Before the kids came along, I told to myself that when I had kids, I would give them the best childhood with minimal academic stress as much as I could.

Then, when I had small kids, our weekday evenings and weekends were full of play, play and play.

While many of my friends had started to send their kids to pre-primary prep classes, drafted their own set of learning assignments for 3yos, send to Shichida, and more brain boosting classes, I was not at all worried about my children’s academic progress. In fact, one of my first few questions to my eldest’ nursery teachers before I enrolled her, was what they would be doing in class. The teacher probably thought I would be concerned if there were sufficient rote learning and worksheets. With some hesitation, she told me that their syllabus for 3yos was to train up their motor skills more than anything. Hearing this, I smiled and replied that this was exactly what I wanted for my child to do at age 3. Without looking further, I enrolled my gal into this childcare which was focused on play and scribbling and singing ABCs for these little 3 yo tots.

Before my eldest entered Primary 1, instead of sending her to primary school prep class where they taught them Primary 1 syllabus to have a headstart, I prep her with some basic money counting for recess, writing a little faster for notes taking, teaching her some academic basics like doing some fun activity sheets. I let her continue her afternoon naptime as I knew she would not have much of it when she started afternoon school the following year.

Come the first 2 primary school years, I was happy that she did not have much homework. I am an advocate for play and less academic stress and this school did not stress the 7, 8 yos just as how I had wished for lower primary to be. My gal aced her mini term tests and there was nothing worrying as far as I could see. Hence, our time-tables were always full of play time and I knew very soon, the time-tables would have to take a change as the kids grew older.

Come Primary 3, we continued to have lots of play time especially when the younger 2 kids were 2 and 7yo, who were still enjoying their childhood. With young kids around, our weekend schedules were always packed with activities and outdoor fun. Even on weeknights, we had our board games playtime and none of the nights or weekends were about academic. Occasionally, my girl would come to me to ask me some questions that she was unsure of and I taught her. Gradually, I did find out she was not so good in some basic concepts and I was not sure why I did not take it as an amber warning light blinking at me. I continued to be busy with the youngest who was entering terrible twos at that time and went about almost the same routine with the children. Not even during the mid-year parent-teacher meeting time, when the teacher highlighted that my girl was a little day-dreamer in class and seemed to be doing re-corrections for concepts that she would not expect her to be wrong in.

A “F” in Math…

What I did not expect came at the end of Primary 3 after the SA2 (Semestral Assessment 2) results were released. Out of the 4 subjects, she failed her Math. She was very upset and when she came back with her paper and showed it to me, I thought I was more upset than her.

Nowadays parents seemed to be more concerned on children’s academic success than children themselves, no?

Even for a laid back mum like me, you would have thought I think nothing of it. But deep inside, I was very guilty and felt somewhat responsible for this results. Not because it is right for a parent to be guilty of her child’s failure, (I strongly believe a child has to be totally responsible for his or her own success) but because I should have seen it coming and seen to the fact that she needed help with basic concepts and I could have helped her with it. But she never asked in depth. She is a passive learner.

In fact, because we were so laid back and played for the good part of their childhood time, she did not know how to revise for her exams! It was alarming, when I realized that while many of her classmates stayed home to mug for the exams, she was not sure how to start with her revision. She probably has no idea what exam is and how important or not it is to her upper primary years. Well, who would have told her the importance anyway? I didn’t.

So, as I tried to hide my disappointment and guilt in me, I told her that a fail in any of the subjects was not acceptable, not in Primary school. I made a pact with her that for the December holidays, I would sit with her to revise the Primary 3 Math and teach her the basics right from the beginning. She agreed and was indeed very cooperative during the revision, although she did throw tantrums occasionally and showed some princess attitude. That is what I had gathered from fellow mums that teaching your own kid is never easy.

Kids these days are so different from our times. When my siblings and I were young, we never ever had our parents screamed at us to study. It came natural to us that we had to study and we did it without any tuition. We couldn’t afford tuition anyway. Whatever was taught in school, we listened and asked when we had doubts. It just happened and no one taught us how to do it. Maybe it is due to this reason that I think my children will naturally study without our prompting too. We hardly prompted our kids on academics before this. And the result was the total opposite of our times. How weird.

