Posted by: angiefm | May 21, 2011

Deferring to the Experts

Experts.  They’ve been on my mind a lot recently.

It seems that gone are the days when parents knew what they were doing and were confident that they were doing right by their kids.  Or perhaps they didn’t know but were not letting on.  😛

These days it seems we are all deferring to some authority or other.  We read parenting books – both secular and religious.  We ask others for advice and take their word as Gospel truth. We attend talks and workshops.  We send our children to classes and camps to learn thinking skills and how to be creative.  We send them out to workshops to learn to make pizzas and to build junk art sculptures.

It seems we have lost faith in ourselves to parent and teach and impart life skills.  And it seems we have lost faith in our children’s ability to learn on their own, in their own time.

Please don’t get me wrong.  I am not saying sending children to classes is wrong.  I am not saying we should not reach out to whatever/whoever for help with our shortcomings or questions.  I am not saying we shouldn’t read parenting books (you should see how many I own!)  I’m just saying that we seem to be reaching out more than we are reaching in.

This became a very real issue to me recently.

Homeschooling or Nothing

Those of you who know me know that I am nothing short of totally committed to homeschooling.  How long for is anyone’s guess.  As I like to say to people who ask … the Good Lord only knows.  🙂  But the Good Lord has also given me a husband who tempers my all-or-nothing character with his blend of sanity, level-headedness and critical thinking.  Characteristics which I am woefully short on.

So … back to homeschooling.  When we were planning to move to Montreal, many people said, OH GOOD!  Now you can send your kids to school!  Like … HUH?  Why would moving from Singapore to Montreal make any difference to our decision to homeschool?

Apparently the thinking was that since the schools here are supposedly less pressurising, more well-rounded, and all things which the Singapore system is supposedly not, it would be a good time to put our kids in school for a “real” education. 

But over the years, homeschooling has become less about an education but more about a lifestyle.  Our decisions to homeschool include building parent-child and sibling-sibling bonds, allowing our children freedom and time to pursue their own interests, learning what God puts upon our hearts to teach, etc. 

Besides, I honestly feel I’m the best person to teach our kids. No one else cares as much as Tee Chiou and I do about equipping them for life. These things do not change when you move.  So the kids are still home.  Status quo.  🙂

A Word from the MOE

BUT … recently, while seeking clarification from the Ministry of Education about our new “status”, being overseas, we received a bit of a stunner.

You see, we had consulted them verbally previously and were led to believe that once overseas, we no longer were under the MOE’s jurisdiction.  We were told then that we would just be classified as “overseas” and would not have to submit progress reports to the MOE.  But when we emailed them for confirmation after arriving here, we were told that we would continue to be subject to the Compulsory Education Act, would have to submit annual reports, and our children would have to sit for the PSLE if they return to Singapore before they turn 15 and if they have not completed their “primary education or its equivalent”.

So if our children were in a school in Singapore then we went overseas, the MOE wouldn’t care what kind of an education they received and from whom.

And if our children were homeschooled in Singapore but went overseas and were enrolled in a school, the MOE wouldn’t care either.

But since we homeschooled then and we homeschool now, the MOE does care.  We feel so loved.  🙂

Questions

Which brings up a many questions, ranging from the practical “What is definied as a primary education or its equivalent?” to the more philosophical “What is an education? and “If we were completely free to educate our children in ways we as parents see fit, what would the end(s) of that education look like?”

On Who’s Authority?

Let’s leave the philosophical for another day.  For now, the question for us is, “What is a primary education or its equivalent?”  We need to figure that out because if we return after Tee Chiou’s 3-year term, Alethea will be 14 and still subject to the Compulsory Education Act and would have to do her PSLE at that age.  Unless we can show that she has completed her primary education or its equivalent.  After much deliberation (sounds good when I put it that way, huh?), here are what seem to be our options:

  1. Send Alethea to school in her Grade 6 year (starts end Aug 2011).
  2. Enrol Alethea in an accredited homeschool programme for Grade 6.
  3. Have Alethea take a standardised test here in Canada for Grade 6.
  4. Maintain status quo and have Alethea sit for the PSLE when she returns to Singapore at age 14.

Option 1, Send to school – Why should the MOE be satisfied that a Singaporean family is sending their Singaporean children to be educated by Canadian teachers, surrounded by Canadian children in a Canadian school, being taught a Canadian curriculum while imbibing the values of a Canadian society?  Why is this preferrable to having them stay home with their Singaporean parents, being educated using a Singapore curriculum, complete with a Singapore national education programme while imbibing Singaporean/Asian values?

Option 2, Accredited Homeschooling – Now, I understand the attraction of having our children use a packaged and levelled homeschool curriculum like Abeka, Bob Jones University, Accelerated Christian Education, etc.  I know many homeschool families who do and it keeps them very sane.  🙂  But why would I need to pay a 3rd party a whole lot of money (US$590 per year) to certify that my children have completed what I know they have completed.  Isn’t my own word on the matter trustworthy?

