Canon in D     by Aaron Fong, THG Alumnus     on piano and violin

Parents were surveyed on the preparation process for the exams. This is a summary of the responses, collated from some families. Responses are a sampling of the community’s experience and are by no means representative of all homeschoolers or recommendations.

A. How much importance does your family place on doing well in PSLE? Very important, important or not Important (Just to clear benchmark)? 

All families surveyed indicated “Important”.

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

Most surveyed started intensive preparation in P4 or latest P5. It is never a mistake to keep close to the local syllabus for Math and Chinese from P1, and start full preparations sometime in P4, slowly gearing up and going intensive in P5. With the time advantage a homeschooler has, the syllabus could be covered by first quarter of P6, and exam paper drills commenced by 2Q of P6. 

From P1, it is good to homeschool, knowing the PSLE requirements at the back of our minds. Skills needed in oral examinations, listening comprehension and compositions are easily incorporated in homeschool curriculums.

Many families make the mistake of starting on Chinese and Math too late, and only in the upper primary years. It is less stressful for both parent and child, to be familiar with and competent at tackling questions in PSLE exam format as early as possible. The child needs years to build up language skills, to solve complex math problems by thinking in terms of models and heuristics methods, and to develop good process skills and answering techniques for Science.

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

– Did not affect us till the beginning of P5 when we started preparing for the exams.

– We were more house-bound. Worksheets after worksheets = lots of marking!!

– Life became more boring. Rote learning and assessment books became staple.

– Need to be creative in incorporating requirements into homeschool methodology

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

– Past exam papers from different schools. 

– Onsponge Maths & forum

– EPH assessments books on languages & writing

– Watching youtube on how to do oral tests & to solve difficult math questions

– Sign up for weekly class on weaker subjects

– HomeTutor series for Math & Science (although child may find it a little boring) 

E. The biggest challenges in process of preparation are:

– Preparing to know how to answer the questions ie to know what is expected  

– Preparing the child to be able to sit through a 2-hour paper.

– Motivating the child when learning becomes too dry

– Managing other children not doing PSLE

– Breaking down learning into different subjects instead of doing unit study

– Having to do less field trips in order to conserve energy

– Assisting child to cultivate good study habits required for adequate exam preparation,   such as ability to focus, consistent good presentation of answers.

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

– Past year exam papers

– Weekly study group

– Science & Chinese tuition

– Practice TOP school papers

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

– To be thankful for whatever  effort  the child  puts  in

– Expectation of a break after the exams

– One-on-One teaching by parent, sibling or tutor

– Feedback from private tutors, or someone in the school system, to ensure that answers are meeting expectations of examiners

– Comprehensive preparation for oral exams and listening comprehension

– Balanced work day of study, play, music and sports

– Scaling down other activities, holidays and field trips, to focus on exams, thus having more time to relax, read and veg out

– Mid-year break

– Planning for Oct break

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

– Starting math preparation a little too late

– Starting on exam papers too late

– Started to find like-minded friends to do group study a bit too late, in March only (son was most reluctant then but now misses it!)

– Grumbling instead of being thankful and hence wasted time & energy

– Not knowing that there are current homeschooling families who are more than willing to share their journey & learn how it’s feasible to continue beyond PSLE

– Thinking that homeschoolers do not need tutors, that we can do it all

– Taking the PSLE lightly, not realising that we can benefit from 2 systems – enriching homeschool curriculum and strengths in Singapore Math & Science

– Not learning to write compositions the “local” way – context, phrases, story plot

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

-Start  preparations  a little  earlier, so as to do so more leisurely

– Memorize a story from each Chinese textbook as part of storytelling

– Use the Chinese textbooks to do both English & Chinese oral practice as the pictures are localized & colourful

– Practise writing more frequently and regularly! Use guide books to know how to do introductions & ending. Simple plot but use “show” words/idioms.

– Ensure strong foundation in Chinese & Math from lower primary years

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

-Having a PSLE preparation group that met weekly was a tremendous help

-Hard to determine. It depends on both the child and the teacher. If the child is easily distracted, or the group is too large, group tuition is a no-no.

-Depends on child; group tuition is cheaper, curriculum is strong and relevant in case of good enrichment centres, suitable if child thrives on competition and group learning and is an independent learner. Private tutors are good if child is especially weak in subject, needs help only in certain topics or areas such as problem sums. Can customise to needs.  However, it is not easy to find good tutors, especially ones who can come to the home.