When people don’t understand

I feel almost exasperated by many of my Singaporean brethren sometimes. They do not understand home education, do not see why people would even do it, even though they came from such a Draconian education system.

I sometimes wonder why I’d even bother to tell them I home educate. I know I’m in for a nagging. My own Dad was very skeptical of my decision to home educate at first. He thought I was mad to home educate. Recently though he gave me his complete blessing. I was so glad to hear that. He said my kids will certainly excel because I am so dedicated to their education. I almost felt like crying when he said that.

We’ve not had the best relationship since I was a child. I guess deep down I’d always wanted him to be happy with me. I haven’t been doing that for a long time. I had managed to do just the sort of thing he disapproved of, almost every time, since I was a teen. He did not like me migrating so far away – that was one. Choice of a foreign husband – that was two. Having many children – that was three. Being a SAHM – that was four. Home educating – that was five. What can I say? I have a Dad who embraces modernity in the sense of academic and career development for his daughter, but wants me to stay close, literally, to my roots and my cultural heritage. I have gone back on all of that.

After he had accepted each and every decision I made finally – it always took time, but he always did accept my decisions in the end – I always feel a funny sense of sadness. I wish I was the daughter he wanted to have. He loved me dearly, and I wish I never had to disappoint him. Well I know we can wax lyrical about how if we really loved someone, we’d let them be or set them free, etc. He was a very traditional Asian man born in the 40s and raised as such, and for him to have done what he had done in accepting my life decisions was a great feat. If we really loved someone, we’d let them be. Well he did just that, but in his own time.

I must just remind myself not to join in some Facebook debate between Singaporeans about education. Many of them are so not ready for changing their minds. They are still too stuck in that “school” mentality.

Someone on a Facebook thread I was on tonight (bunch of Singaporean ladies living in England) starting talking about home education and I felt my blood pressure rise as I started composing a retort. I posted it. Then minutes later, I deleted them. I did. I decided that’s it. If I reply, then this could go on and on in circles, and take up all my time, and I was not prepared to engage with her and her supporters nor waste any more time and attention on the issue. They were not going to listen to anything I say. She will just keep doing the broken record, banging on about socialisation – that old chestnut. That “it’s important for children to socialise so as to integrate”. That any “socialisation” in a school setting is good. Even elitist socialisation in the form of Grammar and private schools is okay. But to her, it’s “not ideal ‘integration’ for middle class parents group together to home tutor their kids – it creates less integration” (sic).

She was a school teacher herself and was kicked out of the state school she was teaching in for some reason or another. Well she only ever said to me she was forced to resign. Driven out by people who were “out to destroy her” even though she was such a great teacher she was “rated OUTSTANDING by OFSTED”. She actually goes around spewing that OFSTED drivel everywhere. We all know OFSTED is a joke. Home educators in England all know that. But she carries it around like a badge of honour.

After a while, I decided to post a comment back at her and told her I am going to leave the thread because she cannot be reasoned with, and left her with a link that addresses the socialisation myth with home education issue. She got really really angry and then all hell broke loose. She started openly criticising me on the thread, saying I am not qualified to teach my children because I am not a trained teacher and should be failed by OFSTED for homeschooling. She tried tagging all her friends to get them to go against me. She kept reiterating that I have no right to correct her or even advice her in any issue to do with education, simply because she has YEARS and YEARS of teaching experience in the UK and I don’t. So I deleted her as a friend. Simples. She made her contempt of me and my life choices loud and clear on the thread. Why should I continue to let her be my Facebook friend, right?

And yet… (you couldn’t make this up!) she got even more enraged by my unfriending her on Facebook. As if she did not realise the magnitude of what she’d done to give me cause to unfriend her, she then went completely off the rails on the thread, telling everyone that I deleted her as a friend because I was too “immature and scared to face her arguments”. Then she went on rant after rant after rant after that, talking about how right she was and how wrong I am. The more she continued to spew more and more of her bile towards me, the more I thought to myself there was no way I was going to get involved any further with her. I’ll let her embarrass herself right there. If she can’t see how petty and nasty she appeared on the thread by then, then there’s no telling her!

I had Singaporean lady friends in UK who were on the same group and they witnessed her outbursts at me. They privately messaged me out of concern and were worried about my state of mind as a result of her outburst and her words, which she had obviously crafted with intent to cause maximum damage. They also asked me not to take heart at what she says. One of my friends asked me what her problem is and why she was acting like a whiny child.

But all I felt was shock. I did not expect that level of fury and abuse from her because of what I wrote. I said I don’t think we would ever agree on some issues and it would be better to just leave it at that, agree to disagree and call it a day. She would not take that as an answer and went on and on. Oh my goodness. She is a woman in her 50s. An experienced teacher nonetheless. How could she be acting like this? I just told my friends that I was fine. I was! I was bewildered. Just shell-shocked at the amount of rage the women was expressing. I told my friends I will not be returning to the thread as I know if I say anything more, she would never stop. I told them I was going to take a break from that group.

The funny thing is, she has had her own Mandarin tuition company after she had been “forced” to take early retirement in the school she worked in previously, so now her income is pretty much reliant on parents willing to spend money on extracurricular Mandarin classes that she organises for children. That includes home educators. She mentioned before that she has worked for home educators in her local area (in the West Midlands). Wow… after working with home educators, she says she actually doesn’t think home education is good? She thinks home educators should be vetted by OFSTED? She thinks the teaching of children should be done by “professionals”? Why work for home educators then? Surely you shouldn’t work for people you feel you don’t support!

But after her rampage on the thread and realising I was never going to respond again, it was as if she had realised what she had done was potentially detrimental to her business (if I went around telling other home educators her true view of home education), that she started singing the praises of those home educators she had worked with in the East Midlands. She said they were all real “intellectuals” and their children were all very well-behaved. She said it was just ME she didn’t “approve of” when it comes to home educating my children. Well now that REALLY makes things better, does it? So she feels she is qualified to “vet” home educators willy-nilly and is free to openly insult those she thinks are not up to the job?

Anyway I’ve had it. I think I shall stick to my local Home Ed group from now on with regards to anything regarding education or the discussion of education issues. It’s clear that some teachers (or ex-teachers) can take things really personally if they experience cognitive dissonance induced by something a home educator says. Okay she’s a bit unhinged, I guess, judging from her over-the-top responses to me, but I’m sure that’s not an isolated case!

That said, there are about 200 home educating families in Singapore at present. I have an ex-classmate from the Singaporean equivalent of a Grammar school that I went to, who also chose to home educate her children and has been doing so for a number of years. Her blog is on my Links page. Not ALL Singaporeans are against home educating. Thank goodness for that.

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