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Why I Choose To Homeschool

When Kor Kor was very young, I had thought I would be sending him to preschool like most kids. I had even decided on the school. A few months before Didi was born, my mummy friends whose second child was also due around the same time enrolled their firstborns in schools. But it was then that I first felt the reluctance. Mine, not Kor Kor’s. He was about 1.5 years old then, and I didn’t want him to be away from me for so many hours everyday. I felt that I might be able to manage taking care of two young children on my own.

As he grew older and as I read more, I became more certain that I wanted to homeschool him.

More Time With Siblings

This sounds crazy, right? We are all living in the same flat, Kor Kor and DIdi are sharing a bedroom with their beds right next to each other, and that’s still not enough time together? Hmm, one of the common reasons for sending the child is for socialization and to learn social skills. I think the kids need to spend more time to learn how to socialize with one another first! This is the reason why I have three kids close in age – so that they have playmates (socialization) and learn how not to kill one another despite being together ALL the time.

More Time For Rest And Play

If the kids are going to school, I would have to plan their naptimes and activities around schoolhours. And waste time traveling to and from the school. As it is, I am already having a hard time juggling three kids’ naptimes, especially since their KO time keeps changing as they grow. By homeschooling, there is no need to wake them up in the morning – they can sleep till they wake naturally. We can customize our schedule, e.g. if we have had a busy weekend, we can rest on Monday. When there is an interesting exhibition in town, we can go on a weekday and avoid the crowd.

The Age To Explore

One of my guiding principles for choosing activities and books for the children is that it should preferably be something they do not get to do in school. I mean, if they are going to do it when they go to primary school anyway, why do it now? That’s double ‘work’!

I Can Teach My Children

Ahem, fact is.. I am probably more highly educated than preschool teachers. And I have the great advantage of being the mother, and mother knows her child best, ya? I am confident I can teach my children at least as well as preschool teachers, though it is not likely that any parent can teach her child everything. And it’s ok, my children can learn as they grow, there is no need for them to learn everything right now.

More importantly, it’s not just about academics, or even things like independence or social skills (important as they are). I don’t see myself as a control freak, but I would sure like to know and to control what my children are learning and whom they learn from. I think I would absolutely hate it if they came home with a bad habit and I couldn’t trace where they picked it up!

Protect The Love For Learning

This is not such a good reason… because it stems from fear.. and it’s never a good reason to do something because of fear… I believe that all children have a natural love for learning, and I am scared that premature formal schooling would drown this love. It’s not that children should not be stressed, but I believe it makes a difference whether the child is ready. For example, if Kor Kor were in kindergarten now, he would have to write. From what I observe as a result of him never being made to write, he CAN’T write yet. I am not sure how well he would be able to write if he had no choice but to do so, though I have no doubt he would definitely be able to do so under pressure from teachers and peers. Yet, it is developmentally appropriate for him to only write around seven years old, so why force him?

Saveguard Self-Confidence

Given that I do not want to do academic stuff with my kids at the preschool age, if they do go to kindergarten, I would not go through their homework or spelling with them. (And please, no chance of me doing their projects for them!) But… what happens when they do badly on the tests? What if the teacher labels my child as learning-disabled or lazy? What if the classmates laugh at him for his low scores? How will his self-confidence suffer??? A caterpillar cannot fly, and if it is told that it will never be able to fly, it might not even try to fly when it becomes a butterfly.

I don’t wanna hothouse my seedlings. I wanna greenhouse them until they grow into tall, strong trees. A small seedling cannot survive the heavy rains and strong winds out there, but the tree can.

Image source

A pine tree survived the 2011 tsunami (Image source)

I will be letting the kids start formal education at primary one though. Because by then, they will be old enough (and hopefully tough enough) and developmentally ready to do what the P1 curriculum expects of them. Which brings us back to the preschool curriculum… I think most preschool curriculums are not age-appropriate. If I could find a preschool which does not really school the kids, I might be less worried. But such preschools are rare in Singapore… and I have other good reasons to keep the kids at home! See above : )

The one he wrote for Didi became part of Didi's glue collage :P

The one he wrote for Didi became part of Didi’s glue collage 😛

One fine day, Kor Kor suddenly wrote his name, and Didi’s name, then ‘Mummy’. I know of many 4.5-year-olds who can already write way better by now, but what Kor Kor did was totally unguided (we have never taught him or asked him to write) and he did it when he was ready. I have faith that when he is ready, he will write more and write more legibly.

Baobei, mummy wait for you : )

There are those who look at things the way they are, and ask why… I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?

Robert Kennedy

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Trains, Blocks And Puzzles

I can’t really remember how Kor Kor started his love affair with trains, especially since I used to dislike Thomas and his friends. (Now I have grown to love them. I judged them before I knew them. My bad.) Kor Kor has been playing with trains since very young, and one of the best decisions I made was to get him wooden tracks.

My choice back then was influenced by what I had read online and in books.

The feel of wood. The texture. The solidness. I believe young children can appreciate the beauty of good-quality toys. Wood is a natural material and it’s like the children are feeling something real.

More durable than plastic tracks. Won’t break no matter how the child stands on it or stamps on it or throws it around. Withstands vast amounts of roughhandling. (This is very important when there are younger siblings around!)

Kor Kor built with train tracks way before he was really playing with blocks. He builds railways, simple in the beginning, much more complex now. I see how the tracks function like blocks. Both are for building, aren’t they? Building with tracks is no less open-ended – he can let his trains go in any direction, according to his current play.

So many different types!
So many different types!
IMG_2414

Hard at work

And yet it is not that easy to connect the tracks in a complete layout. The railway can’t just go on and on; there are loops and sidings and stations and bridges to consider. He has to take into account the shape and size of the available pieces – some are long, some are short, some are straight, some are curved.

