Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Freaked Out

Yesterday was Coco's last day at her English enrichment centre.

It sounds strange that the only subject Coco ever gets 'enriched' in is her best subject huh. I guess the belief that 'English is not that easy' is so ingrained in me that it subconsciously affects the way I do things.

She started going for enrichment since P4 as she told me that 'all my friends are there'. Like most working mothers who nurse a guilty conscience of not being there for their kids when they need help, I let her take up English since the enrichment centre was more known for their English teaching.

I can't really vouch for the effectiveness of the centre since I am never there to monitor her progress except during the time when she receives her report book. But that's another story.

William had asked me to keep her at home for the last few days, not just for PSLE, but also for her not to interact with other kids in school. It sounds strange again huh? Well, William believes that some kids treat PSLE as a battle, and that includes psychological battle as well. And there are kids who might tell Coco things to make her feel lousy about herself and wreck her confidence just before PSLE.

I had asked Coco to stay home instead of travelling for a good two hours to and from the enrichment centre but she being the sentimental girl, wanted to attend the last lesson, and probably bid farewell to her friends.

BAD decision.

For some reason, the teacher decided to ask the children about their Prelim T-score individually.

When she heard Coco's T-score, she exclaimed,"Oh my goodness!" and went on to ask the rest of the children their T-scores, which invariably were better than Coco's.

Coco freaked out.

Before knowing what had happened just a couple of hours ago, I was freaked out myself last night as I was trying to revise Situational Writing with her. She was making all sorts of ridiculous grammatical and spelling errors, and at one point, she only got 3 out of 6 for Content Marks. Panic seized me. I asked her exactly what's going on and she told me what had transpired in class.

She felt smallish, lousy and thought she was going to do really, really bad. She started saying her English was lousy. When I quoted her New South Wales results for Writing and English paper in which she got Distinctions, she said,"There are other people who got High Distinctions." and felt depressed about it.

I got a rude shock of my life.

The Coco I know is calm and cool, okay, 'bo-chap' is more like it. I have never seen her really freaked out or panicked. She has always believed that her English is above average even though it is not excellent. But even then, she is a rather confident girl in English. So I couldn't believe what I had experienced, seen and heard last night.

I was on the brink of tearing.

After William heard about it from me, he marched right into her bedroom and started giving her a mini lecture on why she could not compare T-scores across different schools, and assuring her very loudly that her T-score was 'perfectly okay',"I said you are OKAY! You don't go and believe what other people tell you! I say you are OKAY means you are OKAY!"

Before she slept, she asked me,"What will you do if I get 220? What will you do if I get 230?"

I didn't have the perfect answer. I didn't want to be hypocritical and said that I would be happy with it. In my memory, I haven't told Coco a lie. I just said,"I would just accept it."

It was the first time I saw her freak out or panic.

This time, I decided to be the protective mother - I am keeping her at home till the first day of PSLE.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

A Good Read in a Long Time

I bought this book just today and devoured it like a hungry ghost (pun intended) within a few hours.

I came across this book on kiasuparents forum on a thread titled 'How to motivate my girl'. The author maintains a blog which shares her method and insights on how to teach Chinese to a potato kid. I am greatly inspired by her method. For someone who got distinctions for Chinese from PSLE to A level, I am blind to what a potato kid like Coco doesn't know or see in Chinese. I am not able to suss out weak points to rectify eg. language structures, grammar structure. I couldn't understand why it was so difficult to construct a Chinese sentence since it is a comparatively more fluid and colloquial language than English.

She got her son to memorise model Chinese compositions for a start.

And to a large extent, I agree to the method even though I am a hardcore Chinese reader who believes in reading quickly and widely for the best effect.

I got Coco to emulate the learning process. It was just about the fastest way to get her to see that she had missing links and structural errors in her writing. I really appreciate that.

This book is not really about teaching you to teach.

It is about strategies to get the child to be motivated on his own, and in turn, want to study for his own enjoyment. It sounds unbelievable, right? It's a bit late to try them out on Coco, but I'll try them out on Baby for sure.

However, I realised that there are some strategies that I have used here and there, and sometimes I don't follow them through thinking that they don't work.

The book also emphasises on the need for adults to have self-control when implementing the strategies ie. body language, expression, voice since children are especially sensitive to adults' reactions. It increases my awareness of the need for an adult to be sensitive to the kids.

And she said this: It's the parent's fault when the child is unmotivated.

Oh my goodness! All along, I believe that it is the child's fault since motivation is innate. But she gives examples of how she 'manipulates' her son and daughter to be self-motivated and shows that a motivated child is the work of successful parenting.

The book is a must-read, must-get. It is not out at bookstores yet, so you can only buy it via her blog.

$25 per copy. But it's really worth it! Parents and educators should get it!

Can't sleep, really

You know, I am up again because of insomnia.

Yes. Over PSLE.

These days, I can't sleep for the life of me. When I do sleep, I dream dreams. Loads of dreams.

I dreamt about her humble T-score and her friend's, which was like 2612 - something that ridiculous?

I dreamt about a tug-of-war while taking a ten-minute nap and woke up finding myself tugging and pulling at the pillow I was sleeping on.

