Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Primary One, turning into THAT mom

I never wanted to be THAT mom.  You know which one..... that one who hovers around teachers asking for more worksheets, more homework and keeping tabs on how her child is doing academically.  Every class has at least one of them.

Last Saturday I sat down with Medium Boy’s English and Chinese teachers to understand where he is at.  In Nursery 1, the focus was on building self dependency skills.  Medium Boy is a naturally efficient (means he looks for the easiest way to do things, plus he has mastered the art of outsourcing) little boy.  Last year (he was 3 years old), he enlisted the help of another little boy JY to help each other to take off their clothes – yes both the buttoned shirt top and pants - before the teachers showered them.  JY is a mild mannered and non-competitive little boy, same temperament as Medium Boy, so they were happily undressing each other every day.  I had a good laugh when Teacher told me that during the parent teacher meeting last year…. There were no laughs this year……

The focus in N2 [Nursery 2] is on attaining basic literacy and numeracy to prepare for Primary School.  His teachers also feed back that he has a perfectionist streak, needs to see tangible results (he concentrates for 10+minutes at craft classes), and his attention wavers during language lessons.  Most likely due to his word / character recognition skills.  I am reasonably certain he secretly minds very much that his language is not as good as his peers.

In N1, Medium Boy was ahead of his classmates.  I had left the Leapfrog alphabet toy on the fridge for him to play with, and he was able to recognize all 26 letters by age 2.  I thought ‘phew!’ and that was the end of my efforts to encourage literacy.  This year has been a harrowing year physically and emotionally, hence I did not read to him consistently.
On Saturday I learnt that most of his classmates are able to write each letter of the alphabet, write letters together to form simple words (I think that means words with a maximum of 7 letters), and be able to phonetically sound each letter to put together the sound of the whole word.  Medium Boy cannot do all this…. 
His Chinese character recognition is equally dismal.  The Chinese character for me/I 我 appears on every single Chinese reader that he has brought home.... His Chinese teacher had tried giving him one on one lessons which he reluctantly listened to and promptly forgets all about...  Medium Boy is a perfectionist and he hates to lose face in front of teacher... if he is not 100% confident in answering, he clams up and/or changes the topic.

I taught Medium Boy his numbers and he was again able to recognize the 10 numerals and rote count up to 20.  I toss him a problem sum like “Mama has 5 fans, you have 2 fans, how many fans do we have altogether” to test his grasp of addition, and “The coconut tree has 5 coconuts.  2 birds flew in and took away 3 coconuts.  How many coconuts are left on the tree now?” to test his subtraction concept.  His addition and subtraction is fine up to the number 5.  I am not too sure about his grasp up to the number 10, as he tends to giggle and run away once I get beyond 5.  I also taught him how to negotiate with me for one more song, one more story and one more youtube fan video.  In this way, he learnt that 4 is a bigger than 3, and 3 is a bigger number than 2.  His teachers confirm that his numeracy is good for his age.

Medium Boy’s social skills continue to be excellent.  He is slow to warm up (typical introvert, like me).  However, once he is comfortable with a person, he will chatter non stop.  Teacher K told me that he leads his friends in conversation at the dining table, and steers the conversation towards fans and motors.  A very sociable and chatty boy is my Medium Boy, when the topic of fans comes up.

What I will do now to increase his literacy
·         Read to him every day one book for 5 minutes.  Heck, I will even read fan brochures if he wants to.
·         Write one word every day on a single lined A4 paper.  I will let him choose the word.  I suspect his first word will be fan, motor, propeller, engine and other fan related words.  I will refrain from internal eye rolling and be glad he is writing.
·         Enrol him into Berries for Chinese language classes.

Ok, I am calmer today.  It has been 4 days of internal hand wringing, regrouping and coming up with tangible mitigating actions as I grapple with the fact that Primary One 7 year old kids in Singapore go to school knowing hanyu pinyin [anglicized phonetics] for Chinese, reading a simple book in English and knowing how to add up to figures in the hundreds …. I do not want to google what is the numeracy requirement for P1, it would freak me out again, I am sure….
He is changing schools to a Montessori based one next year.  I hope, I pray that the Montessori approach with its value of starting the learning journey for each individual will do Medium Boy good, and that he will settle in soon with his new classmates.

Oh gosh, I am turning into THAT mom.


  1. Yes, we all go into that panic mode a year or two before they start P1. :)

    I have something to say about the primary school my boys went to. The kids there seem to be resistant towards learning the language. Even then, they speak Mandarin with an English accent. My sons teachers actually gave up teaching them, so all fared poorly in the language. Chinese language has always been their achilles heel. Until now, my kids speak simple Chinese and çan hardly read Chinese characters.

  2. Ah thanks. So I am normal!

    Yes Ting, I heard the same abt that school as well. I will supplement with stories at home that I unconsciously absorbed from my 4 years of SAP school education.

  3. Celine - you're a WONDERFUL mom!