Closing: Schooling that Rests Upon Homes

by Kalsum Harun

The series offers a modest start to putting the act of balancing home, schooling and working lives at its rightful place in our collective consciousness. 

We asked the question: how do we build schooling that rests upon the strength of homes and familial relations in nurturing the competency and character of our young?

To achieve this, our homes need to be the ultimate safe spaces for our children to seek respite – physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.

In exploring how we can induce our children to emulate positive relationships and a healthy balance in pursuing differing goals, Connie Chua shared her experience protecting her marriage throughout her 11 years of homeschooling. According to her, it involved a healthy balance between consensus, connection and communication. 

Image credit: Jimmy Dean on Unsplash

In navigating the increasingly fluid spatial and time boundaries in our family life, Hasanah Saliman gave us a vivid view from the trenches of homeschooling her children through quarantine. She shared her strategies in carving out physical and emotional spaces, as well as embracing teachable moments.

In facing the demon of much of our parenting woes, Vivien Kwek called our attention to the role of the prefrontal cortex. She wrote about how neuroscience can make us more effective parents by better managing our expectations, as well as gentler parenting.

We sought ways to manage our young such that they may revel in learning and growth. 

The answers were less straightforward this time. In the two curriculum features by Sheryl Ang and Chern Chieh Bay, we realised how raising happy, fulfilled learners may require us to deconstruct the parenting and learning methods we have grown to be very familiar with.

The Reggio Emilia approach is an inquiry-led learning approach for preschoolers, supported by an observant teacher whose mere role is to facilitate. The teacher sets up an inviting environment, which in turn functions as a “silent third teacher.” However, the centrality of the child’s inquiry does not preclude the role of the community – for the approach requires a degree of engagement with a community of peers and even professionals who are willing to engage young learners at their level. 

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With regard to the Montessori approach, we marvelled at methods devised over a hundred years ago that remain congruent with our understanding of developmental cognition today. Understanding the unique characteristics that primary-aged children undergo – from the mental, cosmic, moral and social perspectives – we can better support their spontaneous activities, provide them with a rich learning environment and guide them towards independence. Despite this, many subscribers of the Montessori method tend to discontinue their practice into the primary-aged years out of what they deem “pragmatic” concerns. 

This dynamic re-emphasises the role of the community in the education of our children.

Schooling is a journey that can rarely be undertaken independently. Our collective beliefs and preferred approaches towards education have a significant bearing on the choices we make for our families.

Beyond our own homes, we ought to participate in reshaping systemic and cultural practices that are unsustainable towards societal growth, just as we ought to build our community resources to support one another in pursuing the best pathway for our children.

Image credit: Mario Purisic on Unsplash

A culture of being fearful of missing out, for example, makes many parents deem it necessary to augment their children’s formal schooling with multiple extra classes. Despite falling birth rates in Singapore, household expenditure on tuition has been increasing steadily over the years. Based on the latest Household Expenditure Survey, this figure stands at $1.4 billion. This practice persists in a symbiotic relationship with the school allocation policies, driving the need for finer differentiation between students vying for coveted spaces in popular schools. Many have argued that this has resulted in more challenging examination papers over time. In turn, this increased the demand for tuition.

Such cyclic relationships between culture, policy and practice are often laden with deeper assumptions and specific mindsets. The resolution to our education dilemma requires an unravelling of these complex processes, which can only be laid bare with effective open dialogues and critical introspection. We need to be part of the solution: sharing best practices, offering services and empowering one another as parents – homeschooling or otherwise.