My daughter R started Primary One this year. At the beginning, it was exciting, she found most things enjoyable, and I was happy that she adjusted quickly to the environment and found it easy to make friends. As the year wore on, however, the life of primary school unveiled itself to be a mixed bag of things – some good, some bad, some disappointing.
Faith, Friends & Fun
R’s school is a government school but was founded by Christian missionaries and holds fast to values and principles which I grew up with and which I wanted my children to learn. There is a pastoral staff based in the school and students attend a weekly chapel session. R comes home singing songs she has learnt and I believe her Christian faith is strengthened because of such an environment.
R’s school, despite its Christian background, attracts a mix of races and religions. Having non-Chinese and non-Christian friends has exposed her to cultural and religious differences which I hope will make her more sensitive to the needs of others. Recently, R’s Hindu classmate invited R and their classmates to her home for Deepavali celebrations. I’m glad R had fun and was able to interact with her classmates outside of school.
R also found several activities in school to be fun, primarily activities that were sports and arts related. She enjoyed badminton and gymnastics sessions, Chinese dance, and speech and drama activities. My girl needs her space to move around and express herself. It’s important that the school has a non-academic programme to let students find and develop their talent. While I wish there was formal training available at the school for music and gymnastics, I know resources are limited and I’m grateful that there are Chinese Dance lessons which R faithfully attends each week.
The weight of the many books – textbooks , workbooks, exercise books – all add up to a considerable burden for a 7-year-old. The haversack needs to be large enough to contain the books, sturdy enough so it doesn’t tear, and padded enough so it won’t hurt the shoulders and back.
The main reason for the need to cart the books to and fro is that R’s classroom is shared with the morning session class (R is in the afternoon session – another contentious point). Plus the fact that there are no lockers for students to use. The school is in the midst of building extensions so that the school can go single session — in 2016. Not sure if there will be lockers or shelving space for books in the future but I hope there will be some alternatives to the book carrying routine.
Weight aside, I wonder how well the books are used. What does my child do with the textbook during lessons? Does she flip the pages, close the book, and then move on to some activity in class? The textbooks have hardly any activities in them so how does the child interact with the book? Workbooks are, of course, more used to the point of pages being dog-eared. So why not just have a workbook? Can’t concepts be included in the workbooks? Wouldn’t that make the book worth its weight?
Better yet, throw out the book. English has done away with textbooks and workbooks altogether, focusing on worksheets instead. So why not Chinese and Math? Worksheets are targeted, timely and thin!
Do I already sound like a parent obsessed with grades? I don’t think I am, at least, I won’t use the term ‘obsessed’ but grades are a reflection of how much a student is able to prove what she knows at a given point in time. And at those given points in time called ‘tests’, R proved to be highly competent in English, somewhat average in Math, and hitting the bottom of the barrel in Chinese.
I’m not so much disappointed in her results as I am that she did not reach her potential during those assessments. And to be honest, I am more disappointed in myself for not coaching her to be able to perform her best.
Time was certainly a main factor. R is in the afternoon session, which means not having to wake up too early in the morning. By 8 am, R should be awake. By that time, I’m well on my way to work. She takes her time with breakfast and after that needs her TV fix for the day, for just 30 min or so.
Between 9 to 10:30 am, she might do homework, learn spelling, or if there’s no school assignments, she might pop down to the playground or ride her bicycle. At 10:30 am, she starts to get ready to change into her school uniform, have an early lunch and leaves home around 11:30 am to report for school by 12:20 pm.
At 6:30 pm, school ends and R reaches home around 7:20 pm. By that time, I have returned home from work and finished my dinner. After R washes up and has her dinner, there is a fairly unproductive 45 mins or so of doing homework and other things like learning spelling, doing a book review or whatever tasks scribbled in her pupil handbook. All this with the background noise of her two younger brothers clamouring for attention, and me nagging at R to focus on her work.
By 9 pm, the kids need to be in bed, preferably asleep. By 9 pm, I need some time to myself, preferably in silence. By 9 pm, it’s late enough for all of us.
Such is the daily routine, Monday to Friday.
What about the weekend, you might ask? Don’t I send R for tuition, fill her waking hours with assessment books and makes sure that she’s primed for any test?
I don’t. Sure there are assessment books, and there are more well used closer to tests, but I don’t have a tight schedule of formal learning for my child. I did try a few times, but they did not go down well with R. And I would much rather spend time taking her and her brothers to the library, or run around the playground.
Ah, now I will change, you might think. Just look at her results – R needs tuition, doesn’t she, at least in Chinese?
I’m not sure she does. I think I’ll take her to her to the library more often and encourage her to read more Chinese books.
What about Math? She needs tuition for that. Everyone has tuition!
R needs more focused attention in shorter spans of time, whether for Math, Chinese or English. And that’s what I’ll try to do. And hopefully without the distraction from her brothers.
PAUSE FOR THOUGHT
There will always be the good, the bad and the disappointing in many situations, life changing events and, of course, the long journey of parenting. My journey is on a rocky mountain path but I’m fixing my eyes on the summit – with plenty of lessons to learn along the way.