Thursday, May 14, 2009

Sustainable revision... or how to stay sane

Recently, I met up with a friend who has two daughters in p4 and p5. During the course of our discussion on revisions, she asked astonished, “you mean you let Lesley-Anne revise her work on her own?” It turns out that she and her hubby sit down to do revision with their kids for a couple of hours every night after dinner, conscientiously going through what was taught in school that day. This excludes homework, which would have been done earlier in the day! Gosh, my jaw dropped when I heard this. And I think SHE nearly fainted when she found out that half the time, I don't know what my kids are learning in school LOL!

Feeling terribly guilty for being a slacker mum, that day when I returned home, here's what I did in the space of 2 hours after dinner: Took Andre his spelling. Set maths paper for Lesley-Anne. Coached Andre in oral (with lots of yelling). Coached Andre in dictation and editing. Marked Lesley-Anne’s paper. Went through paper (more yelling). Gave lecture and pep talk.

I went to bed mentally and physically exhausted. I don't know how my friend does it! (By the next day, I'd regressed to my old ways).

Anyway, the point I'm making in this post is that we all have different methods for helping our kids academically. My friend's is the steady-pom-pee-pee style. Mine is the laissez-faire-last-minute-chiong style, meaning I just nag at my kids to do their homework, help them only when they approach me with something they don't understand, occasionally set some extra work, and then rev up to 4th gear nearer the exams.

I know I don't have the stamina or patience to do what my friend does. If I forced myself to, what would likely happen is that the daily sessions would degenerate into shouting matches, making them counter productive. For my friend, I think if she adopted my style, she would keel over from the anxiety. In other words, it's not about what works, but rather what works for you.

In the corporate world, the current buzzword is sustainable development. Well, I'm advocating sustainable revision, defined as "a revision process that can be maintained over the long term (and keep parents sane)."

Of course you also need to take into consideration the learning style of your kids. If leaving them alone means they'll toss their school work out of the window, then you probably need to hand-hold a little more. But in general, I believe that parents need to work around what they feel comfortable with, otherwise the revision process will be a dreaded chore and it's hard to motivate someone else when you're unmotivated yourself.

So there you have it - sustainable revision. I wonder if I can patent the concept...


Unknown said...

I'm like you...revise only when exams are near...

eunice said...

Monica, you are a mum after my own heart. I'm like you and my friends who are here are appalled cos they revise/drill with their kids (dunno why seeing that they go to international schools here and will go to international schools in Sin).

Your children seem to be doing well, so....why mess with a good thing?

Sean has tests this week and next. Work goes on as per normal. I figure if he has learnt whatever he needs to over the past term, revising is a bit OTT.

I'm what is called the 'slegate' mum.

monlim said...

Eunice: haha, lucky you! If my kids were not in the SG system, I'm sure I'd be even more bochap than I am now :P

Alcovelet said...

Way to go, Mon! It's always what works best for the parent AND the kid. Although, I suspect, we tend to impose our own securities as well (this is the shining example talking!). But if they can handle it, why not? It's easier said than done though.

Definitely not one size fits all!

Dr Patricia Porter said...

What a great discussion, I love it. Yep, as an ex teacher wand an advocate for parent rights I know how difficult homework etc can be for families and, yes, everybody should find their own way of dealing with it. However, none of the above comments mentioned what kids thought of how their parents reacted to them and their work - perhaps a discussion with your kids about what is working and what is not could be useful and help parents get rid of any left over guilt they might feel?

Try it, let me know what happens.

Anonymous said...

I do not revise with my older gal since she started sch in P1 (well, except chinese), but I do check her homework everyday after she completed them, not infront of her but after she goes to sleep. I do not correct her for the mistakes, only after the teacher had marked, than I checked with her if she knew where her mistake was.

For chinese, I need to sit with her, casue she probably couldn't read more than half of the words in one sentence and most of the time, she tikam the answers.


monlim said...

Patricia: How wonderful to have an ex-teacher on this blog! Thanks for your insight. I can't speak for the other parents but mine, I think over the years, we've kind of smoothened over the angst and conflict. Esp for Lesley-Anne - due to her fear of making mistakes, she would hate it if I was there looking over her shoulder and telling her what she did wrong. She would be ok with me teaching her concepts though. In fact, she has forbidden me to go through her bag so that's probably why I usually don't know what she's learning in school and just trusts that she will complete her work on her own.

For maths, it got to a point (last year) where she was struggling and I had to insist that I do some revisions with her. It was unpleasant at first but you know, this year, it's been so great. She no longer sulks, it's not an unwilling compliance. She now values it cos she has seen improvement. The past month or so, she even agreed to the maths work I've set with gusto and that enthusiasm pleases me even more than the result.

Sometimes I think kids too adapt to their parents' styles, so much so that they may think there is no other alternative. My friend whom I mentioned in my post, funnily enough, was telling me she was probably going to step back as she realises that her daughters are being too dependent so much so that they're unable to study on their own.

So I guess it's a balancing act which needs to take into consideration the personalities of both parents and kids as well as the way the kid evolve.

Elan said...

Whew, at least I am not the only mum who doesn't know what her kids are learning in school!
I used to go through every bit of work with them but when my boys hit P5 they have become much more independant. In fact, they now don't like me to look at their work. This was after a few years when I was tearing my hair out over GEP Maths in P4 with my older son. We had a talk and decided that he wasn't learning much if I had to help him get the right answers ( in my own way not the "right" model answer way) The parents in my son's class also got together a few times to gripe about how much time we all spent trying to do the Math questions and after speaking to the teacher, we realised that she thought all the boys had no problems with the questions (since everyone had full marks for their assignments) so she just went on to the next topic!
Anyway, I have now come to the happy and stressless (for me) medium of letting him make the mistakes in his homework and letting the teacher teach him in class, the way it is supposed to be. They are happier to set their own exam timetables and will do whatever is on the schedule which they set. There are fireworks however when I (in a fit of sudden panic because I don't know how much they really know) try to add in assessments and past year papers!
I'm waiting to see if it works out in terms of marks for this round of exams. However, I do know that whatever the scores, this independant learning attitude is far more important for them in the long term than another 5 marks in their SA because I spent every night sitting there and stressing them and me out.
Let's see if I am still singing the same tune nearer the PSLE!

monlim said...

Elan: I think we're both quite similar in style - we tell ourselves we know what's important, we give the independence, then nearer the exams or when the marks come back, we panic like caged birds!! LOL

That's part and parcel of parenting I guess - we're not perfect and we're all learning to adjust, which can be tough in SG. But it's always great to know there are parents out there just like us, facing the same challenges!

Anonymous said...

Mon: Like you, I do not have the patience to do this daily cos no sustained revision possible. LOL.. As much as I believe in children D-I-Y and consistency in learning style throughout the terms instead of sudden revision and spurts during exam, I must admit succumbing to external pressure during exams. That is to say, when I hear all parents doing revision during exam, then I start to panic even though consistency is my mantra. LOL.... I do not normally revise tests but I did revision for SA1 to find out what were the possible bad habits she would have under exam conditions. Exam conditions to me would be longer paper up to 20 pages perhaps and longer duration. Now that the results are slowly unveiling, I am glad I played a part for exams because the competition is SOOOO..stiff, all marks neck to neck, so at least I can tell her, I have done my best, not that she would blame me! LOL...


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