Wednesday 2 November 2016

A sweet ending

This term has ended the academic year sweetly for me. I can finally heaved a sigh of relief and confidently move on to what I always believe for my son.
His SA2 results are back and I can't be more pleased! 
It was a frustrating ride because Sonshine doesn't show outwardly nor on his academic papers what he is truly capable. He is also always slow to show his true abilities. Many, no, I mean ALL, the teachers who came in contact with him would at first feedback to me that he is rather slow. But their stance will change after 6 months. All of them have, separately, been taken aback by how well he can actually perform. One teacher even admitted to me she was wrong about him after teaching him for a good half a year. Most mistakenly think that he had made vast improvement when actually he had been consistent & merely slow to reveal his true self to others.
Sonshine has a mind of his own. He would do well only if he wants to do well. It is not about whether he is capable or not, it is always whether he wants to or not. Many times, it is always not. He is simply not motivated by grades. He is like Darth Vader. Good grades or bad grades, his facial expression and emotions stay the same. It does not matter to him. What motivates him is what HE wants to learn not what the school tells him to learn.
But his love for mama is too deep and sacrificial. He knows mama wants him to bring home the grades and that he will do for his mama. Yes, he is a good boy.
I can finally lift my head up. I know it sounds terribly dramatic. But no one understands, not even my husband, what I was going through. All my friends and even family chastised me for setting sky high expectations on him. But I tried to tell them this is an achievement attainable for him. I tired to explain that Sonshine is academically intelligent and getting high marks should not be too difficult for him. Most of friends would politely agree but I can almost read the bubbles over their heads "She is just being a Tiger mother, her son is not as clever as she says he is".
I cannot entirely blame them for thinking this way. Sonshine really does not appear to be very bright. He takes a long time to gather his thoughts and even longer time to find the right words to express himself. Even if he does, he generally uses simple words which inadequately represents what he wants to say. Throw a stone at any kid, that kid would most likely to be deemed smarter than my son. Whenever I tell people what my son is truly capable, many times they cannot reconcile what they hear from me and what they see in reality. And very often I appear to be bragging. Sigh. 
But all mothers know their children. I know very well what my son is capable of.
So when my friends hear my expectations for him, they often let out a 'tsk' at me or give me well-meaning advice not to push him so hard. But I don't push him for the grades. I push him to want to do well. The grades are a reflection of how much he desires to do well. So inevitably it looked like I was after the grades.
I don't know how to explain this, but it is extremely hard for a mother watch her child under perform especially when she knows what he can achieve. So I had to resort to acting like a Tiger Mom and risk people calling me a result driven mother when all I want is for him to achieve what he is truly capable of. But making him want to do well is not an easy task. I am always at his mercy term after term.
So finally it ends sweetly for me. With his SA2 results and the GEP paper. It really did it for me. It is sort of an indirect but very clear explanation as to why I kicked up such a huge fuss when he does not bring back the appropriate scores. It was never because he was incapable but it was almost always because he had no desire to. That ate me up!
And now I can end my 2016 with ease until next year that is...

Tuesday 11 October 2016

GEP 2016

And so he did it.
He made it through to the next round of GEP testing.
No. I did not hot-house him; no out sourcing, no in-housing. Nothing. He made it through by his own.
Any 'studying' would be for his usual SA and CA papers.
That said, it is possible to hot house the kids for the first round. So for those who made it through because they have been hot house for it, well their hard work has paid off.
For those who made it through with no extra coaching, you know that they have what it takes.
I am glad that I did not hot house him. I did not give him any extra challenging papers to do.
I can truly say he did it by his own abilities. Now I know and I am satisfied.
I always had an inkling that he is a high achiever but it was only a suspicion of mine until now. Honestly, It has been a frustrating journey with him. Sonshine typically likes to play himself down. He prefers to play dumb and always appear to be the least intelligent one amongst his peers. Everyday I am left frustrated seeing other children who have lesser abilities overtake him. I feel like he is wasting his potentials away. Frustrating!

