Written by Shireen Shen Jega
As we walk along, going about our daily business, waving a cheery hello to people we pass – the kids often get stopped, and much to my dismay, the first question they are often asked, “Didn’t go to school?”
To which my daughter immediately responds, “I’m homeschooled!”
Her response is typically met with faces of disbelief; “Homeschool?! What’s that? You mean you have a school at home? How?”
She looks at them, incredulously; “My mama is my teacher and she teaches me at home.”
I start on my, ‘What is Homeschooling and Why I Homeschool’ speech.
A floating art lesson using loose parts to explore the concepts of floating and sinking
What is homeschooling?
Loosely put, homeschooling refers to educating children at home usually by a parent instead of sending them to a traditional public or private school. Parents set out an academic curriculum, and teach their children as guided by the chosen curriculum. Families choose to homeschool for a myriad of reasons; many in my opinion, owing to a dissatisfaction with the educational options available and differing educational philosophies.
An inquiry on Penguins using mind-maps
Why Do I Homeschool?
As an educator myself, I have had the privilege of teaching in many countries, educating alongside teachers with contrasting teaching backgrounds and philosophies. Having been offered this tremendous opportunity, my intention was to make my own observations on the nuances of education; what works, what doesn’t, why and how. This is what has driven me in the direction of affording my children a homeschooling experience.
Having moved back to Singapore, after living in Melbourne, Australia for a decade, I sought to give the local education system a go. I enrolled my daughter in a Nursery class at a local kindergarten. I wasn’t keen on sending her in the first place, going against my strict belief that formal schooling shouldn’t really start until five or six years of age. But, I gave in, thinking that it may offer her an avenue to socialise with children her age.
Fast forward a semester, I promptly took her out of Nursery class. She wasn’t progressing, came home sick half the time and had a better relationship with the teacher than with any of her fellow peers. I noticed that she was getting more and more withdrawn and too tired to want to do anything other than watch TV or play games on her iPad. Her learning had ceased and she just wasn’t the rambunctious, learning-addicted little girl I once knew. As soon as I got her out of class and began homeschooling again, she returned to her old self and it was such a joy to experience again.
An impromptu “Ice-Cream” Shop Imaginative play activity
As a result, I’ve been resolute in choosing to homeschool my children. The benefits far outweigh the disadvantages. Here are my top five reasons:
I can’t stress enough the importance of providing a learning environment that seeks to empower children to pursue their own learning. Research has shown that children learn far more effectively if they are learning about something that interests them. Child-led learning also allows the child to go at his/her own pace rather than having to follow a pace that doesn’t suit their learning capabilities.
An exploration of Gouache paints, inspired by Monet’s “Water Lilies”
Development of Individuality
In a typical school setting, there is a fair amount of peer pressure to conform and fit into a certain mould. A homeschooling environment provides the child with a safe and secure space that encourages meaningful and open conversations. The child is able to express their opinions without judgment and allows for the building of confidence in their own ideas.
Benefits of a one to one ratio
The effectiveness of one-to-one teaching (or one to two or three if you have more than one child) is evident in the amount of learning one can dish out across an hour versus learning across a day, in a traditional classroom for example, where the normal teacher ratio is 1:25. Questions can be asked and answered immediately, information divulged at a faster pace and interaction kept within a smaller group.
A painting inspired by the book, The Gruffalo
Time and flexibility are essential for the growing mind. Allowing each child to learn when they learn best is a wonderful benefit of homeschooling. Going on holidays when you want, extending holidays at whim and never having to count down the days till the holiday is over – I’ll take one of those, please!
No School Runs
One more time – no school runs! A parent’s dream. This means getting up at times that suit each family member and bedtimes that do not have to stick to strict times.
Baking Cheesy Vegemite Scrolls
Homeschooling is something that works for my family and it is something that I will continue doing until my children begin formal schooling. The early years of a child’s life are crucial to their success later in life. Homeschooling allows for that balance of play and learning; we get to enjoy the evenings without the stress of worrying about finishing up homework or completing a project. It has made us closer as a family as we get to spend more quality time together, participate in a myriad of activities and as such, have developed a shared sense of connectedness with each other. I wouldn’t change it for the world and really encourage families to give it a try!
Shireen Shen Jega is an educator with United World College and mum to two beautiful children, Ava Rose and James. She is also an amazing baker and fitness junkie.