Friday, August 19, 2011

Prepare Your Kid for Primary School

I saw some parents posted their worries about their children entering primary 1 next year, most of them are uncertain whether their children are well prepared for the formal education, and some start to panic after seeing the primary text books and syllabus.
Many of us do know that the current system is different from our old times, but how different is the system now, is it very difficult? You might want to take a look of the P1 text books, and don't be surprised that the children are expected to read short passages and do simple mathematics in P1. Be it elite school or neighbourhood school, the basic requirements are more or less the same, do not expect the teacher to teach your little ones in letter A - Z, or numbers 123, the children are expected to know all these in their pre-school. You might want to find out from MOE website on the current curriculum.
So who will be the ones that are losing out? I would think they are those whose parents do not participate in their pre-school learning. There is a saying do not let your child lose on the starting point, some might think this is the "Kiasuism", or some might even think learning in the pre-school stage would mean no childhood, which I disagree and would like to clear some myths here.

1) Teaching your child early does not mean no childhood
Early teaching is not formal teaching, teaching your child can be fun and interesting. Children like to play, thus playing is an important part in early teaching. It needs not be sitting on chair and writing on table, it needs not be indoor facing the four walls or white board, it can be a visit to the zoo, farm, fish pond etc. Learning can be everywhere around us, can be from TV, Internet, playground, shopping mall or library.
When you bring your kid to the zoo, the kid learns the name of the animals, when you play 'snake and ladder' game with your kid, the kid learns mathematics by adding the number on the dice.
Must learning be restricted to just books? Must it be bored and not interesting? Definitely no!

2) Does early teaching mean endless tuition and enrichment classes?
Many parents send their kids to enrichment classes, without knowing what exactly is the class. Some send their kids to enrichment class or tuition because the neighbour is doing the same thing, or because the neigbour's kid seem smarter after attending the class. I do not like to see parents sending their kids to tuition or enrichment class blindly, I especially do not like those parents who don't know about what the kids are learning when I asked them.
Yes, some tuition or enrichment classes might be necessary, but parents have to choose the classes wisely, and groom the children according to their interests. I have seen children attending extra classes and tuition almost everyday, they are too tired after all those classes and ended up could not focus when attending the school lesson.
Some parents send their children to Tuition A, after hearing good feedback on Tuition B they make the kids switch over to Tuition B. Kids need time to adjust and adapt to a new environment, especially the pre-schooler, frequent changing of teachers and environment might not be a good idea.

3) Teach early means fast?
Again, fast and early is different. Teach your child early, means you can start when the child turn 2 or even as early as 1, depending on your child's acceptance level and your time. However, this does not mean you're a "Kiasu" that must teach your child in a fast space. Yes there are guidelines on what age should learn what, e.g. A 2 year old should be able to recognise A to Z, A 3 year old should be able to read short sentences, but this does not apply to all children. All children learn at their own pace, if your 3 year old is not able to recognise A to Z, teach him the basic instead of forcing him to read short sentences. A parent should know the child standard well, and customise the teaching program most suitable for the child.

4) The child will pick up from the school anyway
I'm amazed that parents still have this kind of thinking nowadays. My parents are those really off-hand type when I was a student. I have four siblings whom are of totally different personality. My elder brother is those who will study by his own, my parents never have to worry about his study and he's always the top in his class. He excels in everything he does, he received scholarship in his JC and graduated from NTU, after which he obtained his Master Degree and MBA from NUS at the same time. My sister did not have the same good results as my brother, but still she was an obedient kid and obtained above average results. I was a smart kid but I never like to study when I was in my primary school, I failed my Primary 6 exam with an E in my Malay subject ( I studied in Malaysia before my tertiary education). I worked extremely hard in my secondary school and sacrificed all my activities and time just to catch up with my peers, I obtained full A result in both my PMR and SPM (O level). I've gone through a very tough period in my secondary school. My younger brother was the same as me, he did not study well in primary school, we thought he would change after attending secondary school, just like me, but too bad he didn't. He did not get good result in his secondary school and was attending ITE afterwards.
The point I would like to draw here is, every child behave differently, you cannot expect the child to open their mind one day after waking up from bed. My parents once thought my younger brother would improve on his results after entering secondary school, just like me, but unfortunately he didn't. If a child's foundation is not strong, it'll be very difficult for the child to proceed to the next level. I remember the days I flipped through dictionary just to understand a one page passage, the desire of wanting to learn was strong, but the obstacle was even stronger. I also remember the days where my peers were writing short passages, but I was still struggle with "what, where, which......", I also endured the teasing from my classmates, but good thing is all these has made me a strong person and strengthened my determination of getting better results than others. Again, this kind of miracle does not happen to all children, as I've gone through the path, I know how difficult the 'change' can be, and I'm sure as a parent, you do not want your child to be in the same dilemma as me.

5) My child is not as smart as others
There are parents who told me their children are not progressing well, do not know what their classmates already knew, do not behave or progress per their expectation. Some of them would end the conversation as "aiyah, my kid is not the smart type, let it be lah!". I would pity the child after hearing this, as the parent has already made a conclusion of the kid. If you label your kid as 'not smart', how do you expect the kid to excel in his study? My aunt has a twin daughters, she likes to comment that the elder sister is more stupid than the younger sister. There was once I asked the elder sister whether she could solve a particular question when she was in primary 4, she replied she couldn't as she is 'stupid'. I felt sad upon hearing this, the mother must have declared to everyone that the elder daughter is stupid, till the kid accepted the remark and even agreed it herself. But the kid did not feel sad about it, she thought it is natural that she could not solve the question, as she is stupid, I wonder did she even give it a try?
As parents, we should know the strengths of our children, and bring out the best in them. All children have their strengths and weaknesses, how can you just see the weaknesses without seeing their strengths?

We have to accept the fact that the current education system has changed, the expectation from the school has changed, and even our kids are not the same as the kids in our time. Early preparation for your kids to primary school life is unavoidable, but this does not mean your kids will have no childhood. Plan early, prepare early, and let the kids progress smoothly, they'll then have an enjoyable and stress-free school life!

Click here for another article on "Parents can't solve a primary 1 maths question"


Anonymous said...

Hi I do agree and I am fortunate to be full time mum to spend more time on teaching them. I suppose there are a lot of working mum who would like to do that but simply no time and are exhausted with work and they have more than 1 kid. Guess they would need to know that and strike a balance as much as they could.

learnthefunway on August 24, 2011 at 11:11 AM said...

Ya, very true, is really not easy for the full time mum. I hope I can work half day in the morning and stay at home to accompany my kids at least when they enter P1. I think the sacrifices will definitely worth it.

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