He purposely positions himself so that he will never be at the center of attention. Every capabilities of his I witness at home becomes a mere imagination (mostly mine) whenever we step out of the house. And then it shows up again at home! It is like he has two different beings in his body! He once reluctantly told me that everything he knows is a secret. He does not want anybody to know what he knows. How weird is he?
Heck, he did not even tell us about his GEP selection. I don't usually check his school bag but for some strange reason I did it yesterday and found the letter. I waited for him to tell me but he kept it in ALL DAY! It was only after my husband questioned him for a good 10 minutes before he finally revealed to us. He admitted he did not want us to know because he did not want to sit for the exams all because he hates the idea that he has to spend two days at school during his off days. Yep, this is my weird son.
This oddity of his spills over to his school papers. He did not even make it to the top 3 in his class last year but was still within the top 10% cohort in his school. I was quite stumped especially because his school papers are comparatively (A LOT, like by a mile) easier than most schools. My sister always suggests to me that perhaps he doesn't really excel in his school papers the way he should be because they are too easy? Possible logic? So, I was bewildered for awhile. I even convinced myself this year that perhaps I have over rated my child. Perhaps I was 'seeing' things. Perhaps I was the one who has  the two beings in me. One who over rates her child at home and the one who sees the reality outside.
Hence him passing this first round, for me, came as a confirmation- without paying the high fees to see a psychologist for testing (LOL).  My suspicion has finally become a reality after 9 years. Before this, I was always unable to reconcile his true abilities and what I see in his everyday life. I was always baffled, bewildered and lost in wonderment. There had been many questions about his behaviours that are left unexplained. Now it is all falling into place. Every oddity of his can be explained. And finally, the Great One up there is telling me I am not schizophrenic. It is amazing what a blue sheet of paper can do to a mother!
Anyway, I highly doubt that he will get through the second round of test. My niece is in the GEP programme and I have had a peek into what it was like for the second round. I know it is a lot harder. It is where they separate the men from the boys.
I am already very thankful that he got through the first round. Top 10% of the whole Singapore! Quite a feat considering he did all on his own worth!

Thank You Jesus, All Glory to you!
Well done son! You finally proved it. Thank you, that is all Mummy needs to know.
Now you can go on and continue being odd.

Wednesday 24 August 2016

Chinese resources for home learning

Mandarin is a subject that sends parents scurrying to tuition centers for help. A lot of us have no clue how to teach and are helpless in the language. I was too when my eldest was due for primary school education and I sent him for Chinese class in panic. However now that he is primary 3, I have sort of figure out how to work around this subject. Hence, my second child is spared of the extra class.
I cannot say that my teaching is so excellent that she has mastered the language. Far from it. Yet, I think she has learnt quite substantially, enough to be able to read and understand simple mandarin text. I dare say she is even better than her brother at this age.

It is possible to teach mandarin ourselves without relying on tuition centers. Of course certain factors are a must like, having some knowledge in mandarin and the spare time as well as patience. If all you have all the favorable factors and you want to teach your own child, here are some useful resources you can consider using. 

I recommend using one main one ie not use every single one simultaneously. Don't confuse and stress the child. 

Here are some recommended book resource one can use to teach a preschooler at home.

我会读 series is a set of mandarin books that comes in varying levels. The simplest level which is the pink series has one word per page. Every word is followed by a picture that explains the meaning of the word. Very much like flashcard but compiled in a book. I think this set is great for very young kids or beginning readers who are especially adverse to mandarin.

As the child goes up each level, the books will transition into simple sentences and later more complex sentences.

This is another set of simple mandarin books. Unlike the first series, it comes in sentences. It focuses on a particular word per book. It is very simple and easy to read. I reckon that by the end of mastering each book, the child should be able to speak and understand simple, basic mandarin sentences.

I have to add that this set is not readily available. I bought this straight from the publisher during a book fair. Look out for upcoming book fairs and see if you can find them!

This is another series that cannot be bought off the shelf. I think I also bought it from a publisher who set up a cart in a shopping area.

But this is another simple book, with basic sentences. It also focuses on a certain word or phrases per book. The level is more sophisticated than the above series.

This series can be easily found in Popular book shops. Unlike the previous two, it comes in hanyu pinyin and even an English translation. The pace of learning is a lot faster than the above books. Many new words are introduced at the same time. I recommend this for older kids who are already somewhat familiar with the language.

I suspect many kindergarten schools are using this set of books to teach the students. Again, it is not readily available at the main bookshops. But, you can easily get hold of them at the second hand bookshop, Evergreen at Bras Basah. Alternatively, look out for mummies who are willing to sell their copies.

It is almost like a story book with repetitive words with a mix of new words being introduced. It comes with flashcards that is useful to teach word recognition.

Of course, how can I not include 四五快读. It is also readily available at most Popular book stores. I like the systematic pace of this series. However, I do not think it suits any student. I reckon this book is good for children who are speaking mandarin at home and are already very familiar with the language. It is easier for children who are already have a chunk of listening vocabulary to recognise the words in this book. It is not recommended for children who hardly speaks or hear the language.

As I have wrote in another post, this is my favourite Chinese resource for teaching my pre-schooler. This series is akin to the Peter and Jane series. It is very systematic. Like Peter and Jane books, Berries books introduce a few new words in each chapter and repeated throughout the books. A note though, the above book pictured is an older version. Berries has published new books that are a lot more difficult. I find the pace of the new books are a lot faster than the old versions. I prefer to use the old versions as it suits Doll's pace of learning. Currently, this is the book that I am using to teach Doll. I highly recommend this resource.
 The way to use theses resource is to use it like a storybook. First read to your child and then have the child repeat it after you. Have the child read the book everyday at least once. If you want to make sure that she really recognises the words, make your own flashcards or write the words in another medium and have her read it aloud. Make sure she is proficient in the chapter before moving on to the next. Don't skip the pages, don't rush through it, take it slowly according to your child's pace.

