Theme: Schooling that Rests Upon Homes
by Kalsum Harun
In this article, I put forth a motion that is close to my heart. This will be the theme for opinion pieces featured in the months from August to October. Together, we can uncover more exciting, nurturing pathways for our children to grow and learn.
I have always felt unease at the unnatural separation between home, school and working life that tends to turn into a zero-sum game for many families. Parents struggle with work-life balance, as children face-off mounting pressures under the deluge of academic expectations. There have been attempts to curtail this via changes and introduction of new policies both at the workplace and school settings over the years. However, the adverse effects of our education and economic models have taken a rather strong hold in society – ranging from discontentment to anxiety, dysfunctional familial relationships, deterioration of mental health, and depression – all in the pursuit of an elusive notion of success.
This is the context that many families have chosen to homeschool. The vision of nurturing a joy for learning in our children and raising them to be fulfilled individuals who would own their definitions of success, is tremendously seductive. I have never once assumed, however, that homeschooling parents are the only ones who believe in playing an active role in their children’s education. Green and Hoover-Dempsey (2007) wrote that parents decide to homeschool for reasons similar to those motivating parents of public-school children to get involved in their children’s education. The former simply tend to have more opportunities to do so.
Whatever the differences may be, parents on both sides of the coin have much to learn from one another. After all, homeschooling parents eventually graduate their children out of the homes into formal institutions, and Covid-19 has shown how parents of school-going children might have to occasionally see to their children’s education more closely due to school closures.
Of much public concern is how Singapore’s inaugural enactment of home-based learning last year had magnified much of the fractures within our society – from the structural to familial levels. Yet, from a talk by MOE that I attended recently on Blended Learning, which is to be implemented for secondary and pre-university students, it is apparent how learning at home is set to be a prominent feature of our children’s learning journeys.
This shifting landscape surfaces the enduring struggle that families face in balancing home, school and working lives. Arenas that had been forcibly dichotomised before, have now sought their rightful place in our collective consciousness. How do we model adult behaviour that allow our children to emulate positive relationships and a healthy work-life balance? How do we ensure that our homes are the ultimate safe spaces for our children to seek respite – physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually?
These are questions that apply equally to homeschooling and non-homeschooling parents. The recent fatal tragedy involving our local school students has gotten many amongst us soul-searching for factors contributing to the deterioration of mental health among our youth. Community leaders and mental health practitioners have come to the fore, offering safe spaces to process our thoughts and even fears. Within Homeschool Singapore, members of our community dug deep and sought to support parents and enhance child-wellness practices through dialogues on holistic education, understanding our children, and building strong marriages.
By no means is this emphasis on the home, a call to reclusiveness. Homeschooling parents understand this well because despite the stereotypes about the lack of socialization, not many other groups have relied on the need for overlapping social circles more than the homeschooling community. Homeschooling parents often look to one another in schooling our own; each channelling our experiences and skills into the corpus of knowledge we would like to share with the next generation. Our children’s networks go beyond their age cohorts to include a multitude of interest-based groups both at the local and transnational levels. Underlying these is the abundance of nurturing relationships. Relationships are, after all, key in building the foundations for any human endeavour – from building villages to empires, doing business to politics – and hence, even more so in raising our young.
This theme is a call to parents and educators to share ideas, practices or even their mere frustrations for which they are seeking resolutions. How do we manage the impact upon our families, of systems that have faltered, cultures that are flawed, and practices that have failed us – so that our children may revel in their learning and growth?