Thursday 23 April 2015

My Sonshine, the introvert

Sonshine is extremely introverted, but don't confused him as being shy. He's not shy. He has no qualms stepping into a room full of strangers nor speaking up in class whenever he has to. Yet he's severely introverted. 

Introvert comes from Latin intro-, "inward," and vertere, "turning." It describes a person who tends to turn inward mentally. Introverts sometimes avoid large groups of people, feeling more energized by time alone. (Quote)

Shy: nervous or timid in the company of other people. (Credit: google)

Sonshine typically turns inward more than outward. He does not share his thoughts readily. In fact, he guards his mind like a hawk as if it is some kind of treasure chest. He refuses to let but a selected few into his mind. Sometimes, he even keeps me out. 
When asked, he would usually keep people at bay by giving answers they want to hear or simply say 'I don't want to tell you'. Or the quickest way, as he had figured out is to say 'I don't know' even when he is quite an expert in the said topic. (That frustrates my husband and I to no end!) It is then very hard to accept his initial response because one never knows if he is telling the truth. Sometimes he is but I doubt it, he would change his answer to satisfy me. By then, I don't know which is his true answer. Yes, it can be pretty confusing conversing with him. Sometimes, I even have to assure him that it ok to say negative things like 'I don't like the rice' or 'I didn't enjoy the movie' etc. It can be challenging and exhausting sieving out his feelings and thoughts. One needs to spend an incredible amount of time to understand him. Even then, his mother, who spends and is spending his lifetime with him, sometimes thinks she doesn't truly know him.
When in class or social settings, when someone says something erroneous, he wouldn't point out the mistake but will make a mental note in his head.  While most children will correct the person on the spot, not for Sonshine. He would have twinkle in his eyes and a little smirk on his face. But that's as far as he would go.  Sometimes he would secretly come and tell me, like hours or days later, about the mistake.  Sometimes he just keeps it to himself.

He is also a typical loner. He is alone but not lonely. I feel sad for him but he is fine with it. In fact, I suspect he wants it to be this way. I used to worry about him until I noticed that when the social setting is of his interest, he would readily join in with his friends and play his heart out with them. But again, he is selective in his choices. And I also realised, the people he loves and treasures most is us, his family. He seems to be more than happy being with and having us so much so that he really doesn't need anyone else to make him any happier.
While most children would want to get out of the house, Sonshine is always more than happy to stay home. I would find him engrossed in his own activities  building his Lego township, drawing up complicated game plans or maps, reading, researching the bus and street directories etc. I can leave him be for hours and often have to be the one to disrupt his quiet time. It is quite a chore to get him out of the house. The whole family would be waiting for him outside the house, screaming at him to stop his activities and hurry out. When we are out, he would whine or asked us when we can go home. This irritates me alot and sometimes I would threatened that I would throw him out of the car!  
Years ago, I didn't know better. I was beyond frustrated and very worried. I was even convinced he had autism. In his toddler days, he did not respond to people and appeared that he was unaware that people were interacting with him. But when I demand that he pays them an answer, he would instantly sprout out his responses even before we could repeat the questions. That showed me that he heard what was being asked but he chose to ignore. This still shows up today but in another form; he 'ignores' by replying 'I don't know'. Even as a toddler, he was unwilling to share what was on his mind. He rarely pointed or shared with us what he saw. Most toddlers, like my doll, would scream and point out excitedly whenever they see something interesting. Not Sonshine, yet you can tell he was quietly studying his environment with all his senses. But because pointing was part of the milestone, I worried. But when I asked him to tell me where an object like a cat or a bus is, he would nonchalantly point it out to me almost as if to tell me to stop asking him ridiculous questions. LOL.
Even at preschool years, he kept to himself. When we are out with our friends over a meal, his entire body would turn away from the table. While the other kids are goofing about with each other, he would be sitting there, eyes studying the environment.  Again, it worried me. I thought it must be autism.  Only months later, did I understand why he acted that way. He didn't tell me, I had to observed. At that time he was very keen and passionate about buildings, its designs, the number of stories they have, the shop units etc. He also liked to regurgitate the buildings he saw in his drawings and even add in his own designs. He built his Lego drawing inspirations from the buildings he saw whenever we are out. Then I realised, why he appeared so 'withdrawn' whenever we are out, he was too busy studying the buildings, shops, roads, buses, cars etc.
I spent those years crying my heart out, going from one therapists to another and even got him checked. I remember several therapists telling me that they didn't want to see me or rather him, because he was obviously ok. But I was still unconvinced as I needed an explanation for his quirkiness. Only much later on, when I read up on introverts, then it all clicked. He wasn't delayed in his development, he was merely turning inward. And although he didn't talk much to his peers, he was socially acute. In fact, too socially acute! He later told me he does not want to talk in class because 'teacher said cannot talk'. =_=  He would constantly be on his toes, kept his eyes and ears alert and obeyed his teachers instructions to the T.
Today, I am thankful he is slowly opening himself up though not as much as his peers, but surely. He no longer turns his body away during meal times and would attempt to strike conversations with his friends. If he wants to, he can play with his classmates (but only after school because he wants to be at his best behaviour in school). He is less interested in the environment now but more in his social settings. I am also thankful that he knows when to play his cards - at least in school he doesn't tell his teachers 'I don't know', LOL! Although last year, I did suspect he purposely gave the wrong answers on his papers. Only scoldings after scoldings did he change this year. Sigh.
Reading up on introverts also helped me to understand him better. It explains why he acts a certain way. Every single thing he did in his preschool years and does now, points to his introvert nature. I worry less now. Instead, I take a step back and respect that he needs his alone time and space. I try not to pry his mind open against his will but I also try to get him to express himself. I discovered that as long as I take a step back, he would take a step forward and readily shares what is on his mind.
Dear Sonshine, mummy wants you to know that it is ok to be an introvert. It took me so so long and buckets of tears just to unravel the mystery in you and still solving many other unknowns. But I still love you in any shape and form. I hope as you grow older, you will also find pleasure in sharing your thoughts with others. You are not here alone on this earth, I hope you will discover that there is enjoyment in sharing your time and space with others at times. I pray that God will position kingdom friends around you, friends whom you are comfortable in sharing your mind and heart with. You know we absolutely adore and love you just the same.

