School Stories #13:Tuition – First line of attack?

I had the most amusing conversation with #2’s classmate, C. She has been asking #2 to enrol in her Math tuition but #2 told her that I’m not allowing it at the moment, but will consider it next year when they are in Secondary 4.

C called me to try and convince me herself. She spoke with such urgency and couldn’t believe how a parent would not immediately sign their child up for tuition if they could afford it.

These were her arguments:

  • CA2 is coming up very soon. She is only scoring around 50-60 marks. What are we waiting for?
  • Another classmate who just joined managed to pull up her grade from C to B. The tutor is very good and we will definitely see improvement.
  • She needs to get her foundation strong if not it will be very difficult next year to catch up and get an A.
  • They have 8 subjects to concentrate on next year, and it would be too stressful if many subjects are weak.

I found the conversation highly amusing because the roles were reversed! A child was trying to convince a classmate’s mother of the necessity of tuition.

Beyond that, I was struck by C’s genuine concern for my daughter. What a good friend she was! I told #2 that it is hard to find such caring friends these days as kids seem to have a ‘better for you, worse for me’ mentality.

However, I was somewhat perturbed that tuition was seen by most children in Singapore as a norm, an expected part of school life, the right of a student.

I replied that I whole-heartedly agreed with all her points. However, I explained that tuition should not be seen as an easy way out.

Not doing well? Tuition!

Tuition is a privilege, not a given.

The given is that the child puts in her best effort to listen in class, finish all the requisite homework, approach the teacher for help if she doesn’t understand, and keep practicing.

And if after all these, she is still not performing, then, and only then, should tuition be considered.

Knowing her, #2 must have been either daydreaming, or was not motivated to put in enough effort for her Math. If she was able to score A* for Math in PSLE without any tuition, I am sure she is capable of achieving better results, and should not be allowed to be spoon-fed by tuition at this stage.

I also explained to C that there are sacrifices and priorities that go behind a decision to allow for tuition, especially in a big family like ours.

As the location is rather inconvenient, I have to send her, wait around for 2 hours, and pick her back. That means I will not be able to spend the time doing something more productive with Kate or the other kids, not to mention the stress of driving in peak hour traffic.

I quipped that since the tutor was so amazing, I’m sure #2 would be able to score an A if I signed her up 6 months prior to the O levels. They felt I was pushing it, but I recounted the story of how I went from an F9 to an A1 for my O level Math with 5 days of tuition. Yes, I had a pretty astounding tutor. Who happened to be my best friend’s mum. Who offered me the tuition free because she felt sorry for me.

Besides time and effort, there is also the financial consideration. Could the money spent be put to better use? #2 really wants to go to Canada to visit her good friend and I told her that if she achieves the goal I set for her, I would take her there.

I would much rather use the money for a nice trip together than spend it on tuition, as I want the children to learn that money is finite and the way we spend it should reflect our beliefs and priorities.

There was a pause on the other end. C was dumbfounded. It never occurred to her what went behind parents providing tuition for their children.

In secondary school, before throwing them the life-line of tutors, I encourage them to study with their classmates and help one another to revise, so that those strong in certain subjects can teach the others and vice versa.

Our home is always open to them, and they have learnt that cooperation is better and way more fun than competition. Besides, by teaching their peers, it helps to reinforce what they have learnt. It really is a win-win situation. The kids also learn that everyone is gifted differently and no one should feel inferior or superior to others.

Besides, I don’t want them to be reliant on tuition because when they enter polytechnic or university, no one is going to sit by their side and spoon feed them.

The big question remains: Is 1 year enough to chase up? Well, maybe not. But I have to draw the line somewhere.

If I was wiling to pump money, time and effort to send her all over the place for tuition from the time she was in Sec 1, I would definitely expect her to churn out the As. The expectations would escalate, and so would the stress.

It’s just unfortunate that even though we have a world class education, it is still not able to prepare the majority of our children adequately for the national exams without external help.

I have accepted that reality and factored it into my overall strategy.

I am not willing to let tuition run amok in our lives because it is all too easy to be sucked in to this whole ‘better not lose out’ mentality and be blinded to the opportunity cost and toil it will take on the children and our family.

School Stories:

#1 – When your son gets into fights in school
#2 – My son the loan shark
#3 – So kids can’t play once they start school?

