From the Editor: As I am graduating my last child from the preschooling stage this year, and preparing the others for the Primary School Leaving Examinations (PSLE) and the International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE) exams, one parenting adage rears its head: the days are long but the years are short. Keeping our heads above our daily grind of getting our children from one task to another, the weekly religious service, the monthly social meet-ups, the yearly official reports, and so on, time simply slips through our fingers. Having joined the ranks of homeschooling parents who are ticking off the major educational milestones with their children, I began counting down to my empty homeschool nest. Having the tendency to spend our time, and building our identities and competencies around our children, their needs and aspirations, do we often pause to ponder about our growth and, dare I say, dreams? How often do we envision our lives after all our children graduate from their home-based learning and spend much of their time in school or serving national conscription? What would we make out of our new-found status and capacity? Just, what do we do with all that time? Watching Wendy Koh gracefully embrace this stage of her life filled me with awe. As a homeschool parent, she is well-known within the community for advocating fun-filled conversations in our children’s Mathematical learning. With her son’s enrollment in a local Polytechnic a few years ago, Wendy thrives from being a cheerleader and cherished confidant to her close homeschool friends as she also creates new experiences for herself with an intrepid spirit. She sparks in me, a keen interest in preparing myself for my future without having a homeschool to run. This article captures some of her reflections and tips.
Homeschooling Over Time
During my many years of homeschooling, the digital age took over: Google became a verb; dumb phones became smart; smartphones are seldom used to make calls but used for other purposes. Kodak ceased to exist.
My physical body changed, my worldview transformed, and my dreams are altered.
Being Adept at Learning
Our family car expired just after my son graduated from homeschooling. I adjusted to using public transport. Grab replaced the cab, and we don’t hail a Grab like we did a cab. We also hardly pay Grab with cash.
We ask one another, “How do I find you on social media” instead of “May I have your phone number?”. Online communities that never existed found a vibrant place in the digital world.
I taught my toddler son how to turn on the TV and VCD, and in return, he taught me about YouTube and “Youtubers” when he was ten years old. I still don’t know how or where he acquired the knowledge and skills to game online without my ever teaching him. While some may view this development across generations with apprehension, I am relieved that my son is a learning machine, just like me.
Speaking of learning machines, ChatGPT, an AI bot that can generate essays and elaborate business proposals in 5 seconds but failed to answer difficult PSLE questions, is causing a stir as I type this essay.
Learning has become more enjoyable than it ever was because university professors and subject matter experts are putting their lectures and content on YouTube, allowing people of all ages around the world to watch and learn without having to pay expensive school fees. Online platforms now offer university degrees for a massive range of subjects.
My greatest challenge today is adapting to the digital age just like any other 55-year-olds. My father has trouble conceiving what the (digital) cloud is, and I’m likely to experience a similar face-off with new technology that is to come, but change is continuous and inevitable, thus it’s really up to me to adapt.
Veteran Tips for the Empty Homeschool Nest
If you are wondering what to do with yourself after the homeschooling journey ends, here are some suggestions:
- 1. Be ready to feel lost and frustrated. Choose to have fun despite that, and be kind to yourself with the confidence that you’ll eventually find your way.
- 2. Stay connected. Even while you are busy raising and schooling your child, make time and mental space to keep abreast with what’s going on around the world.
- 3. Keep a bucket list. Make a physical or mental record of things that interest you while you are homeschooling your child. If you harbour the desire to play the piano, then learn to play the piano. If a 15-year-old can competently play the piano, it means that it could take less than 15 years to learn how to play (as the child could not possibly be learning from birth!) So, if you start at 45, you could be a relatively competent pianist by 60 years old!
- 4. Rethink your friendships. Renew some old friendships and allow the others to fade. Not all friends can remain friends forever. People walk different paths through different seasons of life, some paths part and don’t ever meet again.
- 5. Make new friends. They are not acquainted with the earlier horrid and immature versions of yourself, thus providing you with a fresh start!
- 6. Find the true value of what you do. Don’t try too hard to monetise resources in an age where resources are bountiful, but be willing to share with those who are genuinely in need. The kindness will return in unexpected ways. Be generous and magnanimous at heart, but don’t be easily deceived.