Why I’m planning to homeschool

Elanor is not quite two years old.  However, that didn’t stop every book about moving to Singapore and a number of my husband’s work colleagues to counsel us to start looking at pre-schools yesterday because of wait lists.

Once the apartment was taken care of, I dutifully turned my head to education.  And realized that there was no good solution for us.

Public School

While Singapore has some incredible public schools, it also has some less than great public schools.  There are X spots per grade, and my understanding is that a lottery controls where you get a seat.  Residents (of course!) get first preference, then Permanent Residents (you can apply for PR status after 5 years if you so choose), and finally Expats are left in a distant third.  As an Expat, I have no real shot at a more desirable public school, and even if we were to get in, Elanor’s spot would not be guaranteed from year to year.  If a Singaporean moved home with a child E’s age and they want the seat, Elanor will lose it.

There are also some fairly legitimate concerns about the quality of English instruction at a local school.  While Singapore has many things to offer Elanor (Mandarin and a challenging “Maths” curriculum), I’m not necessarily comfortable leaving her English instruction in the hands of a non-native speaker (much less one who likely learned British English instead of American English).  Considering a long term goal is to move back to the US, it is vitally important to me that E learn spelling and grammar that are consistent with American English.

I will also admit that I’m concerned about the gender and sex role stereotypes she’ll be subjected to in local culture…and that’s not even touching on Singapore’s not so great track record on recognition of gays, much less gay families.  I don’t want her to learn that a family is a mommy a daddy and children…that’s just not consistent with our values.

Religious Schools

As in the US, the religious schools are the cheapest private schools.  R’s cousin sends her daughter to one and it is affordable.  We are atheists and would rather let Elanor play in traffic than send her to a school that espouses religious ideology.  Enough said.

Private Schools

Our biggest reason to not send E to a private school here?  Overseas Family School (which is consistently called a second tier school when compared to the British School or Singapore American School) charges $14,000 SGD (about 10k USD) a year for PRE-SCHOOL.  It’s more for Kindergarten, more for elementary, more for middle and a hell of a lot more for high school.  What does 10K USD mean to us…based off our travel plans in a few weeks, it’s at least two round trip tickets home a year for the three of us.

But is money enough?  Well, I do have a Master’s in Education sitting unused in my drawer at the moment.  I’m certified to teach grades 1-6 back home as a generalist and 5-12 as a history teacher.  So there’s also the fact that it’s a poor use of our money, considering.

I looked into the curriculum at the Singapore American School, and I have to say I wasn’t crazy about what I read about the elementary reading and math programs.  They’re using two trendy programs (for reading, the Fountas and Pinnell approach, which I’ve taught and for Math, they use Chicago Math, which I’ve also taught, and find both to be very poor and incomplete models for teaching the two most important subjects).  This is not to say that these approaches might not work in some families or for some learning styles.  But in my experience, I feel very strongly about not sending my children through those programs.  It’s just not a curricula I feel comfortable with, and it is the only “American” School here.  (There is a new one, called Stamford American, but they use a British curriculum so that sort of defeats the whole “American” thing).

As the mom of a very active girl, I have issues with the idea that all of them require girls to wear skirts.  I find it sexist and pointless.  It also forces those same gendered stereotypes that we feel strongly about.

But really, it’s largely about the money.  I can think of a ton of things I can put 14k SGD to far better use for.

Homeschooling

As it turns out, the Singaporean government could actually care less what my non-Singaporean child is doing in terms of school.  There is no requirement on the record regarding schooling of non-Singaporeans.  So I can actually homeschool with little concern about testing, oversight, standards, etc.  I’ll use our home state’s standards as a guideline, as Massachusetts has some of the more rigorous requirements, but largely I’ll have a great deal of freedom to construct an academic approach the fits with Elanor’s learning style and allows her to progress at her pace.  I’ll keep records, of course, so that when we do move home it’s not an issue, but I see no reason to shell out good money at this time.  Especially for pre-K. If I want to pay for school at MIT prices, we’ll pay for MIT when she’s 18, not 8.