#11 – How #2 topped her level in English
#12 – DSA. Yet another initiative parents have warped

~ – a blog on parenting 6 kids in Singapore ~

School stories #11: How #2 topped her level in English

Some friends were asking me how did #2 manage to top her level in English? Well, the answer is simple. Don’t go to a top school!

Ok, seriously, the answer IS simple, and it spells R.E.A.D.

When she was in P1, I was at a school function and a tutor in her 50s told us that for English, it was way better to get our kids to spend time reading than to do assessment books. I went back and told #2 to start reading everyday, and that was what she did. She never had any tuition for English except 3 months before the PSLE (which on hindsight I should have saved my money on as she was too set in her ways to change the way she wrote her compositions).

If you have no clue what books to let your daughters read, these were some of her favourite books when she was growing up.

  • Milly Molly Mandy series (Joyce Lankester Brisley)
  • Naughtiest Girl series (Enid Blyton)
  • Mary Poppins (P.L. Travers)
  • Charlotte’s Web (E.B. White)

  • St Clare’s series (Enid Blyton)
  • Pippi Longstocking (Astrid Lindgren)
  • Matilda (Roald Dahl)

  • Malory Towers series (Enid Blyton)
  • Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (Roald Dahl)

  • Nicholas series (Goscinny & Sempe) This is a popular French classic about a schoolboy and his antics.
  • Totto-chan (Tetsuko Kuroyanagi)

  • Anne of Green Gables series (L.M. Montgomery)
  • The Mysterious Benedict Society series (Trenton Lee Stewart)
  • Chicken Soup for the Kid’s Soul series (Jack Canfield & Mark Victor Hansen)


  • The Twilight Saga (Stephenie Meyer)
  • The Hunger Games series (Suzanne Collins)

By P6, she started to choose her own books and during that year, the Twilight Saga was very popular. These days they are into the Hunger Games series. I have not read either so I can’t comment on whether they are good in terms of content and values.

What about boys?

For my son, he enjoyed reading different books from his sisters. When he was younger, he liked Dr Seuss, Curious George and Roald Dahl. In P1 and P2, the only thing he read was Young Scientist and Adventure Box (ordered via his school). Now that he is in P3, he is into Geronimo Stilton, like most of his friends. Perhaps you have some good recommendations for me! Books that boys would like which have good content and language, and have some pictures.

Sane tip: Getting your kids to love reading is one of the best things you can cultivate in them. Not only are their minds being opened to new ideas, new possibilities and new worlds, but it gives you hours of silence in the house! Perfect.

Save tip: The thing about #2 was that she was happy to read and re-read her books. She must have read all these books more than 10 times each! She was also very obedient in the sense that she would read whatever book I gave her at least once, even those which she felt was boring.

When I had my first few kids, I was too busy to make trips to the library and I had the impression that the books there were sub-standard. After having more kids (and a smaller budget for books), I decided to check out the public libraries and I was so impressed! They are well-stocked with good books and I have since stopped patronising the bookshops.

Related posts:

Here’s the story of our journey into reading. When #1 was about to enter P1, she couldn’t even read 3 letter words like “cat” and “dog”. I was stunned when the other kids could read words like “wisdom”, “understand” and “praise”. Now I know better, and I read to Kate daily.

Here’s many more good tips on how to go about reading to younger children.

School Stories:

#1 – When your son gets into fights in school
#2 – My son the loan shark
#3 – So kids can’t play once they start school?

~ – a blog on parenting 6 kids in Singapore ~

School Stories #8: Paying tutors $250 an hour to do assignments?

This article came out in yesterday’s “The New Paper”. It reported that:

“Some parents are paying up to $250 an hour for a tutor to come over to their homes. It is not for tuition lessons. Instead, it is for the tutors to do their children’s homework. For these parents, it is something that cannot be helped, they say. Their children are inundated with so much tuition, co-curricular activities and school assignments that they are struggling to cope.”

The reporter who contacted such a tuition teacher goes on to say, “If the assignments are more complex and require research, he ups the price to between $500 and $750 an hour.”


Photo: The New Paper
I do agree with the parents that in some instances, the children have insufficient time to fit in tuition, CCAs, homework and projects and still get an adequate amount of sleep. This happened to #1 during her PSLE year. She had a copious amount of homework and even though she was an efficient worker, she ended up going to bed very late.

