Here I pen some thoughts arising from today's Homeschoolers' Sports Day.
Sometimes, the lifestyle choices we make become so routine and ordinary. It is only when you are confronted with something different that you come to think and appreciate what you have. Much like taking for granted our 'Singaporean-ness' only to find it when you go overseas and encounter different cultures and societies.
Today, I met a young mom who is struggling with being torn between allowing her children (4, 3, and 1 yrs) to have a childhood where they can play and versus what our society's norm is: cram cram cram. She was telling me that her child's teacher was concerned that her child (who was 3) was not performing on par with others and that she should consider sending the child to a specialist to check. By all counts this child is normal, but in our crazy society, children need to perform even at the age of 3. Why the pressure to produce child prodigies? What ever happened to normal development? and what on earth is wrong with LATE development?? Children are all unique but yet they are measured by some arbitrary curve (it really depends on the baseline, doesn't it) and then held accountable to it as if it were sin to fall short. Poor kids.
So I looked around at the many happy, carefree children at the Sports Day today. They really have no idea how blessed they are to have parents who decided to go against the norm in our society and .....shelter them at home.
I've heard people ask (accusingly) why do you shelter your children? Like it's a bad thing to shelter your children??? Yes, there are many homeschooling families in Singapore who are bent on sheltering their children! Shelter from what? From pressures of keeping up with appearances, from being forced to learn things that are beyond their grasp, from producing results that were forced out of them through sheer grit and many tears, from keeping impossible schedules which require them to rise early and sleep late. The list runs long.
These are our tender young saplings and yet in our society, they are force fed all sorts of fertilisers, watered and sunned, in expectation that they will start producing fruits early. But their tender branches are not yet ready to bear that weight! No wonder so many shrivel up , or break, and never reach their full potential if only the grower was more patient in waiting!
Homeschooling parents really go through so many hurdles: constantly being questioned and doubted (especially grandparents who are worried they are ruining their children's future by not sending the kids to school), constantly seeking out the best education path which suits their children. Sure it's a lot easier to go by the system, all neatly packaged. All you need to do is obediently follow the rules.
What rebels these homeschool parents are! The audacity to go against society (dual income families, children to grow up institutionalised from infancy up) ....and even go against the good advice of elders to stick to the tried and tested paths (don't have so many children so you can pour more resources into their academic pursuits.) They are not afraid to be falsely accused of not doing enough just because their 3 year old can't identify their colours or read words yet because they know that probably by age 5 the child will be able to and without all the needless time wasting drilling. They would rather be exploring the zoo or reading a story book with their child than do that!
Many Singaporean parents are crying out, they don't want this pressure cooker system. Most think within the box, the system needs to change, the system needs to change. The system is this complex behemoth of a creature, and 'change' always seems to come in the form of further regulation, which leads to more yardsticks to measure children with. In our "one -up" society (some call it 'kiasu') what was intended to be a short yard stick at the top level becomes a ridiculously long one by the time it reaches the ground level.
And you see, the system exists as a machine which churns out parts to fit into an even bigger machine. Feed the economy. I don't know if it can ever be anything else but.
Good news, Singaporean parent, you CAN escape from it and run to the shelter, the safe haven. But where is this shelter? The Home! How simple but strangely profound in our topsy-turvy society. It even borders on the offensive and distasteful.... It's too, too simplistic.
Home, where mommy cooks the meals and daddy earns the money, and the children are happy and curious, and have time to work and play and grow. Is that too idealistic? Is that such an impossible scenario in our fast paced society, Singapore 2012?
Yet, my friends, yet, homeschoolers are living breathing proof that it CAN be done! Singaporean children CAN have a happy, carefree childhood! The homeschool life is one that is not dictated by the schedules of the school system. It does not revolve around the tests and exam dates. It does not revolve around keeping up with the syllabus. The homeschool runs on a pulse of it's own, that of family life and each family member's needs. How loving and personal!
I write because I feel sorry for all those who are struggling and think there is no way out. It's right there under your very nose. Home