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Why We Decided to Homeschool Our Kid: A Parent’s Perspective

January 27, 2021

#Community #Pedagogy Future of EducationGalileo XPHomeschooling

January marked the start of the academic year for primary school students in Singapore. Instead of going back to school, my son Camper, will be learning at home for the foreseeable future.

This is how it all started.

I came across Galileo XP in April last year right when COVID-19 started hitting hard in Singapore. When in-person classes got suspended in May, my wife Maryanne (you’ll hear more from her later) suggested letting Camper and Summer – ages 10 and 9 respectively – try Galileo, an online school for homeschoolers, unschoolers and worldschoolers. Most people are familiar with the concept of homeschooling. Unschoolers are kids who don’t follow any particular curriculum – learning is learner-led, interest-driven. Worldschoolers are kids who travel the world with their families and learn wherever they are. Much of the learning is influenced by the history, culture and geography of the place they are in. 

The first thing Galileo does for a new student is to help the learner come up with a personalised learning plan.

A teacher speaks to the parents and student to understand what the learner’s learning goals are, following which the teacher together with the learner come up with a learning plan that includes online resources the learner can access to achieve those learning goals. Every weekday the learner logs on to Zoom at a scheduled time with about 6-7 other children for their daily check-in, during which learners will be held accountable for the tasks they said they would complete the previous day, and share with the class what they want to achieve today. 

Besides the daily check-in, Galileo also runs a number of nanodegrees and clubs that students can opt in to. Examples of nanodegrees include: How to Start a Business as a Kid or Teen, Digital Citizenship, Public Speaking, Negotiation, Food Innovation, Design Thinking etc. Examples of clubs include Spanish Club, Coding Club, Math Club, High Noon Film Making Club etc.

You can imagine how any of these might be more interesting and engaging than what’s offered in traditional schools.

And this is really how it all started for Camper and Summer. When school resumed in June, both kids continued with Galileo while attending school. They go to school in the morning, get home around 2pm, do their Galileo check-in at 3 or 4pm, then do a couple of nanodegrees and clubs at night between 6-10pm. This makes us sound like slave driving tiger parents, but we didn’t push them to join any nanodegree or club. They are all so interesting we had a problem with FOMO – the kids wanted to join everything!

At some point late last year, Camper asked us why he’s still attending school.

Summer too much prefers Galileo to school. The only reason she hasn’t asked to be withdrawn is because of her friends in school, and I can see where they are coming from.

I’ve long maintained that mainstream education is not adequately preparing kids for the future.

Too much rote learning, memorisation, exam techniques, not enough self-directed learning, real world context, global citizenship. The world is changing at a much faster pace than mainstream education can evolve. State eduction ministries all over the world are playing catch up. 

Some people will say Camper can do this because he has a safety net, that it doesn’t matter if this doesn’t work out for him. But personally, I’d argue that if we believe the Galileo way of learning is fundamentally better for kids, then it’s morally wrong to tell kids from families with lesser means that they just focus on getting good grades in school. All kids deserve an education that prepares them for the future. Not just kids from privileged backgrounds.

So here we are, at the start of a new year. Here’s to less exam-prep, more slime making. 

Maryanne and I will continue to document Camper’s homeschooling journey here in Singapore, as well as ours as parents. Follow them here on Circle, or watch this space for more #HomeschoolingDiaries coming your way.