I told her it was important that she had proper rest and to leave her homework half completed. I wrote a note to her English teacher and explained my reasons for allowing her to do that, and that I would take responsibility for it. #1 got really stressed and told me that her teacher was very fierce and would scold the students until they cried. She refused to go to bed and in the end, I had to help her finish some of her homework.

I still remember what it was. She had to look through the dictionary and write out the meanings of the words. She picked that out for me to do because she said that her teacher does not mark it, but they had to show that it was done. Everyday they were given about 5 pages of that, on top of variables like comprehension, composition and grammar cloze. In addition, they were required to watch the News which they would be quizzed on the next day. And that was just for English.

I think for starters, what needs to be looked at are 3 simple areas to ease the homework crunch on our kids:

  1. Better coordination between subject teachers. (Some schools have a simple but excellent system whereby the daily homework is written on the board, so that all teachers for that class will be able to see how much homework has already been given out.)
  2. Students should learn to have better time management and to work more efficiently. (This is where I can see a huge variation between the kids. Some will whip out their homework between a change of lessons, and are able to do their homework very quickly. Other kids take a long time to eat their lunch, shower, and get easily distracted while doing their homework.)
  3. Something has to be done with our nation’s over-reliance on tuition. The time spent on travelling and attending extra tuition is significant, which leaves the child with insufficient time to complete school homework.

This article gives us much food for thought. Where do we draw the line between telling children that they have to finish their homework themselves, and assisting them when the amount of homework given is unrealistic? I know of many parents who get the older siblings to help out, or the parents themselves will do parts of their children’s projects.

What message are we sending our young about what is important? That only homework which would affect their academic grades are worth doing? In the article, a parent mentioned that she hired a tutor to complete superfluous assignments such as “a project on volunteerism where the students had to dissect the pros and cons of being a volunteer.”

School Stories:

#1 – When your son gets into fights in school
#2 – My son the loan shark
#3 – So kids can’t play once they start school?

~ – a blog on parenting 6 kids in Singapore ~

School Stories #7: Who has an obsession with TUITION?

I love our current Education minister. His new road map is truly visionary. He says that:

“Parents would have to give up their obsession with grades; employers would have to hire based on skills, not degrees; and teachers should strive for an all-round development of their students.”

And how does he propose we do that?

“One is to go beyond learning for grades to learning for mastery of skills.”

“Second, develop a lifelong learning habit among Singaporeans so that they are equipped for changing economic realities.”

“The third is to move from learning for work to learning for life, so that a student develops interests beyond work and a commitment to serve society.”

I am excited to see what his ministry is going to roll out to make these a reality. He is indeed courageous to take on this path which “no other country has travelled”. I am firmly behind you, Mr Heng!!

One area they are looking to tackle is THE TUITION PROBLEM. Mr Png Eng Huat (MP for Hougang) asked for a survey to get to the bottom of Singaporeans’ obsession with tuition, joining at least three other MPs in warning about over-reliance on tuition.

Obsession with tuition?

Why does it sound like we parents have nothing else better to do with our money?

Besides a small percentage of ‘tiger mum’ parents who are giving their kids tuition even though they are already scoring all As and A*s, for most of us, it is borne out of necessity.

Here’s how my kids ended up having tuition.

For my eldest, I did not know much about the whole primary school scene when she entered Primary 1. The hubs and I chose the closest primary school to our home and left her in the good hands of the school (or so we thought). I did not give her tuition from P1 to P5 as I expected her teachers to prepare her sufficiently for the exams. The only tuition she tried out was 6 months at Berries, a group tuition centre for Chinese, when she was in P4. As I did not see any improvement in her grades, I withdrew her.

I had a shock of my life when she failed her Math and Science at the end of P5. How was she ready for PSLE?

I scrambled to ask around for recommendations and realised that everyone we knew gave their kids tuition. We had no choice but to pay through our noses for private tuition to help her plug the gaps.

In a mere 8 months, she managed to soar from failing grades to score 4 As with an aggregate of 240 for her PSLE.

