Until Puppy was three, I had never given homeschooling a thought. I didn’t know anyone who had taken this route and it seemed that school was a normal and necessary step for a child her age. It was what everyone was asking me – when is Puppy going to school?
I shortlisted and visited three places, and still the idea of placing our closely-attached, home-loving child in a classroom felt discomfiting. Puppy had been plainly disinterested at play groups. It was always a relief whenever we left, and when we got home she’d snuggle happily next to me for a read-aloud or beg for a round of puzzles.
We began considering homeschooling as an option. As my husband pointed out, I was home, taking care of our second child who was a year old. Puppy and I already had a comfortable rhythm to our days, so the idea of extending our interactions didn’t appear far-fetched. We had been enjoying several suggestions on play from a faded volume of Montessori Play and Learn while I had come to cherish my hands-on involvement in her development. Puppy was enthusiastic. She absorbed everything I read and did with her with a voraciousness, and constantly surprised me with her quirky responses. It was lovely to see her enjoy the freedom of home life, the flexibility of growing at her own pace.
Our first steps towards homeschooling
Still, homeschooling didn’t seem like something I’d actually leap into. Could I really do this? What about socialising? How would Puppy adjust to formal school later?
I was torn between my heart’s desire and my fears, until the principal of the Montessori school I visited (who also happened to be a relative) assured me of the many benefits of home-centred education. She said, “You can homeschool – if you can be disciplined and committed enough.”
Somehow that nailed it. With that bit of affirmation and my husband’s encouragement, I took the plunge.
Getting our space ready
I was mindful of the importance of a prepared environment, so I started de-cluttering and ordering our physical space. It was slow with a nursing toddler pottering about, but it finally got done! I set up a mini library, music corner, had books, materials and supplies within reach from our activity table, organised play items in drawers and boxes and labelled them.
Getting myself ready
Having so much to learn, I read all I could. I read about classical education, Charlotte Mason, eclectic homeschooling, John Holt’s perspective on unschooling. The diverse concepts were fascinating. I was hooked by the possibilities presented by organic, natural learning but at the same time felt the need for an established curriculum to give me some direction, at least for some part of the day. So I settled on a wonderful resource of “living books” from Sonlight Curriculum that we would use for language, history, science.
I would blend that with my own Bible lessons, artwork, reading and writing skills using Jolly Phonics. I also relied on resources like Singapore Math, Malay story books, music (having a piano teaching diploma helps), and lots of physical activity outdoors each day. My mother would help with Chinese.
What really happened
It was tremendous fun putting it all together, but it was also pull-my-eyelashes-out crazy.
Because for all the planning, organising and scheduling I did, the demands of caring for two very young children and the needs of the household quickly proved that it was impossible to accomplish everything on a given day.
The reality was that meals, snacks, laundry, and naps had to be factored in. The stuff that I laboured to arrange neatly the night before “school” would move about (read: transition to chaos) pretty quickly as the day wore on. The weight of learning how to co-exist with and manage the invariable mess that came with two small kids began to bear on me. Then there were sibling interactions, toilet training, the time it takes to shift from one activity to another. And what about clean up?
The early years are so demanding, especially when both children are still nursing! In my next post, I share the things I wish a more experienced mother would have told me to make my homeschooling journey a lot easier.
By Jin Ai
Jin Ai traded refugee work for diapers, dishes and homeschooling. She blogs about parenting, home education and life as a mum to four kids at Mama Hear Me Roar.