Posted by: angiefm | December 27, 2008

Our Homeschool Story …

We get asked a lot to tell our homeschool story. Not just why we homeschool (which is a topic for another article), but how did we get to where we are now. Here’s our story … You will see that it is a story of God’s providence, of His perfect timing, and of the rewards when we exercise our small faith. But beware … brevity is not my strong suit!

Today is 27 Dec 2008. We have been homeschooling for 4 years. I quit my job 4 years. And Nathalie, our youngest, is 4 days away from turning 4 years’ old. No coincidence.

Back in April 04, we had it all figured out. We had just moved into a new house (larger and more expensive of course) and now lived three hundred metres from my parents’ home, which was great since they were looking after our kids and chauffeuring them around while we were out at work. Two incomes, two kids, two annual (and sometimes extravagant) holidays, one helper, one car (quite new), new house, new furniture, new clothes and shoes whenever we wanted (not needed) them. It was a good life. Sure we had the usual feelings that we were not spending enough time with the kids, but hey, that was typical of the Singaporean lifestyle, right? At least we gave them all the material things they wanted and sent them to the best childcare services money could buy. Surely that was enough.

Then we found out we were expecting another child! ANOTHER WHAT? We thought. Certainly not in our plans. This discovery was followed by many discussions, which often ended in anger, frustration and many tears (mine of course). Already we didn’t have enough time for two children, what about three? No. Things would have to change.

But how? We NEEDED the money I was making right? And my parents were taking such fabulous care of our children, surely they could take care of one more? 5 grandchildren isn’t too much to handle is it? How about if we had another maid. Yes. That would help. No. I don’t know. Things would have to change. Part-time work? Company wouldn’t allow it. Another job? But what? How much time to make how much money? But we NEEDED the money right? Yes. But … Things would have to change.Then it was settled. Things would certainly HAVE to change. I needed to quit my job and stay home. And the decision could not be dependent on my finding another job, part-time or just easier. So quit I did. Of course there was much concern, if not outright opposition to our decision. What a waste of a good job, good money, good career, good education. Stay home? Oh, what a waste! But it was settled. I would quit my job after our third child was born.

The biggest question, of course, was what were we going to do without the money I was making! I spent countless hours poring over spreadsheets and bank statements trying to make sense of it all. There was NO WAY we were going to make ends meet. Then a series of very interesting events happened. All the working of our Loving God who takes care not just of the BIG things, but of the little ones as well.

First, an insurance agent hubby Tee Chiou knew had left the insurance profession and entered into investments instead. He told us that by delinking insurance and investment we could save money. Yah right, we thought. But hey, he was willing to do the analysis at no cost to us, so why not? To cut a very long story short, we ended up with better coverage, higher investment returns for a lower monthly expense!

Then DBS made an unsolicited call to Tee Chiou. Though he usually cuts these cold-calls short, he actually entertained this particular caller. DBS was having a great home loan refinancing package. You paid the interest for the first year upfront and didn’t have loan repayments for a year. AND they were giving cash back of 1% of the loan amount. Now THAT would certainly help!

Then the government announced plans to extend maternity leave from 2 months to 3. That would mean that I would continue to receive pay for 3 months after Baby #3 arrived!

Oh, there are so many more such things that happened that I could write a book about the Lord’s faithfulness and His loving kindness. But we must move on …

Even though many amazing things were happening on the financial side, we were still short. Though we should have trusted in the Lord’s provision, yet in our human minds, we could not see how we would make up the financial shortfall every month. We still had a house and car to pay for and mouths to feed. We could not afford to continue sending Alethea to that brand name school that cost us almost S$800 per month, let alone send Timothy in as well, as we would have done if our beautiful plans had not been derailed.

So we decided that we would homeschool. It was not a new thing to us. There was one homeschool family in our church, though they were at this time preparing to return to the USA. And we had been reading up about homeschooling, not as an alternative to schooling mind you, but as kiasu Singaporeans wanting the best of both worlds. And unbelievably I had been receiving the Singapore Homeschool Group newsletters for two years already, with narry an intention to homeschool. On hindsight, the Lord was preparing us for the next big journey of our lives.

But could we REALLY do this? We knew it was legal. We knew others were doing it. But could WE? Then we thought, hey, it’s only KINDERGARTEN! How difficult can this be. And K ONE at that. If we really messed up, we’d just send Alethea back to school in K2 and have the school fix it all up again before she went to Primary One. So it was decided. We would homeschool JUST in the pre-school years.

Our third child was born on 31st of December 2004. She signalled the start of a new journey, marked the beginning of a new year and heralded the rebirth of our family. We named her Nathalie, for it means Rebirth.

Now I will not tell you wonderful stories about how we curled up on the sofa to read, me the homeschool mom with the serene face, and the three children looking up at me in wonder, respect and love. Because it didn’t happen. The first 6 months were difficult ones. New baby, no job, first time as a stay-home-mom. There were bets in the office about how long I would survive, and when I would be going to ask for my job back. Tee Chiou would walk in the door in the evening, take one look at me and know that our pillow talk that night would be about what which kid did and how it made me mad. It was compounded by the arrival of my maternal grandfather to stay with us in March, barely 2 months later, with his helper in tow. There were just too many things, too many people, too much opposition.

