What A Wonderful World     by Aaron Fong, THG Alumnus    on guitar

 

PSLE Preparations

by Serene Lim

* Big disclaimer here : I am only sharing what we did. It is by no means the reason why ds did well for his PSLE. We can only give glory to God for his results. We are no experts having only graduated 1 out of 7 children from PSLE  But since a few people have asked, I just thought it would be nice to just share. Those who have better ideas and methods, do comment so that everyone can gain from each other’s generosity.

My motto for our homeschooling journey is, “Slow and steady wins the race”.  Work done consistently and regularly is better than huge chunks of work done sporadically.

Curriculum Used

As mentioned previously, we follow MOE’s syllabus and textbooks very closely from they moment they start Primary One. Especially for Maths, Science and Chinese. Why? Doing it this way ensures that the children and I are familiar with the local syllabus and requirements.

I know many other homeschooling moms use American curriculum but in the final year have to make sure that their child is familiar with the local stuff as well as fill in the gaps that the curriculum did not cover. With 7 children to teach, I simply do not have the time to do this. I’d rather take the “boring” route  

So besides Bible and English, which we use Student of the Word (SOW), I used all of MOE‘s recommended textbooks for Maths, Science and Chinese. Once we finish going through the textbooks, I hit  Popular Bookstore  to suss out assessment books that I think are helpful.

Here are the titles we have used and like :

Science : Janet Sim’s books (Challenging Science and 3-in-1 series).

Maths : Problem Solving Processes by Fabian Ng, Maths Companion by Andrew Er, Challenging 3-in-1 Maths by  Dawn Tai and Fan-Maths by Li Fang Lan.

English : Challenging 4-in-1 English and Excel in Comprehension.

Then there are the assessment books we used and didn’t like  But I used them all the same just to get them used to doing daily work. Remember – slow and steady wins the race  

Then there’s reading. I would pick a book that I think is appropriate and make him read me a chapter or I read him a chapter 1 to 2 times per week. He then narrates it back to me (a la Charlotte Mason but not quite  ). I had previously assumed that he would have understood the passage read since he was able to narrate it back to me. But it was not so in our experience. Or maybe I am doing it wrong? Anyhow, I still did it the “old fashioned way” and would ask him questions pertaining to the passage just to make sure that he understands.

Tuition*

Yes, we do use tuition as one of our tools in our homeschool and definitely for our PSLE preparations. We do not see why homeschoolers need to shy away from tuition. We do not have to do everything ourselves just because we are homeschoolers. More power to you if you can teach all subjects without external help. But in our case, we needed and wanted the extra help. Tuition is just a tool in our homeschool. Just like how TV can be a very useful tool when you have lots of little ones at home  

All the children start Chinese tuition at age 5 and I have largely the Chinese tutor to thank for doing a good job with them. But we did it on our own for the other 3 subjects until the end of last year.

I had come to realise that I was not able to teach ds how to answer his Science Paper 2 questions. Often times it is not that he did not know the answer but that he wasn’t answering it the way he should. Well, I did not know the way he should be answering the questions either since I am not MOE trained nor do I have any Science teacher friends. The solution was tuition. He would go and be taught the way!  It would be so silly to lose marks just because we are not answering questions the way the powers that be would like them to be answered, isn’t it?

As for Maths, although I actually took double maths in secondary school and got As in them, I am largely a terrible Maths student. Don’t ask me how I got my As! So there was no way I could help him in Maths by the time he hit Primary 5. Dh is the Maths expert but sadly his schedule does not permit him to teach ds. He doesn’t even have time to mark his work  So again the solution is tuition.

And God provided.

A friend recommended the Science tuition teacher she was using for her sons. Thank you, Sam! And guess what? The tutor taught from the bomb shelter unit at the next block to ours! And the Science tutor worked with a Maths tutor! How cool is the providence of God? Ds could just go to and come back from Maths and Science tuition by himself! It wouldn’t interrupt my schedule with the younger ones at all!

Daily Schedule

And here’s our daily schedule for all school aged children : After breakfast, we do our Bible (SOW for the older ones). Then we proceed to complete the work assigned each day, covering all 4 subjects except Science which is only done Mondays to Thursdays. They all work independently, coming to me only if they do not understand what is required. Usually all work is completed before lunch and I will grade their work in the afternoon. I will then go through their mistakes and correct/teach what they do not understand. Then we would be done for the day. 

This schedule is adhered to rain or shine except for their birthdays and public holidays. We school 4 weeks and take 1 week off. All year round, except for Christmas (we take 2 weeks off) and Chinese New Year (we take 1 week off).

This way, we do not forget too much of what we have learnt and we do not have to rev up our engines too hard to get re-started after each break  

Test Papers

By the time June rolled around, we had finished up all our text and assessment books. So it was time to pull out the Top Schools’ Exam Papers to practice. We did a test paper and review daily. (Edited : This is only for ds, not the rest of the children and only for the PSLE year.)

Oral and Listening Comprehension

We only practiced this formally with a book** I found in Popular (sorry, I can’t remember the title since I forgot to file it in my files  ) after June since we have been doing read alouds regularly. Again, there is a format for doing this. One can’t just randomly start talking about the picture given  And the book did teach it. I hope I would be able to find it when it is time for the next child to take PSLE!

That’s it. I don’t think I have anything more to share. If there is something you want to know which I did not touch on, do comment or email me and if I know the answer I will let you know.

* Edited : I realised I wasn’t clear about this – we only did Maths and Science tuition with ds this year as part of his PSLE preparations. Before that we were plodding on on our own, using the assessment books I listed. 

