The thought of homeschooling in Singapore – long-term – doesn't have to be daunting. With the right support, guidance and advice from like-minded parents and professionals, you can embrace homeschooling in Singapore.
As every parent knows, each child is unique and has different needs when it comes to learning and education. Most of us opt for a traditional learning environment because we believe school is best for our children. But not all children benefit from the rigidity of a Singapore school environment. Instead, a small number of parents opt to keep their children out of traditional school and give them an education at home. Yep, we’re talking homeschooling in Singapore – and it’s something that we’ve all been faced with during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Everything you need to know about homeschooling in Singapore
What is homeschooling?
As the name suggests, homeschooling is the education of children in a home environment by parents, tutors or a mix of both. There are many reasons why parents may choose to homeschool their children. For instance, the child may have special needs, or the parents may want to maintain a religious focus or to be more involved when it comes to the type of education their child is getting. Or of course, parents may be faced with homeschooling by default, all thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Is homeschooling in Singapore legal?
Yes, homeschooling in Singapore has been legal since 2000.
Homeschooling for Singapore citizens
According to Singapore’s Ministry of Education, parents wishing to homeschool their child (in normal, non-Covid times!) must apply for Compulsory Education exemption. They’ll need to provide details of their planned curriculum and subsequent educational outcomes, including instruction in National Education.
Some things to note: At Primary 4, homeschooled kids will need to sit for a benchmarking test that encompasses the entire year’s syllabus. A couple of years later, they will also still need to sit the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) in four subjects (English Language, Mother Tongue Language, Mathematics and Science) at standard level. They must also meet the PSLE benchmark pegged at the 33rd percentile of all students in national primary schools in that same year. Finally, they must sit for the National Education Quiz before the PSLE.
Homeschooling for foreigners in Singapore
Foreigners are not legally compelled to send their children to school in Singapore. You may want to check the rules and requirements of the schooling in your home country if you intend to repatriate during your children’s schooling. Or, if you plan to integrate them into a Singapore international school at some point, you should definitely check if the school has its own admission requirements.
The pros and cons of homeschooling
Now that you’ve got a basic idea about homeschooling in Singapore, you’re probably wondering whether this is the right education route for your child, whether you’ve chosen to homeschool, or if it’s the current Covid-19 norm. So, we’ve listed down the pros and cons of homeschooling to give you a better idea of what you’re up against.
Advantages to homeschooling
- Homeschooling allows room for flexibility in terms of curriculum structure. This is in comparison to schools, where the curriculum is set prior to enrolment. More things can be covered in a shorter period of time, too.
- Lessons can be adjusted to suit your child’s learning styles, needs, and interests. Kids can learn at their own pace and enjoy individualised attention from their tutor (AKA you!). Also, no homework! That’s definitely a big plus.
- More practical (and sometimes fun!) learning activities, such as trips to the museum and zoo. While schools also offer trips to such places, they are often rare and only take place after examinations are over.
- Homeschooled kids become independent and mature. They are more curious, dare to take on more risks, and get to explore a wider range of subjects compared to school kids.
- Parents get to spend more time and bond with their children. Obviously this is self-explanatory.
Disadvantages to homeschooling
- It’s a full-time job, especially if it’s you, the parent, that’s in charge of homeschooling. As such, you may not be able to work productively, or will have to stop working altogether.
- Because only one parent is working, it may cause financial constraints for the family. There are no school fees, but you have other expenses to think about: assessment books, craft supplies, gymnastic classes if your child is interested in pursuing them, and so much more.
- Parents are also concerned about the potential lack of socialisation. Unlike in schools, where children can interact and collaborate with their peers, homeschooled kids are limited to their parents or tutor. On top of that, the child only socialises with whoever their parents socialise with.
- If your child has been to a traditional school previously and switched to homeschooling or vice versa, there’ll be that adjustment period. You as their primary educator will also take some time adjusting to the homeschooling routine, too.
- Homeschooling can also be daunting with regards to monitoring your child’s growth and ensuring they get the right education. You may start to second guess yourself as an educator as well as your decision. You may even think that you’ve not done the right thing for your younglings.
The various homeschooling methods for parents
There isn’t a perfect method or curriculum when it comes to homeschooling, but here are six of the most common methods employed by parents:
- Classical education follows the three age-based learning phases – concrete (preschool to 12 years of age), analytical (13 to 14 years old), and abstract (age 15 and above). This method is language-focused and literature-intensive as it centres on training your child’s mind.
- The traditional method is when you ‘import’ a school’s curriculum and structure into your homeschooling setup. The syllabus and schedule are pretty similar to a formal classroom setting.
- The eclectic, AKA the ‘relaxed’ approach. It allows you to pick and choose elements from various methods and curricula to produce your own unique syllabus. This lets families cater to the different needs of children at different ages. This method is very popular among parents!
