Homeschool mum and writer for our Alumni series, Lynda, talks to our second interviewee, Jay. Jay holds a Bachelor of Commerce with Double Major in Finance and Marketing. He now runs several businesses in the finance, automobile, and marketing industries.
How often does one get to meet a homeschooled adult? It was indeed a great blessing to get to chat with Jay! Jay was among the earlier Singaporeans to be homeschooled from kindergarten through high school. As one of the first homeschoolers, he faced many odds to seemingly ordinary processes that many others take for granted. As a result of the many challenges he has faced, Jay has decided that making a difference to the world and positively impacting the lives around him would be his guiding principle.
I also weaved in questions sourced from local homeschool parents. Happy reading!
Tell me a bit about your family and a typical homeschooling day in your house!
I’m the 7th child of a family with 8 kids. We started homeschooling back in 1993. A typical homeschooling day as I remembered went something like this :
730am. Every room in the house transformed into a classroom. The older kids got the master bedroom where they watched their lessons while the younger kids were in two other rooms. The youngest kids who didn’t have video lessons came under the strict tutelage of Mom at the dining table. There was a roster for the use of the 3 VCR Players and Monitors so that everyone who needed to, had an opportunity to watch their lessons. There was also a roster for each child to prepare lunch and dinner.
1pm. Lunch was at the dining table vacated by the younger kids. After lunch, everyone adjourned to their respective “classrooms” to finish up their lessons and begin their homework.
5pm. Household chores had to be completed…trust me, laundry was a colossal task! Of course, any library visits took place during this time, usually on Tuesdays or Fridays. Additionally, we all had to squeeze in 1 hour of physical exercise.
730pm. Dinner was usually later at 730pm or 8pm. Cooking for that many people was comparatively similar to the work required for the laundry.
10pm. Everyone had to be in bed. If you wanted to stay up past 10pm, you needed a legitimate reason such as a research paper.
Of course, things changed as we grew. There were less “students” and more available “classrooms”.
What difficulties or challenges did you face during your homeschooling years? How did you overcome them?
I wouldn’t say that many of the difficulties were very apparent to me. I was one of the few kids in my generation to have never attended public school. So to me, things like emailing the school and waiting for 24 hrs to get a reply on questions were unusual. What homeschooling did for me was create a culture where you were proactive in seeking solutions. You went to the the encyclopedia or to the library (no Google in my time!) to figure out your answer and create your own solution. Not having a school building (and facilities like a laboratory) fostered creativity and resourcefulness. To be honest, I only understood how “challenging” my situation was after learning from my schooling friends how “easy” they had it.
Unlike students in mainstream, our pathway is less charted, so homeschoolers do develop resourcefulness as a key lifeskill.
Back in my time, we didn’t get concessionary rates for public transport. My sister and I wrote many letters to the prime minister’s office before it was granted. (Note : other homeschoolers helped to lobby for this too) I applied for bursaries and worked part time while pursuing my degree. I able to finance the school fees on my own.
When I was 11, my father fell ill with a heart condition and finances became an issue. I have always loved cars and started a car paint sealant business to earn some pocket money. I gained business skills in the process. This is something that would not have been possible if I had not been homeschooled.
I would say this to homeschoolers : Always seek to find solutions to problems. Have a good work ethic and be willing to work hard. This includes working hard and, for boys, giving your best in National Service.
If I could go back in time, I would tell my younger self not to be afraid to take risks and try new things (things that you think you cannot do!). You are still in a safe place to fail as you still have a roof over your head and your parents will likely still provide you meals!
What curriculum did you use while you were homeschooling and what are the pros and cons?
I was placed under the A Beka Academy Homeschooling Program (more known as Abeka today). Pros: It was a structured program with very good material and information support. It also gave a unified and credible qualification documentation. Cons: It works with an American bias and lacks coverage of important international aspects such as Economics and Geopolitical perspective.
I graduated from A Beka Academy in October 2008. I encourage homeschoolers to see themselves as any other student who needs to learn. Learning involves trying, making mistakes, then learning from those mistakes. Don’t set out to try and prove that homeschoolers are better. Homeschoolers are different but that doesn’t make them better. Being better is a personal choice – to be disciplined, to never stop learning new things, to always research instead of relying on “2nd hand” information, to identify a code and live by it. Basically, the advice I have for everyone is “don’t set out to make a living, set out to make a difference.”
What activities did you take part in while homeschooling and how do you think they benefited you?
Homeschooling was new in my time. There weren’t much activities available. Also, many of the programs and groups in Singapore back then required participants to be part of a recognized educational organization. Many of the activities I attended were self-initiated initiatives such as visits to Parliament for Budget debate, Political rallies, and visits to historical sites in Singapore. Additionally, I took part in activities organized by the Community Centers such as Fire Fighting and Life-saving courses and competitions. This early exposure to Parliamentary procedures as well as SCDF activities allowed me a deeper understanding of how our government functions, taught me fire fighting skills and CPR. It also broadened my social network beyond Church and fellow homeschoolers.
What advice would you give homeschooling parents?
As for parents who chose to homeschool your children, please do not take it as an opportunity to give your child an easy way out. If anything, you have a greater responsibility to ensure that your child is more disciplined, more independent and more resilient. Basically, as a homeschool parent, you should make sure your child becomes an asset to society, not a liability and definitely not an embarrassment to the homeschool community.
One area I feels strongly about is NS. Many homeschool parents encourage their children to serve in a lesser capacity (chao geng). We must not think that homeschoolers are different from public schoolers! The majority of public schoolers actually want to serve. The stigma against homeschoolers is already a bad one so we must not allow it to become worse.
For those deciding whether or not to homeschool past primary school, you would need to ask yourself and your child what you want out of life and what your goals are. Homeschooling in the teen years is a partnership and you can assess with your child if homeschooling meets your educational goals.
The homeschool community should support one another actively. Parents should have internships for each other’s children, and intentionally work on equipping kids with life skills. I organised an NS tour for homeschoolers to better prepare them for NS. It’s not just for the guys because sisters and mothers need to support their brothers and sons in their NS journey too.
Would you homeschool your child?
That would depend heavily on my wife. If she’s not onboard, then I would not homeschool.
Do you feel different because you aren’t like most of the other kids who attend school?
Unlike school going kids, I was not able to sit back and wait for answers to be given to me. Also, Abeka tends to encourage its students to question why and think independently so in a way I would say that I have been educated differently.
I don’t usually tell people that I am homeschooled. There may be some misconceptions against homeschoolers so it’s better that they get to know me and what I am capable of doing without prejudice.
Did you transition well from a homeschooled environment to the workforce?
Yes, I did and that was due to the mindset to do everything well.
Where is a dad best placed to support your HS journey?
In our home, my dad was around a lot after he fell ill. Before that, he left the homeschooling mostly to my mum. When he was at home, he was the enforcer and made sure that things were done!
However, dads in general can really play a part by passing on the skills they have to their children whether it is how to use a power drill, saw or fix up electric sockets. In addition, he will be the example for his children to show them how a man should treat his wife.
Many parents are worried about whether homeschooling their children will enable them to achieve paper qualifications required in Singapore. ALUMNI are stories from parents and homeschooling children who are now adults, who have “been there, done that”. If you have a story, email firstname.lastname@example.org