Tuesday 23 August 2016

How I teach mandarin at home

Most, if not all, of Doll's kindergarten friends are attending tuition such as reading, mandarin and math classes. But Doll has none of that. Occasionally, I do get a bit jittery, wondering if she is missing out. Yet at the same time, I refuse to start her so early on tuition, it's just not right for me. I also refuse to allow all those tuition centers to capitialise on my fears and suck my money out from me.

But truth be told, I did try her out for a trial at a popular Chinese tuition center. I have  heard raving reviews of the center and never once heard of any kid who dislike the school. I was confident that Doll would love it there, even more so when I saw her skipping to the class with excitement. Who knew, she came out bawling and later resisted any suggestions to attend such classes. It's not the center's fault. She cried because she felt she couldn't keep up and got worried. 
It seems that all signs are pointing toward no tuition for her. Hence I try to do what I can with her at home to help her keep at pace with her peers. I don't aim for her to be advance, I just want her to be prepared enough for primary school. Neither do I have hour long lessons with her at home. We are usually done within 15 minutes- almost daily, well I try daily. 

One of the obvious aspect is for her to read in both languages. As with my earlier post, she's well into reading and I don't need to worry about that anymore. But mandarin is a challenge because we aren't fluent in mandarin. My husband speaks no mandarin. And I speak, ok but not -rich-in-vocabulary mandarin. So yeah, we are in trouble. Yet, I refuse to send her for Chinese tuition- yet. Like getting her on the road to reading English using Peter and Jane series, I got her to learn to read Mandarin using books published by Berries tuition center. 

These books are meant for students attending the courses by Berries. But non students like me, can get hold of these books second hand. I bought mine from another mummy but I noticed the second hand book shops at Bras Basah sells a ton of them too! It's easily available. 

Like Peter and Jane books, I task Doll to read the berries books aloud everyday. Whilst she reads a page a day from Peter and Jane books, she is to read a chapter repeatedly everyday from Berries book. Once she is proficient in that chapter we move on to the next chapter. We have now completed book 2 of k1 level (mine are the old version) and are now on to book 3 ( there are 4 books in all). 

Now there are many many Chinese readers resources out there but Berries books are my number one choice. Like Peter and Jane books, the words are repeatitive and new words are introduced at a gradual pace. It aims to build the child's vocabulary slowly, one chapter at a time. Over time, the child would accumulate enough words to read a simple Chinese book by herself. 

As she recognizes more words, it is also easier to communicate with her in mandarin. At least now she has a bank of mandarin words in her brain and she can understand alittle. I can't say she can understand a lot (she complains that she doesn't understand her Chinese teacher at school) but we will get there- I hope (gulp). 

I don't just get her to read the books. I know over time she may be just memorizing the words. So I made our own flashcards. I made sure she knows each and every individual word. I would even ask her what the word means and what other words can it be paired up with  i.e she reads "生" and she's expected to say "生日的生"。

That's not the end. I even came up with my own worksheet according to her reading. I want her to be very sure in what she reads in the book before moving on. In the worksheet I created, I set questions to test her words recognition. I deliberately put words that look similar and test her to see if she can distinguish the two. 

I also set word order questions where she has to rearrange the words in the correct sentence structure. 
And also, comprehension passages. All the words in the passage are words that she has learn to read and understand from the book. 

I seriously think it's more stressful for her to be taught under me than going to the centers. Yet, she refuses to budge and wants me to teach her instead. Oh well. 


Wednesday 13 July 2016

Peter and Jane, mama's best friends

So Doll has just completed Peter and Jane book 8A, now moving on to 9A. Yes the supposedly dry and boring Perer and Jane books that are sold at Popular book shops. I've to say, I'm pretty surprise myself that she managed to plough through each and every page and books from 2a all the way to 8A.

Peter and Jane books can be very dull for preschoolers. Quite evidently, many parents bought the entire series wanting and hoping their kids will learn to read but failed in doing so. I would think the primary reason is that the content in this series can come across as uninteresting as oppose to Julia Doanladson, Dr Seuss , Eric Carle etc books. I'm quite certain if I had tried this series on my son, it would not have succeeded. He would have hated the repetitive words and unappealing storyline.

Yet, it's precisely the repetitive page after page that got my Doll on a roll to reading. Truth be told, I think reading this series enabled her to read comfortably now. She feels so empowered by her new found skill that she has started to pick up books and read aloud to herself word for word without my assistance. She can now read Amber Brown series mostly on her own. No, she doesn't attend any phonics or reading classes by the way. I owe it all to Peter and Jane. Thanks kids! 

