, I always knew that if I were to ever homeschool them, I would only do so for the pre-school years, during the formative years. The kids will join the local mainstream or international schools after kindergarten. There are simply not enough good reasons for me to homeschool them well into PSLE.
But recently, I can't help feeling really disturbed after hearing M's account of his typical school day. His teacher's account didn't help either.
At first, I thought that even if the level of English and Maths taught is so basic and that my kid has to spend his whole day waiting for the teacher to review 2 pages of corrections with the rest of the class when he already knows them all, there has to be value somewhere else.
Perhaps he gets more out of his Chinese lessons, after all, this is one subject in which he can use more 'pushing'. He is great with word recognition and sentence usage but there is always room for improvement in other aspects. Disappointingly, the message I got from the PTM is - the school curriculum will teach the average child what they need to learn, and (of course) it is up to the child (and his family) to bridge the gap between what he has really learnt and what he will eventually be tested on in the national exams.
To know that I can't count on the school teacher or any school programme to ensure any improvement in his areas of weakness, means he is not getting much out of spending 7 hours a day in school (including commuting time). A whopping 140 hours a month! Or 1330 hours a year (just counting 9.5 months of school days)!
I can't help wondering if my child's 1330 hours a year could be better spent if we were to opt for homeschooling instead. I am sure he can learn the same 'little' amount in a third of the time, which means he has so much more time to indulge in something else to widen his horizon.
I am aware that being in a mainstream school is not just about lessons, grades and learning content. There are also many other intangible benefits and opportunities for kids to hone their other life-skills.
There is no perfect education system and I am not expecting it. The question is how much am I willing to accept the flaws, especially knowing that my child is not getting very much out of the 1330 hours a year he has to spend in class. This amount of time will only increase when he is in the upper-primary years when the school requires additional hours of lessons after school.
The trade-off is immense. There is so much to think about.