Kei's Bay posted a question on her blog about whether it is necessary to send our preschoolers for preparatory classes and why we can't just rely on the kindergartens to transit them into Primary school. Although, it was a general question, i took it upon myself and asked myself if it was needful for me to prepare Sonshine for Primary school and why couldn't i just let him learn at his preschool's pace? Wow, did i think hard, i even re-evaluated the objectives of my home teaching.
So is it necessary? After much thought and a chat with a mom who has a Primary school going kid, i think it's necessary and unnecessary- classic answer ain't it?
I think necessary because there are certain skill set & knowledge the child must posses before entering Primary school. That friend said it is a must for the child to know how to read- at the very least. She pointed out that everything, except for Mandarin of course, is taught in English. If the kid can't read, it is virtually impossible for him to keep up. I reckon this applies to Mandarin as well. Looking at the current curriculum, the child must already know how to read in Mandarin. Otherwise, there is no way he can survive even the first lesson. I concluded, it IS necessary to send the preschooler for preparatory classes if he does not have those (& some others like hand-writing etc) basic skills.
I think not necessary because there's really no need for the child to be ahead of the school's syllabus. It doesn't mean that the child would not be able to keep up if he follows the class syllabus. A child with a head start may not necessarily mean he will do very well in school. That said, some say it is necessary (and even a MUST) for students attending 'top' schools to attend tuition classes. Apparently, such schools EXPECT the students to be ahead of the school's curriculum. Boy, am i glad that i am NOT sending my children to any of these schools. I will run to the far end, far far away from these schools.
This brings me to my next question (to myself). Why am i home teaching my son, and teaching him in advance? To answer this, i had to back track to the beginning of my homeschooling with sonny.
I remember my primary objective was to teach him to read, that was all. I never started out with an elaborate plan for him to learn Primary 1 syllabus by the age of 5. It was never my intention. In fact, i thought i would be back to the workforce by the time he's 5!
I recall when he showed signs that he could read, i was motivated to teach him to read more words. So i kept teaching him words from across subjects, Food, transportation, animals, geography and i inevitably was led to numbers. To my delight, he learnt numbers and counting very well too. I then accidentally found out he could add & subtract simple sums. And then, i thought, hey maybe he could also multiply- & he could! So, i figured, i might as well teach him division- which he learnt quite quickly too! Then i thought, alright, since we have come this far, let's just move on to problem sums. And all of a sudden, i look back and wonder how on earth did we come this far, this fast?
What i am trying to say is, it was never my purpose to teach sonshine so that he gets a head start in Primary school- although that is the result of my home teaching (but I'm not complaining). I was led entirely by his interest and willingness to learn. He learns very well at home neither does he resist my teaching (i like to think he enjoys it too), so i just kept moving forward based on HIS own learning pace not my own, not our local school's, just his own unique schedule. Yes, i do teach so to prepare him for Primary school but that's not my primary (ha! what a PUN!) reason for teaching- it is a by result of my teaching- if that makes any sense. It's like, since i am teaching him, i might as well teach to prepare him for Primary school right?
I teach because i enjoy, because sonshine enjoys. I am quite certain that i would have given up long ago if he had showed resistance or no interest. So for me, it is not so much of whether it is important to give him a headstart for Primary school. It's more of how fast he wants to and can learn. At one point, i did feel that he was learning way too fast and wondered if i should slow down. But i decided that i will be short changing him if i insist to impose on him what i think is the 'right' pace instead of following his lead. I do not want to short change him in this aspect, i want to respect his learning style and pace. So, while i am fine with him learning at the preschool's pace but it might be too slow for him & i much prefer that we match up to his own rhythm.
But to each their own. I think it is a personal question and very much depends on the individual parents goals & values. So what's yours? Do you think its necessary to send YOUR kids for preparatory classes? Why? A food for thought!