She started with book 2A, skipping 1A because it was too easy for her then. I only bought one book at a time as I was quite prepared that she would give it up by 4-5A. But she took me by surprise by religiously reading the books, one page a day. So I journey on with her and got just one more book which begets another 'just one more book' and another 'just one more' until now.

But before you rush out of the door to get the series, know this first. Peter and Jane series is not suited for every kid. As I mentioned most kids find it rather flat. And when the content is unattractive to them, it is likely they will put up a wall on your attempts to get them to to read the books. One probably needs to get hold of more vibrant reading resources instead. 

It's not easy to tell if your kids would like Peter and Jane series. Between my kids, I would have thought that Doll would have a stronger resistance to it. Her personality is that of an extrovert, she needs loud, colorful and attractive things to hold her attention. Peter and Jane series would have been the last of my expectations to teach her how to read. But look now, I was utterly wrong. On the hindsight, my son would have abhor it because he hates to learn by repetition.

So I am incline to think children who hates to learn by repetition will not like the series. If I've to point a finger to it. I think Doll took it very well because it systemacally taught her to read. 

If you are not in the know, Peter and Jane books are written in such a way that (1-3, depending on the level) new words would be introduced in each page. And each new word is peppered all over the books repeatedly, making it harder for the kids to forget the words. This slowly gives the child confidence in reading. I suppose with each page 'conquered' Doll felt more at ease in reading. With that confidence, it propelled her to read other books which gave her greater confidence knowing that she could actually read any book! 

Also I think Doll progressed relatively fast because she reads it aloud everyday. The more regularly she sees the words, the more she remembers them effortlessly.

So if you're itching to try it, I suggest that you buy one book at a time to test the waters first. It may seem more economical to buy the entire set but you would lose more if your child decides she won't have any of the books. Instead of buying brand new ones, get second hand books. You can easily find Peter and Jane books at the second hand book stores at Bras Basah. It cost only $1 per book. The books condition aren't too shabby either. So what's there to consider? I've been going there to buy the books, one at a time, and I've to say I barely have any difficulty finding the levels I want. 

If Peter and Jane series don't work for you then keep on hunting. There are many resources out there that are equally effective. Some may learn better the phonics way. It's more important to find one that fits your child. For some kids, like my son, you don't even need any resources or tuition. You just need to read aloud to them everday and they will naturally pick up from there. Don't give up, keep on swimming, I mean finding! 

Monday 27 June 2016

Sonshine and Doll

My children, oh my children. They are as different as night and day not just in their genitals but also in their personalities right down to the food they eat. 

Everyday it is like a psychotic warfare for me, swinging my mental self from point to point. Each child has his or her unique make up and I've to adjust myself accordingly. 

When disciplining,  it's no use talking sense to my son. All that talking will fly over his head, the moment he hears my normal tone, he shuts out and will drift off in his head. The way to go with him is to raise my voice up to a high notch, as high as I can possibly master. This way it will shake him out of his system. Sometimes, I've even have to get physical with him and use harsh words to get my point across. Otherwise, he will simply wait for the session to be over while sending his thoughts far away but with me. Despite receiving that many verbal abuse from me, he somehow has the full confidence, beyond any shadow of doubt that I still love him. He doesn't need me to remind or assure him.

Using that same tyrant methodology on my daughter would be like smashing a set of china. Her heart and soul will break into a million pieces if I ever raise my voice at her. For her, I've to talk sense to her, reason with her and assure her I love her still. Yes talking works well with her, my words will stab right through her heart and immediately I will get the corrected behaviour that I want. I rarely have to scream at her.

Their personalities are each at the extreme ends. My son is severely introverted. He prefers to zone out into his own world and space. Asking him to share his thoughts is like asking a miser to treat you to a meal. It actually pains me to have a chat with him. I've to be mentally charged and arm myself with a mental spade to dig out his thoughts. It's exhausting just having a 10 minutes chat with him. And his train of thoughts- oh man. It takes me to nowhere. Every thought brings me to another thought which brings me to another. 

Unlike my son, my doll loves to share with me about anything and everything. She tells me about school, what she sees, what she thinks, what she likes, what she is curious about and yada yada yada. She's systematic, I know where her thoughts bring me to. It's structured and logical. While my son irritates me with his bare minimum conversation, my daughter irritates me with her non stop yakking. So you see what I mean by being in a psychotic warfare all the time? 

And oh the food that they like- are from different continents. Sonshine is a true blue Asian man who prefers rice and sushi. While my daughter is a European girl preferring spaghetti and pizza. At times, the family have to split up for our meals just so to satisfy their individual cravings. 

And their developmental abilities differ. My son is a mathematician, he is like a fish in the water when it comes to numbers. My daughter needs repetitive practise. But when it comes to language ability, the opposite is true. 

