Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Scholastic Books

I like Scholastic, the book publisher, because they have many nice children's books. They have a programme with schools for students to order books from their catalogues at a cheaper price, compared to the ones retailed at bookstores. There are also books that you can only get from this school catalogue that you cannot get at bookstores. Some book sets are sold at affordable prices too.

We have been getting many Scholastic books for C from this school programme since kindergarten. We are fortunate that her primary school is also participating in this programme so our 'supply' continues. Today, she came back with her latest order of 22 books amounting to RM244. She has read three in school and another one in the car on the way home.

Given a chance, she'll probably be reading all the books non-stop and finish reading all within a few days, so I told her she can read only two a day, and I'll be taking custody of all the new books. This is so that she will have time to do other stuff like practise her music, do new activities as the school holidays start next week, and not be sedentary with her nose buried in a book all day.

As for the two-week school holidays that starts next week, I'm hoping we will take the opportunity to utilise our time productively.


Monday, May 20, 2013


The school mid-year exam's over and it's me who feels relieved. C, as usual, was unfazed. 'Exam' is not a scary word for her. Don't get me wrong, she's not a genius academically. She just does what is required i.e. minimum work. I've advised and suggested that she does revision at least on a weekly basis on what she has learned during the week so that when it comes to exam time, she doesn't have to cram. The suggestion goes in one ear and out the other. Two weeks before exams, I tell her she should start revising. That also fell on deaf ears. And even one day before the exam, she does nothing much, maybe flip through the pages of the textbook and reluctantly work on some exercises in a workbook, for all of half an hour maybe. Life is as usual for her during exam week -- tv, story books, sketching, attend music classes....

I'm not that kind of person. I'm just the opposite. When I was a student, I studied hard. I planned my study timetable. I'd sit quietly at my desk and concentrate hard, reading, doing past year questions, etc. I could hear my heart beating fast as I sat in the exam hall. So with a child like this, imagine my difficulty in accepting her 'style'. I get stressed when I see her enjoying a story book instead of a textbook during exam week. I get angry when I ask her what exam she has the next day and she answers, "don't know". So, I am simply relieved now that the exam's over.

Was I supposed to drag her to a table and chair, pull out all her books, pile them up nicely and sit down with her and make her revise? Maybe that would be what some parents and their kids do. Some parents (kudos to them) take efforts to teach their kids how to do revision, how to draw up a revision schedule, how to do extra workbook exercises, question them verbally to check if they remembered/memorised the facts correctly. Later, the kids will learn to study independently on their own, and most likely score A's left, right and centre.

If I recall correctly, I tried doing a bit of that before when she was younger. It didn't bring about much change in her attitude towards studies or her exam results. So what did I do or didn't do that produces a result different from other parents and kids? I don't think that's a question I should even ask. I have come to learn that with C, forcing her to do something does not work. Persuasion? Reason? Threats? They don't work either. She will do only what she is interested in, she is not afraid of failure, she is not 'kiasu', she doesn't bother comparing herself with others.

There are pros and cons to these traits. When she is interested in something, nothing will stop her from pursuing it. That's when I see her ability to focus surface, and she will learn and progress in that area of interest. When she does not like something, she will just not like it, no matter how much you persuade or reason with her to get her to like it. Unfortunately, life sometimes cannot be lived that way because there'll be times when there are things which you don't like to do but you still have to do.

Ugh, it's just so hard to find a balance and be a nurturing parent.... I have to keep reminding myself that academic excellence is not everything. Specialised skills can get you to the top too. It is better to have a well-rounded child with proper emotional and social development than have an academic genius who doesn't know how to relate to people and the real world. They need to learn things like consideration, responsibility, independence, self-confidence, commitment, decision making, dealing with people of different ages, cultures, personalities, other life skills......so much to learn and be exposed to beyond 'school' stuff.

Bite-size bit:

Career advice from an 11-year-old.

 Dad said he is taking on a new portfolio at work.
Kid: Are you getting a raise?
Dad: No.
Kid: You should ask for a raise! Tell them "If u want me, you have to give me more money." It's like 'bribery'.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Happiness and Peace

This post was triggered by C who gave a 'bottomline' that she just wants to live a "happy and peaceful life" in a conversation I had with her yesterday. She was annoyed and disturbed by what took place in class the day before.

A few kids, including her, were reprimanded by their Math teacher for being careless and making mistakes in their work. To add fuel to the fire, a classmate who constantly loves to compare, asked her "How come  you are smarter than me, but you make so many mistakes?" C is often riled by this girl who regularly bugs her to compare how they both fared in school. C said to me, "I don't care about grades. I just want a happy and peaceful life."

I agree. While it's important to get good grades to the best of our abilities, we need to have a balanced view about how we go about life.  No point being successful academically, have a great job, lots of money, etc, and not be happy and at peace.