I dreamt about war time in a dark medieval castle where the soldiers donned metal armour. When the enemies broke into the castle, we were given wooden swords to defend ourselves! Then I was made to fight against a male secondary classmate. And I passed out. When I came to, the castle had become MPH Bookstore in which students werer making purchases for their books!

I dreamt about needing to do a Maths lesson plan at NIE. And I had to meet the one-day deadline fully dressed to the stipulated dress code. I was desperately trying to find the correct dress-suit for it!

I dreamt about my brother insisting on having a divorce from his newly ROMed wife.

I dream till I am scared of dreaming. I wake up feeling exhausted every single day. I feel tired every single day. But come night, my mind is fraught with worries. I hate worrying, for the worry wart that I am, but I almost can't help myself!

I worry that I might let Coco down. I coach her in English and Chinese. She always gets 85 or 86 for her English. If everything goes well, she should, by right, get an A* at PSLE. Yet, I am so afraid that the school might not be right - that 85 or 86 in her school may still not be sufficient to bag an A*. Or I am afraid that something might happen - she might not be able to write brilliantly for her composition at PSLE, or she might not get full marks for her Open-ended Comprehension, or for some reason or another, she might bungle up and not get the A* that she should get.

I worry about her Chinese. Although she gets 80 for her Chinese in school, I have the same worry about her Chinese composition. All the more so since she is not excellent in writing Chinese compositions. Whatever training she has, she can just abandon it at the eleventh hour and treat it as if she was never trained for it. She has done it a few times - during exams - and despaired me greatly.

I also worry about her Open-ended Comprehension's last two questions. She often gets 1 or 2 out of 4 marks. She often writes unorthodox or unconventional answers which don't fit the answer key's.

I worry about her Science. She hates anything that requires memory work and so she does not make much effort to retain what she has read from the guidebook. So basically, she has little content knowledge! To answer Science questions, she needs the key words or phrases, but because she hates memorising them, she answers them like open-ended comprehension questions, which won't do!

I worry about her Science MCQs which take up 60% of the grade. She can be good and make just 2 or 3 mistakes or she can be bad and make 7 or 8 mistakes! We really can't tell!

I worry about her Maths. We hope she gets an A* at PSLE but whatever we hope for depends on whether she is careful or careless!

Unlike other blogger-mothers who have children taking their PSLE, I can't even blog about her progress or lack of it for fear of confessing negatively.

These days, I look at her while she closes her eyes to sleep. I touch her head, and feel her hair. I don't know what to say. I want to tell her that I love her, truly. Even if she can't go to a good girls' school, I still love her. Even if she does not do as well as we have hoped, I still love her. I look at her. She is so tired. Other kids are furiously completing 4 papers a day, one for each subject. She just completes about 1 to 1.5 papers a day and she can't go on anymore. I know she is trying her best. This is not her. And she is not other kids. She does not have the stamina and discipline of other kids. But that's okay. I love her. For what she is. For who she is.

Friday, 14 September 2012

Accepting what she is

Today's Coco's PSLE Listening Comprehension. She left home at 6.15am fearing that she might be 'locked out' of the hall if she did not reach school by 7.15am!

She's one 'amazing' creature. One normal days, she wakes up at 6am, and drags herself up from bed at 6.10am, takes 20 minutes to get dressed and tie her hair, and takes another 10 minutes to have her breakfast which consists of just an egg and a glass of milk or milo. And then she hurries off to school at 6.40am or 6.45am. On very important days like this, she jumps out of bed, gets everything done and sprints off to school within 15 to 20 minutes!

She didn't go to school yesterday, citing 'feeling dreadful' as a reason in the morning. So I allowed her to sleep in and had her do her PSLE Science Booklet which was due last week *gasp*

PSLE preparations have not been fantastic, really. Everything still feel as last-minute as if I have not taken no-pay leave for it! Even the Listening Comprehension books - I only bought one for each language only yesterday and she quickly did 5 practices for Chinese and 2 for English.

Why so last-minute huh - Coco requires a lot of reminders over and over again for just about everything. We have done many compositions, but you can be sure that there are very few bombastic phrases in her mind despite writing many already. It's like we haven't done any at all! So we revisited the compositions, and revisited again, like they are something new all over again!

It's not just for compositions. She does the same thing -forgetting things - for every subject. William teaches her Maths and Science. It exasperates him no end that for something that all his students pick up within the first to three times he teaches them, Coco still comes back to ask him for the eighth or umpteenth time! He got so frustrated he said,"Everything is new to you! You don't see that the format is the same, the question is the same, the method is the same - it's just that the story and the numbers are not the same!"

Sometimes you think,"Forget ah? Okay lor, just go through it over and over again lor!" but in reality, there are alot of grounds to be covered for PSLE and there is simply no time to revisit facts, concepts or even stories over and over again.

At the back of our mind, we have prepared a list of schools for Coco to go to whatever score she would get at PSLE. I think we really need to be pragmatic and realistic as parents. Coming to terms with expectations and the child's ability is one big challenge parents need to overcome and I can say in all certainty that it's indeed not easy. I cried over it, stressed over it and accepted it.

I want to be that parent who will smile and put my arm around her when she shows me her PSLE result slip, believing and trusting that she has indeed done her best, no matter what kind of result it is.