Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Tip #4: My 5-minute Discussions

Since my kids were just preschoolers, I would have lots of discussions with them throughout the day. Some are as brief as a few minutes, while others can drag on for over an hour.

We often discuss and exchange views on all topics under the Sun.

Here is an exchange with my 5-year-old last week on materials.

(The only reason I could remember this long exchange and be bothered to type it is because my laptop was already next to me at that time, so I could type the entire exchange once we had it. But I only finished this blog post later)


5-year-old: Is this table made of wood?

Me: Yes. What other materials can tables be made of?

5-year-old: Can it be made of chocolate? {BIG chuckle!}

Me: So you can eat it? Do you know there are already inventions such as edible bowls and cutlery?

5-year-old: {Nodding} Yes! I know. We discussed this before. So there will be no waste of materials.
Can tables be made of iron or some metal? What about glass?

Me: Hmm... what do you think?

5-year-old: There are advantages and disadvantages of using glass to make a table. If it is a small glass table (as she looked at the glass jar in front of her), then people cannot sit on it and they may step on it instead.

Me: We can also use glass to make big things. Look at the sliding doors we have.

5-year-old: Oh yes, a big glass table! Wow... then we can see through it.

Me: So glass is transparent. We can see through glass. Is that an advantage or disadvantage?

5-year-old: Hmm.. depends what we use glass for. Sometimes we don't want to make things that see-through, right? Mama?

Me: Yes... what is a big disadvantage of a glass table?

5-year-old: It will break!!

Me: Yes, so if we want a material that is transparent and yet will not break so easily, what other materials can we use?

5-year-old: {Looking around her breakfast table} I know! We can use plastic!

Me: Yes, good point! Plastic can be made into different thickness too. And it is very light compared to glass. Though people don't always want a light table.

5-year-old: But not all things made of plastic are transparent. Look, my cup is not!

Me: Excellent point!! Great observation!!


Without realising it, my Dolly was learning Science concepts, building vocabulary and honing critical and creative thinking skills. In addition, our daily discussions sharpen questioning, observation, communication skills and strengthen the child's ability to focus.

In all my Bright Minds Lapbookers classes, discussions is one area that I place high value on and we expose all students to such exchanges. Obviously the older ones would have longer and more complex discussions.







Sunday, May 21, 2017

Bedtime Battles

Some things never change.

I chanced upon this post written back in Sept 2009 when M was just 5.

Since the boys were little, the 9pm bedtime was non-negotiable on all typical days. I believe that young children and teenagers need sufficient sleep, not just for growth but also for optimum development in one's capacity to learn. The tremendous benefits that having sufficient sleep brings cannot be underrated.

Unfortunately after being a parent for over 12 years, I still have to endure nightly bedtime battles for my three kids rarely go to bed without resistance.

Life was easier when kids were younger. When they were still preschoolers, E and I used to take one boy each for our hour-long bedtime reading. Admittedly, it was a struggle at times to start reading to both at 8pm, but we did our best.

It was hectic and tiring to be a single-parent during those periods when hubby was away for business trips, but it always seemed easier to enforce the 9pm bedtime, mostly because I have always been the stricter parent. Kids learnt quickly that mummy would not budge on certain issues.

By the time the boys were 7 or 8, we no longer read to them. But because they are used to bedtime reading, they never go to bed without at least 30 min of reading on their own.

We still read to Dolly though. Before she could read independently, I used to encourage her to look at the pictures in the books while waiting for us. By the time she could read, it became an easy habit for her to read quietly waiting patiently to be read to.



Unfortunately, despite my best effort, I fail to ensure my youngest sleep enough. Even if she sleeps at 9pm, she wakes before the boys leave home for school because my boys are too noisy in the morning. Being a light sleeper, she stirs at the slightest sound. I tried everything to keep her in bed, but she seldom sleeps past 7am.

Before she started preschool, she used to follow me out to pick boys up in the middle of the afternoon, so she had to drop naps. That kind of messed up her routine, as a result, she doesn't nap either. By the time boys are back in the evenings, there is too much household noise for her to sleep early.

Boys also fight harder now to negotiate for later bedtime. With longer school days, more homework, hence less free time for hobbies (and they don't even go tuition!), they test our patience nightly. When nagging no longer works, we have to resort to threats of withdrawing privileges at times to get them to lie down.

