Meet Mr Kelvin Tan, 49, a marketing professional and father of six. 

Besides his youngest child who’s 3 this year, his five other children, aged 6 to 18, have been on home-based learning since the start of the Covid-19 circuit breaker measures on April 8. 

Mr Tan’s family. From left to right: Raelyn (6), Mrs Bernardine Tan (46), Darryl (11), Evan (15), Zachary (18), Gavin (3), Kaitlyn (8), Mr Kelvin Tan (49)
Photo By: Mr Kelvin Tan

For three weeks, the family’s home has turned into the children’s classrooms. 

There are sometimes two to three video calls or live lessons in the house at the same time. 

Trying to follow different schedules in the same house can also be very inconvenient. Family members sometimes walk into each other’s video call. Some make noise while others are trying to focus. 

The experience has been “crazy”, says Mr Tan, who has to guide his younger children in their learning and provide on-demand tech support while juggling his own work. 

He’s grateful that his wife, Bernardine, 46, a university lecturer, has meticulously compiled all the children’s timetables into a master list. She’s also there to divide and conquer the parenting and teaching duties with him.

The Tan family’s master list
Photo By: Mr Kelvin Tan

He’s also relieved that the June holiday for his children has been brought forward. 

“It’s for us (the parents)! Home-based learning is very disruptive…I hope it’s not the new normal. It’s not sustainable,” he says.

While it’s been a tough ride, Mr Tan is thankful that his family has coped well. 

“In my own household, we’re blessed that we have the means to provide [the children] with their individual devices and enough space for each of them to have their own study area,” Mr Tan says. 

“I know of other people with as many children as I do and the challenges they face are real. They only have one or two devices that they share around and not a lot of space to have separate work areas,” he adds.

Another parent with multiple school-going children is tax officer Mdm Ann Koh, 50.

Mdm Koh’s family. Top left to right: Wayne (13), Priscillia (15), Valeria (19), Julia (21). Bottom left to right: Mr Ng Khong Phui (50), Mdm Ann Koh (50)
Photo By: Valeria Ng

She doesn’t have to supervise their learning as closely as her children are older. Two of them are in secondary school and another two are in polytechnic.

For now, the children have “chope-d” (Singlish: reserved) the bedrooms while Mdm Koh and her husband are using the living room and dining area for work. 

Mdm Koh’s daughter, Valeria Ng, shares that working from home renders her less productive. 

The 19-year-old Advertising & Public Relations student in Ngee Ann Polytechnic is supposed to be serving her internship at marketing agency Unravel Studios. However, she’s been told to work remotely since April 3. 

“It isn’t ideal for me as my working hours are much longer than my siblings who are in school,” she explains. 

Her siblings are free after completing their lessons for the day. If they decide to turn on the TV or stream videos online, she finds it hard to stay focused. Making video calls is also challenging. 

A Blessing In Disguise

Despite the numerous inconveniences, the home-based learning experience does have some merits to some.

For 11-year-old Darryl Tan, one of Mr Kelvin Tan’s six children, he has learnt to be more considerate to the needs of those around him. It’s also good to have his older siblings double up as his tutors.

“When I don’t really understand a certain topic, at least I have an older sibling to help me with it,” Darryl says. 

For Mrs Tan, home-based learning has given her a better grasp of her children’s academic experiences.

“Many parents are now able to better understand the learning difficulties of their children after coaching them extensively during home-based learning,” she says.

Mdm Koh agrees. “It’s actually a blessing in disguise as I get to spend more time with the kids and be more involved in their learning.”

“I am able to see their ‘student’ side,” she adds.