When he was almost 3 years old, our live-in helper decided to quit by the end of that year. At that time, we were sick and tired of the hassle of having a live-in helper, so we decided that we would save that cost and start doing without a live-in helper again. (We only started having a live-in helper when I was pregnant with #3.) In preparation for that, we started exploring the option of sending #3 to half a day of childcare each day the following year.
When #2 was born, we sent #1 to a childcare centre for half a day of childcare, so that I could focus on the baby. When #3 came along, even though we had a live-in helper, #2 was so eager to go to school like his brother that we sent him to the same childcare too. I had my hands full taking care of #3 because the live-in helper was only to take care of the housekeeping and some cooking. When it was time to explore sending #3 to childcare, naturally we checked with the older boys’ childcare centre first.
At that time, after government subsidy, we were paying just below $400 a month for #2’s school fees. When I enquired about enrolling #3, the school quoted a new fee that was over 30% more than what I was paying for #2, and that was after a ‘sibling discount’. As if that was not bad enough, to ‘enjoy’ that fee, we had to enrol #3 by the middle of the year. After that deadline, the fee would be higher as the school was in the practice of increasing school fees every year.**
We were appalled by how costly half-day childcare was. It was not just the cost factor but also whether it was worth that cost. Even though #1 (being the pioneer batch of students in that centre) had relatively uneventful preschool years at that school and was generally well-prepared for formal education when he started primary school, things were rather disappointing when it came to #2. For one, the teachers in his class were so occupied with dealing with an extremely disruptive child that other kids ended up at the losing end. I discovered to my horror that at age 5, #2 could not recognise the 26 alphabets, did not know the phonics sound of each alphabet, and could not recognise common, high frequency Chinese characters, even simple ones like 一，二，三. The teachers were not even aware of that and had been assuring me during past parent-teacher-meetings that he was fine and learning well. In the end, I had to take it upon myself to teach him how to read. I also found out later that several of his classmates had to go for reading classes outside school.
So, we definitely were not prepare to pay that much for that kind of education. We were also rather put off by the enrolment deadline condition. Since we had about 6 months before the deadline, I figured I could give homeschooling a shot. I would know in 6 months whether it worked for us or not. If it didn’t, we still could enrol him into the school.
From the time #1 was little, I had already thought about homeschooling my children. Somehow, things just did not work out for many reasons. I found it hard to do all the lesson planning, create all the materials, and work consistently. It was a lot of start and stop. Then more babies, more distractions, and sending to a school was just so much easier.
When it came to #3, I guess you can say that God’s grace was on it because around the time we were exploring our options, I encountered friends’ sharing, websites, materials, etc that just seemed like someone laid everything out for me. Instead of being overwhelmed like I was before, I had friends who homeschooled broke things down and shared with me simple principles that served to guide me in my path (“Just teach the 3R’s”). Previously, what I encountered only served to pull me in too many different directions until I gave up trying. I also suddenly had the clarity of mind to know just what to do – God gave me the wisdom that I needed for the job.
6 months passed quickly and we were having such wonderful time learning at home. I felt confident enough to decide we need not enrol him in a preschool. At least not for a year or two. It helped to know that should things became too difficult, school would still be there – we only had to cough up the sum for it.
And then, as the saying goes : the rest is history. Looking back and comparing my experience from before with my experience with #3, I could only say that it was God’s grace and when there is a grace for it, things would work out painlessly and smoothly. Resources that I needed would turn up. I would ‘chance upon’ things that would prove to be extremely useful. Even while teaching, I was able to “diagnose” problems and think of good ways to teach him. I am not a natural teacher so I know it must be God. So I thank God not just for four fruitful years of preschool education but also the precious time I had with #3, my last baby. We had such great time learning at home that I truly miss it now that he is in school.
**About a year or two later, I went to enquire again of the fees, and this time, the fees has gone up to nearly double of what I paid for #2!