Monday, June 18, 2012

The Trade-Off

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.


Dreamycat said...

I would say, as a previous Primary 2 and 3 teacher, that the syllabus is a big leap from Primary 2 to 3. The kids who used to be bright couldn't quite handle this leap for Maths and coping with a new subject, Science. It's as if, primary 1 and 2 is just a recap of the pre-school years. Maths is so much tougher with long division and heuristics is a pain. Of course, if his foundation in english is good, it's still alright.
Hence, probably you can give the system till Primary 3 and 4, then he could try for gifted stream?

Why Not said...

You know what, I have always wondered why you didn't choose to homeschool your kids. I have no doubt you will do a much, much better job than the local school system. The other factors like socialising etc, I believe the homeschool community can provide some support. The kids will be so happy to be in "mommy school" too. But of course, it's not an easy feat either so yes, a lot of think about...

Domesticgoddess said...

Dreamycat, I have heard of the big leap in syllabus between Pri 2 and 3, which is also why I wish the Pri 2 content is not this relaxed and basic. A prolonged "honeymoon" means the kids will have less time to cope with reality when they are eventually thrown into it.

I have spent time on heuristics and I can see how Pri 3 Maths is going to be challenging for many kids. But I like to view the challenge positively and hopefully my kids will too. A little stimulation for the brain is always a good thing.

Thanks for the suggestion too. I appreciate it. :>

Domesticgoddess said...

Jayne, thanks for the big faith. Honestly, the main reasons for not homeschooling them are selfish ones.

To do so means their education falls entirely on my shoulders and I will have to be super disciplined. Though I am always hands-on and very involved in their education, I didn't think I needed to be the only one teaching them.

While I agree there are flaws in our education system (for instance, the introduction of heuristics - would someone explain to me how mastering heuristics and answering those ridiculous Maths questions will equip my child with the critical skills for his future? It just seems like an awful waste of time!), I'm not convinced they are big enough for me to take over entirely.

But if we were living in a different country, I would most probably homeschool them, especially if we had plans to return to Singapore.

Maybe when Olivia is a little older and if I continued to get the impression that my kids were just wasting time in school, I will place them in Mama School and slog it out for a few years. :>


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