For #2, she has always been a very consistent student probably because she’s a very obedient child. From the time she was in P1, I told her that she had to pay attention to her teachers and listen in class. And that was what she did. This traditional method of teaching also suits her learning style so she had no problems with school work.

Since she was not failing any subjects I held out giving her any tuition. It was only after her P6 mid-year exams where she scored mostly Bs that I decided she needed some extra help to tackle the papers. I gave her tuition for all subjects but on hindsight, 4 months was too short for her to get used to her tutors’ style of teaching to really have an impact on her grades. In the end, she scored 230, which I felt was below her potential.

For #3, she is a visual learner and a hands-on approach suits her better. It was no surprise that she always did badly academically even though it is obvious to all of us that she is extremely bright.

I made the decision to start her on English and Chinese tuition from P5 because she was very weak in both subjects. Thank goodness I found tutors who were creative and managed to make the lessons fun and engaging. I added on Math and Science tuition for her in P6 because she barely managed to pass the exams.

As they were all one-to-one lessons, she picked up very quickly because the tutors could accommodate to her learning style. In the end, she enjoyed her lessons very much and managed to score 229. With such an aggregate, she is now in a school which suits her very well and she loves school. They use different modalities to learn, such as group discussions, project work and lively debates in class. If I had not given her tuition at all, she would likely have ended up in normal academic or normal technical which is a wrong fit for her.

What do these examples show?

That if we leave our kids to the education system, it may not be able to do justice to their capabilities.

Now that I am more aware of the limitations of our education system, I am keeping a finger on the pulse to monitor their progress. And if they are not learning what they are supposed to be learning, I have to supplement it with tuition.

The tuition industry has ballooned into a billion dollar industry, perhaps it’s time to acknowledge what it does right.

Most tuition centres have class sizes with a maximum of 12 to 15 students. 40 in a class is just too big a class for effective learning. If only we could shrink our classes to 25 or 30 students.

Tutors are paid to teach. Not to run events, chaperon kids to competitions, deal with parents’ complains or attend endless meetings. Perhaps a teacher’s main job should be to teach as well.

Such a radical road map is what Singapore needs at this crossroads. I just hope that it will be rolled out with urgency. If a new minister gets rotated for this portfolio, who knows what vision he might hold?

I certainly hope things will be shaken up. Currently I have no choice but to give my kids tuition in their P6 (or perhaps even P5) year. And it looks like they might also need tuition in certain subjects in the Sec 4 year, such as in ‘A’ Maths, Chemistry, Physics or Chinese.

Let us all – parents, teachers and employers rally together and embrace this new vision to move the next generation towards a more meaningful education to face the future.

I can’t wait to save money by eliminating the need for tuition.

School Stories:

#1 – When your son gets into fights in school
#2 – My son the loan shark
#3 – So kids can’t play once they start school?

Related posts:

6 tips to Really prepare your child for P1

6 things to do in the PSLE year

~ – a blog on parenting 6 kids in Singapore ~

Countdown… 3 months to the PSLE

We are on to the last leg of preparations before the PSLE. So what’s my strategy? Keep nagging her to study more? Stop allowing her to go out and play? Force her to go for expensive tuitions that guarantee good results which last for hours? Nope, nope, and nope. It’s much simpler (for me, and for her) than that. Here are 6 tips for the crucial last few months:

1. Give small incentives to motivate her

I had feedback from her Chinese tutor that she has not been doing her homework and she gave the excuse that she has too much school homework and has no time for tuition homework. I observed her for a week and realised that was not the case. She was spending too much time reading on her iPad and doing unconstructive things like packing her room and wasting her time doing what-not. I figured it was because she disliked doing Chinese compositions and comprehensions so she came up with excuses to avoid doing them.

While we were out shopping, she saw a bag that she liked. I normally don’t buy them things besides during Christmas and on their birthdays. However, I made a deal with her that if I were to buy her the bag, she had to finish all her tutor’s homework from now on. She asked me, “How many more lessons?” I told her she had roughly 12 more lessons before the PSLE and that would be the end of tuition till the next major exam. “Deal” she beamed. Her tutor said that she has since kept to her word.