Option 3, Standardised Testing – There is a standardised test in Canada called the Canadian Achievement Test.  We don’t know if the MOE will accept this as an equivalent.  Though I don’t see why not.  🙂  Question is, what do we do for Chinese?  They don’t have a standardised test for it in Canada.  But she only has 1 year and can’t possibly learn French to the level required to take a Grade 6 standardised test.  Or can she?  😀

Status Quo

So for now, it looks like we’ll be maintaining the status quo.  And waiting to see what God has in store for us in the coming years.

Stay tuned!  🙂

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Responses

  1. Wow, what a well-timed post! I had been thinking if you on and off for the past few weeks, Angie, meaning to ask you what would be happening with Alethea and the PSLE and if she would be exempted from it. Interesting to now know the answer.

  2. I also wanted to add, it is entirely possible that the MOE has not (until now, been) given (the opportunity to give) the issue the same amount of thought that you obviously have, not to mention the question of whether an individual case rates an individual solution, and therefore you have received the “status quo” reply.

  3. Hi Angie…good to hear from you. Have you managed to meet up with other homeschool families (like you mentioned in your previous letter). I was telling Littly, I think in S’pore, the homesch community is more close knit….bcos basically we are “a kaypoh lot” LoL. Pray that God will send the right people to your path. Take care dearie 🙂 You are missed:) just last week we celebrated my kid Darren’s ‘pre”-birthday celebration with abt 19 families, majority were from homesch group…was thinkin’ if you were in town, I would’ve invited you 🙂

  4. I guess your decision to homeschool, as is mine, has always been independent of time and place, it is a faith walk. I just know that at this point in time, He is still leading me in that direction. But I am prepared to change course anytime He says otherwise, and the signs will be clear. Proverbs 3:5-6 Trust in the Lord with all your heart…..He will make your paths straight.

    Be encouraged, sister in Christ!

    Amanda

  5. Hi Angie,
    Wow – such complicated decisions..what about continuing to register Alethea for the PSLE in Singapore and flying her back just during that specific period to take the exams? Would that be considered a viable and acceptable option by MOE? That way you can carry on status quo but would have advance time to look for reasonably priced air tickets, and it would be less costly than US$590 a year for an accredited homeschool programme? Just wondering…

    Take care!

    • Hi there Gwen. We have certainly considered the possibility. 🙂 But it will definitely cost more than 590 to fund the trip because we will all go back with her if she goes. Anything times 6 is a lot of money! LOL!

  6. Wouldn’t your kids be exempt from Chinese, having been away?

    sam

    • Ah … that’s the other thing with homeschooling. We can’t get exemptions! Like I said in my post … we feel so loved! *grin*

  7. Hi Angie,

    Write to our newly appointed MOE minister, he is all open to understand the issues on the ground regarding the eduction system in Singapore currently and seem very keen to improve things for poor parents like us stuck in some rigid policy. This could be a blessing in disguise , no harm trying
    http://www.facebook.com/hengsweekeat

  8. Dear Ma’am,

    We are a group Year 5 students from River Valley High School doing our “A” level H1 Project Work (PW for short). The theme for this year’s projects is either “Risk” or “Conflict”. Our group has chosen our research topic to be “The Risk of Homeschooling in Singapore”, where we look at the benefits of homeschooling as well as what we feel are its shortcomings. We then try to propose some suggestions to mitigate the risks involved.

    We understand that you are no longer in Singapore, but your situation mentioned in the above post is very interesting. We believe it will add value to our project by giving it a more international perspective.

    We feel that your experience and expertise would be invaluable to our project. We would very much appreciate it if you could take time off to speak to us about your experiences as a homeschooling mother, if you happen to return anytime soon. Or you may find it more convenient to contact us by email (l_taohai@hotmail.com or hogharas@gmail.com)

    Thank you very much for your precious time!

    Sincerely yours,
    Sarah Goh (hogharas@gmail.com)
    Lin Taohai (l_taohai@hotmail.com)

  9. My son has been homeschooled in Canada (Saskatchewan) for the past year. The School Division supplied me with a CAT 4 Test (Canadian Achievement Test). It does NOT include French. There are two reading tests – one for 60 minutes where you read articles and answer multiple choice questions about them and another one for vocabulary. Then there are two writing tests — one is called writing conventions (capitalization and punctuation) and then the other is spelling. There are also two mathematics tests. One is an hr. long test with 60 questions to answer and you can use a calculator to assist. The second is called Computation and Estimation. The division does not require us to actually do the testing, they just offered us the option. You can score the test yourself. There is a way to determine your child’s Grade Equivalent (each year is listed from .1 to .9 – so if you were two months into Grade 1 when you took the test you would be 1.2 … anyway, I think that if the Singapore government would accept that test, it would be the easiest route. Good luck from one homeschooling Mum to another!


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