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Sunday, October 30, 2016

When school is right at home | The Straits Times

Photo: Venessa Lee
"Parents of about 50 children in each cohort each year choose to homeschool their kids, taking on various curricula and approaches" summarizes Venessa Lee.

The homeschooled timetable for Shania, who turns nine in December, includes playing instruments, cooking and picking leaves for her caterpillars.
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Homeschooler Jedidiah Eo, eight,
learns Latin as part of his curriculum.
Photo: Venessa Lee

Jedidiah Eo, eight, has been learning Latin and the history of the Magna Carta.

These subjects - as well as others he takes, such as geography and science - are not part of the syllabus for pupils his age, who are in Primary 2 in mainstream schools.

They are part of his Classical Conversations homeschooling curriculum, which aims to develop a love of learning through a Christian worldview. It is one of several curricula, including the Ministry of Education (MOE) syllabus, which his mother, Mrs Elaine Eo, 40, has been using to homeschool her son since he was 2½.

His sister Sarah, six, is also homeschooled; and their youngest sibling Hannah, three, joins in where she can, for example, in their daily reading sessions.

Homeschooling encompasses a wide range of philosophies and educational approaches.

Besides parents who adhere to the MOE curriculum, there are families who follow other structured curricula or a mix of educational approaches. Some of them practise "unschooling", which is driven by the children's interests.

Yet others subscribe to 19th-century-born British educator Charlotte Mason's method, which includes learning through "living books", quality literature where the author is passionate about the subject; as well as an emphasis on nature and the outdoors.

Jedidiah and Sarah's homeschool routine starts at about 9am - they do chores such as making their beds and sweeping the floor, which Mrs Eo says is part of contributing to their household.

This is usually followed by an hour of desk work and two hours of reading in a group, in both English and Mandarin. The children then help with lunch by laying the table or cutting vegetables.

Afternoons can be spent on activities such as going to the park; playing board games; or meeting other homeschooling families.

The two older children also attend Chinese enrichment class as another avenue to communicate in the language.

History is Jedidiah's favourite subject. "I like the information and I'm mainly interested in Singapore's history, such as the PAP (People's Action Party) defeating Barisan Sosialis. I also want to find out more about today's politics, such as news about the AHTC (Aljunied-Hougang Town Council)," he says.

He reads books with titles such as Whither PAP's Dominance? and Lee's Lieutenants and can discuss the China-Taiwan relationship.

He has done practice test papers for upper-primary science and English that his mother occasionally gives him, pitched at a level she thinks he can handle and yet challenges him.

Mrs Eo, a former civil servant who became a stay-at-home mum, admits that Jedidiah is "advanced" for his age.

"We hope to develop our children to be independent learners," she says, adding that homeschooling for their household is also about building character and cultivating good habits.

Source: The Straits Times