2. Limit gadget use

After all the issues with the 2 older ones about their addiction to gadgets, I knew I had to put a stop to the younger ones before they get sucked in too. It was an opportune time to restrict #3’s iPad and iPhone use as I realised she was also spending way too much time on them. Her class has a group whatsapp and it beeps incessantly with unimportant texts from her classmates which distracts her while she is doing her work. I took away her phone and told her she can only have it when she is out and needs to be contactable.

3. Get feedback from tutors

This year, she has tuition for 3 subjects to plug the gaps – English, Chinese and Math. I have not given her Science tuition as her school teacher seems to be doing an excellent job with the entire class. She also makes an effort to come back on Saturdays to give them supplementary classes where she gets them to watch good videos to enhance their understanding. Her aunt is tutoring her in Math and I chat with her about her progress every 2 or 3 weeks. Sometimes, these quick chats throw up little problems here and there which we are able to address easily. For example, her aunt mentioned that because her Math tuition is back to back with her supplementary classes, she is brain-drained and can’t concentrate fully. We solved the problem by giving her a nice little break in between. I would pick her up after class, take her out for lunch to give her mind a rest before heading over to her aunt’s place.

4. Encourage physical activity

Even though I don’t give her any additional stress at home, her school teachers are piling on the homework and going into overdrive as Prelims are round the corner. It is all the more necessary for her to relieve the stress and what better way than exercise. I’ve heard stories of children suddenly going blank during the PSLE exam due to excessive pressure. The good thing is that suddenly at this age of 12, she is getting more conscious of her body image and is motivated to exercise. Which is great as I don’t have to nag her to go out and get some fresh air. Every evening, she will either cycle around our neighbourhood or go for a jog.

5. One-on-one time

It is important, especially in a big family like ours, to block out time for her to hear if she has any problems or issues she is facing which might be impeding her ability to study properly. It is also good to give her special attention at this period of time because when a child is happy, they are able to concentrate and absorb better. (This is true. There is scientific evidence to show that kids who study under negative emotions are less likely to retain what they learn.)

6. Adequate sleep

I’m glad she is still able to stick to a 8.30pm bedtime on most nights. I truly believe they have to be well-rested to be able to focus well in school the next day. Somehow, #3 has no issues with not being able to finish her homework before bedtime. She is able to work smart and tries to complete as much of her homework as she can in school. I was curious how she is able to do this as I remembered #1 had a ton of homework during p6. She told me that there are several pockets of time which is just ‘wasted’, such as in between lesson changes, or when the teacher is settling admin matters or scolding some students. She will whip out her homework and quickly finish them. She even had time to bake her teacher cookies for her birthday!

Sane tip: Although the PSLE is looming near, I don’t feel the least bit stressed. I do the best I can as a mum, she does the best she can for herself, what more is there to ask for? Even at this juncture, the kids are picking up on what our underlying values are and I don’t want them to get the wrong impression that studying is just to pass exams instead of the acquisition of knowledge, discipline and perseverance. Nor that family time, respect or responsibility can be thrown out the window just because a major exam is approaching.

Save tip: The above 6 tips don’t cost very much.

For 6 things to do in the PSLE year, click here.

For 6 tips to choose a secondary school that is right for your child, click here.

On how crazy the PSLE year can get, click here.

With the proposed change in grading, “Who IS smarter?”

~ – a blog on parenting 6 kids in Singapore ~

Ed-Quest – Mandarin Enrichment Centre

Typical of many families these days, my kids are hardly exposed to Mandarin outside of their school classrooms. It is no surprise that they end up failing their Chinese year after year. I asked around and was recommended some of the big name enrichment chains. I signed the 3 older ones up for a year but found no improvement in their grades. Now my strategy is to give them one-on-one tuition during their P6 year and so far, the 2 older ones managed to get an ‘A’ with 1 year of chinese tuition.

When we were extended an invitation by Ed-Quest for #5 to attend a Mandarin Enrichment holiday program for a week, I was apprehensive to send him as he already dreads Mandarin lessons in school and I wanted him to have a good break and enjoy the June holidays. I glanced at the program and was surprised that it looked interesting and very hands-on. I finally decided to let him join as #3 and #4 were also going to be tied up with school for that week. In the end, I’m glad he went, as it was a fun way to expose him to the language and he found out that Mandarin doesn’t have to be dry and boring.

