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Teaching the Kao Kids: Preamble to the Series

November 13, 2013

Since the year is coming to a close, and since I often get questions from readers who ask me how I teach my three children who are so close in age, I thought I’d start a series on the resources I use and the routines I started this year in my attempt to home-teach them.

I started off this SAHM gig with the intention to homeschool all three of them. This proved to be a huge challenge and it didn’t take me long before deciding it was impossible. Ben turned four in February this year and began to reveal himself, at four years, with an enormous appetite for information and knowledge – he was brimming with questions, questions and more questions every waking minute.¬†Becks was still in her Terrible Twos, being only two-half when I left my job, and every day with her has been nothing but exhaustion and fatigue. She is obstinate and emotionally-driven, and it took a lot out of me to have to handle the host of emotions (and tantrums) from her every day. As for the baby, he turned one earlier in the year, and was still very much a baby – needing to be nursed and played with all the time.

We struggled to develop a routine together and I thought I was all set to homeschool them with the Hands On Homeschooling curriculum I bought from the States. Within a week, I knew I would go insane if I continued trying. It was just impossible to perform mothering duties, prepare resources and stay patient, not to mention TEACH. In all honesty, I tried to make things work. I’ll try to get Ben and Becks to do Becks’ level of activity, and then work with Ben on his own. I got the helper to watch Nat every time we were engaged, and even held him to nurse while with the older kids if he fussed.

But I couldn’t keep up. With the preparation of resources, that is. Plus, I am really not into crafting (which features a lot in the HoH curriculum) and frequently wondered if the curriculum was rigorous enough to prepare them for Primary One. The Western model is big on self discovery and exploration, and learning through your senses. Not so much practice. If you look at the tracer-printables in HoH and compared it with preschool assessment book-tracers from Popular, you’d be shocked to find that writing the letter (of the Alphabet) twice (at most thrice) is all there is in the former, while the ones we have published locally require the preschooler to trace at least 15 times! I’m not against self discovery and exploration, but I keep having the nagging feeling that what I have ain’t rigorous enough to prepare them for the real world they would be facing, that is, the Singapore Education System.

I still have every intention for the kids to be schooled in our system, and despite my gripes and bugbears about the system (having been born and bred in it and having spent some good 7 years as an educator), I believe that the kids need to go through it to know the competitiveness out there, and along the way, develop strength and resilience in character. Even with its flaws, the system has done well to produce brilliance in many aspects, albeit through examinations, KPIs and ranking.

So in other words, I am not sure if I alone, am enough, or good enough, as their teacher if I were to consider the end goal.

Thus begins the outsourcing. I figured the kids also needed opportunities for socialisation and to be nurtured (because I have the tendency to drive), and so we put them in a church kindergarten for three hours daily. It has been one of the best decisions I have made. The teachers there are so wonderfully patient, the kids are enjoying kindergarten so much for the songs they learn, the craft they do, the friends they make and the stories their teachers tell. Ben particularly adores his Chinese teacher, a middle-aged lady who has ignited his interest in the Chinese language. He remembers the games played and stories told in Chinese class, and returns home to repeat whatever his lao shi said in class that day. And I totally love the way the kindergarten is teaching their nursery kids – everything is learned through songs! They would sing familiar tunes every term but of different things – so far, Becks has learned about fruits, occupations and transport, all through singing and crafting. These are clearly things I wouldn’t be able to do with them. Also, it wouldn’t be possible for them to socialise in the most organic way – at kindy, they’ve made a couple of friends and are learning, with every opportunity to socialise, to navigate through emotions and the need to belong – all on their own.

Anyway. We quickly settled into a routine which worked for us with this arrangement. The kids went to kindy for three hours 10 weeks in a term, and I would home-teach them when they returned. Now that Ben is four-half, Becks is three and Nat is 20 months, we’ve found some things that work for us and parked aside things that didn’t. I don’t reinforce what’s taught in their kindergarten; I do my own thing – a mix of ideas gleaned from the HoH curriculum, printables from online resources and things I create on my own. I acquired what I thought are the basics for every preschooler – graded readers, story books, games, DVDs and preschool resources (aplenty from Popular) – and developed my own set for the kids, usually following a theme / an idea.

And since I get questions from readers of my blog – and friends – who often ask me how I manage with three kids and home-teaching them, I thought I’d just share some of the things I use and do, and our routines in a series of blogposts. Hopefully, I can also learn some things from you if you have any thoughts, ideas and success stories to share. Do watch this space for the weekly series!

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