We don’t plan on being here long enough for it to matter

The final nail in the coffin of schooling  her outside the home is that we just don’t plan on being here long enough for it to matter.  In the US, she would enter into compulsory schooling in 3 years, when she is 4 on September 1rst (2012).  She would enter K in 2013.  Our guesstimate on time is five years at the outside and then hopefully a transfer back to the US.  I know for certain I have no interest in being here in ten years.  So where is the value add of sending her to a private school and paying through the nose for what would likely be only a few years?

She goes to gymnastics, and we’re enrolling her in swim come January.  When she’s ready to sit for a longer period of time, we’ll also enroll her in mandarin, so she’ll get classroom experiences and socialization (not to mention that almost everyone I know here has a kid). I’m not worried about that.

I never saw myself as homeschooling.  I didn’t love being a teacher and I have no plans to enter that world professionally again.  But in Singapore, it’s the solution that makes sense for our family.  It will allow for longer trips home.  It will allow for more trips home (from the financial perspective) and when we have two kids…it’s double the savings.  If I weren’t a certified teacher, I probably would bite the bullet and go for OFS or Chinese Girl’s School…but as I am, I just don’t see the point.

I guess it’s just another example of doing what’s right for your family.  And for us, that will mean homeschooling.

Edited to add–This is a very out of date post, and does not reflect my current feelings.  I’ve been sending E to a local pre-k/k program since mid 2011 and it’s been a phenomenal experience.  See my more current posts in “Education” under Singapore.

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11 Responses to Why I’m planning to homeschool

  1. Alaine says:

    I attended OFS and SAS when I lived in Singapore. I think the best thing about the school is the International community of friends it brought me. I can point blindly to a location in the world and almost 90% of the time, I will know someone who is located there, living there, have lived there, traveled there extensively. I attended Jakarta International School prior to moving to Singapore for K-3rd grade (half of 3rd). I still keep in contact with those early friends on facebook but it is not the same kind of friendship that I had in adolescence and my teenaged years. My mother actually conducted a pre-k group in our garage with neighborhood kids b/c she too thought shelling out money for a pre-k is crazy. (And then I look at how crazy New Yorkers are about sending their kids to the private schools here and going through rigorous interviews, observations, and screenings).

    I do have to point out though that SAS has an amazing reputation around the world for being a top-rate private school and 99% of high school graduates go to college (a majority in the States and a staggering number into Ivy League school). My baby sister currently attends SAS and she is an honor student there 🙂 The school prepares for an easy adjust to attend school in the States and may find that the curriculum back in the States a little too easy (a lot of friends who moved back to the public school system had this experience). I graduated from SAS and attended a 4-year small liberal arts college only to transfer out b/c it was not challenging enough and matriculated from UCLA.

    A tip: if you and your family do end up staying in Singapore longer than expected, definitely check out SAS or OFS when your child is 6 or 7 years old. As much as the temptation is to “check out” and not make too many friends b/c you know you’ll leave soon, it is super important to connect with others b/c you never know who you’ll “bump” into Stateside/Traveling/or needing to ask for help later on in life.

    I like to make as many friends and meet as many people as I can, you just never know who you’ll meet and how much you need or mean to them. Yes, saying good bye sucks but in expat communities its never really good bye its “see you soon”. 🙂

  2. Kirsten says:

    I don’t think the English language and sex/gender stereotypes are actually that huge an issue with public schools here. Despite certain grammatical oddities and differences in spelling, the English taught here isn’t wildly different from American English and most people I know find it pretty easy to adjust either way. Mindsets about sex/gender stereotypes are also largely dependent on the family’s values and it sounds like you’ll be involved enough to make sure that your own family values will be present in E’s life.