My son is clearly an introvert who prefers to stay home, bury himself in his books & toys or simply lie on the bed and go on a whimsical journey in his head. He rejects anything that requires him to get out of shell and anything that demands his time away from home. That explains why I, unlike all the other parents out there, have not send my son for any enrichment classes like music, sports and what-nots. If you must know, that is not my choice.
My daughter on the other hand, is the social butterfly who wants to try everything and anything. Unlike my son, she has plenty of classes- all non academic, from piano to dance to art and she enjoys them all. I would rarely find her lying quietly on her bed. Even when she's playing by herself, her voice can be heard. She wants to try and experience new things. She always enjoys herself in any social situation she is in. Throw her in the playground and she will find a friend or friends in seconds. 

Their differences tear me apart on a daily basis. I basically feel that I've to  literally switch my personality when dealing with them. One moment I'm yelling and the next I'm using a calm voice, one moment I'm demanding a child to share more and on the other I'm telling the other to quieten down. I have no doubt they are confused by me- ironically. 

Yet I sometimes seek refuge in their differences. When I need someone to perk me up, I spend girly time win my daughter. She's like my lamp who lights me up. But when I need to have some quiet company, my son is the way to go. 

The other night, splitting up for dinner as usual, I had dinner with my son whilst the hub had dinner with my doll. That night, I wanted a downtime where I can find refuge in my book. I appreciated that my son was comfortable with the total silence at our table. I believe he was relieved himself that I didn't demand him to chat as he also wanted to withdraw into his own thoughts and make quiet observations. I am certain that if I had paired up with my daughter that night, she would have pierced the silence with her incessant chatting throughout the entire meal and I would have to forgo my downtime.

I suppose I can't blame anyone else except myself. I've a bit of a split personality myself. My personality test results showed that I am both an introvert AND extrovert with only one point difference between the two. This is why I can understand both introverts and extroverts. I completely understand my son's need to have his downtime, his preference for home rather than social outings. I can also understand my daughter's need to get out and let her social skills let loose. My extrovert side gets annoyed with my introvert son and my introvert side gets annoyed with my daughter's extrovert side. But at the same time the introvert in me appreciates the introvert in the boy and the loud me appreciates my bubbly daughter. 

It's psychotic in my house, I tell you. 

Wednesday 8 June 2016

What our kids need to be successful


Book cover
I just completed reading the above book. Actually, it's my second time reading this book. But it's so good that it warrants a post about it. 

I think all Singaporean parents should be handed a copy of this book or at least made to read the first chapter of the book. Straight away it shoots down what we typically believe - good grades is key to our children's success. 

In the first chapter, it shared about an experiment known as the Perry preschool experiment. A group of preschoolers from the lower income/IQ families were selected and randomly divided into two groups. One was given quality education while the other ran on it's own. They wanted to help increase the intelligence of these children. As we all expected the treated group fared better in their academic grades BUT hold your horses. This gap was not for long. By third grade (roughy our primary 3), their grades leveled up. Which means, whether the kids were given good education earlier on or not has no effect on their intelligence level. 

My own thoughts here at this point: if that's the case, shouldn't we let our preschoolers enjoy their childhood rather than focusing on hothousing them during their early years? Afterall, all that early childhood comes to a naught by third grade. And I think it's true. Sonshine was way ahead (academically) his peers during his preschool years, at least 2-3 years ahead. But as he got older, I found that the gap got closer and closer.

So what about all that jaz about early childhood education? We all thought that early childhood education meant that the earlier we start the smarter our kids will become. Apparently it started with a study done to show that more and more parents were neglecting their children due to other commitments that the children lack of the nurture they need at home and as a result the children are using less vocabulary ie less smarter. That sparked off all the Mozart music, education DVDs and what nots. As a side note, I read in another book about the theory of exposing babies to classical music will make them smarter. What the marketers didn't tell the mainstream is that listening to the music will make them smarter but for mere minutes and it doesn't last a lifetime. So go figure. They just want our money. The original point of that research was to encourage more parents to spend more time with their kids, talk to them more, play with them more not so much to educate them more. 

So back to the Perry school experiment, the researchers thought they failed because they didn't help those kids raise their intelligence. 

But wait.

Despite all that, it was the treated group who ultimately got on to be graduates and have successful careers. Why so? It's clearly not because they are any smarter (remember their grades leveled up by grade 3). They concluded that during the treatment period these kids picked up characteristic traits like resilience, hard work, grit etc. And so what is to be said of this experiment? It's not our smarts that will get us far, it's the traits that we posses. 

Let me say that again: It's not our smarts that will get us far, it's the traits that we posses. 

Throughout the book, it bust the idea that our kids need good grades to suceed in life. It is not about the good grades that our kids get, it is the process of working hard which inevitably produce good grades that bring our children far. One may say then good grades is thus still an indicator of success. But don't forget, there are kids who have natural smarts without much effort on their part. These may produce excellent results (because of their natural smarts) but it doesn't mean that they have the right traits to make them successful.  

