I enjoy to bang on about education and the flaws of the exam-based system that I grew up in, but now because of COVID-19 I have to, in some ways, practice what I preach. Under the lockdown (or circuit breaker as they call it in Singapore) schools are closing/have been closed and both my parents are working full-time from home. As a result, of their busy schedules and my passion for teaching I have been the one taking over the homeschooling activities. If you thought it was difficult getting your kids to listen to you, imagine getting their older sister to tell them what to do. For a little context, I have three little siblings (so three students) a fifteen-year-old brother, a thirteen-year-old sister and a nine-year-old sister. With most of these projects, I was able to adapt the difficulty of the project for the age of the child.

I have actually love homeschooling my siblings, I get to redesign the ‘syllabus’ and teach what I think is important not just for school but for education. Usually, I give them one project a day, most of the time an essay, presentation or debate. Here are 5 of my favourite projects so far: 

1. How powerful is an image?

When I was looking at the books we had at home I saw we had Time magazine’s ‘100 Most Influential Images of All Time’ and I thought that would be a fantastic stimulus for a project. I chose the image of Mao swimming in the Yangzte river in 1966. 

I chose this image because it contributed to the mass mobilisation of the cultural revolution in the PRC in 1966. This combined History as she had to research the cultural revolution, Politics as she had to understand that Mao was an authoritarian leader but also allowed her to harness her creative side. She wrote and we subsequently debated about propaganda, the nature of a communist state, the power of a characteristic leader, the ability to mass mobilise and the role of photos as evidence in history. 

Questions asked: 

Why do you think that Time put it on the most influential photos list? 

What did this photo lead to? 

What does the caption mean by ‘Cultural Revolution’?

Is this propaganda? Doesn’t propaganda imply that it is untrue? 

What are advantages and disadvantages to authoritarian leaders

2. Mark Manson: The disease of more – Do you agree? 

Link to article: https://markmanson.net/disease-of-more (does contain swear words) 

Although I believe Manson is a fantastic and persuasive writer I have always found him a little bit pessimistic (I still read his books and weekly blog posts though). I found this article very interesting, it also mentioned the NBA (by bothers favourite sports league so I thought that it may catch his interest). Eoin wrote a 1300-word article on whether he agreed with Manson’s philosophy, Molly wrote an 800-word article on the same topic and Kitty wrote 10 things she learnt from Manson. After which we had a debate as to whether they agreed with Manson’s philosophy on success. For me, this was a good persuasive writing article and made them think about philosophy. 

Questions asked: 

To what extent do you agree with Manson’s philosophy on success? 

Is Manson an optimist or pessimist?

Who defines success? 

If Manson is correct, why does success matter? 

What is the point of success?

3. Why do we plan if everything of significance never goes to plan? (The Black Swan Theory by Nassim Taleb) 

This one was an exclusively Eoin project. I decided to throw in some Economics (a subject that we both love). I recently read ‘The Black Swan Theory’ by Nassim Taleb and it really made me think. Not just about economics but also about philosophy and the value of making predictions. I got Eoin to read the first chapter of the book (making highlights and annotations) and we had a verbal debate on the contents and the theory in general. I did this in an interview panel-style discussion jumping from economic concepts to philosophical concepts. 

Questions posed: 

Why do we plan if everything of significance never goes to plan?

So is economics pointless?

Why do we use ‘ceteris parabis’ in economics? 

Will something like aliens have a black swan effect?

4. Does education kill creativity? (Ted talk stimulus)

Link to Ted Talk: https://www.ted.com/talks/sir_ken_robinson_do_schools_kill_creativity?language=en#t-1145153

Molly (the creative in the family) wrote an article about whether education kills creativity and it really brought out another side to her. The Ted Talk also mentioned disorders like dyslexia and ADHD and the reputation they have in schools, which she really drew on. 

Questions posed:

Does education kill creativity? 

Is there a hierarchy of subjects?

Why is creativity important?

Do you feel as though your creativity has been killed? 

How can we change education systems (or even societies) to encourage creativity not kill it?

5. Men’s mental health: why is it important? 

I didn’t really give any other directive other than the title for this one. As a girl, I felt as though it was not really my place to give directive on this piece. I wanted him just to write whether he decided a research paper or personal story or creative write. Eoin is your basketball fanatic, rugby player, protein-shake drinking, gym obsessed teenager and I just really wanted to get his opinion on the movement towards greater mental health awareness.