One reason many parents worry for their children and push them towards excessive tuition is to cross the first academic hurdle – the PSLE. I hear parents lamenting that despite MOE scrapping some exams, it makes no difference if at the end of the day, students still have to sit for the PSLE.
When I ask them what are they worried about? The majority tell me that they are concerned about their children ending up in a neighbourhood school because of the negative influence.
I had that perception too. I guided my 3 older girls towards mission schools for their character development.
When #4 did not do well enough to enter a mission school, we pored over the grey book and narrowed down 2 neighbourhood schools which had interesting niche programmes. We checked out the open house, spoke to the HODs, asked around if friends knew of any friends with children from that school and made our decision.
The first year was a culture shock for her. Coming from an elite school, she was used to chatting with classmates about their overseas vacations, which air pods to buy and the movies they are planning to watch together. With her new classmates, the topics of common interest were limited and she wasn’t able to make any close friends.
I did feel her sadness, especially when her older sisters brought groups of friends home and she wished that she had classmates she could bond with.
However, 3 years on, she tells me that she is happy in school.
At her recent PTM, I was glad to see her chatting with friends of all races, some from her class, some from CCA and others from previous classes. Her form teacher is a lovely experienced teacher and she had good things to say about #4. She’s not academically strong, but she tries her best and is always polite and cheerful.
|My birthday present|
She’s been writing me cards for Mother’s Day and for my birthday and I am so pleased to see that she has become such a sensible child. She wrote:
Thank you for everything that you do for us, it must be so so hard to raise 6 children! I really appreciate all the encouragement you give me too! And how much you believe in me! I am also super proud of you and you living your dream makes me see that I can too.
She took much time and effort to knit me a beautiful bag dotted with pearls and made me a set of jewelry. Look at the bracelet! She moulded each piece from clay, baked them carefully in the oven and strung them into a bracelet. She designed earrings in my favourite colour and completed the set with a pearl ring.
I admit I was worried about this child, being a teenager in a neighbourhood school. What negative influence will she pick up? Who will she mix with? I heard horror stories of kids in Sec 1 who stayed out for weeks playing Lan gaming with their classmates and skipped school and their parents could not control them.
My other kids went through the dreaded teenage phase. Of rolling eyes, bad attitude and monosyllabic responses. Some came out of the phase quickly but some were difficult to handle for years.
My fears of her being influenced by “bad company” has been unfounded. Instead, we have seen the silver lining of her being in this school. Because of what she witnessed around her, she is more appreciative of everything she has. She thanks me for every little thing. For making her a healthy dinner, for buying her a special art pen from the bookshop or for buying back flour so she can make cookies. She has also developed great empathy for those around her who are struggling.
I remember during one dinner conversation, the older girls were discussing their grad night and problems in finding the right dress.
In the midst of the conversation, she shared what was on her mind and said, “Miram’s dad is going to jail tonight. He told her to take care of herself and her mum.”
All of us froze. We didn’t know what to say. What to think. Finally, one of the girls blurted out, “Why is her dad going to jail?”
#4 said, “I didn’t ask. And I don’t want to know. But Miram must be feeling really sad. I didn’t know what to say to her when she told me that.”
On another occasion, #4 asked me for money to buy a calculator for Math. It cost more than $100 and she felt bad that I had to fork out the money. She shared with us that she had a classmate who is feeling the pinch of this extra expense as she has been taking care of herself since Sec 1 and who works during the weekends and pays for her own needs.
She doesn’t take anything for granted anymore and when she askes me for her weekly allowance, she gives me a discount and says “Mum, this week I won’t be spending so much so give me less.” Although she finds school work very hard to understand, she is good with her hands and dreams of the day she can have her own accessory line and is able to provide for us.
Having this one child in a neighbourhood school with friends who have real struggles have opened the eyes of all the other siblings.
I’ve also heard from teachers that it is not only in the neighbourhood schools that children end up with bad company. Even in the so-called “better” schools, students do get into trouble, be it in boys schools, mixed schools and even in all-girls schools.
The stories that surround our teenagers can get pretty chilling. As parents, we should aim to build our children up with good moral values, which provides them a strong foundation to know right from wrong and be able to make wise decisions and stand by the values they believe in, instead of trying to shield them too much.
We can only do our best as parents. Sometimes, despite trying very hard to raise them well, they still end up giving us endless nights of worry. All we can do is to ride out the storm with patience and love.