Take my son for instance, he scored exceptionally well for his Math exam. It's easy to assume that it's because he studied very hard for it and his efforts paid off. Truth is, he scarcely did any revision, not enough to boast about 'hard work'. He did well due to his naturally flair for Math. I won't be surprise if come one day he's peers will do better if they work harder, preserved more than my son. So back to the point, grades are not great indicators of success.
This probably also explains why there are students who do poorly in PSLE but soar sky high at their 'O's or 'A's. It was likely their determination, drive, grit, perseverance that got them their results. Like yours truly (ahem). Which means, even if you don't have the nautural smarts it is not impossible to do well academically. All you really need are the right attributes. 
The other elements of success are not surprising. They are the environment the children grow up in. Obviously, the less stressful and the less traumatic their environment is the better. One other key to sucess is the care they get from their primary care giver, could be their mom, dad, both or grandparents. The more nurturing the care givers are the more they are able to withstand the external stress and pressure they may face. 

As I type this, I am wincing at myself for falling short in my parenting. For one, like most Singaporean parents, I've been too focus on academic results, where my kids rank among their peers, what I must do so that they won't lag behind etc. As it is, the school is giving them enough stress and stifling their creativity. Still, I created a stressful environment for them instead of a more nurturing and creative one. I wonder how many parents out there are like me? Numerous, I dare say. 

All these are not to say that we should become relax parents and let the kids rule on their own. I think rather than focusing on the results, we should focus on sharpening their characteristics. Their school years are the best years to do this. We should make use of their schooling years to teach them values like respondsibility ie as a student they are expected to do their homework and hand them in on time. Teach them the beauty of hard work ie the more practise the better results (even if it's one mark improvement). Teach them the value of resilience ie even if the results are poor this term, it's ok, rise up and work harder for next term. Teach them persistence ie never give up, keep trying until you get the result you want. And when the good results come in, rejoice with them. Not because of the excellent results but that they have proven to themselves that they have it in them to do well in anything they set their mind to. And hopefully they will continue to sharpen these traits well into their adult lives.

But far too often we push them to work hard for a shallow reason. We want excellent grades to be printed on the certificate, perhaps for our own glory or perhaps we mistakenly think that is the key to their success. Instead we should be focusing on having them pick up the right skills as they study. We should focus more on the process rather than the results.

In short, the key for our children to succeed is not their grades. It lies in the traits that they posses. What are those trait? The book identified some of them as persistence, self control (interestingly the preschool teachers indicate that it is not the less academically inclined kids who give them the most problem, its the kids who have no self control), curiosity, conscientiousness, grit and self-confidence. How many of those do your kids have?

I know it seems obvious to say that. I know its been said from parent to parent that character is more important. But that to me are weightless words, I needed evidence to back it up. This is what the book did for me is, it gave me the supporting cold hard research and not just by hear-says. It also confirms what I wrote here some time back.

I enjoyed this book because it puts things in perspective for me. The challenge will come when the school gates reopen and we are made to plunge right back in to the rat race. Every holiday, I change my mind set, shift my perspectives only to be pulled back again whenever a new term starts. It's hard, it's really hard not to  get hook by the academic progress of the kids especially when all day and week long we receive subtle or direct messages on how our kids are faring against their peers. I think as parents we owe it to our children to make a conscious effort to renew our minds and keep ourselves and our kids on the right track. I doubt I'll be able to change my mind set over night but I think keeping myself exposed to the right articles, constantly bombarding my brain with such wisdom may help, not now perhaps in the long run. Hopefully by then it won't be too late.

Friday 13 May 2016

To that Kiasu parent

Dear Kiasu Parent

I see you mugging through your child's textbooks, writing & copying down notes for your child, revising with him from cover to cover of every subject, willingly paying tuition fees term after term. But when your child falls below par from all that effort you put in, you feel defeated, demoralised and most of all- anger towards your child. It stresses you, it stresses your child.
If only you would take a step back and remove yourself from the equation, your child could possibly be enjoying and breezing through school life a lot more. Is this paper chasing really necessary? Even if the glorious grades kick in, what other lessons have been taught to the child? You have implicitly or explicitly taught him that his grades indicate whether he is clever or stupid, better or worse than his peers. You have taught him how to fear, you have taught him how to worry, you have introduced stress into his system. All these in exchange for good grades. Does that even add up?
But you are like that because you have unknowingly or knowingly adopted the mentality that grades are everything. If only your child does well now in PSLE, he will also do well in Secondary school and that would mean he will do well in University and yes ultimately, that will launch your child into a successful career which equates to better life. Yet deep down, you know in reality grades don't matter that much.
The other belief that has silently crept into your head is that your child's grades are indicators of how smart he is. Of course, who doesn't want their child be recieved as as a smart kid? But because of your innate desire for him to be labelled as smart, you pour in a tremendous amount of your time, effort and money. All glory to you when he does well but woe to him if he fails your expectations. But truth is, with that kind of effort pour in comes along with sky high expectations and that comes with a risk of running into disappointments. And when disappointments strike you, you morphed into this furious monster. The more effort you poured into his studies, the more disappointed you will be (if he doesn't do well) and the more anger you will feel toward your child.

