I plan to homeschool the kids through the rest of this year and 2011. This is because a new private school is being built nearby, but it won't open its doors till January 2012. Why we have to go private is because the language of instruction is English in the private schools and our kids just don't know enough Malay to cope well in the Malaysian public system. Also, we have been told repeatedly that there are no systematic language-support or immersion classes to help children learn Malay as a foreign language. It's sink or swim. When it comes to our children's education, I don't like those odds.
Our children also started schooling later than is usual for Anglo-Western kids. That is, at the age of 10/11yo, The Wast is in Primary-4 when he should be in Primary-5. Similarly, Little Dinosaur (8/9yo) is in Primary-2 when she should really be in Primary-3.
We are not unhappy with this because, quite frankly, our kids wouldn't have been able to cope with starting school at the age of five or six. The Wast couldn't even count to ten at the age of seven, leading to many accusations of "severe mental retardation", "autism disorder", and "systemic nervous system disorder" while we were in Australia. I have the written reports to prove it. And while, for a little while there, I was also wondering whether our son had a form of autism, he had enough other complex interests to convince me that the off-the-cuff diagnoses from nobody trained to give them were wrong. Yes, it was true that our son couldn't count to ten, but he was also able to identify jellyfish by their Latin specie names at the same age. He couldn't subtract one pebble from four pebbles to give three pebbles, but he was drawing simple machine schematics and taking an avid interest in how things worked. (Our daughter, Little Dinosaur, proved to be similar although her interests, obviously, ran to dinosaurs rather than jellyfish.)
So I knew that (a) our children had some intelligence, and (b) they could not cope with the established school system for their age. So we held them back. (Both children were born premature. That may have had an effect on their early development but, to what extent, I don't know.) Now, they seem to have caught up with the level that Western culture deems to be appropriate for children of their age. And I have a plan.
Because we're foreigners in Malaysia, we fall outside the scope of the Ministry of Education. We could have our children mining for tin in the centre of the state rather than attend school and there's not a goddamn thing the government can do about it. Nor do they want to. Foreign children? Who cares. But the apathy from the government gives me opportunity. And the opportunity is: Singapore curriculum.
A lot of Malaysian parents send their children to Singapore schools because they think the kids get a better education there. I know what I'm about to say is dreadfully unpopular but, having skimmed through both countries' school workbooks, there isn't that much difference between them. The maths is at a slightly higher level in Singapore, the science is completely screwed in both places, and the level of English is also a bit more rigorous in Singapore ... although you'd never tell listening to Singaporean schoolchildren talk. Interestingly, given an equivalent level of fluency, the Malaysian children speak English better and with more precision than their Singaporean counterparts.
So, because the Singapore curriculum is geared towards urban children and has a slightly tougher standard, that's what I'm choosing. I've just started Primary-3 and -5 this month. And, stalwart reader, here it comes: in May of next year, I'll be starting Primary-4 and -6 with them.
I'll hit the curriculum itself next post (24 September).
* Kaz Augustin is a writer and mother who's only somewhat ambitious. You can find her website at http://www.ksaugustin.com, she posts sporadically at http://blog.ksaugustin.com and writes about food once a week at http://food.ksaugustin.com.