There are many, many quotes out there about happiness -- some I can recall off the top of my head are 'state of mind', and 'a choice'. Does it take effort to be happy? I think it does, especially if you're not happy and want to be happy. After some practice, you get the hang of it, and learn not to sweat the small stuff. You look for silver linings, you become more positive, you count your blessings more, you look outward more than inward, you give more than you take,.....

Here's something I found:

75 Happiness Quotes to Live By

Later in the evening, she came up with another one about 'peace'.

Me: I have a bad headache.
Her: Okay, do this. Breathe in, breathe out, breathe in, breathe out. Now, count to ten. How is it?
Me: Still have it.
Her: You need to be at peace! Then it'll go away.

The 'guru' of the ACE household has spoken ;-)

p.s. I'm not sure if C is 'smarter' than her classmate as claimed. In that particular context, C made more mistakes simply because she did her homework on her own. She tends to be careless. I don't check her work. I only help her if it's something she really doesn't know how to do. She's not caught up with wanting to ensure her work is perfect. She just wants to get it done (at the last minute usually) so that she can move on with more interesting stuff life has to offer. As for her classmate, her parents sit down with her and guide her through her homework, so I'm sure her work is more 'perfect' with less mistakes.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

'Slow and steady' -- not my motto

When I was reading the book I mentioned in the preceding post below, I gained some insight as to why I always get so worked up with C being what I view as not having any sense of urgency, lacking time consciousness, doing things at the very last minute. Her learning style profile is the opposite of mine.

This afternoon, she has a birthday party to attend. We told her she has to complete all her homework before going. After breakfast, I reminded her about her homework. And guess what? Miss Slow-and-Steady did not jump into her homework like her pants was on fire. Instead, it took what to me was ages before she sat down and opened her books. After that was done, it took her some time to pick up her pencil and work on her math calculations. Before she could even finish one question, she got off her chair and was heading upstairs.

Me: What are you doing?
Her: Going to look for a calculator. (obviously, trying to find a shortcut to complete her homework faster).
Me: Why do you need a calculator? You're not supposed to use a calculator! blah, blah, blah, blah.... (my short fuse at work again).

Dad comes into the picture: You cannot use a calculator.
Her: Then why XXX (classmate) can use?
Dad continues to give reasons, including: You need to know how to calculate on your own first, learn to work out how the numbers should be calculated, then you can get the right answer, even if you use a calculator. What if all the calculators in the world disappear?
Her: Get a genius, like Einstein, to make new ones.
Dad: He's dead.
Her: Thomas Edison?
Dad: Dead.
Her: Isaac Newton?
Dad: Dead.
Her: Their descendants?
Dad: If they are geniuses, why aren't they well known?
Her: Maybe they are publicity shy.
Dad: Okay, you've wasted enough time, just start your homework.

I'd have yelled "shut up, and just do your work!" which I admit I have done before, but that's not how parenting works these days. Back in our elders' days, it's common to do that.  We'd go by the saying "children should be seen and not heard" and tell them not to question and to simply do as they are told "because I'm your mother and I said so". 

It does feel like parenting was easier back then. Or were children more compliant then? As parents, we continue to learn on the job. Trial and error, different strokes for different folks, one size does not fit all, and sometimes, slow and steady does win the race like the Aesop fable.

Recent thoughts

About Reading

I have always been frustrated with the dilemma of C's love of books and reading. On one hand it's good but on the other, her extremism meets a daily battle with life's routine and schoolwork, ...... and teachers (who confiscate her books). But today, after reading many parents' challenges of teaching and getting their kids interested in reading (in a FB parenting group), I am thankful that at least I never had such problems as she somehow took to reading like duck to water. So, I should chill more about this. It's ok as long as she is happy.

About teaching and learning

C went outside one evening to play with Rusty. I saw her filling up one of his toys with kibble. It was a ball with holes where you can insert kibble inside. In order for the dog to get the kibble, he has to play with the ball and make the kibble spill out. I asked her what she was doing and she replied, "I'm giving Rusty a puzzle to teach him to be smart without him knowing."

What she said reminded me that it is the same with us humans. Learning through play helps us to learn more effectively. 'Indeliberate' learning, learning that is natural, learning through experience, like what she said, "becoming smart without knowing (realising) it", is better than forced learning, rote learning.

I'm reading a book titled "Every Child Can Succeed - making the most out of your child's learning style" which tells about how knowing your child's learning style can help make teaching, learning, homework and revision less of a pain. The book contains easy-to-understand info which at least for my situation, is very spot-on in defining C's style. Of course, what's on paper is easier than putting it into practice. The amount of conscious effort, awareness, and patience (which I severely lack!) required to bring this book to life is another story, or rather, a possible book about this book! Nevertheless, I find reading such books helpful to broaden our parenting perspectives.