Reading about the Primary 5 boy who committed suicide over his results and the two students from a top JC who ended their lives a few months ago, discussions about our highly stressful education system have been raging. I feel heavy hearted, because for every case we hear about, there are many more suicide attempts and distress signals which go unheard.
We all want the best for our children, and as parents with pre-school children, what can we do to give them a headstart without giving them unnecessary stress?
The solution is not pumping them with tuition. Amidst the proliferation of Primary 1 prep classes, experts warn against pre-teaching content and concepts which will be covered in Primary 1.
Dr Nimala Karuppiah, an early childhood and special needs education lecturer at the National Institute of Education, said that these classes may “over-prepare” young children for primary school. They may become bored and uninterested in learning. Once that happens, it is difficult to make them love learning again,” she says.
However, we recognise that the transition from pre-school to primary school is significant, and there are many areas we do need to prepare our children in, to ensure a smooth transition.
|Getting ready for P1
Ask any parent with a primary school kid (or 5, like me) and he or she will be able to tell you that navigating primary school requires more than just being able to sit down with your books.
In a normal school day, they need to be able to pack their school bags according to the timetable, copy down homework in their homework diaries, start on their homework at the right time, communicate important information, remember to ask parents to sign consent forms, learn their spelling, pay attention in class, follow instructions, obey rules, wait their turn, adapt to change, buy food from the canteen, make new friends, handle disappointments, and so much more.
These are categorised as Executive Functioning skills. Instead of hoping that they will somehow ‘get it’, these skills can be improved with direct teaching. We had an interesting conversation amongst a group of teachers. The secondary school teachers assumed these skills were taught at the primary levels, while the primary school teachers expected P1 kids to come equipped with these “common sense” traits.
The fact is, during our generation, we picked these skills up via incidental learning. These days, children are receiving less face-to-face contact, supervision and support from both parents and teachers. Coupled with more demands placed on them, that is where the breakdown happens and many of these skills are not developed in children by the time they enter formal schooling at age 7.
Before they embark on their primary school journey, teaching children How to learn in a What to learn culture will go a long way towards helping them achieve their potential.
In our Primary 1 Prep camps, we cover the basics of Executive Functioning skills such as task initiation, organisation, planning and prioritising, flexibility, strengthening sustained attention, problem-solving, improving working memory and impulse control, amongst others.
By equipping them with skills and strategies which they can harness for all subjects, they will be able to handle the demands of our curriculum and forge ahead over the years. We want to give them that learning edge.
At each age level, students are expected to cope with an increase in workload and independence, and without a firm foundation and proper system, we may see a drop in performance, which usually becomes apparent at Primary 3 or 4.
Recent studies show that all children stand to benefit from developing these executive functioning skills, and school becomes less overwhelming and more manageable. We teach them how to plan their activities, make schedules, get started, and see them through. The goal is to gradually fade supervision and increase self-reliance.
|#5’s homework (P3)
In our fast-changing world, it is not enough to be book-smart. On top of these practical strategies, we hope to inculcate in them a growth mindset, where they are not afraid of challenges, see failure as a learning experience and have the resilience to keep persevering.
Whether they are eager or anxious in moving to a big school, this is the best time to frame primary school in a positive light. The role of an educator or parent as a mediator is very powerful, but often overlooked. Our teachers stand as a mediator to frame, interpret and draw attention to what the child is about to learn or experience, benefiting a lifetime of learning.
As we equip them with the necessary skills, we want our K2s to be excited about embarking on this new phase of their lives, taking pride in their work and taking ownership of their learning.
The gift we wish to give every child who comes through our doors is the knowledge that they are able. That they have it in them and can succeed in what they set their minds on, no matter how many times they may fail.
They will keep going. They will never give up.
And that, is the hallmark of a Little Executive.
|P1 Prep Class
This year-end school holidays, we are bringing back our extremely well-received Astronaut camp, for K1 to P4 children. More details about the activities we did in a review by Debra, mum of Ryan (N2), about Astro Daryl’s great adventure by A Pancake Princess, A P2 child –Dana’s experience of learning Executive Functioning skills, and how we incorporate the Growth Mindset while the kids are having fun! The kids said it was the best camp ever, and some wished the camp lasted the whole year and they could come here every day.
Astronaut Training Camp: 13-16 December 2016
9am – 12pm: K1 – P2
2pm – 5pm: P1 – P4
The kids who have enjoyed Astronaut Training camp are looking forward to our Dinosaur camp which promises to be just as exciting, as we trace how dinosaurs lived through the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceons periods, while learning about evolution. This camp also highlights inductive and deductive reasoning skills, sequencing and problem-solving abilities, and is suitable for N2 – P4 children.
Dino Discovery Camp: 29 November – 2 December 2016
9am – 12pm: N2 – K2
2pm – 5pm: P1 – P4
~ www.mummyweeblog.com – a blog on parenting 6 kids in Singapore ~