Thursday, January 22, 2009


A friend recently referred me to an article on homeschooling. With two kids under the age of four and no help, she is struggling to merely to survive, and yet, reading about homeschooling made her feel guilty about wanting to commit her kids to a system that was not too kind on her.Luckily, I have always been a fairly decent student who fitted pretty well into the formal school system, so do not have any compunctions about sending my kids off to school. But that is not to say I have never thought of homeschooling. All those years when I was a stay at home mother, I often thought about how I was much better qualified than any of the teachers my sons would have, and whether it would not be a waste for me not to teach them myself.

The education I gave my children is likely to be as good if not better than any they receive in a school – in fact, now, I often find myself having to make them unlearn things they are taught in school so their foundations are stronger than the ones the schools provide them.

But getting an education is not the only thing that we send kids for. Caring, sharing, fighting their own battles, competing, compromising, negotiating,… there is a whole host of things people need to learn in order to survive in the world, and most of it just cannot be taught at home. Children could learn many of those things in the playground, but in a playground you can choose to run away and not return. That is a privilege you do not have in school, so you just have to learn to dig your feet in and survive.And there is the reality that we unfortunately cannot wish away – our kids are convinced that Mammas do not know best, only teachers do. I learnt the hard way not to contradict my children when they are repeating something that their teacher taught them. ‘Parrots eat chillies’, they were taught, and nothing could convince them that though parrots may eat chillies also, they mainly feast on grains and worms. It reached a point when I was asked, “Are you a parrot or what, why are you eating chillies?” every time I refused to let the kids taste something hot from my plate.

And Maths! I am much better at Maths than my older son’s teacher will ever be, but he still clings to her way of doing things because she knows best.

Translated, teachers make better teachers than mothers, even if the mothers are actually better educated than the teachers are.

And in all that, I have left out what to me is the most important argument I have against homeschooling. Every mother needs time to be herself. Time to unwind and to do something that she likes, even it is something like watching TV or surfing the internet. A mother who is required to be a mother 24 hours a day, every single day is unlikely to be as good a mother as one who gets a few hours off for herself. Homeschooling would not allow that, unless you combine homeschooling with outside daycare, which sort of defeats the whole purpose of homeschooling.

And that is the gist of what I told my friend when she mentioned homeschooling. She was never convinced it was a good option, but now she doesn’t feel guilty about putting her kids in formal playschools anymore! My good deed for the day done!


Michelle Zheng said...

This is true. I remember the days where I would say "But that's what the teacher says!" and I still do to this day, much to my mom's disappointment.



Natasha Ramarathnam said...


In any case, I think girls and moms always have a weird relationship - I still do.


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