Mum Rinka Romero-SyCip was homeschooling her kids before Covid-19 reared its ugly head. Here, she shares her homeschooling tips for how to make it work.
Working from home, homeschooling, managing two kids – sounds familiar? We’re already tearing our hair out trying to settle our kids in front of their daily Zoom conference while also thinking about what to prepare for dinner and how to explain the latest Covid-19 guidelines. Yep, it’s our new reality no thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic, but for supermum Rinka Romero-SyCip, it’s business as usual. We had a chat with scriptwriter, supermum and homeschooling pro Rinka to get the lowdown on homeschooling in Singapore. Let’s get this Covid-19-induced homeschooling show on the road!
Hi, Rinka! Tell us more about your super-cute daughters, Malaya and Zahari.
Malaya turns eight soon, while Zahari just turned two. It’s crazy how you can pass on the same DNA, parent them the same way, use the same hacks, but end up with two completely different human beings! Zahari is spirited (isn’t that a nice way of saying she has a temper?) but is also ridiculously sweet. She has an innate sense of humour. Malaya, on the other hand, is such a darling. She is thoughtful and considerate, but also manages to burn us with savagery every once in a while. It’s a great way to put us in our place and remind us we’re completely clueless.
Sounds like you’ve got a handful! What made you decide to homeschool?
I am actually a former teacher. I taught 3rd, 4th, 9th and 10th grade in an international school so I thought I was pretty set about NOT homeschooling my kids. Unwittingly, though, since I didn’t enrol my daughter in a pre-school, I ended up homeschooling Malaya without even realising it. It was another homeschooling mum who pointed this out. Reading books to her, counting random things and explaining the world to her was already homeschooling her. So mums who’ve been doing the same – bravo! You’ve actually been homeschooling, even before Covid-19!
My husband, a cinematographer who travels a lot for work, expressed how much he wanted us to all go away on assignments together and bunk in a hotel for weeks when needed, without worrying about her school attendance. My daughter also told me that she wanted to be homeschooled.
How did you plan it out?
I had a newborn at the time, and I knew I couldn’t manage bringing my daughter to school and picking her up while taking care of a newborn and keeping the house in order. I was constantly in touch with other homeschooling mums — which I suggest you do if you’re curious (especially now that we’re in crisis mode), who I would ask questions every now and then. Little by little, my preconceived notions about what it means to homeschool were being chipped away. Homeschool is really about putting the love for learning back in the child and getting to know what makes them thrive.
Did she ever go to regular school?
By the time Malaya turned five, I enrolled her in a Montessori school. I was a bit bogged down by the fact that when she would get home, she and I would need to pummel through homework. It became less about hunger for learning and more a case of, “Let’s get this out of the way because I was told to do it.”
How’s homeschooling going so far?
Homeschooling veterans never decide on more than one year at a time. “I will homeschool for this year” was the best decision I’ve made so far for Malaya. This year is our second year of homeschooling for real. We started in 1st grade, and now Malaya is about to complete 2nd grade.
How does it affect your work?
I am a scriptwriter for films. This is great because I get to work from home. It doesn’t affect my work much because I usually start writing in the afternoons. You learn a rhythm, eventually. And before you do, it’s very forgiving because the curriculum is set for classrooms. As a teacher, I can tell you it’s hard to get all the students on the same page — and a lot of teaching is that. So it actually takes much less time to learn concepts when you homeschool.
Doesn’t homeschooling take up lots of time?
A lot of people think it’s a huge time commitment, and to some extent it is. But also, I feel it’s the best set-up for us. In the time I would have prepared her breakfast, gotten her ready for school and gotten her there, we would already be done with two or three subjects for the day. There is so much more ease and I feel so much less frustration.
Any tips for parents who have to homeschool right now because of Covid-19?
Oh, parents! It must be so overwhelming to be navigating such trying times during Covid-19 while also figuring out homeschooling. But hang in there. See what works for your kid. We usually start off the homeschooling journey with a test to see the kind of learning style your child has — and this was huge for us. Learning what works for your kid is HUGE in how much they learn. As for Malaya, she is an auditory and kinaesthetic learner. So she likes movement, but most of all, she likes listening. So we do a lot of read-alouds. Those are moments we treasure — sitting on the couch with her next to me, reading about history or science, and the back and forth of questions and answers. It always makes me remember why we do this.
Thank you, Rinka!
Top image credit: Rinka Romero-SyCip