If you asked me now why we homeschool, I’ll explain it point by point and with conviction. If you asked me now if I’m worried about socialisation or the lack thereof, I will smile at your concern, explain that there is much confusion over the meaning of the words SOCIALISE and SOCIALISATION, then tell you how our days are packed with SOCIALISING and that acknowledged studies show that homeschoolers are better SOCIALISED than their school-going peers. If you asked me now what curriculum we use, I’ll explain not just what we use but why we use it and how we use it. If you asked me now what my day looks like, I’ll pull out our family’s schedule and show you not just what MY day looks like, but what the day looks like for all our children too … and in half hour blocks.

But if you had asked me THEN, I would have stammered and struggled to find the answers, then when you walked away, I would have been filled with doubt and anxiety.

The first question people used to ask was, “So what curriculum do you use?” And I was not confident enough then to say, well, we just read. Which is in effect what we now do. So one of the first things I begged Tee Chiou to allow me to do was to buy a curriculum. Just so I could name drop.

When that was done (and boy was it an expensive decision!), the next person who came up to ask me the same question received the very confident answer, “We’re using Sonlight”. Well, it seemed to work. People used to nod their approval and walk away. Now, these were non-homeschoolers mind you. And for all they cared, I could have said, “We’re using blah-di-blah”, and they would still have nodded their approval. I must admit that we only lasted eleven weeks with Sonlight but sheepishly continued name-dropping for some time after.

Then obviously as we grew in our role as homeschoolers, read more, talked more to other homeschooling families and listened to the wisdom of those who had gone before, we grew more confident and started fielding those same questions in very different ways.

I just looked over all that I has just written and boy is it LONG! If you’re still with me, let me cut to today.

Today we are a homeschooling family of still 5. We still have a helper who is an invaluable support to me. My grandfather has since gone home to be with our Lord.

We homeschool because we desire to enjoy our children and keep them close to us and to each other during their formative years, when they learn important lessons of faith in God, of love for people and of the importance of family. We want them to live these years unhurriedly, while developing a great attitude toward learning and to be able to follow their individual passions and learn at their own pace.

But more importantly we homeschool because we believe God has called us to do so and we have responded in obedience.

We school using the Charlotte Mason philosophy and spend time telling people about why we do and how they can too. We spend mainly mornings schooling, during which we cover the three R’s – reading, writing and arithmetic – as well as Chinese language. We do history, geography, science and throw in composer and artist studies, poetry and handicrafts for a well-rounded and generous education.

There are some changes in our schedule starting Jan 09, but basically the children will have lunch with their maternal grandparents on Thursdays, followed by gym in the afternoons.  We are cutting down (or out) most other activities in anticipation of Baby #4’s arrival in May. 

We try to keep weekends sane, and activity to a minimum. Apart from Church service at 8.30 am on Sundays (we attend Bethesda Katong Church), we have no other scheduled activities except Chinese lessons with Daddy on Saturday mornings. Tee Chiou is our family’s art and craft teacher and our current obsession is clay modelling, and we spend weekends doing that.

We are but at the start of what we know will be an exciting journey. The Lord has called us to this lifestyle of loving and learning and we will not look back. May He also bless you and your household as you seek His direction for your lives.

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Responses

  1. wow! homeschooling family. in Singapore! all the best! i’ll be sure to check back to read more about this! 🙂

  2. Thanks Angie, for sharing this I read every word of this blog entry and I feel really very encouraged… am seriously looking into homeschooling my 2 kids too… but regret to say I just put my Timothy in Pre-Nursery class this year and am now starting to regret… would have to pray about it further… 🙂

  3. Hi Pauline,

    Thanks for dropping in and reading. I don’t want you think that school is always wrong. Neither is homeschooling always right. I think we have to be discerning and allow the Lord to convict us. We homeschool because we are convicted to. We have our bad days, but the Lord sustains us because He has called us to do this.

    I am not a purist. I do not think that the Lord calls EVERYONE to homeschool. I know some do. I believe our God is far greater than that. We are not called to homeschool. We are called to obedience. So listen … and obey! 🙂

    God bless you and your household, Pauline!

  4. Hi Angie,

    Thanks for starting this blog.
    I enjoyed reading your
    blog! I am a SAHM since Jan 08
    Hooray!

  5. Hi Angie,

    Your blog is an encouragement and a blessing. You write with a lovely spirit.

    I wondered if there were homeschooling families in Singapore, beyond preschool. It would require much strength and boldness to stand in it with the flood of queries from people as well as their presumptions. Truly His Grace is abundant in your lives.
    I have been looking into this of late. Also came across TEACH Asia. Have you any advice on them, they do ICCE instead of O levels.
    How do get started with homeschooling in Singapore? Registrations, legalities? If you have written about this, perhaps you could point me to it.
    Is it the same for non- Singaporeans and PRs?

    Congratulations on the amazing birth of your baby boy!!]

    Warm Regards,
    Sarah


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