At the end of the day, the biggest loser is probably your child. Through it all, he would probably lose his self esteem, confidence, joy and that childhood innocence. All of that in exchange for the 'A's to be printed on his certificate and in exchange for your glory. But do you know, you will be losing more than you gain. 
You may fault this on the ministry. You may say that this is the MOE's doing, pushing you to resort to pressuring your child, that you had no other choice. But you know deep within that this kiasu syndrome is here to stay no matter what changes the MOE make to lessen the burden. You know that just as MOE need to change it's policy, you also need to change your mindset. Because no matter how many changes the MOE does, you will still be frantically clambering up the ladder as long as you don't shed that erroneous mentality. 
So Kiasu parent, cast your sight further and look long-term. The repercussions of this paper chasing, are they really worth it? Think about the long term effects it would have on your child. The effect it has on your child would be very hard, near impossible, to undo. Once that self esteem is lost, it would be challenging to get it reinstated. It would be something that you and your innocent child will have to pay for the rest of your lives. Weigh the need for flaunt-worthy certificates and your child's need to be affirmed. Which is more important?

Remind yourself that the report book doesn't unveil the other aspects of your child. His other non acamdemic talents, his curious nature, his ability to think out of the box, his street smarts, his love for animals, his kindness, his sensitivity, his spirit, his thirst for knowledge - everything that is not and cannot be measured and recorded in the report book. All that grades in the report book merely says how good he is in recalling the what has been taught. 
And lastly, bring yourself back to your own career paths and all those job interviews you went through. Did your PSLE scores matter? Did the interviewer ever ask you how many 'A's you have obtained in your primary school education? Would the interviewer select the candidate with the better grades over the one with the worse? Or would the employer choose the candidate that display the right attributes like honesty, self confidence and life experience for the job over the who has fabulous grades but insufficient experience?

Schooling is not about earning perfect grades. It is about accumulating life experiences. This journey is not just for gaining knowledge but picking up life skills like respondsibility, resilience- learning to pick oneself up and press up despite a failure, teamwork, learning about hard work, building friendships and life time experiences.

Make a conscious effort to squash all the paper chasing mindset. Tell yourself what is more important is those that cannot be quantified. Today, renew your mind and give your child a tight hug, no matter his results. Tell him nevertheless, you still love him. This alone will propel him confidently into this world more than good grades can ever do. 


Fellow comrade. 