- Formal preschool methods that you can incorporate into your homeschooling setting are the Montessori, Waldorf, and Reggio Emilia principles. These child-centred, developmentally-attuned approaches appeal to homeschoolers as well.
- Unschooling is where children learn intuitively and continually without any form of structure. The choice of subjects is naturally shaped according to the child’s interests. This is known as ‘natural learning’ too.
- Unit study is a way of exploring and learning a subject through multi-sensory activities and experiences. Yes, reading up is still involved, but your child can also discover through field trips, art activities, hands-on projects, and thematic play.
Where to start your homeschooling journey
There are loads of online resources to help you get started on your homeschooling journey in Singapore. We suggest you seek out support groups here in Singapore as the first port of call.
Homeschooling support groups in Singapore
- Homeschool Singapore is the biggest community for homeschooling in Singapore. It has a comprehensive website, where it talks about the benefits of homeschooling, shares resources and hosts annual events. Homeschool Singapore also has an active Facebook community where members can share all things homeschooling.
- Singapore Homeschool is an informal private Facebook group run by parents who homeschool their kids. The group aims to provide a supportive, inclusive platform to share information, ask questions and make friends. All nationalities and religions are welcome, as long as you’re currently homeschooling a child between two and 18.
- A smaller, more intimate group exclusively for expats homeschooling in Singapore is Expats Homeschooling in Singapore. As the name implies, you must be an expat whose child’s education is not covered by a spot at international or local schools. This group is for homeschooled children aged five and over.
- Exploring Homeschooling SG is a good starting point if you’re exploring your homeschooling options. Unsure about where to start, or if homeschooling in Singapore is the right option for you? This group is a safe, nurturing environment to ask questions, find information and share homeschooling resources.
- Homeschool Families with Teens Singapore is a group specifically for parents of homeschooled kids aged 12-17 years. It’s a forum to share events just for teens.
If you’re still weighing up your education options, whether it’s homeschooling, local school or international school, load up on information and advice at the Singapore Expat Schooling Forum on Facebook. It has nearly 3000 members, all seeking out the best education options for their children.
Homeschooling curriculum information and resources
Singapore Homeschool Curricula Share and Swap offers a marketplace for families to share, sell or buy used or new homeschooling materials.
If you want to adhere to an Australian-based curriculum, Complete Education Australia offers Mathematics, English, Science, Humanities and Social Sciences, The Arts, Health and Physical Education and Languages programs from Foundation to Year 10. Australians can contact the Education Department within their home state for further information on distance education. Similarly, New Zealand citizens can follow the New Zealand curriculum via a distance education provider, like Te Kura. US citizens should check with their home country about eligibility for distance learning.
For preschoolers, Habitat Schoolhouse offers a membership service that provides wholesome resources for other parents looking to educate their children. It’s great because it takes away all the guesswork in researching, planning and prepping for homeschooling lessons. It even provides worksheets and book lists on top of fun, hands-on activities perfect for your little homeschoolers.
Useful tips and tricks for homeschooling beginners
So you’re officially homeschooling your kid. What’s next? If it’s a decision rather than a Covid-19 restriction, then for Singaporeans, you’ll have to apply for MOE’s Exemption from Compulsory Education, which should be done within July to October of the year prior to your child’s Primary 1 enrolment.
1. Research and prepare
Find out the homeschooling method you’d be most comfortable with and gather all the necessary resources. Speak with your spouse about the potential loss of income and adjusting to life on a potential single income. Sit down with your child, explain to them, and discuss. Let them work through their feelings, if necessary.
2. Designate a learning space
Just like your work from home setup, set up a designated area where your children can keep their books, learning materials, and supplies. Trust us, it’s extremely helpful to have everything organised in one place. That way, you can pull things out and tidy up quickly and easily.
3. Connect with the homeschooling community
If you are new to homeschooling in Singapore, you’ll need all the help that you can get. These folks are your support system, and your wealth of resources to tap into. They can cover for you on those days when you feel like you’re all drained out. They’re also primarily where your child will interact and socialise with same-age peers. This community is your reminder that you’re not doing this alone!
4. Develop a schedule
Yes, homeschooling is all about flexibility, but that doesn’t mean you should forego a structure. Create a daily schedule with routines in place, so that it can give you direction and focus for each day. Detailed or relaxed, your kids (and you) will thank you for having some form of routine and structure in place.
5. Take advantage of the homeschooling journey
Remember the reason why you’re homeschooling your children – no more rigid curricula! So keep a lookout and incorporate the many learning opportunities you can muster beyond the textbooks. Baking bread or sweet treats? Yes, go ahead. How about visiting a library? Good choice! Perhaps a trip to the wet market where kiddies can get up close with fresh produce? Absolutely! Whatever that you decide to do with your little homeschoolers, it’ll no doubt contribute towards a well-rounded education for them.
Good luck on the homeschooling journey, parents!
Special thanks to Singapore Expat Schooling Forum for providing some of the information for this story.