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Coping Without Tuition—More Time For The Important Things In Life

It’s almost a given in Singapore that school and tuition go hand in hand, but there are parents who are determined to buck the trend. One such parent is Jin Ting, a self-employed mother of two children aged 12 and 8. Jin Ting has been based at home since last year to help her eldest child prepare for the PSLE, and she regards herself as a non-believer when it comes to the cult of tuition and enrichment classes. Instead, she advocates daily revision, and has devoted her personal time to understanding the concepts taught in school, so as to better support her children. Read her story below:

Do your kids attend neighbourhood schools or popular schools?
My kids attend a neighbourhood school. Their school was considered a brand-new school back when my daughter was due for Primary 1 registration. I gathered no one would want to register their children at a new school, so I enrolled her there with full confidence that I would not need to go through the balloting process, and that was exactly how it turned out! I’d had the option of enrolling my daughter at my alma mater, but decided against it due to the distance.

For my son, it was a no-brainer: I enrolled him in the same school under Phase 1, the siblings’ category. 

Why did you decide against tuition for your kids?
With the long hours spent at school, I would rather my kids spend their available time resting, bonding with the rest of the family, or learning life skills.  And as a self-employed parent, I have the flexibility of time, and am able to research and come up with activities for my kids. 

However, I had to “succumb” to tuition for my daughter last year, when she was in Primary 5, as she was very weak in Chinese—she was only scoring 20+ at the beginning of P5. I badly needed the extra help so I could deal with the other subjects, and at the same time, focus on my son who had just entered Primary 1. Thankfully I managed to find a passionate tutor who has helped spur my daughter on, motivating her to work towards a target we initially thought was impossible.

With their free time, what life skills have your children learnt?
They’ve picked up skills such as cooking, doing their own laundry, and even basic self-defence skills from watching YouTube videos! We’ve also involved them in gardening, which is an opportunity for “live” science learning.

What are your thoughts on non-academic enrichment classes, such as ballet or art?
My children don’t attend these classes as well, because I feel they will find out on their own what their interests are, perhaps beginning from the time they’re 11 or 12. I prefer to let them have a more carefree childhood, as opposed to rushing here and there for classes.

Could you share your kids’ routine with us?
On weekdays, school ends at 1.30PM and my kids will have lunch after that. By 3, they’re at their desks doing homework or revision. On average, I allocate an hour to each subject, with a half-hour break every two hours. After dinner, my kids read, play word games, and get ready for the next day. We usually take Fridays off for the kids to let their hair down; we’ll take them out for lunch or dinner.

On weekends, the kids wake up at 7AM, go for a short morning run, have breakfast, and start their revision again by 9.30AM. They will spend up to two hours on each subject, followed by a one-hour break.

How do you help your kids in their schoolwork?
I buy guidebooks, exam papers, and assessment books for every subject, and I spend the time when they are in school to read up on their syllabus and work on the assessment books. I will attempt all questions before the kids start working on them! This is to ensure that I can help them if they are stuck.

Are there assessment books or guidebooks that you’ve found particularly helpful?
Yes, I like the GLM series of assessment books for Maths, as well as the science guidebooks by Marshall Cavendish. 

How do you set exam targets for your kids?
I set targets for my kids based on their capabilities and previous exam grades.  I raise the targets for every exam, but it’s not an exact score—I will usually give a range, such as 80-85. If targets are met, my kids will be rewarded with a small gift of their choice. If they fall short, they will be encouraged to work harder and improve on their grades.

Will you continue to be as involved in your daughter’s schoolwork once she enters Secondary 1?
Definitely! The parenthood journey will never end, and I prefer to be more involved and hands on.

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