    I always think that if I ever have kids my problem with Singaporean education would not be with the content, but with the stress levels of the system. Students here are constantly bogged down with the stress and pressure of doing well (read: doing well academically), and I don’t think it’s really that healthy a way to live, although having been through it I’m now grateful for the work ethic instilled in me from this experience.

  3. Dawn Perlner says:

    Considering the writing often seen by contemporary students of the *American* school system – even supposedly good public schools in Massachusetts – I wouldn’t worry too much about E’s English education. My guess is if you keep her away from texting, encourage her to read printed books (because the stuff online is full of bad English), and – perhaps most importantly – turn off the autocorrect in her copy of Word – her grammar and spelling will be fine, regardless of what is taught in the classroom.

  4. Crystal says:

    Please understand that R and I made this decision with eyes wide open. R has his own experiences as a third culture kid to draw upon as well as my honest opinions about curricula. Every family has to make the choices right for them, as we are. We don’t expect anyone else to choose our path, but we do expect people to respect our choices for our daughter.

  5. Zach Woods says:

    Folks interested in home schooling may enjoy reading through the home schooling focused posts to the “Tour of America” blog like: http://tour.airstreamlife.com/wordpress/?p=1166.

    The “Tour of America” blog, in my humble opinion, is a great read throughout, and it is written by friends of mine (Rich, Eleanor, and Emma Luhr) who have actually “trailer schooled” their daughter while traveling throughout North America and publishing Airstream Life Magazine (http://www.airstreamlife.com/).

    The post referenced above includes a frank discussion of many of the arguments they have heard against home schooling over the last 5 or more years that they have engaged in the practice. Their thoughtful responses to those arguments are well worth hearing out.

    • Crystal says:

      Thanks for the link Zach.

      As I stated in my post, it’s just what makes sense for us. I don’t know that we’d be doing homeschooling in the US (although I have seriously qualms about public school there, too…the US doesn’t get off without criticism…I worked in the system and I’m well aware of it’s flaws) likely because I’d be working full time once E and kid to be conceived later were old enough for it to matter. In fact, as she was in Early Intervention, we likely would have at least tried the pre-school they recommended to us. But in the US I’m drawn to Quaker schools for their embracing of gay families (although as private schools, I wince at the price tag) and charter schools, as it’s more likely I could find a school that uses approaches consistent with Elanor’s learning style. I don’t know for sure that I would go this route in the UK because I don’t know enough about the UK, schooling requirements there or the educational system. But here, as with your friends…I’m looking at our lifestyle and our lives and have made the call that’s right for us.

  6. Musns says:

    Homeschooling is a personal decision. There are pros and cons to every form of schooling and what’s most important is that YOU are comfortable with it.

    I homeschooled my eldest for two years, Second and Third grade. I did my own research, developed my own curriculum to use with him and turned in yearly portfolios to the school board. It was quicker (several hours to complete what children do in a day at school), I had an excellent support group at the local church (we did field trips on a regular basis) and all in all it was an experience I would do again if the need and financial ability were there. (Currently there IS a need for child #2 but I’m working part time and can’t afford to do so)

    I’ve heard the complaints from teachers about poorly home schooled children who get put back into a school system (private and public) who are way behind.

    Again, the bottom line is – does it meet YOUR needs, are you content with the decision.

    ((hugs))

  7. Siew says:

    Hi. Loving your blog by the way. It’s weird seeing SG through the eyes of an expat cos I feel like one when I go home!

    You will just need to do what works for your family at any particular time right? If you are up to homeschooling cos it feels right, then go for it! I believe reading in the papers last year, when I was there on holiday, about some parents in SG who are homeschooling their kids.

    I’m a product of the traditional school system in SG, and don’t get me wrong, it’s not that bad really. However, I want so much more for my child. The skills needed for lifelong learning, the fact the learning happens all the time and not just at school, the love for learning etc. These are just some of the things that I feel are lacking sometimes in the traditional school system, all over the world. Plus, aren’t parents first teachers too?

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