Having fun making lanterns
In his 1 week holiday program, they did lots of interesting activities like wrapping rice dumplings, cooking jiaozi, folding dragon boats, just to name a few. I like that they adopt the approach that Mandarin is not merely an academic subject but a language that is rich in history and cultural roots. As this week’s theme was on food, they explored the food items with their five senses, then created and tasted what they cooked. As their interest was piqued, they were more interested to learn the related descriptive words. The holiday program is catered to children between the ages of 5 and 8 years old. The older kids were exposed to more phrases and idioms, and they also wrote poems and short essays about their experiences thereafter.

Tea appreciation
#5 got his good buddy to join him for the holiday program, and when I picked them up, I asked Wu laoshi for feedback and if they behaved well. She said they enjoyed themselves and mentioned that #5 is a visual learner. I quipped, “He hardly understands Mandarin, so he watches to know what to do!” I probed on about his behaviour as his school teacher keeps telling me what a naughty boy he is in school. Wu laoshi mentioned that he is rather mischievous and always tries to push the boundaries. He would also make jokes constantly and tries to do things his own way. Spot on. She deciphered him in 1 lesson. I asked her if she was able to handle him and what methods she used because his school teacher was at her wit’s end.

She shared with me that she did not scold him but was very firm with him and patiently explained why his actions are wrong. Perhaps he can tell from her tone that she is not merely nagging him, but was genuinely concerned about him. She also explained to me that I have to break this behaviour if not he thinks that it is acceptable to play up in every class. Needless to say, I was extremely impressed with Wu laoshi. I relayed my feedback to the management and they told me that they believe in hiring very experienced and competent teachers.

Making jiaozi

I was surprised that #5 actually looked forward to going for the classes and Wu laoshi told me that he started behaving really well and even helped the younger boys. One of the days, they were taught how to make jiaozi (meat dumpling) and she noticed that #5 was fumbling and was probably on the verge of rebelling or giving up. She explained to him why the edges should be tucked and sealed and he went on to improvise and made a whole dozen! I’m glad laoshi didn’t insist on him making it that one and only way and she allowed him leeway for his creativity.

His UFO-looking jiaozi

Ed-Quest has been around for more than a decade, and with Mrs Patricia Koh (founder of the first Pat’s Schoolhouse) as Education Director, they firmly believe in bringing the language alive and making it relevant to the children. My sentiments exactly. If only our schools can adopt this approach, along with having smaller classes, many of our kids won’t be struggling with the language.

The fees for their holiday program are at $250 for 1 week, 9am – 12noon. It runs through to July to cater to the international students as well. Do contact them at 6356 8186 for more details. In addition, they have regular classes for both children and adults.

Sane tip: I’m glad #5 had a very positive first Mandarin enrichment exposure. I’m now all for exposing them to Mandarin in fun and interesting ways. If they can slowly build up their vocabulary and listen to the language spoken more, it wouldn’t be so tough on them during the PSLE year. Ok, here’s my new strategy: Let them join fun Mandarin lessons during the school holidays (I get to have a break too!), listen to some Mandarin CDs, and give them private tuition during P6.

Save tip: I believe in giving my kids quality extra academic classes. No point wasting the child’s time and my time sending them and put them in any enrichment classes from P1 just to make myself feel secured that I’m doing something extra. I always follow up on their progress and ascertain if there is any improvement in grades. If there isn’t, I will stop after 3-4 months because I believe that if the child finds the right fit of the teacher and the method, we will definitely see an improvement in their grades or at least in their interest in learning that subject.


177A Thomson Road
Goldhill Shopping Centre
Singapore 307625

Tel: 63568186

Disclaimer: We were sponsored this holiday program. All opinions are my own.

~ – a blog on parenting 6 kids in Singapore ~

6 things to do in the PSLE year

#3 is taking her PSLE this year. Her grades have a lot of room for improvement,  as she scored mostly Cs. However, we are all very excited as she has proven (for English) that with the right teacher or tutor, she is able to jump from a C to an A. So this is our game plan to tackle her PSLE.

1) Set a Goal

The first step is for her to have a goal which she sets herself, not mummy. This will ensure that she wants to achieve it as it means something to her. Her goal is to be able to get into #2’s secondary school, and she will have to work very hard to achieve the necessary grades for admission.