Love always & forever, your Mummy.

Thursday 16 April 2015

Tuition or no tuition?

This is the question that haunts every parent of school going kids. Should we send our children for tuition? Is it necessary?

It all boils down to the individual parent and child, their expectations, values and even skill sets. There is no right nor wrong, the choice is a personal one. It is as personal as choosing how to dress oneself.

Some parents are happy with average grades, to them tuition is redundant and not needed. To some parents,  academic success is everything. Tuition is to them is needful as it helps the children get the results they want. Some are motivated by fear. Fear that their children will 'lose out' to the others. Fear that the kids will develop low self esteem because of poor grades. Fear that their off springs cannot enter into good secondary schools which eventually determines their next education route. Hence, they are ever so willing to dig into their pockets for tuition as a way to fight off their fears.

Other parents are 'forced' into accepting tuition. At first, they professed that they are determine to ward off tuition but eventually they had to succumb to the tuition fever because they realise their children are falling far behind and are struggling. They have no choice but to step in (with money) to help their kids. For what can a parent do in such a situation? Leave them in lurch?

Parents aside, the decision to have tuition also lies with the student. Some children really need that extra classes to keep up at school. Perhaps because the pace at school is too fast for them. Some others need tailored lessons to help them understand the subjects.  But there are students who do not need any extra help and still can attain above average scores. In fact, even better than those students who have tuition. These are the independent, hardworking and motivated students who have no need for tuition. Of course, there are also the above average students who specifically asked for tuition because they want to better themselves. They find tuition is necessary to give them that extra boost or to help maintain their grades.

The answer to the question is varied.  It all depends what we want our children to achieve, how able our children is in handling pressure. But as we consider enrolling our kids for tuition there are some things to think about.

