Friday, October 21, 2016

Preparing for Primary One - inculcating values

In two weeks’ time, we will be going for EV’s Primary One orientation. We’ll be buying uniforms, books, school bag, so on and so on, to prepare for her entry into Primary One (oh my!) in 2017. 
 
Yup, this mummy is feeling the jitters, as I’ve shared here. More so than EV, I think.
 
To be honest, we’ve kind of started to prepare her last year. Well, maybe some of you may think that we were being too ‘kiasu’ to have started to prepare her so early, that we are being ‘tiger parents’ in pushing EV too early. However, do hear us out.
 
We want EV to be prepared. Not overly prepared, but just enough so that she doesn’t get a shock to her system when she has to make the transition from a carefree preschool life to a ‘pressure cooker’ Primary school life. From three hours or so of learning and playing, to almost six hours of academic life. From a classroom setting where kids sit at round tables, to a typical classroom setting with the whiteboard in front and the teacher talking most of the time. She’ll have more tests and the academic demands will be so much higher. It’s a drastic culture change and we don’t want it to be a shock to her.
 
Hence, we are getting her prepared on two fronts: values and academic knowledge.

Values
I would lie if I said as parents, we are not concerned about Primary One. We are. We would ask ourselves, how can we prepare her for this milestone? How can we prepare her mentally and psychologically for it, and yet at the same time equip her with the skills to help her handle the changes more confidently, so that her self-esteem is not affected? 
 
In our opinion, the key is starting early, and inculcating in her values that can improve her preparedness, for Primary One and for the rest of her life. The key is to nurture values like responsibility, discipline, focus and determination in her, values that can last her a lifetime. 

Responsibility, Discipline, Focus and Determination
EV has to know that learning is her responsibility, a lifelong responsibility; teachers and parents can only guide. 
 
She must have the discipline to ensure that her responsibility is fulfilled and the work done, and know that work comes before play. Even if she would rather play, she must have the discipline to realise that she has to finish her work, and not just play away. 
 
She must be focused so that she is not distracted and will pay attention to finish her work in due time, and then play or do other hobbies. 
 
Equally important is her understanding that she must always try and always try her best. Nothing should deter her because as parents, we believe in her.
 
Even more important is her understanding that it is ok to fall, it is ok to be wrong, it is ok to fail. She must never give up. The important thing is she picks herself up, gets over it, analyses what went wrong and how she can do it right, learns from it, and then tries to do it better.

What do we do to try to instill these values?
At this stage in her preschool life, since the beginning of this year, she’s getting homework already. At first, we guide her as parents. We remind her to do them, and also sit next to her to guide her. Slowly, we let go, and empower her to do her homework on her own, telling her to come to us if she needs help. Sometimes she throws tantrums as she prefers to play, so we let her play a little more, but tell her that she must finish her work before she engages in even more play. We also explain to her her responsibility. Of course, it’s something that takes time to inculcate, especially at her age. However, I’m glad that she’s displaying more awareness that she needs to finish her homework. Increasingly, she insists on getting it done first, and that I think is a great start. Because that also shows that she is getting the discipline and focus. 
 
Sometimes, when faced with some seemingly difficult question, or a new piece of music, or a new kind of food, EV throws a tantrum and refuses to proceed. We always insist that she tries. We advise her not to make a judgement of her own ability, or how something is, even before she tries. 
 
Eventually, after much cajoling, she does try, and then she realises that the task was not that difficult after all, or the food was actually quite yummy. She gives this big smile, with a spark of happiness in her eyes, and realises that what she thought was difficult at first was actually, in her own words ‘easy peasy’. That’s when we reinforce to her the need to always try.
 
Even when she meets with a problem, we will always ask her to try and figure out a solution for herself. If she doesn’t do it right, she has to continue figuring out. We will step in only when we see that she really cannot figure it out, but we only give her tips rather than give her the answer. 
 
Hopefully, the value of learning from trying and making mistakes can be inculcated in her. After all, she has to learn that a problem is not a problem when there’s a solution to it.

That’s not all...
Of course, it’s not just these values we focus on. Everyday, we try to nurture her and AA into good, caring, confident individuals with their own opinions. Everyday presents many learning opportunities for them: the way they communicate with their friends, the way they need to know the importance of thinking through before impulsively saying something or behaving in a certain way, the way they present themselves in terms of manners and behaviours; the list is endless. We definitely recognise that building EV’s character, and AA’s character, is immensely important. They need to have soft skills to help them tackle the increasingly challenging society, because unlike in the past, academic excellence is no longer the only way to be successful. 
 
And we hope that our way of parenting, will help adequately prepare EV, and eventually AA, for her primary school journey, and beyond.

What else are we doing to prepare EV for her primary school journey? 
Stay tuned...
 
Preparing for Primary One

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