Another one doing her PSLE

2) Engage a tutor if necessary

We have started her on English and Chinese tuition since the middle of P5 as these are her 2 weakest subjects (every year, she barely manages to scrape a pass for both). For Science, she has a teacher who is new to this school, but she has a track record of getting 34 of her students to achieve A* for Science last year! After hearing from #3 how strict she is, I like the sound of this teacher, and I think #3 is in good hands. However, I will still monitor her progress and hire a tutor if need be. #1 has decided to tutor her for Math, so we’ll see how that goes. She may need a tutor down the road if #1 gets too busy with her own ‘O’ level revisions.

3) Early bedtime

We’ll try to stick to a 8.30pm bedtime on weekdays unless there’s way too much homework to be completed that day. Might not be feasible though. Today, she came home with a ton of homework, and it’s just the 1st week of school! For English, she has to read 10 compositions, complete 1 composition by the weekend, learn her spelling list of 106 words, and do some grammar worksheets. She also has Science and Chinese homework. I believe sufficient sleep is vital for her to be alert to learn well in school the next day. I guess she has to learn to work smart and work fast!

4) Destress & decompress 

During the P6 year, the students are pushed to work very hard in school and are swarmed with homework. She will need time to de-stress everyday and I think for her, that is best done by playing with Kate!

5) Family activities

This year, we will still carry on with our family activities as per normal even with 2 kids taking major exams. I have heard of families where the kids in their PSLE year are not allowed to go out once the Chinese new year festivities are over. Well, I think the kids do need a break and even I would go crazy being kept at home for a year! Besides, the message I want to get across to them is that yes, academic achievement is very important, but not at the expense of family life. We’ll just have to strive to achieve some sort of balance.

6) Communicate, communicate, communicate. 

I will take every opportunity to communicate with her teachers. We need to have a balance between school and home. 2 years ago, when #2 was taking her PSLE, she hardly had any homework at all. Finally, when I spoke to her teacher, I realised that they didn’t want to stress the students further as the parents were already going overboard with tuition and home assessments, and the teachers were afraid that the students would break under the tremendous pressure. There was a boy in her class who scored 100 for every Math exam. He revealed to the class that his mum makes him do 6 hours of Math work everyday! For us, we were relying only on school as #2 did not have any tuition at all, so in the end her teacher gave her some individual homework. 

I will also be communicating with her tutors constantly to see if their approach is working and if we are seeing improvement. And I have to be the bridge between her school teachers and her tutors so they would know how to supplement the knowledge needed. 

And finally, I have to communicate with #3 even more frequently to know what is going on in school, if she is feeling the stress, and if there are any other issues bothering her. If I take all these little steps, the PSLE year can actually be quite an adventure where she will learn how to work hard, but where the journey will still be enjoyable. 

Sane tip: I noticed how a lot of parents go into overdrive in the P6 year. All the kids do is to go for tuition, do endless assessment books, and they are not allowed to play. This makes the kids detest exams which is not how I want them to feel about education. So after having 2 kids go through the PSLE, I have come up with this simple strategy which hopefully will bear much fruit! 

Save tip: I have heard of many tuition teachers who can ‘guarantee’ good results, and their fees are exorbitant. Their methods are through drilling and I’m glad I don’t feel the need to sign my kids up for one of those as I believe learning is for the acquisition of knowledge, not just to pass a bunch of exams. 

For what I expect out of a good tutor, click here.

~  mummy wee – a blog on parenting 6 kids in Singapore  ~

Another award for #3

I was indeed surprised to find yet another award for #3 in the mail!

This time, it is a Good Progress Award. All the years, she has always been at the tail end of her class, but this semester, thanks to her English and Chinese tutors who tailored the lessons to her learning style, she became interested in her school work and started to pay more attention in class as well. 

But what made me most happy was that during the exam period, #4 asked if I could sit with her to supervise her revision like all her friends’ mummies did. Before I could open my mouth, #3 told her: “Don’t you know what mummy is trying to teach us? To be independent and self-motivated so that even when she is not with us, we will know what to do. If you need to rely on mummy being next to you, then next time how?” Wow. I was more proud of her for having managed to internalise what I have taught them than her improved grades per se. Ah, this time, I deserve to give myself a little pat on the back 😉

~ – a blog on parenting 6 kids in Singapore ~