** The book is called Just Oral Practice and Just Listening Comprehension. It is a 2-in-1 book. The book is divided into 2 with half concentrating on Oral and the other half on Listening Comprehension

 

A Parent’s Story …

 

“What? With these results, you are not sending him back to school?” my brother-in-law asked, flabbergasted. He was intrigued that we will continue to homeschool, as our child’s PSLE results  enabled admission to some of the top local schools. 

It was an interesting time to be a homeschooler in Singapore. Run the other way, and hide the A*s, just in case we meet home educators who surmised we spent too much time on academics, and neglected character building, and focusing on moral and spiritual values. Yet some others, may feel a sense of pity for us, as we would have had to trade-off many fun and enriching learning experiences in our desire to do well in the exams.

Our family took the PSLE seriously. In fact, though the task seemed daunting at first, and an intrusion into our homeschool fun, we soon embraced it as a character building project and an opportunity to teach our children what it means to pursue excellence. They learnt these concepts fast enough – doing one’s best, long-term rewards versus immediate gratification, self-discipline and motivation, and my personal all-time biblical favourite, “He who does not work, does not eat”. 

Drills and rote learning led to the mastery of knowledge, completing multiple science and math exam papers honed analytical process skills, and the all important exam-taking skills of how to present answers well, of how to work within a time limit to deliver a peak performance under stressful conditions. A rigorous exam preparation program stretched my child to the limits of his ability, in the process, building a firm foundation of a strong work ethic, study skills and knowledge base, more than adequate to launch him into the demands of the high school years. 

What is the PSLE to us? No longer a responsibility or an obligation in exchange for the privilege to homeschool in Singapore but a blessing in disguise, a gift, often unwanted and grudgingly accepted. Beyond the secondary benefits of giving our homeschool a goal to work towards as we complete the elementary years, or helping us to know our child’s strengths and weaknesses, the rewards are in the process itself, of finally allowing him to taste the fruit of his hard work, to experience first-hand, life’s truth that most of the time, “you reap what you sow”.

An Interview with … Tay Pui Yee

 

A. How much importance does your family place on doing well in PSLE?  

Important

B. In which year, did the student start getting used to PSLE format ? 

P5 & P6

C. How did having to do the PSLE affect the way you homeschool in the primary years? 

From end of P4 – started to look at the topics being covered by the mainstream for Science, just to make sure we had covered the topics well.  

Mid P5 – started to look at the exam formats; thought through the important things we needed to look out for.  

Beginning of P6 – started to do the exam papers, one paper per subject and went through the answers with the child.  Engaged a study group to help the children cheer their friends on, and to have some time playing together to balance study and recreational activity. 

Although we carried on with our homeschool curriculum, preparation for the PSLE took up some time from doing the homeschool curriculum in full force. Usually, PSLE preparation took up some afternoons after we had covered what we needed to go through in our normal HS curriculum in the morning.  

D. The most useful resources that helped in preparation are:

1. For chinese, in order to let him have more practice in composition, I sent him to a group tuition because the fee was more affordable.  He did not mind being in a group.  That helped him to have regular writing practice in Chinese compositions. The class was in Hokkien Association in Toa Payoh.

2. Science guide – I studied that and digested all the information to know the key concepts/words.  This gave me some understanding on how to explain some of the answers.

3. Exam papers – helped us understand what it’s expected in the exam format. 

E. The biggest challenges in process of preparation are:

1.  My eldest son made some remarks to urge his brother to do well by comparing the younger boy’s possible scores with his own. I wanted to have a non-competitive spirit among my own children.  The eldest borother had a good intention but his words did not come out right.  The challenge was to encourage my youngest to do his best without comparing him with his siblings.

2. When I could not accept the answers given in some science tests, I accepted the answers he gave.  That might cause him some marks in the actual exam.  But I thought I must believe in him and his explanations and not put all trust in the answers given.  I think it’s okay for him to lose some marks although I do not know whether I had done right.  

3. We thought we didn’t need to prepare for the English paper.  As he started to do some exam papers, we realized that he needed to have some skills to do well, even in the spelling section.  Answers in cloze passages were also frustrating  because we felt the choices of words were kind of ‘restricted’. It was tough to prepare for that. 

F. The things the student did which helped him the most are: 

1. Consistency – started early at the end of P4. I became more aware of what topics to look out for and then consistently covered the topics with him since P5.  Used Homeschool curriculum to complement the local curriculum which was too dry.

2. School papers – helped us to be more aware of how poor his exam skills are and to overcome them.

3. Group study – to know how others did in their exams and let the children challenge each other in their studies.

G. The things our family did which helped the student the most are: 

1. Balancing work and play.  We don’t believe in making our children ‘live’ for PSLE alone but to continue to enjoy study and play.  In fact, I increased more play time or sport activities for him.

2. To arrange a group study to pace ourselves towards PSLE – parents received encouragement from each other and children had their time together.

3. To set a target with the child and to work towards it.  The goal was realistic and also gave him a range of scores to fall back on.  Encouraged him that it’s great to achieve beyond the goal and yet accept the results given the best efforts he had put in.  

H. The biggest mistakes we made in preparation process are: 

We thought English paper is easy enough that children didn’t need to prepare.

I. The things we would focus more on, to prepare the next child are:

1. Writing different genres of composition 

J. Which was more useful – group or one-on-one tuition? Why?

Depends on your child.  My boy likes working in a group as he likes challenges. For one-on-one tuition, the chemistry between the child and the teacher is important.