Being a child

Buddy celebrated his 5th birthday more about 2 weeks ago, and the celebration reinforced the feeling in me that time really flies! It didn’t seem so long ago when he was a wee baby. Soon, he’ll be six and has to get ready for primary/elementary school. It’s a good thing he’s in daycare because  I think it makes it easier for him to adapt to the new environment. At least he’s used to the long hours away from home, compared to kids who attend regular preschools.

The other night, I happened to watch a program on Channel News Asia “Being A Child”, which features the pressure faced by preschoolers in Singapore. Yes, pressure, because their parents put them through various enrichment classes: ballet, music, Maths, English, Chinese, you name it. 

For Buddy, we didn’t rush to do that. In fact, the only class, outside of daycare, he is attending is Chinese at Berries. He started on it when he was 3 years old and it was because we have to make sure he has a good grasp of the language before entering primary school. But most importantly, it’s for him to feel comfortable with the language and not hate it, which is a bane for many kids and their parents. And I think we have succeeded, because Buddy is very comfortable speaking in Chinese to me. In fact he automatically speaks English to papa and switches to Chinese with me.
My husband and I had many discussions about other enrichment classes for buddy. We don’t want to over burden him, but we are also mindful that we should prepare him for the competitive primary school environment. Just because we want him to have a happy childhood doesn’t mean we should not do anything to prepare him, since we would be irresponsible if we start panicking when he has difficulty coping later. And crying over spilt milk and blaming the school system then is a waste of time. 

My husband had initially looked at some Maths classes but none were conducted in a manner entirely to his satisfaction. What he wanted for buddy is to possess an appreciation and understanding of Maths concepts (a feel for numbers) and not just memorization. Sure there are some stuff that requires the latter, but memorize only when necessary. In fact we don’t want a case where buddy memorizes the stuff for exam and forgets after, which is what happened to me. Till now I still have a phobia of Maths and have not been able to appreciate its beauty. 

So I asked around friends and colleagues for recommendations, and we ended up with an unusual one from my boss. It was an online program for Maths and English developed by the Stanford University: https://giftedandtalented.com/. My husband likes it because the program is structured such that the child has to understand each topic before moving on to the next. There are also interesting projects and general knowledge info for the kids. Though the website states it can be done independently or with the help of a tutor, the truth is the kid needs guidance and instant feedback. So an adult has to be around to work on the problems with the child, and if that is not possible, you will have to pay extra for an online tutor. My husband has been guiding Buddy since he started last September and he’s making good progress. 

However my  husband also realized that the Stanford program (like the general American curriculum) covers breadth but not depth, as compared to the Singapore Maths. So he has to plug the gaps with separate coaching. From this experience , we realized the importance of understanding Buddy’s development. It is not wise to outsource everything to the external providers.

My husband also guides Buddy in puzzle games, and I work with him on English and Chinese languages. We go to the library regularly to get books for his nightly reading. (There are so much resources in the library that I am surprised not more parents make use of them.) So you see, we DIY for much of Buddy’s enrichment. We work with his pace and provide instant feedback.

During Buddy’s recent parent teacher meeting, one of the teachers remarked that Buddy is quiet in class and is not very participative in large group though he does speak up in small group setting. We know Buddy, and don’t see anything wrong with that. In fact, being quiet is not a developmental problem as long as the child is happy. Buddy is a reserved kid with people he is not close to. He will observe the situation quietly before taking any action. (He inherited that from both my husband and me.) Most time he will keep quiet when talked to because he is very selective of people. (The good thing is he is unlikely to fall for temptations from strangers.)  

But when Buddys is with us, he talks so much that it is very difficult to stop him, whether it’s during meal times, watching the TV, movies, or even during bed time.  He keeps asking us questions that sometimes I am tempted to tell him to give me a break. In order to get him to respect our wishes to have a conversation between my husband and me, I drew a picture of an ear and one of a mouth on flash cards. When we want him to stop talking, we show the ear picture and tell him, “lend me yours ears.” I have even resorted to telling him, “silence is golden!” and his reply, “silence is NOT golden!” (Not with us it seems.)

My husband and I don’t think we are helicopter parents as defined in this Big Think article. We certainly don’t spoil him. We see ourselves as coaches and mentors to Buddy. Most importantly we believed that our  gift to him is to build a strong foundation in morals, physical and intellectual in him. 

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