Sunday 1 May 2016

Preparing for exams

The mid year examination is looming over our heads (for the parents of primary school going kids). Some are starting this week or have started or going to start. I am going to share on how to prepare for the examinations. I know today's topic may be a tad too late but oh well. I have been meaning to write this earlier but mummy duties kept me away from this blog.
I dare not profess myself to be an expert in this area since I have seen my son gone through only one exam so far (this would be our second).  But like most moms out there, I have picked up a few personal tips and this time round I am more armed than the last time. So today, I am sharing my personal tips on how to prepare for the exams. Here goes:
1) Check the school's exam format
Every school have different exam format. Some may have similar format as that of the assessment books, others have a totally different format altogether. I suppose for Math and English and Science are generally the same. But if you compare your school's Chinese exam format it greatly differs from school to school. Don't believe me? Just download the free test Chinese papers online from the various schools and you would know what I mean.
When I started revising Chinese with my son, I made him learn how to write the words on vocabulary list on every chapter. But one day, I got hold of his school's format and lo and behold, I found out that not a single section on the exam paper requires him to write the words. After studying the format, it soon occurred to me that it is more important that he knows the meaning of the words in the textbook. It is also paramount that he is strong in his word recognition, sentence structure and learning the Hanyu Pinyin. Imagine if I had spent the whole time revising with him on writing and lesser time on understanding the words, he would probably have struggled in the exams. So immediately, I changed our revision tactic and went through with him the vocabulary from each chapter and making sure that he understood what the newly introduced characters.
That's why studying the exam format is important because it helps you to know how to revise. Like the example given above, the exam format would have given you an idea what areas to focus on and what not to.
2) Find out what is going to be tested
I have shared above on how to revise, now the next tip is to find out what to revise for. This is obvious right? We need to know what chapters and topics are going to be tested for there is no point studying chapters that will not appear on the exam paper.
One thing I wish to highlight here is English revision. I assume some parents would shove English assessment books to their children to do as a revision. However, I have a different view on this. Your child can do the assessment book from cover to cover but it may be a waste of time in the end. Let me explain by giving an example.
In every English paper there would be a synthesis and transformation section. Now, there is a wide range of synthesis and transformation questions. I have done a quick research and realised that there is not a single assessment book that has all the synthesis and transformation questions; it is quite impossible for one book to cover all the topics- there is just too many. So let's say you gave your child an assessment book on synthesis and transformation which she completed it. But it may be a time waster because the school may not be testing any of the questions she practiced on the assessment book but some other questions instead. Same goes for grammar and the vocabulary.
Instead of  blindly throwing a myriad of assessment books to them, look up what the school would be testing and then sieve out the English assessment books that covers the same areas that the school papers would be testing. Giving them stacks of assessment books does not necessary help them better their school exams. We need to strategically give them the right resources.
3) Identify your child's weakness
Another no brainer tips- spend more time on areas where your child is weaker at and just run through those that he is strong at. For instance, my son is pretty strong in word recognition (for Mandarin) but weak in comprehension. So instead of spending his time on revising his word recognition, he spent more time in learning the meaning of the words and practising on his comprehension.
One of my quickest way to identify my son's weakness is to look through his school worksheets. From there I not only know what he's weaknesses are, I would also be able to detect which areas he is most careless at. I looked through his Math worksheets, I was able to tell that he tends to copy the wrong answer from his working to the main answer. With that knowledge I am more equipped in knowing how to help him improve.
4) Practise on past year papers
I think the best is to get hold of your own school's past year papers. For one, the child would be able to familiarise himself with the school's testing style. Also, sometimes the schools have a habit of asking the same questions year after year. Hence, practising the paper may somewhat give the child a head start.
If not, then download the free past year papers from other schools online. It may not be similar to your school papers but by practising the papers, you would be able to identify your child's bad exam habits. Thereafter, helps you to correct them.
From marking his work on these papers, I have discovered that Sonshine has a bad habit of answering comprehension questions out of his own experience and understanding rather than according to the passage. Sometimes he's answers make a lot of sense if one does not read the passage. But if one refers to the passage, you would know his answers are not drawn from the given story. The other thing I found out was that he likes to assume that the answer to the last comprehension question comes only from the last paragraph of the passage. It is true MOST of the time but not all. Good thing is that I am now aware of it and I can correct his bad habits before the actual exams.
So here are my 4 tips on how to prepare for exams. I may have more but for now I'll make do with these. Of course, the number one rule for revising exams is to start early but often very hard to do. Better yet, make revision a consistent and everyday ritual rather than waiting at the last minute.
As they say, the students have to study smart. Remember it is not about the hours put in for revision or the number of assessment books one does. He can clock the highest number of hours and assessments books completed but still do poorly; mostly because he didn't study smart i.e. focusing on the wrong areas. Like I said, as parents we cannot simply hand them a stack of assessments and what-nots for revision. We need to be strategic in giving them the right resources to help them in their revision (I know I am repeating this but its so good that its worth saying it twice).
So all the best to all the students taking the exams and all ye parents too. May we keep calm and mother on come what may! O_O
Disclaimer: I will be the last to claim that these are fail-proof tips. Heck, I am not even confident about my son's performance this exam. Ultimately, it depends largely on them, their mental capacity, their desire to perform, their mood and so on. But we can still offer them what we can.

Wednesday 23 March 2016

Puzzle craft

Waiting for the brother to end his tuition class can be dreadfully boring for a 5 year old. In order to kill that 1.5 hours of wait, I would often bring stuff out to entertain her. From books to coloring to worksheets, anything and everything!
Yesterday, we did something quite different and fun. Doll dug out my old purchase from Daiso and begged me to let her have a go at it. And I thought why not? We needed to entertain ourselves anyway.
If you have been to Daiso, you may have seen this peculiar looking product. It is usually located where the children items are.

It is actually a blank 25-pieces puzzle. We can personalised the puzzle by drawing our own pictures on it. I actually bought this puzzle long ago for my numbering sequence activity. (Yes, I was being overly eager. I bought one too many :P)
I numbered each puzzle for Doll who was 2 then, to learn her number sequencing. She just had to connect the puzzles in numerical order. More about this activity at this link.

Well, it was a good thing I bought extra because we had quite an enjoyable mother-daughter time. Each set comes with two puzzles (what a steal isn't it? For just SGD$2!). So, she drew on one and I drew on the other. This mama also needs to kill time you know?
She drew a picture of herself and me. I apparently have a yellow face. :I
She made a mistake with the green marker and I told her she could use her imagination to try to correct her mistake. She doodled and finally drew up a table (looks more like a cradle to me). But. I am happy she learnt that she could recreate something else over her initial mistake.

And ta-da! My cute penguin drawn by yours truly :D.
After ink dried, she took it out and tried to build the puzzles with her friend.
Now make a guess which of the two was the harder puzzle to piece up?