After going through PSLE* with 5 very different children, with different strengths and weaknesses, many have asked me how *I* did it.
Well, for starters, *I* did not do it.
As one child petulantly exclaimed many years back when she heard that I had been asked to speak at a PSLE sharing session to help other homeschool parents, “What have YOU done? *I* was the one who studied and sat for the exams!”
No, I did not slap her.
Because it IS true. She did study hard. And she was the one who sat for the exams.
But she forgot 3 important things that were at the foundation of her success. There was the God Factor (His part), the Planning Factor (my part) and the Consistent Work Factor (the student’s –her– part). We all had a part to play.
My PSLE Soapbox
But before I share how all 3 worked together to help us in our approach to PSLE, let me just get on my PSLE soapbox.
Sitting for PSLE is one of the criteria we must agree to when we apply for the Certificate of Exemption from the Compulsory Education Law. On top of sitting for it, homeschoolers must clear the yearly benchmark (198 for 2017) set by the Ministry of Education (MOE). If one does not agree to those terms, one can choose not to homeschool (there is no benchmark to clear for public schooled children) or leave Singapore in order to homeschool. Yes, this is what some homeschoolers have done.
Please Do Your Best
It is my very honest and blunt opinion that once we have signed and agreed to the terms and conditions, we ought to try our best to make sure that our children clear the benchmark. It may sound cool or totally radical to ignore a rule just because you can. But it has many negative consequences for the rest of the homeschoolers.
Perhaps that is why it is getting harder and harder to get an exemption? And why they are asking for more and more reports from us homeschoolers each time they do a house visit? And let me not go on about the imposition of the Primary 4 exams – affected/will affect 3 of my children.
Benchmark IS not fair
Yes, the benchmark is not fair.
There are families who choose to homeschool because they are dealing with physical and other disabilities. And despite trying their best, they still cannot clear the benchmark. But I am not referring to these families. I am referring to those who deliberately ignore the requirements they agreed to when they signed the contract with MOE.
Please do not make things difficult for the homeschoolers that come after you. Spare a thought for the rest of us.
Milestone or Obstacle?
PSLE can be seen as a big obstacle in our homeschool journey or it can be seen as a positive milestone.
Yes, it is annoying and I dislike the way it is marked (very rigid) but I still see PSLE as a good checkpoint for our homeschool. It helps that is not an end all or be all for us since we continue to homeschool after PSLE.
Actually, a lot of times, we parents make PSLE a bigger deal than our children. I have heard quite a few homeschoolers (including mine) who found it a pleasant and memorable experience! Imagine that, right? And for those who cleared the benchmark, they do feel a sense of achievement.
Let us be realistic, PSLE isn’t going away for a long while. Instead of wishing it away, why not see it as a chance to assess how your child is fairing in comparison with his cohort and how we can help them understand the system? There will be lots of exam taking in their future! Besides, our attitudes affect our children’s attitude.
As Maya Angelou said,
If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.
I will put my soapbox away for now and share my reflections on graduating my 5th homeschooled child from PSLE.
Here are the 3 things I feel have helped us in our family’s journey with PSLE.
1. The God Factor
God is faithful. 1 Thessalonians 5:24 says,
“He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.”
Did you get that? He will surely do it. Not me but He. My job is to obey Him. How is He going to do it? I have no idea. It is not my place to question Him. He may or may not reveal it to me and only in His time. I am totally cool with that. My job, I repeat, is to obey and then to keep in constant communication with him (i.e. pray) so that I am sensitive to His leading and Voice.
I don’t know why you chose to homeschool but for us, it is God who called us to homeschool back in 2000. I had no desire to homeschool anyone. It is only out of obedience to God that I do it and keep at it even during the hard times.
And so, my honest conversation with God has always been,
“Lord, You called me to do this. Not with one but with all our children, You have to help me because I cannot. And if they cannot clear the benchmark, then you have to tell me which path to take after that. Amen!”
So far, He has allowed five of them to clear it the first time and clear it well. I give thanks and totally acknowledge His hand on each child.
2. The Planning Factor
Here’s some tough love from me to you.
If you are Singaporean and a product of the system, (and even if you are not but have a child who studies here), you know when PSLE happens every year.
In case you are really clueless, let me tell you :
It occurs in the last week of September/first week of October. In 2017, it was 28th & 29th September and 2nd & 3rd October. And it happens the year the child turns 12. In 2018 it will be 27th & 28th September and 1st & 2nd October.
Plan With PSLE in Mind
So, as you choose your curriculum, join coops and plan your homeschool calendar, plan with PSLE in mind. Especially as your child hits Primary 4/5/6. This prevents stress overload at Primary 6.
And, if you have not used the Singapore syllabus at all, start using it, latest by Primary 5 (Primary 4 is better IMO). Your child needs to get used to the way questions are phrased AND the way answers are to be structured. Some children are very adaptable. But many are not. Know your child.
Even if you think you may not be in Singapore when PSLE rolls around, still plan for it. Because …. plans change, circumstances change. If you are really not around, great. If you are around, you won’t be freaking out.
Do not NOT prepare for it and then get angry with the system. Prepare for it and then deal with it. Once it is over, you can do whatever you and your child prefers.
3. The Consistent Work Factor
Consistent work is important. Slow and steady wins the race.
In my experience, work done slowly but steadily is better than crash courses. There are many, many times in our journey that it seems as though the child cannot grasp a concept at all. But as we attempt it daily, slowly, consistently, he/she eventually gets it. And yes, I always pray that this happens way before PSLE for my more heart’s sake!
Whether it is English/Maths/Science/Chinese, a few pages of each subject’s work done daily is better than 3 chapters done once a week.
I share how we do this in our homeschool in my post, Raising Independent Learners.
Crash courses are stressful for everyone. And everything else needs to come to a standstill in order for mom to orchestrate it. Sure, the results may be stellar, but at what cost? Relationships may be seriously dented in that rush. Also, can you afford this type of stress each time you have a child sitting for PSLE?
God + Planning + Consistent Work
Every time I get stressed in the process for preparing a child for PSLE (hey! I am human, too!), I go back to God and remind Him that He called me to homeschool our children. And then I ask Him how or what I need to tweak in my planning to help the child keep up his/her consistent work.
He is always gracious and merciful in his response.
May this encourage you even if you don’t have any child sitting for PSLE. And if you have extra tips to share, please send them my way! After all, I do have 2 more children to sit for the PSLE!
Why Do We Homeschool?
Raising Independent Learners
*PSLE is the Primary School Leaving Examinations. It is a national exam which all 12-year-old Singaporeans must sit for. Only those with certified medical exemptions can be excused from it.