Vivian Kwek is one of those homeschooling mums who dishes great advice while keeping things authentic. Her kids are 16, 14 and 6. She is the author of a parenting book, Decoding Your Child, and one of the keynote speakers of the Homeschool Convention 2018.
I started officially homeschooling in Feb 2009 when I withdrew my firstborn from first grade.
I am an eclectic homeschooler with a focus on child-led education. I am a firm believer that when my children are interested in what they are learning, they will be self-driven learners. That leads to a deeper depth of learning over a shorter period of time with a longer retention of the knowledge. When my children are self-driven, I do not even have to remind them to do the work, or research. They will be self-motivated to do it because they want to. Case in point, my kids disliked piano lessons because they were learning pieces they did not enjoy at a speed that was not comfortable for them. So we dropped piano lessons. But because they loved musicals, we went to look for piano pieces on those musicals and they diligently practiced those pieces daily on their own accord. I envision that when they reach pieces that become too hard for their level of expertise, they will be more inclined to learn if they re-start piano lessons.
Our homeschool is not academic-based. I do not chase curriculum nor do I cover all the “subjects” that school kids study. I spend a considerable amount of time teaching my children about personal development, mindset shifts, and other so-called life skills and knowledge. Whenever possible, I also bring them along for personal development programs that I attend. That is because I believe academics alone will not really prepare my children for the future but personal development will. Why not do both (academics and personal development)? Because there are only so many hours a day! I want to give them a considerable amount of “free” time to explore and and do what they enjoy so something has to go.
Another thing which I am a proponent of is obviously decoding our children. Because every child is different, I cannot homeschool all my children using the same “technique”, system, curriculum or content. My 2 older kids couldn’t be more different from each other. I actually school them differently, with emphasis on different areas. Flexibility and adaptability are essential traits for the success of homeschooling families.
I do not ensure that my children do not fail. It does not mean I design a system in which they will fail. Instead, I do not design a fail-proof system. I do not hold a tight leash over my children, telling them what and when to do. I give them a lot of lee-way to plan their day. I give them guidance.
I allow them to make mistakes. I do not punish or shame them for the mistakes (or blaming myself that they made mistakes). We learn from them. We tweak our systems or strategies to ensure we do better the next time. I strongly believe that our children need to learn from young, with guidance, how to manage their lives, how to plan and how to recover from mistakes.
What homeschooling looks like for each kid
My teens are pretty much independent. My 16-year-old takes online classes, and previously did courses in NUS. He basically attends the classes himself and does the necessary tutorials/assignments on his own. If he needs help for schoolwork, he typically asks dad for help cos the work he does is pretty much beyond my level.
My younger teen still needs guidance for me, so we do seat work everyday (as far as possible) for about 2 hours or so. Then she’s off to do the assignments. As for my littlest, we usually school in the evenings when she is most keen to learn. I don’t have a fixed structure for her. Whatever she brings out (be it reading, math, Chinese or anything really), I’ll work with her. No fixed duration as well. I see it mostly as a time for play and connection with her rather than school.
In fact for my older 2, it was the same. When they were preschoolers, we played a lot, did science experiments, read, learned about math, nature etc. But it was not from an academic perspective where they did worksheets or got tested. It was purely from the perspective of exposure, arousing curiosity and having fun. When my children associate learning with fun, they just keep asking for more. That is why when my son was 5 years old, he asked me to keep him at home instead of sending him to school because he learned more at home. That was when the idea of homeschooling came to me.
It doesn’t sound like we do a lot of school but as mentioned above, we don’t. Most of the time I spend with them, I work on personal development. For example, I read personal development books to them for about 30 mins before bedtime whenever my schedule permits. I also have a weekly “mastermind” session with my teens where we review what they did the previous week. They get to share their achievements, lessons learnt and what they can do better. During the mastermind, they also set their goals and schedule for the week. We also spend a lot of time talking about personal development concepts and how we can all apply them. When they encounter failures, we go back and look at the PD stuff and see what they have missed or not followed.
On her book, Decoding Your Child
It’s actually quite a natural progression. I have been blogging on this subject of decoding children for a year, and conducting seminars for parents and teens. I have had many parents asking me for a book so I wrote one.
At the Homeschool Convention next week, I want to inspire parents that they can decode their children. It is worth the effort because their parenting journey will be smoother and more enjoyable.
Review : Decoding Your Child is a very straightforward, easy-to-read parenting book that is timely for Singaporean parents, homeschooling or not. Her information is dense but she’s managed to keep her chapters short and simple. Decoding Your Child does not wield the usual storytelling effect in non-fiction books we have come to expect, yet it motivates effectively, simply because the examples are relatable to us local readers. The content – Vivian’s sheer passion of helping parents unlock secrets of our children’s behaviours – makes minor editing errors of this self-published work forgivable. The take-home for me : I want to highlight paragraphs, read it with my family and buy copies for my friends.
Everyone is invited to Decoding Your Child’s book launch this Sun, April 8, 2018, 2:30 PM – 4:00 PM at Basecampcafe, Kallang Wave Mall. Click on the link to book your free ticket. Online purchase of the book is available here.
OPEN HOUSE is a series of short interviews with homeschoolers in Singapore. Each family shares their homeschool timetable for that season, and whatever they would like to say to readers here. Interviews are conducted by Dawn Fung.