Life Lesson #10: Why we went on holiday just before the PSLE

When my friends heard that we were going to Melbourne just 1 week before the PSLE, they were stunned and laughed that only I will do such a thing. This trip was to attend a cousin’s wedding, and it was the first time that the whole extended family was going on a vacation together. I was in a dilemma. My first reaction was that #1 and #3 should stay behind to study for their exams with my mum taking care of them. However after giving it some thought, I decided to allow #3 to go. For #1, as she is already 16, I gave her the choice to make her own decision. In the end, after much deliberation and after hearing all the exciting plans we had, #1 decided to join in, even though this trip was 3 weeks before her ‘O’ level exams. Here’s 6 reasons why I allowed them to go.

1) Values

With all my major decisions, I always think back to the root, of what values we are conveying to our children. This trip to Melbourne was a once in a lifetime opportunity where the entire extended family made an effort to celebrate the happy occasion with the couple and to spend time together with their grandparents, aunts and uncles and cousins. If I had not allowed them to go, what message would I be giving them? That the exams are so important, to the point that it takes precedence over everything else, including family life? I really wasn’t comfortable with that notion so I thought of what I could do to ensure that she could go yet still be able to handle her exams.

2) Her grades shouldn’t be affected too much

4 years ago, I had already tried this ‘vacation before the exams experiment’. #1 had just finished her PSLE and that was a big milestone and opportune time to take the kids back to Australia where #1 and #2 were born. I didn’t want to wait for the year end holidays as the weather would be too hot and the air fares more expensive (multiply it by 7!) So I decided to leave the day after her PSLE and return the day before the other kids’ year end exams. At that time, #2 was in Primary 4 and #3 was in Primary 2. Pretty risk free years for experiment. Friends were already shocked then that I took them on holiday during the 1 week marking break which was meant for their revision.

The verdict? Their language papers were not affected at all, as I had predicted. The only thing where they slipped by a few marks was in Math. This was because without the practice, they were not as quick. So this round, I told #3 that if I allowed her to go, she would have to give it all she’s got when she’s back.

3) She’s on track

#3 has improved by leaps and bounds since the beginning of P6 and I’m already very proud of her hard work and effort this past year. She has always had a weak foundation academically and failed almost all her subjects in P5. Unbelievably high percentage of relief teachers since kindergarten (bad luck), never been read to (my fault – too busy), hyperactive child (our traditional method of teaching does not suit her tactile/hands-on style of learning). She said to me just the other day, “Mum, I have never studied so hard in all of my past 5 years put together”. Anyway she shouldn’t be cramming everything in the last few weeks, and more importantly, I don’t want them to think that studying is for passing exams. It is for the acquisition of knowledge which should stay with them, not just facts to stuff into their memory to be regurgitated then forgotten.


4) Empower #1 to make her own decision

For #1, I did my own thinking first and was comfortable either if she went or if she stayed home to study. So I decided to allow her to make her own decision simply because I wanted her to take charge of her own decisions instead of being ready to lay the blame on someone else. See, I figured that if I didn’t allow her to go, next time when we reminisce about the trip or look at the family photos in which she was excluded, she might be resentful. But if I told her to go and it affected her results, she would be quick to put the blame on me for not being firm with her. I’m not bothered about being blamed, but I don’t want my kids growing up feeling like they are victims. Thinking that they have no control over their own decisions, which leads them to constantly blaming others for their failures. I’d rather them learn to make their own decisions, face the consequences and learn from the experiences.

5) That’s life 

Things do crop up at the last minute. Whether at work or in family life. I want to train them to be able to cope with whatever life throws at them. We shouldn’t let them learn that only if things go smoothly then can they succeed. On my part, I factored this trip into their schedule and informed her tutors way in advance. I also tried my best to eliminate any possible downside such as falling sick especially in such cold weather. To counter that, I made sure she slept at 8.30pm every night prior to our trip so she didn’t start off with a deficit in her immunity during this period. And on the trip, I got her to take naps in the car during the long drives as we slept late every night. Thankfully she didn’t fall ill.

6) Over-emphasis on PSLE

There’s too much emphasis placed on the PSLE which is totally out of proportion to the big picture. Yes, I do agree we are trying to get our kids into ‘good’ secondary schools mostly because we are afraid of the ‘bad influence’ in neighbourhood schools. However, at what cost? You might achieve your ‘goal’ and feel you have succeeded. But what of the child? Does she feel validated? Or does she feel that her self-worth is only based on her achievement in school, instead of being self-assured simply for being who she is. This will have far-reaching consequences which will affect her way into the future.

Trust me. You just have to explain to your child once, about how you expect her to study to the best of her ability and hopefully get into a good environment for the next 4 years of her school life, and to be able to get a sufficient score so that more schools of her choice would be open to her. They get it. After you have done that, stop harping on it and put the equilibrium right where the PSLE should not be at the centre of the family’s life, at the expense of everything else. You can read more about selecting secondary schools in, “6 tips to choose a secondary school that is right for your child”.

In the end, I am really glad the both of them joined us. They had so much fun and it is such experiences and memories which build up family ties and a sense of belonging.

Well, I said that their grades shouldn’t be affected much. Shouldn’t is the imperative word here. I’ll update you when her results are out 😉

Related posts:

To find out why I don’t put too much emphasis on the PSLE, read “So who’s smarter”.

Other life lessons (which I’ve learnt the hard way):

Life Lesson #2: Don’t over-sacrifice
Life Lesson #4: My bucket list
Life Lesson #6: Passion vs Family

~ – a blog on parenting 6 kids in Singapore ~

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