Some days, I accept that this is part and parcel of having a larger family with growing kids of different age groups. We just have to move along and make things work. But other days, when I look at the dark eye circles I am sure I can see under her eyes, I feel terribly guilty. It drives me nuts that my 5-year-old is not sleeping enough. Developmental-wise, she is excelling for sure. But physically, she is the smallest in class.

On one hand, my parenting experience tells me there is nothing to worry about, especially how genes play such a big part in deciding a child's body frame and physical growth rate. But on the other hand, the worrier in me cannot help but wonder what else I could do to make her sleep more.

Recently, I introduced this "rule" to her. Telling her that it is a game no longer works as she plainly told me it could not be considered a game if it was not fun. True. So I just put it simply that it is a mummy's rule that she has to lie in bed till 8am, in a desperate bid to entice her to fall back asleep. Some days it worked like a charm. She just stared at the digital clock next to the bed till she dozed off. Other days, I could hear saying aloud the numbers on the clock EVERY minute.

Oh well, until I could find a better way to fight the battles.....





Friday, May 19, 2017

What Good is Giftedness Without Nurture?

Whenever I read stories of young people doing extraordinary things, I get very excited and inspired.

Just like the most recent story of the 11-year-old Reuben Paul who hacked security experts devices.

What I am always curious to know is HOW could the young person be able to achieve more than his average peers? More often than not, it requires a lot more than just talent and aptitude of their own.

Here are a few quick thoughts:

1. Talent and Nurture
I have always maintained that a talented or gifted person also requires a nurturing environment and opportunities from loving adults around him. Here is a popular old post on Nature vs Nurture.

A child with talent is still a child. It is very common for young kids with interests to tell parents they are interested in something. Identifying interests is the easy part.

But how likely is it for a young child to be able to correctly decide he has a talent in something? Talents and giftedness must first be recognised and nurtured, or be forever buried.

A nurturing environment does not necessarily mean parents who are all smiles and forever obliging.

A talent also cannot amount to great achievements without hard work, vision and a willingness/devotion from parents (and other important caregivers) who will tirelessly motivate and push the kids along when the going gets tough.

Anyone who had walked this path before and achieved something great will agree that there would too be many moments of "I-want-to-give-up".


 

2. Set High Expectations
If Reuben's parents had assumed that at age 6, he should be focusing on just learning more Math questions or do more English assessment books to get ahead of his peers in school, he would not be learning IT skills. I doubt he would have the time to train and become the youngest Shaolin Kungfu black belt in America at age 7 or set up a company and be a CEO at age 8 either.

If as parents, we set our sights at just the immediate goal posts such as clearing the mid-year or final-year exams, be it to pass with flying colours or cope with schoolwork so that kids will not fail, we are missing the bigger and more important picture!

There will always be another test and exam a few months down the road. Before we know it, the kid would be a grown man and how sad would it be to find out that the only 'talent' and achievements he had was coping with school exams.

Here is another analogy. If we keep our heads down and always focusing on just making sure we do not trip on rocks along our paths, and not look up and wonder about what's lying far ahead, we would have missed the scenery surrounding us.

If we are not looking up and ahead and dream of flying, we would never have learnt to fly.

3. Lay Solid Foundation during preschool years 
How we nurture or squander the first few years of a child's life when his brain is growing at the most rapid speed may have a longer lasting effect than we can ever imagine.

Just imagine if a child
- has learnt to read independently;
- is taught to express his views/opinions;
- is raised in an environment that ignites his passion to learn and fuels his curiosity;
- is taught to think critically and creatively.

Compared this with those kids whose early years were squandered away and at age 6, 7 or 8, were still struggling to cope with basic literacy skills.

It is a no-brainer that the ones with a solid foundation in early years will be MORE likely to spend remaining years in childhood/youth learning at an even MORE accelerated pace.

When I say 'squandering' precious childhood years away, I am also referring to learning ineffectively.

  

4. No talent now, focus on SKILLS! 
Not everyone has an interest, passion or talent that can be recognised at young age. But still, it does not mean we do nothing and just wait for the passion or talent to show up!

Why take such a passive stance?

Acquire the important skills while you wait. Identify the skills that we think are important and train the kids. Just like it can take years to master a craft, honing skills require investment of time and effort for months, if not years too!



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