From homeschool to O Level
Posted by DAVID BC TAN under: Examinations on 22 Mar 2010.
One of the big questions about homeschooling is, “what next?” For most of us whose children have been educated at home, SAT and O Level have been the way forward, if college is where they’re heading, that is. However, although SAT is a legitimate college entry pathway, more and more, IGCSE O Level has become the preferred option.
In the coming days, you will be reading about homeschoolers who went from wading pool to the deep end of IGCSE exams. Today’s post features homeschooling mom Swee Bin who shares how her son’s unconventional education experience was no obstacle to doing well in exams.
One did the AOP programe after leaving school in early primary. One did Sonlight and assorted Singapore books, also after leaving school in early primary. My son did a mixture – private school for Std One, AOP centre for next two years, came home to unschooling for 6 years.
In June-July 2008, all three signed up at a tutorial centre to prepare for the IGCSE. In January 2009, my son and his best friend (the AOP one) enrolled in Sirius Scholar, a centre/school newly opened in USJ to prepare students from Form 1-5 for the IGCSE. The Sonlight one opted to study for the exam with the help of his parents for most of 2009.
The Nov 2009 IGCSE results were released in January. My son did well, as did two other homeschoolers. The three of them scored straight As, with quite a few A-Stars thrown in to boot.
What struck me about the three boys was how they embraced the learning. Their minds and hearts were ready. There was real interest in the material. That was nice to see. For my son and his friend, the school principal and English teacher was most struck by their general knowledge and reading habit. Their classmates too noticed how they seemed to “know so much” or “they know everything.”
To my mind, these boys were prepared in the basics – language (English) was strong (which also means reading/comprehension skills) and math skills were in place. These enabled them to handle specialised content, including material they had not handled before. Eg, physics, chemistry and additional math. The starting months were tough as they grappled with the many gaps (total zeros, knowledge-wise) but, they quickly overcame these.
All three also attacked past year papers with a real earnest (an excellent website is freeexampapers.com which comes complete with marking schemes). Between my son and his best friend, they did more past year papers than their 9 other classmates combined. I had told my son to think of kungfu: you may know the moves but will only be good if you fight and get to practise what you know. Every exam question is like an opponent’s blow – left, right, centre, you don’t know how the blows will come. But, you’ve got to deal with them. And, the more blows you deal with, the better you become. He was quite challenged by the questions. The harder, the better.
I remember him sitting in front of the notebook, intently working through the online question papers. Then, excitedly checking his answers. The more he did, the more confident he became. The more confident he became, the more questions he wanted to do. He would burst out with his score, with a big grin.
On his school experience, “one year is enough.” He didn’t like the regimentation of time; he didn’t like having to do things he had no interest in; he felt much of the school day was a waste of time. He’s glad though for the two new good friends he’s made during his year there and for the two excellent teachers he had.
Having achieved his results, he feels the value – especially when he went recently for some interviews for part-time jobs (he is now a waiter in a noodle shop). He is spending this year and maybe next to discover more of himself. He has just turned 17. There is still so much time and we certainly prefer him to go out and explore the world a bit before he thinks about college.
A qualifier before I end. We’ve always known that our son was academic-minded, with the capacity to study. Hence, taking the education pathway he did was right for him. Not all children are academically inclined, in my humble opinion. As their parents and stewards, we ought to recognize that and guide them where their God-given gifts and strengths lie. It does take all types to make the world!
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