It’s like a puzzle.

Learning through open-ended play? But of course : )

He builds and rebuilds a few times a day..
He builds and rebuilds a few times a day..
Come to think of it, recently he has been spending more time building than actually playing with the trains!
Come to think of it, recently he has been spending more time building than actually playing with the trains!
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Our Art Corner

Other than painting, this is also the place where the boys do most of their messy play activities. It is in the kitchen, which makes it easy for us to clean up and for me to do my cooking etc while they play.

The boys’ artwork are showcased in the picture frames. I use 3M Picture Hanging Strips so that the frames can be easily removed for me to put in new drawings. The letters ‘CREATE’ are cut out from the boys’ drawings too. (No, I am not sentimental about cutting or throwing away their works. Too many!!)

The mirrors are my favorite part of the art area, inspired by Play At Home Mom. See here for the reasons for using mirrors.

The boys have basic art materials accessible at all times and they are allowed to draw or paint any time they like. Now they only have colouring pencils, crayons, dot markers, paint and watercolours available to them 24/7. I hope to put out more craft materials like beads when Meimei is older and not mouthing everything anymore. In addition, there are also scissors, letters-tracing cards, cutting exercises and playdoh in the drawers for them to use/play at their own time.

Sidetrack a bit: This is the first time he drew a building and described them to me! Don’t they look very much like the word “宫”? (meaning ‘palace’)

What other art materials do you allow your kids access to? I would love more ideas! Continue reading

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Learning Without Teaching: Telling Time

Basically, it’s similar to how Kor Kor learnt addition. About half a year ago, I put up two clocks. Because we never had any big clocks before that! We looked at our handphones when we wanted to know the time, but I thought, how on earth would the kids learn to tell time without any clocks?? I put one of the clocks at the kids’ eye level so that it would be accessible to them.

As usual, I brought the kids’ attention to the new additions once, briefly explained the purpose of the clocks, and left it at that.

Shortly after, Kor Kor started to ‘tell time’ by saying it’s 九点一个字 or 四点七个字, referring to the respective positions of the hour and minute hands. It wasn’t the ‘official’ way, but it was effective – we understood what he meant.

Recently, he started to take interest in the ‘minute’ markings on the clock, counting from 1 to 60 as he pointed at each marking.

Wow of course that got me very excited as I saw a Golden Opportunity right in front of me again. I started to tell him the time in the correct format, e.g. 九点零五分 and 四点三十五分. And very quickly, he picked it up!

But he’s still not 100% accurate lah. Mainly because he sometimes can’t make out whether it’s already, say 5 o’clock when the hour hand is between 4 and 5.

But that’s ok. I am just hoping he can be proficient in telling time by the time he starts primary school, partly for academic purposes, mainly for survival cos he won’t have his voice-activated-remote-controlled-talking-clock with him then. We still have one year and ten months to go, should be enough time I think : )

I pasted the number stickers myself cos I couldn't find a suitable clock with ready numbers for the minutes.

I pasted the number stickers myself cos I couldn’t find a suitable clock with ready numbers for the minutes.

Diligently counting

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Learning Without Teaching: Addition & More!

Recently, Kor Kor has been quite obsessed about Maths. Everyday he keeps asking ‘5 plus 2 equal what? 13 + 7 equal what? blah plus blah equal what?’

I have no idea what got into him suddenly!

After we told him the answers, he would check his addition book, which only gave the answers without any pictures. Sometimes he could also tell us the answers himself, but I suspect it’s probably from memory rather than understanding. I have no illusions that he’s doing mental sums! But children need to understand concrete before abstract!

Thus I introduced him to a set of Cuisenaire rods for early learners. Pretty soon, he was using it for all his addition questions.

Ants on a Log

At first, he would get mixed up. When he used a ‘7’ and a ‘1’ to get ‘8’, he would say “8 + 1 = 7?” And that got us started on subtraction – a very smooth and natural progression : )

Pretty soon he got the idea of ‘minus’ and started to ask many subtraction questions on top of the addition questions. Now the procedure is, use his cuisenaire rods to get the answer, then ask mummy or daddy “8 minus 7 equal 1?”, then after we answer in the affirmative, he checks his book. (OK, I guess he doesn’t know we are very good at addition and subtraction!)

The opportunity to introduce him to multiplication arose naturally when he started to ask ‘three plus three plus three equal what?’ (He was actually eating loveletters (kuih kapit, not the paper) and he asked for three each time.) At the third top-up of loveletters, I took out the bear counters and arranged them in three sets of three. Told him this was ‘three times three equals nine’. Didn’t explain further. I believe that by gently introducing him to new concepts over a long period of time (hey, we have more than six years from birth before he starts primary school! And hopefully a couple more years before he is tested on multiplication), he will be able to pick it up at his own pace. When he can understand, he will remember what I have been telling him and what he has been seeing (sets of bears!).

(By the way, I don’t like to use fingers for addition & subtraction. Only twenty fingers and toes in total, where got enough?! No point teaching hm this method when he can’t use it for long.)

This doesn’t mean he is already able to do maths now. But I am really pretty amazed at his sudden compulsion. Can’t help but think that children have their own timeline for learning. As it is the ‘right time’ for Kor Kor now, I can ride on his interest to teach him. Or rather, I am just answering his questions and providing him with the materials. There is no need for me to prepare lesson plans or for him to sit down to classroom-type lessons. (Not for now anyway :P)

Oh ya, we are also well on our way for division.

Kor Kor: “There are six cookies. So it’s three each for Didi and me.”

Me: “But mummy also wants to eat. How?”

Kor Kor: “Urmmm… OK, then we can have two cookies each!”

: )