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“I Refuse to Define My Child by Her Grades,” A Singaporean Mum Speaks Out for Her Pri 1 Daughter

redwire-singapore-primary-1-girlYear-ends are usually emotional for me. As well as birthdays. And weddings. And soppy movies. And just about anything actually. But year-ends mostly. Well, and birthdays. And.. Ok, stop, collaborate and listen!

Yes as I was saying. If it’s not enough that the last month of the year is approaching, it’s also the final month of my 6-year old’s pre formal education days, as well as my 2.5 year old’s pre school days. So you can see how this is an extra special month for my delicate heart.

In recent weeks I’ve been giving a lot of thought as to what kind of parent I want to be, particularly on the kind of parent I want to be to a Primary 1 child.

Prior to Primary 1, I suppose it’s ok to kind of just drift along and go wherever the wind blows, and reactive parenting can still get one through, just like it did for me. But when formal education is involved, I see it as a time for me to decide what I really want to appear as to my daughters, and if I can live by my decision and bear the responsibility of that outcome.

I’m glad that Max and I both feel that we want our kids to enjoy their childhood; to have swimming lessons for example, because it’s a fun thing for them, and that it’s a good skill to have, not because we want them to train for the Olympics or simply to have some badge or certificate under their belt. In all that we do for our kids, we want it to be ruled by fun and interest; we want to give them opportunities to learn on their own.

We want to impress upon our children that academic results may be important, but there is so much more to life than school and assessments. Not that we want to teach our kids to be rebellious and disobey teachers because “my mummy says school isn’t everything!”, but more to instill the importance of an all-rounded life.

Why it is particularly pressing at this point in time for us to make a stand, is because we know that our choices, and our way of life, are not aligned with the choices of many, which would make us part of a very small minority.

Not that being part of a minority is anything bad. Just that there would be implications, and certain things that we might have to learn to live with.

In all honesty, I was all for the “I’m not going to help my kids in any way! Let them figure everything out on their own! It’s their future and they should be fully responsible for it!” camp.

All throughout K2, I had a chance to try that out. And as much as I tried, my friends, it just wasn’t possible. Because Poppy was given the task of a weekly journal to work on each weekend. I would have loved to leave her to sort it all out on her own but you know what? She couldn’t spell. And couldn’t find the right Chinese words to use. I figured the school’s objective was simply to get the kids introduced to the idea of homework, and that’s how poor ole Mama got roped into a half hour session a week of helping the 6-year old.

I could have saved myself a bunch of white hair if I had simply spelt everything out for her but I guided her with her spelling instead. Which, as parents will tell you, is possibly the biggest test of patience yet. We came to a point when Poppy would recognize the signs of an impending explosion from Mount Mama, and she would hug me. It was tough but hugs always helped buy us an additional block of patience. And somehow we got through the year of journals with lots of prayer, hugs and coffee.

Why did I do it? I’m not sure. Because I didn’t want her to go to school with an empty book and face ridicule? Because I feel that 6 is a bit too young for homework? Because I’m her parent and have the in-built system to help whenever I can?

With everything, there are always multiple schools of thought – throw them in the deep end, walk away and let them learn to swim on their own? Yes, there’s the chance they will learn quickly because their survival instinct will kick in. But there is also the risk that they will drown. Give them swimming lessons and start them off in the baby pool step by step? Maybe, though many would see that as overbabying them.

I suppose that we pretty much have a mid point approach to things, to perhaps let the kids learn to swim and when they are ready, step back and let them. Equip them with the basic necessary skills to survive, and then let them manage on their own while remaining within close range. Is this the perfect solution? Maybe not, but it’s what we are comfortable with, because we known ourselves and we know our kids.

So what kind of Primary 1 parent am I going to be? God only knows. Though I will try very hard to keep play on par with school. Because the kids? They are only young once. And I want them to have find childhood memories to think back upon and not just remember what their school books looked like.

And the sacrifice we have to make in order for this to happen? Our kids are probably going to be pretty “average” performers in school. Academically. We’ll have to bear that in mind when we see their report cards. But you know what? I think what I will look at is not so much the grades, but the comments made by their teachers. If they mention anything at all about how Poppy shows compassion and empathy toward her classmates, or that Calla is always the one to raise her hand to answer questions, even if they aren’t always right, I think I’d be happy. After all, grades aren’t the only way to define a person. So says Miss 196-points at PSLE herself.

This story was written by Adora, and first published on GingerbreadMum.
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