1) Will tuition really help the child? We have erroneously believe that tuition is the magical formula. We think having tuition will miraculously turn our children's grades around. I beg to differ. I think tuition will help improve grades if the child himself is a keen learner. An unmotivated student will absorb nothing as long as he is not interested in learning no matter how much money and time is spent on tuition. Brain science proved that the brain shuts down when the subject at hand is too easy or too challenging. I believe this happens also if the subject is not of our interest. Take me for an example. When I had tuition at primary school, my grades still hovered around borderline. My brain simply shut down (perhaps because I deem the work too challenging for me then). But when I got older, I decided to get my act together. I taught myself and worked harder.  I was determine to prove to myself and others that I am not all that stupid. In the end, I scored well even without tuition. If tuition can indeed help the child inherit more confidence in managing a subject, I say go for it. Otherwise, I think it is necessary to relook what is the root cause of the below par results. Tuition is not always the answer.

2) Does the child really need help? Some kids are simply self driven. They pay attention in class, grasp concepts well and give their best in their school work. Yet some parents still enrol them for extra classes, as I said earlier, purely out of fear, 'just in case'. Apparently, I am talking about myself. At the moment (I say 'at the moment' because I am fully aware that lower primary curriculum is a breeze), Sonshine is coping well in school. Still, I enrolled him for Mandarin and English lessons. Many times over, I asked myself if he really needs the classes. Sometimes, I wonder if the classes really helps him. Honestly, I cannot tell if these classes have any direct effect on his grades. I am pretty sure he is able to attain his grades even without the tuition. He is quite the independent learner. His school work is also relatively easy, easier than the tuition classes. Many times I notice that the curriculum in his tuition classes is not in line with his school work. They each have their own curriculum which makes me wonder how are his tuition classes helping or even relevant to his school work? And I question a thousand times if he is applying anything he learns at tuition to his school work?  Yet what is holding me back from withdrawing the tuition? FEAR. I worry that if I don't give him the head start, he may not cope in the future. It hasn't even happen, yet I am already worrying. Typical Singaporeans isn't it? I know I am not alone. So I am asking myself and urging others to think about it. Does the child really need help? Can he manage without the class? If he can cope well then why add more onto his already packed schedule that would only eat into his free time? Is it not better to free up his time so that he can have time for relaxation and enjoyment? *Nudging thyself*

3) Do we want self driven or overly reliant children? A friend who's son is in primary 5 said she became a SAHM to focus on her son's school work. She pushed her son to work hard and like many of us, also sign her child for tuition classes. Last year, her efforts paid off. The son improved by leaps and bounds and even got an award. Yet, she is still not happy. She shared with me that this achievement is only possible with her hovering around her child and pushing him. Ultimately, she wants her son to 'fly' on his own with minimal effort from her. She worries that he will still rely on external help even when he enters secondary school. What she wants is a child who can take ownership of his own work and eventually, his own life. To think for himself and learn to make choices himself. She is considering withdrawing tuition and let him go. She is even prepared for mediocre PSLE scores just so that he can start to learn. She raised a very good point and I credit her for being a far sighted parent despite all the upcoming PSLE drama.

It is something we need to think about too. Do we rather a child who knows to make the right choices i.e. study hard for themselves or a child who needs his mama and papa to help him make the right decisions? Besides, is there any glory when a child do well because of tuition? It is almost like an office worker getting a promotion because of his 'special' network with the upper management. Is there glory in that? Take me for example, that sense of self confidence and sense of achievement cannot be described when I attain good grades solely from my hard work & with no help. I realised then, even as a mere student, that there was nothing I could not do as long as I put my heart into it. With that same strength and motivation, I went on to do well in my 'As' and got into University faculty of my choice. Till today, I stand proud of my achievements and it is a constant reminder to me that I have what it takes in me to succeed. We want our children to know that for themselves too don't we? We do not want them to look back and say 'oh I did well because I had help'.

I am not against tuition. As I had confessed, I enrolled my own son for tuition. It is a personal choice and there is really no right nor wrong. Sometimes tuition is necessary at other times, it is not. It is our role as parents to study our children's needs and know how to balance our expectations against their developments. We must also be wise in knowing when we should pull our children out of tuition classes (like my friend) and put a stop to it. We have to be very clear what we want for our children and remember that PSLE and the other major exams are not the ultimatum, it is but the begining of their lives. We should make our decisions not based on short sighted goals like PSLE. We got to play the tuition cards very carefully and wisely.

So, is tuition necessary? The answer lies with you.