For this half year of Primary 4, we did much revision on Primary 3 basics mixed with Primary 4 harder concepts. We spent some weeknights and 2 hours every weekends to do academics. We never give up bringing the children for outdoor fun. The younger siblings cannot be deprived of outdoor time because of one child is having academic revision.

While I was focusing on Math alone, I neglected other subjects. And Science is another difficult subject to tackle.

1 week before exams – Crash course on Science

Just 1 week before Science SA1 exam, my girl told me that she did badly for the Science practice paper. Oh, how can I forget about Science? I was only focusing on the Math intensely. For English and Chinese, I am not too sure how to revise that myself, let alone teaching her to do it. Other than everyday conversation pick up of words and phrases and extensive reading, how does one improve languages? And for Science, there was no warning light prior, hence, I conveniently forget about this subject.

There was only one week to go before Science exams. I know Science is difficult in the way that facts and right keywords have to be used in answers. I taught my girl how to write a summary notes on each chapter, half thinking to myself why I had to teach something like this when it seemed so natural to me when I was a student. Again, maybe she never had the concept of revision, okay, just teach.

I sat her down to write down all the topics that were tested for Science. We counted and divided by the number of days left for revision. She chose which topics to study on which day. Then, each day after work, I would check on her summary notes. The first time I checked on her notes, she copied the summary at the back of each chapter without reading the chapter itself. The second time I checked on her notes, not without telling her to read the chapter and write the important keywords, she really did write ONLY the keywords and no sentences. The third time, I sat beside her and studied one chapter with her and explained the concepts along while writing down the summary notes myself to show her how to write it. Then she grasped it. Never did I know such things have to be taught. Maybe it is only her, maybe it is common for kids these days to be hand held by parents. I am not sure which is the right reason or maybe there isn’t any reason.

Some of the very good books that I find is useful for Math and Science are the following:
Math – Visible Thinking in Mathematics (Marshall Cavendish)
Science – My Pals are Here: Science Booster (Marshall Cavendish)
Science – Primary Science Revision Essentials Primary 3&4 Book A and B (Marshall Cavendish)

These were recommended by a very kind mum who was very concerned when I told her about my girl. It all boils down to discipline and constant revision. This mum is an involved mum in academics and she instills discipline in her children who did well enough to switch to the gifted programme. Seems like being laid back has its price.

I want to delay tuition as long as I can…

We do not have tuition for the kids and as long as possible, I hope that they will never need to have one. I strongly believe that what should be taught and learnt are done in class. The school has its own academic support classes for all students after school for all subjects once a week to reinforce on what was taught in main lessons. My child has his or her own fair share of academic work, plus some simple revision at home from me, I think it should do the trick. More tuition lessons will be killing the joy of learning and depriving my child of his or her rightful childhood.

I would rather have my kids score less than aces, but they can have a good family time and outdoor fun and more time to learn other skillsets, than to have them score aces and aces and miss out on other important things in life besides academics.

It is indeed a learning for me as a parent. Moving forward to term 3, Kel told me that I needed to have regular revision with 2 hours during the weekend to review all that had been taught for the past week. I treat this as a minimal tuition coming from me. I am going to sit them down for a new time-table and hope these will help.

The exams end today. I cross my fingers and hope for the best. I have a feeling my girl can make it and pass her papers. All the best, baby!

Update on 20 May 2015

My girl has passed her exams! Each and every subject! I am happy with her results and upon seeing my happy face, she asked:

Girl: Why are you so happy mum? My friend’s mum told her that her passing mark is 90/100, and she got 89/100. She was very upset…

Me (still happy face): Poor girl. She probably can do very well and hence her mum’s expectation is much higher. I am happy with your results because you showed improvement! For the 2 subjects that you would have thought to fail or do badly, you didn’t and you passed! My passing mark for you is the passing mark: 50/100. (Hugs)

Do you revise with your children? How much are you involved in your child’s academics? Share with me in the comments! We need to learn from one another.