For the past many years, loving parents have gone the step of enriching their children's academic ability by challenging them with more complex academic material whenever they see that their kids are ready to move ahead of their peers. Why not eh? After all, the child is capable and it is every parent's desire to help their children fulfill their potential. Besides, there are definite advantages to encouraging academic precocity.
(1) Firstly, schools have a habit of testing advanced material without having taught any of it because they believe that every school exam must have the ability to discriminate at the very highest levels of performance (never mind if the highest levels of performance weren't taught by teachers in class). A child who has been exposed to material beyond his years (outside of school) has a good chance of topping the class. Hey... if my child can handle advanced material, why not?
(2) Secondly, such successes build confidence and self-esteem. So hey... if my child can handle advanced material, why not? Who doesn't want a confident child?
Besides, topping the class naturally leads on to stellar PSLE results which lead on to a place in a top school, which lead on to all sorts of learning opportunities (university Professor mentorships... international competitions of all sorts... international field trips... highly competent teachers with PhDs or who graduated from internationally renowned universities). Get into a top school and the smorgasbord of learning that stares you in the face is like Sunday champagne brunch at Clifford, The Fullerton Bay Hotel. The children earn their place in their Learning Buffet by being top scorers academically, in the same way adults earn their place in their Food Buffet by being top earners in their profession.
You know, before Little Boy hit Primary 4, I was a parent who baulked at exposing my kids to academic material beyond what the Teacher was teaching or had taught. What for? I told myself. They'll get around to learning it anyway, no? And my kids should be bright enough to understand what Teacher teaches in class without my interference.
Instead, I wanted my kids to get involved in housework... do chores for me... start small businesses... wash the toilet... practise guerilla gardening... play tricks on adults and each other... bake cakes... cut carrots. For me, schools were there to teach numeracy and literacy. It was up to me to teach my children how to cope with life in general - do housework, learn to get along, have a sense of humor, honor nature and the environment, be clean and live in clean surroundings.
Little Boy learning to cook.
Little Boy learning to value "courage against all odds" by pretending to be David against Goliath.
Little Boy learning to respect nature.
Little Boy learning the value of manual labour and clean milk bottles, even though we had a dishwasher back then. Little Boy had a cute round head with sticky out ears.
I realised in Primary 3, when Little Boy scored at the bottom of his class, that his exams tested material from Primary 4 (sometimes Primary 5). So I began to teach him material in advance. Little Boy had no problems at all with the accelerated teaching. He kind of just chomped through all that I gave him, and then asked for more. There were few, if any, spots of indigestion even though some material (e.g., Chinese) required long hours of chewing. I no longer asked "What for?". I jumped in and did what I could to get him up the class rankings. He eventually made it up the ranks to 2nd in class and even won an Edusave award last year. Clearly, Little Boy CAN handle the challenging material.
However, he had no time for his chores. He had no time to clean his room. He had no time to help with the dishes. He had no time to weed the garden for me. I had to be very creative with his time management (e.g. he lunched in the car on the way home, whilst listening to Chinese audio tapes) in order to give him Sundays off to play, and Friday evenings to watch Big Bang Theory with the family. He certainly had no time for the echinacea business that I gave him to run as his own. Holidays were spent covering material in advance or catching up on the years we had wasted on grooming him in every other way but academic. The Daughter, at the same age, made UDS1500 on a now defunct business called GiftAChineseName. We have deleted her original website but I was still able to find some traces of it on the internet HERE.
But Little Boy had no time. In 2010, 2011 and 2012, he had no time for anything EXCEPT academic pursuits because even Mommy Petunia, who scored in the 98th percentile of global GMAT norms could not score more than 28/40 for Little Boy's English compositions. Undoubtedly, it was still the top mark in class... but...
NO TIME to grow in any area but academic.
With the PSLE over and done with, I have time to reflect. Did I do the right thing by Little Boy? Should I have helped him aggressively to tackle his academic load knowing that if I didn't give him time... and help, he would do very badly at PSLE and begin to think himself lacking in academic talent... suffer blow after blow to his self-esteem? Indeed, I told myself that if I had a younger child, I would start EARLY to teach in advance. How early? Oh well... as early as my child can take it. Is that wrong? What do readers think?
I have some thoughts of my own after talking to my blogger friend Blurting, but this post is getting too long...
Continue reading - HERE.