Sunday, February 24, 2013

Starting Primary One #14 - Our Education Journey is no longer a Child's Play

Some one in the net posted a Straits Times news report on Clearer learning goals set for pre-schools that leads to a discussions amongst some parents.  This news report was in relation with the the Ministry of Education (MOE) announcement of the Refreshed Kindergarten Curriculum Framework.  I am basically a bochap (can't be bothered) mum, I have a very bad habit of not reading the news and keeping myself up to date on current issues.   So when I see this being discussed every where in the net like a "hot cake", I couldn't help but to get my hands on a copy of the document.   Here's my thought after reading the new "guidelines" and how I hope every thing turn out well for us, eventually on our Primary school education journey.

1/4 through the 100+ pages I got bored as there are too many words, not forgetting some new "beautiful" terms to understand and digest (does not help that I decided to read it after a heavy lunch) so I did a few skips and there, focusing more on the summary tables & photos instead.  Looking at the photos in the document I was awed that the kids are actually doing those "difficult" activities in kindergarten!   Thinking back on my kindergarten days, I was still doing simple cutting, pasting, tearing of papers etc but the kids now are doing creative thinking, outdoor classroom, purposeful play and some other activities which I thought older kids should be doing.   See! How ignorant this mummy is?

Sure~ we have Parent-Teacher Conference (PTC) but the school only describe to us briefly what the kids are doing during the lessons, we did not actually see how the classes are being conducted.    All I know is that besides the usual subjects the centre also have computer learning, Montessori lesson, Chinese calligraphy, abacus & social studies.  During PTC the teachers commented that DinoBoy is faring very good academically, he learns fast and able to grasp the concept fast.  He was even coaching his other class mates on abacus.   Sure~ they have excursions to Pizza Hut, Vitagen, HortParks but I've no idea what they were introduced to during these tours.  Its near impossible to try to gather information from the then 3, 4 and 5 year old DinoBoy as he will always tell me about the day's event in his excited exaggerated tone and always in no particular order.

Through his 6 years in the child care centre, I was only worried ONCE when he was in K1 and still unable to read simple English story books.   I panicked and started to buy more books to force encourage him to read, it was a difficult & vexed months for us but only to be told by his teachers later that he can read very well since his early K1 days, not by memorizing the story but actual reading it using phonics to pronounce the words.   The teacher's explanation is that sometimes children are doing the reading and writing in school so they prefer the parents to do the reading or they want to do other activities with the their parents.  I was suspicious after hearing that and decided to go easy with him, first few nights during our reading time I let him choose the books he wanted to read and we read it together.   Subsequently he read the books by himself without me reading with him and since then we both are enjoying a quiet 30mins together with our own books.

Anyway, truth to be told, we are not the parents who will sit down every night to do additional revision/work with DinoBoy, though I bought a few assessment books which are sitting in the cupboard still wrapped up nicely.   Both of us feel that if the teachers did not highlight to us that he needs extra help in any of the area academically we are ok with it too.  Why mend something that is not broken?   The only thing we enforce onto DinoBoy was the Reading Time, we feel that knowledge also comes in the form of books other then the tv or ipad or WWW.  With all the positive feedback from the teachers and the amount of preparation work the child care centre is doing to get ready the kindergarten kids for the next milestone of their life, we never have any doubt that DinoBoy "will not make it".  We were ALL READY for Primary 1!  Or so we thought...

Back then we did read Chinese story books with DinoBoy and he was able to read 80% of the words, we never need to drill him on his Chinese spelling, he usually got it right the 1st time.   Every thing looks A-O-KAY so we sat back and relax, satisfied that DinoBoy had grasped the language deem "difficult" to some parents.  Well, I was in for a shock recently when I tried to read a simple Chinese book with DinoBoy reently.  He was struggling and could not even read simple character such as 我、和、你 (me, and, you).  I'm really not sure whether the 2 weeks December holiday break made him suddenly forget about Chinese or really as what we always say "return to teacher after graduation".

Nevertheless, the "damaged" is there, so now I am hugging the Buddha's leg, fanatically trying to find out from friends on the ways to reinforce, improve, strengthen DinoBoy's Chinese language.   It does not help that Primary 1 Chinese syllabus are focusing on HYPY and the textbooks are printed with HYPY on top of the Chinese characters, I would rather he learn to recognize and read the beautiful Chinese characters before he handles HYPY, just like the old days... during my school days.  The old school ways are not exactly wrong or redundant, look at how I or many others benefited from it?

No doubt the government have taken steps to ensure our kids are well educated and prepared for The Huge Steps; i.e. the Primary school and beyond.  We, the Parents must be involved too.  No longer can we have the same thinking as our parents, to leave the child alone to either make it or break it, nor can we use the old school ways of extreme or severe nagging/caning/punishments/threatening to make sure the child that he "better wake up your idea" and buck up.  We have to be with them to offer adequate support mentally and physically every step of the way.  I have to keep reminding myself not to be overly influence by other parents who make their kids attend numerous academic enrichment class, I have to keep telling myself to let DinoBoy progress and learn at his own pace (of course he can't fall too far back from others).  I would not want to kill his passion for learning or his yearn for knowledge or the joy and excitement he is showing when its time to go to school.

I had a chat with DinoBoy's child care centre's teacher couple of weeks ago, she said that the school has been doing a lot of work to academically prepare the kids well for primary school and they are at least 6 months ahead of other kids.  So I will be holding on my breathe when its near the end of the 6 months to see where DinoBoy will stand.  Will he breeze through Primary 1, will I get to sit back and relax or I will be pulling my hair being stressed out on how to tackle DinoBoy's school work?

Ok wait... stop there... where is my meditating mat???? 


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For the next few weeks I will be sharing our experience on our preparation for DinoBoy's Primary One.  I hope it will serve as a useful guide to parents when its their time to get their child ready for the new journey and have an idea how Parent Volunteer works.

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